tallest tower in the world – a tower defined as being not intended for human living – and is basically a smaller version of the CN Tower in Toronto I went to a few years ago
. (Interestingly, or probably not, I’ve just read that the CN Tower has been overtaken in height by a couple of towers in Japan and China, and also that the current tallest building in the world is Burj Khalifa in the UAE standing at 830 metres. Which is frankly ridiculous. In conclusion, Asian's know how to build a tower.) On our first day we also visited the modern National Mosque and nearby Islamic Arts Museum, and started to get acquainted with Islam after months in Buddhist countries, the return to a country of one of the Abrahamic Religions (alongside Judaism and Christianity) proving evident (the presence of the hijab and ridiculous price of beer being the main things I noticed). The National Mosque was very impressive anyway, not that I’ve ever been in another mosque to compare it to, the architecture dripping with Islamic and national symbolism and containing cavernous prayer halls with a capacity for 15000 worshipers. The Islamic Arts Museum had an extensive display of artefacts from all over the Muslim world, particular eye-catching being the collection of hand-written Quran’s with their exquisite calligraphy.
The next morning we rose early and caught a commuter train out of the city to the Batu Caves series of caves and temples, one of the most important and popular Hindu sites of worship outside of India, which attracts hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to the yearly Thaipusam festival. The 272 steps up to the vast main temple cave were killer, watching out for attacks by the macaque monkey population on route, but afforded good views back over the city, its skyscrapers just visible in the haze. In the afternoon we followed a walking route around the Colonial District, finding it more than a touch odd that the territory which is now a unified-country was part of the British Empire until just over 50 years ago
. We checked out Merdeka Square, where the Union Jack was lowered for the final time in 1957 signalling independence, the colonial-administrative Sultan Abdul Samad Building, 100 year-old Jamek Mosque and many more historic buildings. We followed this with a change of scene taking in the sights, smells and tastes of the vibrant Little India. We were staying in another of KL’s districts, Chinatown, which alongside a plethora of Chinese Temples and food stalls is also home to the fantastic Central Market and the infamous and crowded Petaling Street, where we wasted a few hours on Sunday amongst unrivalled amounts of knock off products and tourist junk.
That was the end of us as a travelling duo, Olly leaving for a diving course in Fiji via Indonesia and Australia, so I was now flying solo for a couple of weeks (somewhere on a radio nearby Celine Dion belted out 'All By Myself'). I went for a look around the ethnic Malay area of town Kampung Baru, followed by one of the best museums of my trip so far, the City Gallery back at Merdeka Square. Passing back through KL a week later, I also finally found my way to the National Museum – a harder task than it sounds as it’s located in the middle of the capital's confusion of highways and overpasses – and enjoyed another cultured afternoon whilst learning a lot about the formation of modern Malaysia from a hotchpotch of British territory in the region, the new country existing initially only on the peninsula as the Federation of Malaysia, before Sarawak and Sabah on Borneo (and for a couple of years also Singapore) joined the country. But more on the constitutional complexities of Malaysia next time.
A suicidal taxi, rearranged flight, mercifully short bus, express train and monorail later we arrived at our hostel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, very happy to be back in a bustling city and keen to get on the sightseeing trail. And where better to start than with the county's iconic Petronas Twin Towers, standing at 452 metres and 88 floors high, and the tallest buildings in the world from 1998 until 2004. Still the sixth tallest in the world, and the tallest twin towers ever built, I can attest that at the observation deck on level 86 – a recent opening to tourists in addition to the famous skybridge that connects the two towers – you are high. Very high. And the views really were spectacular. As if that wasn’t enough of heights for one day, we made it a double and went up the KL Tower that evening, which although only (only) 421 metres high it actually appears taller than the Petronas Towers as it’s on a bit of a hill. This is the 7