Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur a facinating city full of hidden gems
A brief stop in Kuala Lumpur with a visit to the iconic Petronas Towers and the night markets
As part of our journey to Borneo, we had a stopover in Malaysia’s capital city Kuala Lumpur. This is a bustling city with a population of about 1.6 million people – so it is not huge by global metropolis standards.
We arrived at the airport in KL at about midday and jumped on the KLIA express which gets you into the KL central station in about 28 minutes. From here we hopped on a metro train to the financial district where we were staying the night in the comfortable G Tower Hotel (conveniently right next to the metro station!)
With limited time for exploring we simply dropped our bags in our room and headed out.
One of the things that had drawn me to KL was to see the iconic Petronas Towers. These twin skyscrapers were the tallest buildings in the world from 1998 to 2004 and remain the tallest twin towers in the world. Each tower has 88 floors and they are connected by a sky-bridge between the 41st and 42nd floors. The towers themselves rise 451.9 metres (1482.6 feet) – so are fairly tall!
From our hotel, it was only a 10-minute walk to the towers and I was not disappointed when I got there, they are truly spectacular. It not just how tall they are but it was the way the metallic construction of the towers glistened in the sun that made them truly special. They reminded me a lot of another building that I love, the Chrysler Building in New York. I have had the fortune of travelling a lot around the World and have seen many to the tallest buildings but for me, the Petronas Towers are right up there with the best.
You can go up the towers and even cross the sky-bridge, but I personally think that beautiful building such as these is best appreciated from the outside (could be that I just don’t like heights!). Anyway, we decided to forgo the opportunity to spend the money on the journey to the top of the towers and instead headed into the shopping mall that adjoins. To our delight, we found a Marks and Spencer store inside. Being Brits who have lived in the United States for 15 years this was a rare delight! We were tempted to buy just about everything in the store but in the end, settled for a few of our favourite snack items from the food hall. Sated, we strolled back to the hotel for a bit of rest.
Late afternoon we headed out, catching the metro to KL Central again and from there we took a short bus ride to Central Market. This is an indoor market and is a good place to go to escape the humidity. Inside there are a large number of vendors selling a wide array of goods, from upscale furniture to simple souvenirs. It was pleasurable to wander around, and the huge variety of products on sale made a pleasant change from the street markets, where you find almost every vendor selling exactly the same cheap and often nasty goods.
One of the shops inside the Market had tanks of fish that you could dangle your feet in, and have the fish eat away at the dead skin on your feet an calves. Karen has a particular horror when it comes to my feet (which to be fair are fairly disgusting) so she was delighted when I agreed to give it a go. I had seen this type of experience before, but these fish looked a whole lot bigger than one I have previously seen. As soon as I stuck my feet in the water I was attacked by dozens of these fish, who voraciously nibbled at my feet and calves. It was a weird experience and despite the fact my feet are caked with rough, dead skin they are sensitive and I couldn’t help but laugh from the tickling of fish biting away.
After my near-death experience with fish, we walked (on my freshly groomed feet) a half-mile or so to the lively Petaling Street market in KL’s China Town. This is a more traditional street market, with a lot of vendors selling largely to the tourists – hence a lot of t-shirts and souvenirs were to be had. By this time we were hungry and sat down at street food stand and ordered a pile of noodles – delicious. So happy was I now that I had filled my stomach I bought a lucky charm from an apparent Buddhist monk who passed by. I am not sure how genuine this person was but my luck on this vacation took a downturn from this point!
By this time we were getting weary so we found a nearby metro station and headed back, getting off at a stop near to the Petronas Towers. Having seen them during the day we wanted to experience them at night. Again we were not disappointed as they were as, if not more spectacular, than during the day. Happy, we took the short walk back to the G Tower Hotel.