So, I spent last weekend in Kuala Lumpur; the capital of Malaysia. I travelled with a great group of friends and, although KL isn’t exactly a ‘holiday destination’ city, I had the most amazing time!
I would highly recommend StarMart Express for buses around Singapore. This thing was ridiculous! The seats were about double the width of any normal bus seat, they fully reclined and had a built in massager. And all this for a 5 hour journey that cost only around £20 (it’s even cheaper if you book your return journey from KL itself).
This isn’t what I expected…
So after 5 blissful hours of sleep, we arrived in a city that was somewhat different from what I had expected. I’ll admit, I hadn’t done much research about KL and the only pictures I had seen were of the Petronas Towers. For that reason, I expected it to be a mini-Singapore. It wasn’t.
I’m beginning to realise just how unique a city Singapore is. When I realised none of the development started before it gained independence 48 years ago, it really is incredible how far this small nation has come.
So, back to KL. It was a very interesting city with much more of a visible Muslim influence than Singapore (as a whole). The city was pretty dirty, with a lovely brown river flowing through the centre of town. But with its cramped streets, cracked buildings and abandoned wrecks, it had a strange kind of beauty. Underlying the dirt were some fantastic colonial buildings, with a real range of colours and architectural style. It was very interesting to look at.
Am I a tourist you ask? What gave me away?
On arrival, we were told by each and every taxi driver we asked that they refused to use their metre (for various concocted reasons) and that it would cost us 20RM to get to Chinatown. While 20RM is only about £4 (split 4 ways, I might add), we knew that the journey should only cost about 5RM and we refused out of principle to take the offer. It was only later that we discovered we were subsequently ripped off at most of the restaurants we went to and in other taxis. It’s tough to hide the fact that you’re a western tourist, you stand out somewhat.
We wandered the Islamic Arts Museum to escape a torrential downpour on Saturday afternoon and got dressed up to go see the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra in the evening. It is definitely worth going to see if you ever visit KL! We wanted to spend the evening at the Petronas Towers and I found out that the Orchestra plays at a concert hall inside the towers, so it was an opportunity not to be missed. This was also how we discovered that one of our group did an undergrad in music, and so we got some interesting insight into the personality stereotypes of the different orchestra members (beware the violinist divas)!
We started the next day with a trip to the Batu Caves which are a phenomenal natural sight. We spent most of our time distracted by the monkeys that wander the caves and literally jump at and cling to people to steal their food (or any bag which may contain food). We had to cut our visit a little bit short when one of them started to chase me…
We spent the rest of the day just walking the city and trying to avoid the fairly regular thunderstorms. I should say at this point that TravelHub is a fantastic hostel in KL! The area looks pretty questionable but once you get inside, I guarantee you will be pleasantly surprised. This hostel was the same price as a place called Fernloft where we stayed the first night and Fernloft didn’t come close the TravelHub in terms of quality and comfort.
Elephant Sanctuaries are not pleasant places (avoid if you can)
As our class timetables are rather easygoing (I have a 2 day week!) we stayed in KL on Monday. We decided to take a day-trip out of KL and we went for an elephant sanctuary. Now I’ll probably struggle to give an unbiased opinion on the experience. I’m an animal rights advocate and often struggle with my instinctual desire to see animals and the reality of the situations in which you are seeing them. The sanctuary was not a pleasant experience for me and even a few of my unbiased friends questioned it somewhat. I won’t say too much more despite the fact that this was the low point of the weekend for me, but thankfully the bus journey back to KL was very nice. There were some amazing views; lots and lots of forests!
Ah, back home…Must be time to plan my next trip!
So, believe it or not, I’m planning another trip for about 2 weeks time. We have recess week coming up and even though I have 2 essays due for the end of that week, and an exam shortly afterwards, I’m going to be making the most of every opportunity to travel this year. We’re thinking about climbing Mount Kinabalu and then going scuba diving in Kota Kinabalu. Will keep you posted on the plans, and maybe try to blog about some of the more mundane aspects of life in Singapore (it’s not all trip planning…honest).
TTFN (ta ta for now).