We’re not quite sure where we want to go when we leave the hostel to catch a free bus into the city. It’s always like this when you get to a new city. We’ve read the “top 10 things to do in Kuala Lumpur” and noted some things that are listed on the hostel wall as “must see” things in this city. But it never quite prepares you for what the day will bring. Nor are we always interested in the ‘must see things’ that other people recommend.
The bus drops us at Bukit Bintang. I’ve heard this place referred to on some of the recommendations for KL. It’s a big modern area with lots of huge shopping malls. The brands are genuine and the prices similar to at home. Everywhere signs advertise either retail outlets or places to eat. It’s midday so nothing has warmed up yet, with tourists just arriving and locals still at work.
We wander along the relatively quiet streets (which are busy by Australian standards). There is a stark contrast here between modern and traditional Malaysia. On one hand there are high end shops with lots of gold decor and high price tags. On the other, there are still people walking barefoot and snoozing in the shade by the roadside. It’s like two worlds have collided and both are coexisting somehow in this huge city. You can dine at a restaurant with scary high price tags or eat on the street at a market stall for next to nothing. It’s exciting and overwhelming all at once.
Our adventure today will take us to modern Malaysia. It starts when we seek refuge from the oppressive heat in the Berjaya Time Square shopping mall. This impressive building has 14 stories of food, fashion and everything else you might like to buy. It also includes a theme park, movie cinema, ten pin bowling lanes, indoor archery arena, pool hall and escape game. Yes, that’s right. Shopping malls here are not just for shopping; they seem to be places of recreation.
I can’t help myself. We have to go to the amusement park. I’m sure it’s part of the travel and cultural experience to ride a roller coaster inside a shopping mall. We can hear people screaming with fear and delight so decide to join the fun. The entry is about RM85 ($30 for two people). We start on a ride that is a bit like the WipeOut at Dreamworld on the Gold Coast in Australia. It spins and twists us around violently. It’s fun and scary all at once. It’s rougher than any amusement ride either of us has ever experienced. By the time I get off the ride I am regretting the chocolate crepe I ate an hour ago because it almost comes up as I wobble around the theme park trying to gather my composure. We make our way around all the rides, including the roller coaster (which I make Paul go on with me twice).
The children’s rides are a hoot and make a good break from the dizzying adult rides that leave me wondering what’s going on because I’ve never experienced motion sickness before today. The dodgem cars rock. You can drive in any direction and if you crash, they automatically reverse to get you going again rather than leaving you stuck for the rest of the ride. But my favourite attraction is definitely the haunted house. It’s an extra RM10 ($3.55) per person but so worth it. I am surprised that no one reading this didn’t hear me scream. You walk through the haunted house and there is a scary actor who does what scary actors do in haunted houses. He is so good that he gets me every time even though I know to expect him. Poor Paul is now living in a world of silence because my screaming on the rides and in the haunted house have deafened him. Though I am a bit quieter because I lost my voice.
We leave the theme park and stop at Pizza Hut for some lunch. It’s already after 4pm and we are starving. Paul’s been craving pizza for weeks so we decide to see how the Malaysians do it. There’s nothing familiar about Malaysian Pizza Hut. Everything tastes slightly different. But it’s pizza and it’s good. I do rate the garlic bread with mushroom and cheese fondue.
We catch the LRT to Bikut Nanas from where it is only a short walk to the Petronas Towers. I think it’s my first time on a monorail. It is odd how it leans through the bends while you are so high up in the air. It’s almost like being back on the roller coaster but at a much slower speed. The Petronas Towers are really awesome. I’ve seen them once before on a day trip during a layover at the airport about ten years ago but this time they really strike me. We join the throng of people taking photos before walking through to the other side to see the musical lake and city skyline. I love that there are people here from all over the world all mingling and doing the same thing. Middle Eastern women in full burkas with just slits for their eyes mingle with women from northern Asia wearing tight skirts, from Europe wearing trekking shorts and from India wearing traditional saris. Men take photos of their girlfriends and wives posing in front of the towers or fountains as groups of friends take selfies. We might all look different but we’re all doing the same things right here and now, and thousands more did the same things here yesterday and will do it all again tomorrow.
We wander through the tower complex to the Suria shopping mall. It’s about 5:30pm and the place has come alive. This is where Gucci and Govida reside. Everything sparkles and there is a concierge on each floor to guide lost tourists. I love looking down the floors at the different cultures all colliding like a United Nations conference. Even though I come from a multicultural country, it’s still one in which racial differences are a cause for discomfort so to be here in a true melting pot of people coming on holiday or using the new train to get into the city on a stop over between flights is a treat.
There’s a movie cinema in the complex so we head up and buy tickets to see The Cobbler. The TGV Cinemas are nowhere near as nice as the GSC Cinemas but the movie is a good watch with some nice laughs. I just love the way the Malaysians will burst into loud laughter at funny parts of the film without embarrassment.
The movie ends around 9pm, just in time for us to head outside and catch the musical fountains. It’s almost surreal to sit under the Petronas Towers in all their glory while the colourfully lit fountains dance to the theme song from Titanic and others. I just love it. This experience didn’t even make any of the “Top 10 Things to do in KL” lists but is definitely a highlight for me.
As is the night time view of the Petronas Towers. The structures are totally stunning and I am quite happy to add mine to the millions of photos of these towers was made. The structures are so beautiful that they deserve the millions of photos that are taken.
We’re exhausted by now so start to head back to our hostel. On the way we pass the Malaysian Tourist Information Centre where a Punjabi festival is being held. Entry is free so we go watch a singer who has come “all the way from India” do his thing. I love Indian music so am quite enthralled. We have our pictures taken by an official photographer, probably to use in next year’s marketing material to say “look, even foreigners come to our festival”. Ironically, there is a stand advertising a function later in the year for investors interested in purchasing property in Australia. One of the guys from the stand comes over and asks us whether we would like information about purchasing Australian real estate. I politely decline his offer of information, trying to say as little as possible so that he doesn’t hear my Australian accent.
Our hostel is a 10 minute LRT ride from Bukit Nanas and we think we are home and hosed without any more distractions until I head a thumping dance track being played up near the hospital. We wander up to investigate and see that there is a flash mob practicing their moves for an event that will occur here tomorrow. They are quite good and it’s fun to watch. We will end up missing the actual flash mob performance because tomorrow we will sleep in and not leave the hostel until midday (I know this because it’s already tomorrow as I write this post).
It’s days like today that I love most about travel. The unexpected roller coaster ride, being part of a crowd of tourists all drawn to the same location to admire something big and stumbling across random performances that entertain. And, again, it’s after midnight by the time we return to our hostel exhausted but happy.