Roaming Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur is such an interesting city. Home to a combination of different ethnic groups including Muslim Malay, Buddhist Chinese, Hindu Indian and multiple others, it offers visitors a host of different cuisines, aromas, atmospheres, and cultures. It all seems to work in this busy metropolis. Even though we were obviously different from the locals, it didn’t feel like we were stuck out. It made a nice change from a lot of places we travel to and actually made it feel more like home than we would have imagined.
Subang Jaya, where we were staying, is one of the many suburbs of the city. It is in the adjacent state of Selangor which surrounds Kuala Lumpur (KL). KL though it used to be a part of Selangor is now a separate federal territory with its distinct local government. The community we were in was developed on the site of an old rubber plantation and it was a major part of the revitalization and urbanization of the Klang Valley in the latter half of the 20th century.
The town is divided into sections and each section of the district is given a number, so for example, we were staying in SS19 a residential area and the major commercial areas in town are SS12, 13, 15, 16, 17. The not-so-creatively named sections have even less creatively named street numbers like SS14/6. To top that off sometimes you get letter denominators too, so you could be on SS14/6 “a” through “x”. But wait, if that’s not enough there doesn’t seem to be an official way to enter an address. So “No. 20 SS14/6a, Subang Jaya” will sometimes be “20 Jalan SS14/6a, SS 14, 47500 Subang Jaya, Selangor” and there is no rhyme or reason to it that I could figure out. Just trying to find the address of something or give it to a cab driver could be an adventure in itself. How do you designate apartment numbers on different floors? I have no clue, someone please educate me because the best I came up with was ask around until someone pointed me in the right direction. Despite this, we did manage to get to a lot of places without too much struggle.
One of our favorite places was the nearby food court, Asia Café, in SS15. We visited this bustling covered market several times, wandering down row after row of food stalls offering all sorts of cuisines from Indian curries to Chinese stir fry and, of course, a multitude of local dishes, with delicious aromas attacking our nostrils from every angle.
Excellent food could also be found in the Little India section of town. Great for vegetarians, we ate at a little restaurant called Chat Masala which didn’t look like much from the outside but was bustling inside with a huge food selection. We ate for pennies and everything looked so good we forgot how much we ordered. More dishes just kept arriving even when we were getting ready to leave. Having saved so much we went over to the nearest Indian tailor and haggled for a few new colorful kurtas, now we just need something to wear them to.
We managed to see most of the highlights of the city in two days. On our first free day, we started off exploring Kuala Lumpur City Centre where the Petronas Twin Towers are located and struggled with the rest trying to figure out how to frame the best selfie of them with the light slowly dying. The park next to the towers is a well manicured and busy retreat right in the middle of it all and the bridge is definitely the best spot to try and get that selfie. After that, we made our way to the rowdy and raucous Bukit Bintang which is filled with restaurants, bars, clubs, and more foot reflexology/massage spas then I have ever seen anywhere, and we’ve lived in Vegas! Most of the younger crowd can be found here late at night.
Another day was spent exploring the rest of downtown. After so much time in malls we didn’t spend too long browsing the market streets in the colonial district or Petaling Street in Chinatown. They seemed to be selling a lot of things we really didn’t need anyway so no great loss there. Next, we made our way to the famous KL Tower. Though impressive, we decided against going up, because we’ve been up a lot of towers, and instead explored the KL Forest Eco Park that surrounds the tower. The free canopy walk is really worth it. You can start it at the top near the tower parking lot loop, or at the bottom by going through the Taman Eko Rimba KL Information Center.
One aspect of KL we could never have envisioned is the exaggerated number of large shopping malls. They seem to appear on every other intersection of major arterial roads and you can only drive or cab it to them as there are no sidewalks or crossings to use. When I say exaggerated I mean precisely that. Considering how many malls there are, they are huge, some with 5, 8 or, in one case, 10 floors. Even the famous Petronas Towers sit atop a mall. Malaysians love their malls: eating, bowling, singing karaoke, gaming, exercising, shopping of course, oh and watching movies.
The number of movies theaters in KL is astounding. One of the malls we went to actually had two, run by different companies! Movie theaters are another one of those things that feel the same but just slightly different in Malaysia. First, the price of movies is much cheaper than in The States. Also, you can’t really find just regular buttered popcorn, it’s mostly caramel corn, and that one unfortunate time, chicken corn. We decided against tasting that flavor. Still, I can see why so many people go; the movie theaters are all new with high-quality screens and sound, and comfortable seating. My favorite being the Beanieplex (yes, a beanbag chair filled cinema). Not to mention they would blast the air conditioning which made it the perfect retreat from the hot-humid weather. I don’t even think people went to watch the movies half the time. If there is a movie you are very excited to see don’t go see it in Malaysia. Every movie we went to people would talk through the whole thing. I think most just go to have a nice dark cool place to relax with friends.
With all of the malls and all of the stores it was a surprise how we struggled to find a new pair of sneakers. You see, Frank The Labrador in England had taken a liking to Nicolo’s regular pair on our last house sit. That and our deciding to walk with him through muddy fields meant they were binned the day we left. We were happy to find another pair hidden away that he hadn’t worn for a long time, so we brought those along instead. Six and a half thousand air miles later he remembered that he had abandoned them before because they hurt like hell. (Note for travelers: Avoid hoarding tendencies, toss things out you never want to use again.) So off to mall #1, Sunway Pyramid, we went in search of a comfortable pair. “Size what? No, sir, We only go up to size 11.” Then mall #2, Midvalley, “Yes, we have two styles in size 12 , black dress shoes, and no wide fitting.” And finally third time lucky at mall #3, Berjaya Times Square. Just one pair.
If shopping isn’t your thing, and it really isn’t ours, at the very least you can use the malls to get some exercise and burn off all the food you inevitably will end up eating. Some of our favorites for walking and sightseeing were 1Utama which is the largest mall in Malaysia, and the Empire Shopping Gallery where we had our first meal. Just don’t stop at every tasty looking restaurant as you walk or the whole thing will be for naught.
On this trip we saw so many stores, restaurants, clubs, and movie theatres but next time we want to see what natural wonders KL has to offer. Where should we go?
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