It’s that time. You know, what do you do after a long day? Sip cognac, nibble chocolate and luxuriate in your own volcanic ash filled jacuzzi on your terrace in the moonlight. Obviously. No, actually I am not dreaming. This is our current reality.
It had been three weeks since Sri Lanka and, already, we Wanderlust Junkies were set for another adventure. Those three weeks weren’t the best with horrid bugs, leaking roofs and a tree smashing on to my house marring the whole Christmas / New Year experience so I was ready to escape again.
The Boys flew in from Granada via Malaga on Thursday evening and I set off to meet them for a pre-holiday lunch and catch up at their hotel. The Sofitel at Heathrow’s Terminal 5. I was expecting a burger and glass of wine type of lunch but no, I was in for a real treat. We ate in a stunning restaurant in the hotel, where we were greeted with a glass of fizz and an amuse bouche.
We then feasted on smoked duck salad then the most divine guinea fowl. Now that’s the way to start the trip.
Courtesy of melatonin, a good movie (Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool) and a fair pouring of alcohol, I felt we were in Malaysia before we could blink. Our driver from the hotel was there waiting and we were transported to an oasis in Kuala Lumpur, the Villa Samadhi. My room is glorious – and, yes, the highlight is the terrace which is totally private so skinny dipping in the jacuzzi is already a nightly ritual.
Our first evening was a very chilled out one, lounging on a big, big “bed” by the pool whilst sipping cocktails then dinner in the restaurant then above mentioned (many times) cognac and chocolate jacuzzi.
Sunday was about a private guided tour. KL is a strange city. On the surface it now looks like any major Western capital, skyscrapers and high end shops. But the unique thing about KL is how unbelievably green it is. Firstly, look up and you will see gardens in the sky.
The high buildings are a sort of upside down version of our own – roofs have gardens, trees popping up and plants hanging down.
But even more beautiful is that KL has its own mini rain forest. The smallest rain forest in the world, it is quite amazing to at one point be gazing at the Petronas Towers and then to be listening to birds singing whilst surrounded by lush trees.
KL has all the normal stuff, you would expect, Chinatown, Little India and so forth. It’s not as frenetic or bustling or as polluted as Bangkok. It’s a very chilled out place with very happy smiling people. Smatterings of old colonial architecture mix in with ultra modern sleek structures. We visited the Textile Museum which was full of beautiful batiks and I bought a stunning silk dress which cost all of £20.
Whilst there is a lot to see in KL, there isn’t that much to actually DO, but an obvious must do is going up the famous Twin Towers which are ever present wherever you go.
Metal clad and almost New Yorky and deco-ish in design, they are utterly beautiful. I adored them, almost as much as my favourite building ever, the Eiffel Tower. Going up them, however, was a logistical nightmare with umpteen staff issuing different coloured badges and putting you in various holding queues for what seems liked forever. However, the aggravation was worth it. The views both from the walking platform and the observation tower were beautiful. For me, the best part of the view was seeing the other twin so up close and personal.
Night was starting to fall and lights started twinkling. It was quite magical.
We then went for cocktails at Marini’s on 57. The views from this 57th storey bar in a building known as the “3rd Tower” were as beautiful as from the Twin Towers themselves and watching the City by night was glorious.
We then ate downtown in a very casual, local Malay place full of locals. The prawns were spicy and delicious. We got very lost trying to get back to our hotel and I had very blondely left my key in my hotel room, but against the odds I made it back to my room and to my jacuzzi before curfew time!
So the start of the long-awaited Malaysia/Singapore trip. Great this time to be travelling together, the three of us, and on a very pleasant direct flight from Heathrow to Kuala Lumpur.
Mmm… We were picked up at the airport by a driver from the hotel we’re staying at for 3 nights (Villa Samadhi). Maroulla asked him a simple question.
What are your absolute favourite things to do in Kuala Lumpur?
He couldn’t supply a spur-of-the-moment answer. Yesterday morning, again with the same driver but this time with the addition of a Belgian, lived-in-KL-for-4-years guide, we enjoyed a city tour of Kuala Lumpur. Maroulla again, in her chirpy Blue Peter assignment mode, asked the guide the same question. She also failed to come up with a put-your-finger-on-it response.
And I think Kuala Lumpur is a kind of guess-you-have-to-live-there sort of place. It must be based on friends, communities, favourite places to eat etc. It’s rich of me to say that, of course, after just a couple of days here. But that’s certainly what the driver and the guide seemed to be implying. As we China-town’d and Little-India’d and Royal Palace’d and former cricket club’d, nothing stood out that entranced or titillated or tempted you back.
The big attraction – and rightly so – are/is the twin Petronas towers.
The building was officially opened by the then Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad on 1 August 1999. Impressively it hasn’t dated. A gleaming, stainless steel structure, it’s Empire State meets Chrysler, but with an Orientalist/pagoda touch – and of course this building has 2 towers. Awe-inspiring by day and startling by night – illuminated the towers resemble giant, radiant icicles. The view from the 86th floor is mind-blowing. Not only because it’s thrilling to be looking down on the tops of other Kuala Lumpur skyscrapers, but because you see the surrounding nature – and you see all the construction work going on – for buildings that will just spread further and gobble up more of the that nature and knocking any remaining older buildings for a six.
Interestingly, the present Prime Minister is currently building a tower that will out-rival the height of the Petronas building. Big boys with big toys.
It calls to mind one of my favourite pieces of musical theatre: Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. 3 convicts are on the run. The vehicle they’re in breaks down. So they decide to build a city of pleasure in this no-man’s land – like a big heaving altar to capitalism. That’s what it feels like to me. But nothing wrong with the occasional bit of pleasure I was happily thinking as we sipped our great cocktails in the bar of Marini’s on 57 with the icicle towers like wallpaper against the panoramic windows. But it really was Anywhere-ville.
Kuala Lumpur is commonly referred to as KL, and the city centre as KLCC. In my mind I kept thinking KFC. I have a feeling it’s the poor, competitive relation to Singapore. But I’ll reserve my final judgement on that till we’ve seen Singapore – S – in a few weeks’ time.