It seems a bit rude to only spend 24 hours in a place. Surely it is impossible to get the sense of a city in one superficial skim? Where is the fairness in that? Where are my manners?
In my defence, I am not a city person, and this visit was a short stopover on the way to Nepal. When the focus is on the exoticism of Nepal, one day in the sprawling metropolis of Kuala Lumpur was more than enough for this visit.
Kuala Lumpur, including the Klang Valley, has a population of 7.25 million people, and covers an area of approximately 94 square kilometres. The sheer size of the city, and its frenetic traffic, could be overwhelming if you don’t have some sort of plan or strategy to move about.
An option would be to theme a visit around food, shopping, history or architecture. Or you could take a more general approach by jumping on the KL Hop-On Hop-Off bus to move systematically around the tourist attractions. At Ringgit45 (about $AUD15) it is good value, but more about that later.
Luckily for our group, we had a private bus and guide who ensured we took in the highlights, all the while filling our brains with interesting facts and figures about the city and its history.
Propped up in our air-conditioned bus, I was pleased not to have to contend with the unrelenting traffic through the narrow and twisting streets. Usually I have an excellent sense of direction, but admit to being totally bamboozled as we wended our way around the city. In tour guide Larry Lam’s capable hands, we ticked off KL’s must-sees:
Petronas or Twin Towers: Yes, these are remarkable pieces of architecture, but they left me cold. It is possible to travel to the top of the towers for a 360° view of KL, but to me it’s “yep, just another big city”. After a few happy snaps, it was back on the bus.
More interesting to me was the Meals-on-Wheels motorbike selling a whole range of interesting snacks including boiled eggs, generous wedges of ruby red watermelon and dried fish crisps.
Thean Hou Temple: This Chinese temple is on the outskirts of KL, and is not on the usual tourist route. It was a riot of colour and symbolism (see the photo in the banner of this post). The interesting thing about this temple is that it is a blend of Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism. The temple has selected the best of all of the individual religions and blended them together in the one temple. I like their thinking.
But tortoises are not welcome! Apparently local people love tortoises as pets, but when the novelty wears off, they dump them at the Temple leading to an unwanted tortoise population boom!
National Palace: A flying visit to the National Palace was accompanied by about 300 police motorbikes and sundry highly decorated officials all decked out in white gloves and clinking medals. Apparently it was the practice run for the inauguration of the new king, due to happen in four days’ time. The monarchy in Malaysia operates on a rotation system. Nine families share the honour of being king for five years. Women need not apply as there is no such thing as ‘reigning’ queens in Malaysia.
National Monument: This monument is set in lush, tropical gardens and features panoramic views of the city. It celebrates the struggle for national independence and commemorates those who died in the pursuit of freedom, particularly in WWII. Interestingly the sculpture caused a furore when it was unveiled as the faces are distinctly European rather than Asian. Not a popular choice, but it was all discovered far too late.
Merdeka (or Independence) Square: Is a clash of cultures and architectural styles. It started out as the home of the Colonialists with mock Tudor architecture, old Boys clubs and cricket pitches. While the architecture remains, it is a now an open green space and celebrates the proclamation of Malaysia as an independent nation in 1957.
Central Market: For the shoppers out there, Central Market is a treasure trove under one roof. People walk through these doors and are never seen again! Well, slight exaggeration, but as a one-stop-shop for Malaysian arts and craft, it can’t be beaten. The building started out in 1888 as a traditional food and everything else market, and has since transformed into 350 shops and kiosks in a bazaar-like layout.
Actually, KL is a shopping paradise, not only for arts and crafts. Every twist and turn seems to reveal another shopping mall or retail mecca. Not for the faint-hearted like me.
Batek: Our final stop for the tour was a fascinating visit to a batek workshop and store. While the others shopped like demons, I was transfixed by the skill of the artists. Great swathes of silk, and other fabrics, are stretched taut on frames, and then decorated by hand. Such steady hands and clear eyesight.
There is so much more to KL that I have been able to fit into this post. There are Orchid Gardens, Butterfly Parks, Bird Parks, the KL Tower, Little India, China Town and the National Mosque. All accessible by the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus.
In the afternoon, rather than retail therapy, we jumped on the Hop-On Hop-Off bus and made a beeline for the Butterfly Park. In our naivety we underestimated the traffic and the time it would take to get there. We seemed to crawl through the city at snail’s pace and as the clock ticked away, we quickly realised that we should just sit back and enjoy the ride around the full loop rather than think about actually getting off the bus!
At the same time, the clouds brewed and blackened and down came a thunderous tropical storm. My imagination immediately pictured the little butterflies, peeking out from under large glossy leaves and hiding away from the downpour.
We made it back to the hotel just in time to refresh and jump back on yet another bus to head out to dinner and a cultural show. I am not sure we could have fitted another thing into our 24 hours.
What other cities would you recommend for a 24-hour visit?
What: We stayed at the Corus Hotel.
Where: Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia.
When: We visited KL in late April. It was hot, stormy and steamy.
Why: We had a one-night stop in KL to break the flight/journey from Australia.
How: We flew on Malaysian Airlines and didn’t crash land or get blown out of the sky.
Who: Nine Country Women’s Association members, three daughters and one exceptionally brave husband!
Related Posts: For the next stop on this Asian adventure, have a look at my post about the delights of Nepal.
Related Blogs: For a budget view of traveling in Malaysia, have a look at: https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-guides/malaysia-travel-tips/
Read About it: For an historical read about Malaysia, grab the wonderful novels by Tan Twan Eng – The Gift of Rain and The Garden of Evening Mists. He writes about Malaysia during World War II and the impact of the Japanese. Yes, they are war stories, but beautifully written and a part of history I never really considered before. Check them out on Book Depository.