Tag Archives: china town

The Majesty of Kuala Lumpur

When I was younger I watched a movie with Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones called Entrapment.  There was a part in the film where they went to Kuala Lumpur to steal something from the Petronas Twin Towers.  The first time I laid eyes on that tower in the film, I knew that one day I wanted to see those towers in person.  Years later, my desire came true!

I landed at the KLIA 2 airport which was built specifically for Air Asia to accommodate their traffic needs.  While the airport itself is great, it is a bit far from central K.L.  Plenty of options are available however to get to the center of the City, including taxis, trains and buses.  The bus (cheapest option to the city) took about an hour to drop us off at the K.L. Sentral (that’s not a typo, that’s how they spell ‘Central’).  It was quite a scenic trip to the City and honestly I was surprised how hilly surrounding K.L. was.  From there, numerous trains and skyrails were available to take one to any corner of the city.

I had pre-booked (so unlike me, I know!) a little B&B about a kilometer from the towers called The Orange Pekoe for several nights while I awaited my next flight out to Indonesia.  While they did provide great directions on how to get to the B&B from K.L. Sentral, for some reason I ended up getting a little lost once on foot.  I’m just going to blame it on being shell-shocked after coming from a sleepy and chill city to the booming energy of K.L., and of course on the heat of the day as well!  Long story short, though I did wander in the wrong direction several times for about a half hour, I finally found my way (i.e. I stopped and asked for directions) to The Orange Pekoe.

The B&B is located in a partly residential, partly small business street of K.L. and is so obscured that I probably never would have noticed it had I not been looking for it!  While the room was a teeny bit on the dirty side, the rest of the charms of the place made one feel at home.  The staff were really helpful and friendly, and the breakfasts, while basic, were filling and satiating.  Overall I couldn’t complain about the place at all, especially considering its distance from the Towers.  It was perhaps only a 300 meter walk to the covered skywalk that led directly into the heart of the Towers.

I felt like a kid in a candy store having finally arrived in K.L. and able to see the Towers up close and personal.  So needless to say, after quickly settling in to my room, I headed over directly to the skywalk to get to the Towers.  Let me give a warning now to all those who really enjoy finer shopping… If you aren’t looking to break the bank or ring up thousands in retail purchases on your credit card, LEAVE THEM AT HOME!!!  The lower floors of the Towers are essentially a gigantic mall filled with every top clothing/jewelry name in the industry!  From Gucci to Ferragamo, Tiffany’s and Bulgari, the 5 levels and endless hallways of the lower towers are a shoppers dream come true!  Dozens of delicious but top-dollar restaurants are also found there along with at least another dozen coffee shops, a huge food court and a movie theater!!

Again for me it was a bit shell-shocking to arrive in such a grand place.  I normally shy away from larger crowds and detest malls because of the crowds, but I wrestled my way through them to the first level and out the front doors so I could stand in front and view those majestic Towers in their full glory.  Generally I can’t say I’m that impressed by buildings and their architecture, but the Petronas Twin Towers are very impressive!!  The way the light hits off the windows during the day and how brilliantly it lights up at night is mesmerizing.  I could have stood there for hours (and over the 4 days I was there literally did) gazing up their heights, taking in how stunning they are.  In front and behind the buildings they have water displays that light up in an array of colors and even have a water show to music nightly, similar to (but honestly not as grand) as those at the Bellagio in Vegas.

Just like in any large city, there is a lot to see in Kuala Lumpur.  And like many cities, K.L. is well-organized with their transportation options.  One of my favorite features was the ‘Go K.L.’ busses that offered free transport to various parts around the city.  During my time in K.L. I used the free service to get to a starting point, then walked on foot around various parts of the city, eventually rounding my way back to the towers in time to see them light up at night.

I explored China Town (which honestly wasn’t that impressive as it was mostly all about bargain shopping and not food!) and the very impressive sentral market; enjoyed a lovely picnic and walk around the park with a couple I’d met at the B&B from Norway, as well as a visit to the Muslim museum.  I was also there during Deepavali, which is the ‘festival of lights’ celebrated by all Hindus, so I got to enjoy several nights of fireworks up and down the streets.  I had thought to visit the caves while in K.L. but sadly the weather wasn’t as cooperative as I was hoping for, and honestly I was content just spending my days lingering around the city, spending time in the Towers and chilling with my new friends.  I did of course take advantage of the movie theater in the towers and  watched the movie “The Wire” starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt based on the true story of the high-rise wire walk between the NYC twin towers.  Kind of ironic I believe…

On to Teaching English in Indonesia

Back to Malaysia 

Further tidbits on the Towers: The Petronas Twin Towers are so named because of the oil company (Petronas) which occupies the majority of the office space of the towers.  They were designed to resemble motifs found in Islamic art, reflecting the Muslim religion. A joining walkway is found on the 41st and 42nd floors of the towers and tours are available most days for about 80 ringgit (if memory serves!).

It took a total of 7 years to construct from its groundbreaking to the inauguration at a cost of $5.6 billion!  The towers were the tallest in the world for 6 years, until Taipei 101 was completed.  However, to this day they still remain to be the tallest twin towers in the world!

Facts about the towers were provided by Wikipedia

One Day in Bangkok

I didn’t know what to expect when first exploring Bangkok.  One thing for sure is that there are many different parts to explore.  I stayed in a hotel not far from the airport (Floral Shire Hotel) basically picking it because it was easily accessible from the airport AND they offered a free shuttle, so can’t go wrong there!  I stayed for two nights, which turned out to be a good call since I barely had any sleep on the flight over and was dead tired when I arrived.  So technically my first day there was spent catching up on sleep!

From the air Bangkok has the look of Houston (industrial and HUGE with lots of a large variety of buildings) yet as if it was set in southern Florida (tons of wet fields and watery canals/rivers giving the land a swampy look).  Upon landing, the air smelled like San Jose, Costa Rica (thick jungle air with the scent of a city nearby).  Honestly there were times I had to remind myself I was in Thailand and not back in Costa Rica as the plants and animals also reminded me of C.R. with loads of banana trees and geckos (love those little chirping buggers!!) crawling all around the walls and ceilings chasing after bugs.  Oh, and there was the veggie truck that came by each morning by the hotel advertising fruits and veggies for sale.  It brought a smile to my face once again being in place that felt easy going with simple living:)

Before going into my day there, I wanted to give my overall impressions.  Bangkok is an interesting mix of life.  There is obviously poverty there and it has a very dirty feel to it (literally dirty as you could feel the street on your skin after a few hours of walking around and at the end of the day my snot was black!   Too much info??  Lol!).  People are everywhere, all around working away or moving about, bumping into you (not rudely, just the nature of crowds) or simply minding their business with whatever task they are into.  Yet, for as sketchy as the surroundings looked and for the amount of people coming closely in contact, I felt safer there than anywhere I’ve been so far.  I can’t speak for all people who’ve traveled or will travel there, and I did get scammed a bit, but I never felt unsafe.  Strangely  there were times I wandered with my camera in hand (I NEVER do that!  It’s always packed unless in use) or walked through areas that at a glance you would think “don’t go there!!”.  But my senses never felt any danger or real threat, so I went where I wanted watching the life of Bangkok unfold.  That’s the feeling I came away with from Bangkok…  Before moving on I have to say I’m not at all a fan of the scent of Bangkok…  It’s fish mixed with dirt, car pollution, stale standing water, industrial oil and what smells like a toilet somewhere.  Not everything can be peaches! 🙂

Moving on to my day: as I’m not a huge fan of big cities, visiting downtown Bangkok took a bit of a kick in the rear.  I kinda dreaded having to navigate such a large place, especially given that the language was SO different than anything I’d been used to before.  As it turned out, one DAY in Bangkok was enough for me!

Before heading to town I did a bit of research on what to see/do and came across a website that outlined the top 9 things to do in Bangkok in one day… Perfect!  Sounds like a plan for me and it got me excited to head into the city!  So I jotted down all the necessary information (where and how to get there) and the next morning headed out.

That was about where everything went NOT according to plan… The first thing on the list was a floating market which thankfully also mentioned it’s only open on the weekends.  So #1 was off the list.  On to #2, the temple of dawn: Wat Arun.  I asked the receptionist to get a taxi so I could be taken to the Airport Rail station to head to town (as always I figured I would walk from there or get another cab if needed to where I wanted to go).  She however, suggested I just have the taxi take me into town (“much easier”).  Ok, fine.  Why not?  So I get into the cab and we start heading to town.  On the way he starts telling me about “boat”.  “Boat trip down river”.  I responded with “nice, ok” not realizing that he took “ok” literally and proceeded to take me to a boat tour place.  Once I figured out what was going on I insisted that no, I wanted to go to the Grand Palace (a teeny boat trip across the river from there would get me to Wat Arun).  He then said that wasn’t possible because the Grand Palace was closed to tourists due to the Kings Birthday being tomorrow (December, 5) which was actually true.  “Too much traffic there” is what he also stated.

We ended up at the Oriental Pier just north of the Taksin Bridge where they gave boat tours.  2000 baht for 1 hour… Which equates to almost $61… No thanks.  I would rather spend my time walking around than one hour on a boat taking typical tourist “picture, picture, picture” (how the tour lady explained the boat trip).  It also turned me off that she tried to negotiate the price with me.  To me, the original price is either worth it, or it isn’t.  I’m happy to pay the full price of something IF it’s worth it to me.  This wasn’t,  so I declined all the way.  15 minutes later after finally succeeding in explaining to my taxi driver that I wanted to pay him (375 baht in total damage) and just walk to town from there I headed out on foot.

I was definately NOT in the touristy part of town… I was in the Hangover Part II, back alley, so-many-car-fumes-in-the-air-you-could-barely-breathe part of town.  I was so off the map of where tourists “should” be that I never even ran into another gringo until I got to China Town.  It is amazing to see how people live.  Food markets and street food kiosks were everywhere lined right up along the edge of the sidewalks where cars and motorcycles (which by the way they also use sidewalks to drive on) zoomed past.  There wasn’t anywhere to be able to stop for a break unless you sat for food and bathrooms?  Hope you have a big bladder because you won’t find one for a while in that area!  But then again, as I said I was off the perhaps “normal” path for a bit.

I made it to China Town along Yaowarat Rd. where they were having some sort of itty bitty car show!  There were tons of people wearing yellow shirts that at first I thought were part of a tour of sorts but later realized yellow is the color of the King, so just about everyone was wearing a yellow shirt to honor his birthday:)  I ran into my first English speaker since leaving the hotel who confirmed I had been walking the right way for the Grand Palace (phew!!!).

Now, normally when navigating my way around places with a map and my feet I always think after the fact “gee, those distances were a lot shorter than I would have thought based on the map”… This is NOT so with the Bangkok map!  Everything is quite a bit further than the maps would lead you to believe…   One block on a map seemed to be 5 in reality, lol!  After about 4 hours of walking I was getting a bit tired.  According to the map I was ALMOST there so I kept trucking… And this is where the scam occurred…

Bangkok ‘Gangster’ Scams

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