Wednesday, 3 March 2010
Onwards to Malaysia
Up and out! We released ourselves from the giant scissor doors of our hotel by reaching through the gaps to unlock the hefty padlock imprisoning us. We encountered the airport bus at about 7:00am, which also played as a public bus as people seemed to jump on and off as they pleased, often creating a slightly crowded carriage. Arriving in plenty of time, we checked in for our flight to Kuala Lumpur and browsed the duty free shops, mainly using the bookstore as a library and refreshing our itineraries for future stops. They had illustrated guidebooks for everywhere that we’d ever want to go! The latest Lonely Planet ‘South America on a Shoestring’ is now out: March 2010. I wonder when we’ll get to use it?
After a slight delay in boarding, the Malaysian Airlines 737-400 plane set off and before we knew it, our in-flight meals were served in front of us. A typical Malaysian curry, with fruit cake and even Ferrero Rochers. Delicious! We had one of the emergency exit rows over the wing; more room but a very loud whooshing sound!
As we landed we were ready to embark upon an hour-long bus journey into the centre of Kuala Lumpur and, to our surprise, it couldn’t have been simpler. The honest bus drivers directed us straight to the cheap airport bus, without suggesting a more expensive taxi first. Unusual for this neck of the woods, or should I say ‘rainforest’ since we are planning to visit the world’s oldest rainforest in the Taman Negara National Park on Thursday. In fact, we managed to organise that as soon as we located our hostel in the China Town area. This hostel is way overpriced compared to what we have managed to sniff out throughout our journey so far. Our windowless room is like a furnace, the toilets are shared between several other backpackers resulting in a bathroom that smells like Indian Railways, and the bedroom light takes a while to get going. However, a great travelling philosophy is that “ Out of all the places you stay during your trip, it is always the absolute dives that remain most vivid in your memory”. This is actually quite true, and certainly applied to us last year when we found a cockroach in Jon’s bed in Bangladesh. No sign of cockroaches in here so far, nor spiders, nor monsters under the beds. “Touch wood”, I say, as I tap the wooden back piece of the nearest chair). Talking of “Goodnight, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite”, our reliable Lonely Planet guidebook mentions that the hostels in the entire China Town region were riddled with the critters this time last year. Perhaps we’ll have to get our sleeping bags out and use them as a barrier between our beds and our skin.
After the afternoon of sorting things out had passed, we wandered in the direction of the almighty Petronas Twin Towers. We strolled past a quaint mosque, the Masjid Jamek, which looked like it came straight out of Aladdin’s Arabia. Eventually the towers hove into view: wow! So this is what the erstwhile tallest buildings in the world look like!
It’s hard to find adequate words to describe something so magnificent. Perhaps these towers are the most impressive man-made structures in the world. Certainly at night, with the lights from the windows, the floodlights and the flashing lights, it’s an awe-inspiring sight. It made Jon jump for joy, and (for once) Simon was speechless…
The Surya KLCC shopping mall is located at the base of the towers, and at the top of this mall is a typical Malaysian food court, selling all manner of tasty delights. The fresh pineapple and sorbet frizzle is very refreshing; the sweet and sour chicken, together with chicken in a black pepper sauce with rice both came from a great stall called ‘Little Wok’. The concept is simple, take a look, and note the addition of a feisty little sambal in the pepper dish, which they say is their secret house recipe. It’s beautiful but explosive!
Orange muffins completed the meal, making Simon opine that a long journey in Asia (such as the ones we made last year and this year) is really all about the food: that’s what makes the continent tick, and the BEST place for food is right here in Malaysia. It’s a melting pot (well, cooking pot) of cultures, and the fusion this creates really tantalises the taste buds.