Blogger: Grace O’ Donnell
My latest stay was in Kuala Lumpur. As I proudly boasted to my dad that I had a view of the Petronas Towers from my bedroom window, he quietly pointed out that being the 12th tallest buildings in the world, this is probably not a rare view in KL. And boy are they tall. I insisted to my travelling companion, a structural engineer, that they were much smaller than the Eiffel Tower, bad move on my part. The Petronas towers were the tallest towers in the world when they were completed in 1996. But the most significant feature of the towers is not their height but their beauty. Whether it be a golden light during the day, a husky pink at sunset or a brilliant white at night, the towers shine continuously, a beacon of the modernity of Malaysia.
Of course once you’ve seen the Petronas Towers, the next thing you have to do is see the Petronas Towers, from above of course. You have your choice of the Skybar which contains a swimming pool, right next to the Twin Towers or you can check out the Heli Lounge Bar, as featured in the Hangover 2 (if that’s a selling point for you). Yes that’s right you can go out onto a helicopter launchpad to see an incredible 360 view of the city, with some tasty cocktails. A few things to note, this place is a bit fancier than Skybar so dress appropriately, it’s not clear from the ground floor how to get to the helicopter pad and you have to be there between 18:00 and 21:00 if you want free access to the Helipad. Also they don’t open the Helipad if there’s bad weather, obvious I know, but somehow I was still mildly surprised when they didn’t let us onto the Helipad in the middle of a lightning storm…
The Batu Caves are limestone caves which contain a Hindu temple (consisting of several shrines and enormous statues). The Caves are super accessible by local transport, it take about a half an hour from central KL to get there using the trams. Be careful of the monkeys! I did not heed the warnings of a very lovely couple, and a monkey stole my cap, wore it (good fashion sense), but eventually gave it back (ok he actually dropped it to the ground but i chose to believe he was giving it back).
Easily missed, but really worth going to are the Dark Caves situated just below the Batu Caves. Only 35 ringgits and you’re already there, you have no excuse! Contained within the Caves are crickets with antennae three times their only body length and that wasn’t even their most distinctive feature, when lost in the cave without food they eat their own legs to survive. We saw bats, millipedes, some creatures which are endemic not just to Malaysia but to this particular cave, such as the Batu Cave flatworm. These flatworms are capable of regeneration, if you cut one of these flatworms into six pieces, instead of killing it you will create six flatworms, what a nightmare. The flatworms possess this uncanny ability because they consist of 20% stem cells, which makes them of great interest to cancer researchers. The tour guide was top notch attentive, informative and clearly passionate about the caves.
After that, we went to Jalan Alor a thriving food market, well worth checking out, I had the best sweet and sour dish I’ve ever had in my life, the Fish Banquet restaurant was amazing (even if you’re a veggie like me) and the coconut ice cream is to die for. As we were enjoying our food, an elderly American couple leaned across and inquired if I “was the girl who had had her hat stolen by a monkey at Batu Caves this morning”. After much laughter and some blushing on my part, we ended up chatting to them for the rest of our meal.
The next day we went to the National Mosque, this was super exciting for me because it was the first mosque I was allowed to enter, not for lack of trying, most mosques won’t allow non Muslims to enter. If you’re not wearing clothing which covers below your knees and your elbows then you get given a beautiful lilac chador to wear, which was honestly part of the fun! Once inside we were able to admire the incredible geometric architecture, gleaming marble, and tall angular pillars.
Opposite the Mosque and also free is The Museum of Islamic Art. This is well worth checking out, though I’d give the bottom two floors a miss, they are full of scrolls but the third and fourth floors contain a panoply of scrolls, in addition to some wonderful artefacts. My favourite were these incredibly ornate metal hair ties that contained a dagger. I gotta get myself one of these!
Tip: If you’re at the Mosque it’s pretty easy to get to Chinatown
Tip: A really good tip I discovered is that Uber, a taxi service which you use via the Uber app on your smartphone, is seriously cheap in Malaysia. If you’re buzzing around the city and spending lots of time on your feet then catch an Uber, it usually cost one dollar per fifteen minute journey.
All the photos of myself -the red-haired girl- are by the very talented photographer and designer Mike Weinhandl, to see more of his photos check out his instagram account @weinhandlm. All the other photos are my own, for more of them or to see my videos, check out my website www.fallinggracefully.