The bus slowly drove past the famous PETRONAS Twin Towers that Malaysians are inordinately proud of the reason for which eluded me. I thought they were hideous. Malevolent-looking, grey, shiny metal fingers, they point straight up in the air for a great distance without anything to relieve their sombreness. These utilitarian steel-clad monsters were completed in 1998 and are eighty-eight storeys and 452 metres high, making them the seventh highest structure in the world.
Burma Map English Gallery Photos
Burma Map English
A bridge connects the two towers about halfway up at an enormous height and I was told that for a fee I could walk across it. No fear. You’d have to pay me heaps and you’d still need a cattle prod to force me out onto there. But I loved Merdeka (Freedom) Square. Ringed by magnificent heritage buildings, it is one of the most spectacular squares I have seen anywhere.
Almost the full bus circuit later I got off at the Bintang (Star) Walk where all the up-market shops like Lacroix and Louis Vuitton are, not that they were my aim I was looking for Lowyat Plaza where computers are sold. Recently my little portable had begun a slow progression toward what I feared might be eventual extinction. It was refusing to register d’s, which made for some very interesting words, and I also need two d’s to get into my email. After going from counter to counter and floor to floor all ten of them I decided not to buy another computer. Gone are the days of electronic bargains in this part of the world.
My second afternoon in KL was also spent on the Ho Ho bus. I had tried to get a taxi at midday but no one would take me across town at this time because the traffic builds up horrendously then. Instead I got on the bus and got off at the bird park. What a terrific place. A few of the birds, the predators who cannot be trusted not to eat the other inmates, are in large enclosures. The rest fly or stalk, in the case of the flamingos, free, clearly visible and unafraid of humans under the high overhead netting that covers the entire eight hectares of the park. I entered the enclosure through a set of double mesh doors that allowed me in but not the birds out. The first long walkway contains large parrots of various colours, many perching on branches right in front of me. There are two hundred species of birds here, including hornbills and eagles, among trees and ponds and natural forest. I enjoyed this park immensely and spent hours there.
Not far from Chinatown was my favourite building. Not surprisingly for a train lover, it was the KL Train Station. Built in 1911 in a Moorish design, it is a glorious confection of white-painted turrets and towers. Not a bit like what you would expect a functional place like a train station would be, it is a cross between an Arabian night’s fantasy palace and a mosque. Originally Butterworth and Singapore trains came here, now they go to the newer Sentral Station; but on my first two journeys through Malaysia my train had stopped here.
I remained in KL for a week and enjoyed all of it except for the horrible pollution that coloured everything greyish and the traffic that made it difficult to get about. The hotel staff was kind and helpful. Taxis were cheap, although they rarely had meters and the cost increased due to the roundabout way you had to go in the one-way traffic system. But almost all the drivers were friendly and most gave me a discount if the fare went over the round dollar fee.
Another difficulty I found was that it was Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, when many services are cut back or not available, so information about onward travel was hard to come by. I visited the lovely restored mansion that is now the Tourist Bureau and even there had no luck. But eventually I happened upon a local train station close to Jalan Sultan that sold long distance bus tickets. I bought one to Malacca, an old and interesting port on the Malay Peninsula beside the Straits of Malacca.