Sky is the limit
Apr 10 2014
A visit to Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital that has grown from a shanty town of tin-miners to a city with super-duper skyscrapers and a bustling nightlife, is worth your time and money
Once that was over, we looked forward to reaching Kuala Lumpur. Dense stretches of coconut trees lined our path, blurring slightly as the bus picked up speed.
From the bus terminus in KL, we hired a taxi to Hotel Equatorial. Two minutes into the journey, our co-traveller, a dear friend and long-time Singapore resident, broke into an uncharacteristic, unin-telligible, but excited chatter with the cabbie. It sure did not sound like Malay. It should not have, anyway, for they were conversing in Tamil: her mother tongue and the taxi-driver’s too.
Malaysia is “truly Asia”. And KL, with its unbelievable growth from a tin-mining shanty town to a city with super-duper skyscrapers, offers an excellent motley of inhabitants: Malays, British colonials, Chinese traders and Indian migrants.
At Hotel Equatorial, the mood was festive, with the approaching Eid-ul-Fitr, or the Hari Raya Aidilfitri, as they called it locally. Since we were on a very short trip, and the day was just past noon, we paid a visit to the Batu Caves, 13 km north of KL.
Full of limestone stalactites and stalagmites supposedly 400 million years old, the Batu Caves is a set of Hindu cave temples, and named after the nearby Batu River.
A statue of Lord Murugan towered before the caves. Over 42 metres high, made of 250 tonnes of steel bars, 1550 cubic metres of concrete, with 300 litres of gold paint, it definitely merited the adjective ‘impressive’. The steep steps to the caves were 272 in number, the statistical detail hitting us far below the belt, at the knees.
A short walk from Batu Caves, and we were at the Royal Selangor Pewter Factory. Gift items and tableware poetically crafted out of pewter shone in glass showcases. The store-in-charge proudly gave us a brief about the uses of this malleable metal alloy. To commemorate the factory’s centenary, its chief designer Anders Quistgaard had made the world’s largest pewter tankard, which won a mention in the Guinness world records.
We spent the evening window-shopping at Suria KLCC Mall, and ambling on the brightly lit streets. Cheerful music greeted us from pubs with neon-lit names like Aloha and Rum Jungle. The Menara KL and the Petronas Twin Towers glowed against the night skyline.
The Menara KL, or the KL Tower, rises 421 metres from the centre of the verdant Bukit Nanas forest, the oldest recorded forest reserve in the country. It is the world’s fourth highest telecommunications tower.
The next morning, as an overhead monorail coach zoomed past, and the KL Hop-On Hop-Off tourist bus drove enticingly by, we went up to KL Tower’s onion-bulb shaped observation deck. It offered us a jaw-dropping bird’s eye view of KL. The headsets attached to our ears offered information about all the buildings, but the Petronas Twin Towers dominated the cityscape.
Headquarters of the national oil and gas company Petronas, the Twin Towers have 88 storeys. Almost 452 metres tall, they were designed by Cesar Pelli, an Argentinean architect.
Visitors can go up to the Skybridge on the 41st floor, 170 metres from the ground.
We stood in a serpentine queue of tourists for tickets to the Skybridge, only to be told a while later that all tickets for the morning shift had been sold out. The Twin Towers fridge magnets from the gift shop were a poor consolation. But, if we wished to, we could still take a closer look at the Skybridge: in the Catherine Zeta Jones and Sean Connery movie, Entrapment, or in the Shahrukh Khan-enacted Don.