15.04.2014

THE FLOWER OF SOUTH ASIA

THE FLOWER OF SOUTH ASIA, Beyhan Ünal | 15.04.2014

The capital of Malaysia Kuala Lumpur was founded in 1857 at the spot where the Gombak and Klang rivers meet and was given its name, which means "muddy river junction." Even though this city has been built upon all the latest technologies, it remains a city that retains the beauty of its natural surroundings. With its nighttime glittering skyscrapers, chic restaurants, luxury shops, and natural beauty, you see that everything you need to live in South Asia is offered to you by Kuala Lumpur.

Because it’s home to a tropical climate there's fairly high rainfall and humidity. In both winter and summer, the average temperature is around 26-30 degrees Celsius. The weather all year round is good enough for you to plan a holiday there but between November and February there's a monsoon season so it'll be heavy rains during those months. December, January, February, June, and July are probably the best months to visit.

Malaysia's form of government includes both the legality of Sharia courts and is a Federal Parliamentary Monarchy. The country is comprised of Malay, Islamic, Chinese, and Indian cultures. More than half of the population is Muslim, while other common religions include Buddhism, Christianity, and Hinduism.

Flights from Istanbul to Kuala Lumpur take approximately 10.5 hours. The airport is 50km from the city. The easiest and cheapest way to get from the airport to the city is the KLIA Express that leaves every 15 minutes (www.kliaexpress.com) and takes 28 minutes to get to the main station. You might also want to think about the express buses outside of the parking lot in Block C, though those take much longer, right around 1.5 hours.

Where/what to see?

Batu Caves: Located in Selangor and home to the world's biggest Hindu cave temple. The temple is reached by scaling 272 stairs. At the entrance of the temple is the 43 meter tall Murugan Statue. Within the Batu Caves are 3 main caves, small limestone caves and Hindu temples and shrines. The 400 year old "Cathedral Cave" is said to be 400 years old, with 100 year old temple idols and statues as well as countless monkeys. I recommend against feeding the monkeys because they may attack you to take food out of your hands. The temple needs light and with the colorful clothing and customs of the local pilgrims all makes for a great opportunity for photography enthusiasts.  If you happen to visit during a Hindu festival - the most important of which is the Thaipusam Hindu Festival - you'll see some fascinating scenes. The temple is open to visitors between 6:00am and 9:00pm. It takes 30 minutes to get from the entrance to the temple and about 2 hours to see everything.

Petronas Twin Towers: Built in 1998 by the Argentinian-born American architect Cesar Pelli and located in the city center. The towers are the world's tallest twin buildings and the 5th highest skyscrapers in the world. They belong to the petrol company Petronas and are a reflection of Malaysia's eagerness for progress. You can get a view of the whole city from the bridge on the 41st floor connecting the 88 story and 452 meter high towers. Because entrance to the towers is free, there is often a line all day long. They open at 8:30am and you might want to get there early because there's a capacity of 1400 people and lines form all day. Also you should make a note that it's closed on Mondays. You can also shop at the shopping mall below. If you head up to the towers it all takes about 3 hours, if not it's about one hour.

National History Museum: This is the place for both museum lovers and people who want to learn the history of this country. It's open every day between 9:00am and 6:00pm. The museum is housed in a old bank building from 1910. The museum has 520 million year old metaphormic sandstone and a 40 thousand year old Homo sapiens’ skull that are worth seeing.

Merdaka Square: This is the most important square in the city. This square is important for being the spot where the Malaysian flag was raised in place of the British flag on August 31st, 1957 and thus declaring their independence. Across from the square is a beautiful garden and you can stretch out and relax or get something to eat right underneath the square at the Putra Plaza and the historical Sultan Abdul Samad Building.

Chinatown: Chinatown, known as Jalan Petaling, is great both for sightseeing and if you want to buy cheaper Chinese knockoffs. I recommend you prepare for bargaining to get half of what they say. It's about 15 minutes away from the city center and takes about 2.5-3 hours to see it all. During the day it's mostly shops and at night it becomes more of an open air market.

Bukit Bintang: This is the liveliest avenue of the city center. All of the side streets are amazingly colorful and lively. On this avenue you'll find luxury brands and local products in any one of the countless shops.

Butterfly Park: There are over 6,000 butterflies of over 120 different species enclosed by netting as well as 15 thousand plants to create a rainforest for the butterflies. It's like there's a tropical forest in the middle of the city! You have to pay to take photos in the park. The park is open from 9:00am to 6:00pm.

Night Market: Every Saturday between 5:00pm and 10:00pm Lorong Tuanku Abdul Rahman Street is closed to traffic and the night market is opened. Vendors sell local products and clothing from their stalls.

Shopping Centers: This city is home to some of South Asia's biggest shopping centers. The first amongst these is the Suria KLCC in the city's Golden Triangle, just under Petronas Towers. Also Starhill Gallery is a perfectly good alternative. In the Putraya region Alamanda Mall is both big and well-laid out. Other shopping regions include Jalan Bukit Bintang, Jalan Sultan Ismail, Jalan Ibni as well as places with nice hotels.

And last but not least, the most important question… What to eat?

The cuisine of Malaysia is just as diverse as its culture and many ethnicities. You'll find Indian, Malaysia, and Chinese cuisines all to your taste, though it's still Asian cuisine at the end of the day. And as you know, whatever you eat in Asia it's going to be delicious! My favorite dish was vegetables, beef and noodles in oyster sauce.  If you want to go to a really good restaurant I'd say go to Bukit Bintang's Frangipani, KLCC's Bijan, or Ampang's Restaurant Chef Choi.

Here's to hoping your travels go well! :)

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