11.04.2014

THE POLLUTED RIVER

THE POLLUTED RIVER, Nazlı Tezcan | 11.04.2014

Meaning “dirty river”, Kuala Lumpur is a city where the modern and traditional come together in a very alluring way.  Once a polluted river, but in today’s modern capital no longer. Had they known just how navigable the city is, would they have insisted on its name I wonder…

We’d come to this cosmopolitan city by plane from Jakarta. There are direct flights from Istanbul, but this was our vacation’s route. Up to you to decide between train or taxi for getting from the airport to the city. Our hotel was some distance from the train station and as two train tickets costs almost as much as a taxi ride, we took one. The airport is quite far from the city, so we spent almost an hour in the taxi.

Our hotel was in the KLCC area, a 15-minute walk from the landmark Petronas Towers. Kuala Lumpur is made up of several districts and this one is ideal for staying in the city center. After settling into our room we hit the streets.

Our first stop: the KL Tower. This is actually a television tower… 421 meters high, and at the top there’s a terrace and restaurant with panoramic of the city. Even if it’s from behind glass, if you want to see and take pictures from high above you should visit the KL Tower and the Petronas Towers.

We headed straight for the twin Petronas Towers, for a while the world’s tallest. The number of visitors and tickets to the tower are limited each day, this is why I didn’t get a chance to go up on my first visit to the city. We tried to score tickets fast but regrettably we were too late. On top of that, the tower was closed to visitors the next day… And we were leaving the day after! While trying to think of a way in or a friend to come and save the day, a French tourist appeared. The tourist with two tickets in his hand hopefully thought we could get more, but he found that he could only get one and we lamented not getting ours online earlier. So we had to decide who would get left out… Always polite, my friend, knowing very well my love of photography, let me go. I didn’t resist too much and headed enthusiastically to the elevator with the group.

A Skybridge connects the two towers at the 41st floor. I got anxious because I learned from a friend earlier that the floor is glass. Walking this high above the ground on a glass floor worries me a bit. Getting out of the elevator to the bridge, I was relieved to see that the glass floor is only a small part of the bridge. The security didn’t give us much time on the bridge anyway. I snapped a few pics before taking the elevator up to the 86th floor. It was so high! For a moment I felt trapped and felt like going back. From this height, the city looks as if a miniature. I’d say drinking a coffee while admiring the view would be nice, but there wasn’t the chance.  Twenty minutes and our visit to the Petronas Towers is up.

We headed back to our hotel via the park at the foot of the towers. On our way, Chili’s, the American chain restaurant, caught our attention and we went in to silence our grumbling stomachs. The food was good and the prices reasonable. If you enjoy this type of cuisine, the city offers Planet Hollywood and the Hard Rock Café for you to choose from.         

We went back to the hotel after our meal, the day’s fatigue bearing down on us, and hit the rooftop pool, which has a superb view of the city. The best part about the pool is that it’s open until 11pm… Back to our room for the night after enjoying the pool – being tired was never so good.

We got up quite early the next morning. Our hotel does not have its own dining hall, but they’ve made a deal with the café next door and guests can partake in breakfast and coffee for free.

Our plan for the next day was intense. First off, Dataran Merdeka – in other words, starting from ‘Freedom’ Square we join the crowded city streets. Merdeka Square means a lot to the Malays. It was here in 1957 that the Union Jack of Great Britain came down and the Malaysian national flag was raised.

These days, the clock tower in the square and some ministerial offices under the magnificent dome of the Sultan Abdul Samad building attract immediate attention. In the square’s vicinity lie the National Mosque, the Museum of Islamic Arts, and the train station are must-see places. Across the square, at the intersection of the rivers, the Masjid Jamek Mosque is visible. It may not be Kuala Lumpur’s biggest mosque, but it is certainly the most attractive.

Our next stop was Chinatown. The best reason for visiting this area is the long shopping street called Jalan Petaling. Open air at first, tourists suffocating from the heat might feel as if they’re in a transparent frying pan. Gifts and things alongside quite a lot of knock-offs can be found on this street. Some firm bargaining before buying has its advantages. You can get quite a good, low price.

We were in a shopping mood and headed straight for Bukit Bintang Street. There are a lot of stores and shopping centers here…. The food court in one mall looked quite tempting and we decided to have our dinner here.

We toured the city on foot since we left our hotel and we were quite tired. So we preferred to take a train back. Getting around by train is comfortable, but some stops aren’t connected to each other and another walk may be necessary.

Short on time, we weren’t able to visit the Batu Caves, some 13km far from the city, and a Kuala Lumpur must-see. The next morning, in the taxi to the airport, on our way to the Philippines, we decided that if we got the chance to visit again we’d do the caves. Thus concluded our trip to KL.

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