I was serving my notice period at work. Eagerly looking forward to the last working day. Ani, our friend who lives in Kuala Lumpur had been asking us to come visit him for a long long time. Now, he was even more persistent. Very soon I would have no excuse of “work” and he tried to convince me to take a break before I jump head long into my next project. So, I book tickets to KL, Malaysia in the last week of August. Trying to keep the tickets cheap, the tickets were booked on weekdays, which gave me 10 days in KL.
I was 3 weeks deep into my temporary semi-retirement when it was time to leave. I, as usual had my list with “things to do”, “places to see”, “what to eat”, which was ready within 3 days of booking the tickets. 😀
My son was extremely upset this time and it made it really hard for me to go. I guess the time we spent the last 3 weeks together, which we haven’t had the chance to do since the time I started working at my last job, made it worse. With a lot of tearful goodbyes I was ready to leave. That morning, a celebrity had passed away and all the roads of the city were congested. I had initially planned to take the airport shuttle bus. You see, I was unemployed now and I had to do everything budget! Thanks to the traffic, the bus was out of question now. Abhinav dropped me at the airport via an alternate route and I made it well in time, for my midnight flight.
After checking in it was time for my “beer at the airport” ritual. Boarding was uneventful. I watched “All the money in the world” and for a change slept deeply. What did I know this would be a preview of what my next few days was going to look like?! Meal time, I took a veggie meal!! I know, right? Well, I want to turn vegetarian for various reasons. A topic for another post someday. But, this is my weakness. Food. I love eating and eating varieties and specially meat. So, this has been a long drawn battle.
Due to the time difference, when I landed in KL, it was 7 in the morning. Ani had come to pick me up and told me about the city, his place and other details all along the way. Once we got home, he left for work and I went to sleep. Once I woke up, hit the gym (because you gotta!) and then waited for Ani to get back from work. My first evening here, Ani and his friend and colleague Pankaj took me to the Sky Bar, this bar on the 30th floor of the Traders Hotel right opposite the Petronas tower. Gorgeous view in the night!! There was a table by the window overlooking the tower right as we entered. We decided to move in, because that was completely cut off from the rest of the bar. The other window seats were at RM800!! We chose to sit on the other side at the bar.
It was still happy hours and we ordered our drinks. Funnily, they brought all at once. So, I had my 1+1 cocktails on the table at once. Another table across from us, Indian men obviously had ordered all their drinks for the night!! So they had around 20 glasses of whisky sitting on the table!! Ani and Pankaj told me that places start getting lively in KL only post midnight. We had unfortunately started very early. Pankaj barely drank which made him sleepy. And we called it a night soon. On the way out, we realized that at midnight there would be fireworks to celebrate the Malaysian Independence day, but we were too tired and sleepy to stay back for it. As part of the celebration all the toll charges were free! How cool is that?!
Ani had been talking about the bird park for a long long time now. I was very skeptical, I didn’t want to be spending my time in a zoo like place, watching birds in cages. But, Ani insisted that it was worth the visit. After a quick gym session I got ready, Pankaj joined us and we were on our way to the zoo. As soon as we reached the place I could hear the chirping of birds as we sat and had a quick bite at the overpriced stalls outside.
The moment I stepped in I was greeted by a parrot sitting right in front of me. There were a lot more around and I was already glad that I came here. As we walked further we came across super cute egrets and gorgeous peacocks which were all through the aviary. I even got to touch one!!
We saw storks, Ibis, the rare Scarlet Ibis, Herons, Flamingos, Swans, Hornbills, Stinky Ostriches, Emus which could rip my arm out as I fed it.
You can even pose with a few select birds for pictures. I chose to use my own camera instead of theirs, and saving a few Ringgits in that process.
After a very satisfying morning, we headed to KLCC to grab some much needed beers and lunch. We went to Svago, Ani’s favourite place at Suria KLCC and as it would become a norm, ordered pizzas. 😦
We had a lot of time to kill before we could head out to Bukit Bintang (the party street) in the evening, so next we went to the Thean Hou Chinese temple which was on my list. At the ground level, which is used as a hall for events and weddings, kids were practicing their dance performances for the night’s Independence day celebration. The temple was beautiful! And Pankaj was too sweet, obliging me and taking my pictures at every nook and corner I wanted!
It is really hard to get Cabs near this temple and we had to wait for a while before we could get to the Pavilion mall. We still had time to kill so decided to walk around for a bit and then grab a coffee. There was nothing interesting for me to shop. Either all high end brands, or unimpressive designs. I suggested we directly go to Bukit Bintang even if it’s too early. I rather sip beer instead of coffee in an overpriced, insanely huge mall. I quickly changed into another set of fresh clothes (After all, I had carried so many from India and had to do justice!) and we walked to Bukit Bintang.
It’s the same sight that greets you in most places in South Asia. Multiple hawker stalls, small stores, roadside cafes and bars. These two guys kept talking about how much the local food’s smell annoyed them. Specially Pankaj seemed quite averse to it all, so I skipped walking through the food street. First stop, Healy’s Irish bar. Place was set in Green and Gold as the name suggests. Multiple TVs all around playing various sports and some really obscure and annoying 70s and 80s music videos. good part, some really gorgeous girls who were waiting tables.
I joined them for a beer initially and then switched to Sangrias. In a while couple more of their friends, Ajay and Vishnu joined us. We all talked about each other, some secrets and love stories were shared amongst a lot of hilarious jokes. The music was a big downer which refused to change.
We gave up and walked around in the hunt for a better place. We ended at Gypsy which sounded decent initially but as soon as we got in, the music turned disastrous. We had one drink each and then moved next door to “Why not bar”. Now, the fun began. The music was great, but no dance floor. Since when did that stop us? Vishnu and I jumped in between tables and started dancing. I was relaxed, the way I am not in my own city or country. No inhibitions, just fun. In a while an African gentleman joined us and the fun tripled. Vishnu started teaching him Indian street dance, which if you know is absolutely hilarious! I have no idea how long we did that, but soon a lot of others joined us and all I did was burst into fits of laughter watching Vishnu give dance lessons.
It was early morning now and we decided to finally call it in. Ajay tried to convince us to go to the Bollywood club but, we all vetoed him out. Crashed as soon as we got home and slept like one should on a vacation.
Lazy Saturday morning. We went for a bit of grocery shopping at the supermarket in Ani’s apartment. I loved all the new and different kinds of fruits and vegetables I could see. A quick workout session, lunch and we were ready to head out.
Ani wanted to take me out to the KL tower today, specially in the evening as the view is supposed to be breathtaking. But, soon it started raining. Well raining is an understatement. It was pouring cats and dogs. There was no point in getting out because there was no view anymore. But the rain stopped as suddenly as it had started. So now, we were off. We took the train as Ani believed he needed to show me how the connections and stations worked. Well, there was no need as it was nothing different from any other country but, I was glad we did that cause we saved money and some more fuel wastage with the cab.
I found it adorable how Ani kept giving me running commentary about every little detail of the trains and of KL Sentral station when we got there. There were signboards everywhere and it was just like the train connections most countries have. From KL Sentral (Why do Malaysians have such funny English spelling? Why don’t they write English as it is?!!) we took a cab and went to KL Tower. Ani again bought the ticket for me. I was feeling horrible that he wasn’t letting me pay for anything. The ticket for the Sky box is 99 Ringgits! He decided to stay back as he had seen this multiple times already. Up I went. The view was indeed gorgeous!!
No amount of pictures I took felt enough. Single traveler’s woe again…. no-one to take my pictures. Requested a girl, who as expected took shit ones. The queue to the sky box is excruciating long, but I had a great time watching the couple ahead of me who needed to get a room asap!! The girl sounded Russian or from somewhere around there, the guy sounded American or maybe not (my attention was elsewhere) She had absolutely divine long blonde hair. Hair which went beyond her hips.
And, now comes the best part. These two start doing some crazy poses in the sky box and the photographer starts encouraging and proposing even crazier ones. At one point he made her lie down flat and spread her hair around. Everybody in the queue was in giggles. My turn finally comes and I am so conscious and weirded out. But, I forced myself to pose in 10% of the ideas the photographer had. Luckily I made him take some on my phone too. Once I was done, at the exit I could see my pictures and guess how much I had to pay to get them? 122 Ringgits for 2 pictures!!!! Daylight robbery!! I controlled the temptation and walked out.
Poor Ani had been sitting alone for an hour. It was close to 9 p.m. and we couldn’t go out to dinner as most places in KL, specially the local restaurants shut by 8:30 p.m. We went back home and had dinner at the Steakhouse in his apartment. Time for bed!
All of Ani’s friends had mentioned how much they missed the food back at home and specially the Rotis. We had invited all of them for lunch and I am not going to bore you with the menu. But, if you know me you know how extensive it would have been. 😀 I woke up early, went for a nice long workout and swim. The guys came at around 3 with some beers. Ajay is going to be married soon to a girl he fell in love while going to her place to tutor her younger brother. The other guys caught on to that and came up with every insult and joke there could be. It was a laughter riot! When they were ready to eat, I hadn’t seen anyone appreciate food as much as I saw them. Poor kids, starved for home cooked food. An absolute pleasure to cook for them!
Couple of days ago, I had booked myself unto the “KL Hop On Hop Off” bus service. I woke up early with a good night’s sleep but with kinks in my neck, thanks to the overly soft mattress I was sleeping on. After a quick workout session, I got ready and left to KL Sentral to get my bus. The station is right outside the station, but make sure to ask as there are multiple exits.
First stop, Muzeum Negara or the National Museum. Cute old train engines at the outside. As I walked in, I saw the board for the lake gardens going the other way and I decided to go there once I was done with the museum. 5 Ringgits for the entry, the museum was very very basic compared to what I have seen. Divided in 4 sections, it talked about Malaysia from the Paleolithic era to modern times. This museum is built on the site of the old museum of Selangor which was destroyed in World War 2.
I breezed through the room, as nothing caught my attention for long and rushed towards the Lake gardens. It was hot as hell, but I was looking freaking great and I needed pictures of myself!! So, I stop on the way when there was no one around and tried taking selfies. You ask why when know one around? Well one, cause I feel freaking weird taking selfies and two, the button on my selfie stick wasn’t working so, I had to use some other method to take a picture. This method was saying “smile”, rather screaming “smile” till my foolish phone recognized my voice and clicked a picture. Now you know why I would have not wanted to look like a mad woman screaming “smile!” while staring at myself on my phone?!
The lake garden is gorgeous but humongous. No amount of time I spent there would make any difference apart from me missing my next bus and probably getting a sun stroke.
So I just clicked a few pictures and ran back to the pick up point. When I got there, I saw this beautiful tiled flight of stairs and I clearly wanted a picture of myself on it. There was no way I could do that in a selfie and was kicking myself AGAIN for traveling alone. Just then, a couple walked by and the man was taking the woman’s picture on the stairs. I requested him to take mine too with explicit instructions on the angle. But, obviously he followed nothing of it! So, this is what I got.
Back to the bus and to the next stop “The National Palace”, the abode of the Malaysian Monarch. The bus driver told us that he would wait for 10 minutes for those of us who would like to take a picture and come back, as there is not much else to do there. It was burning hot and I quickly took a picture of the palace, rather it’s gate and was ready to run back when I noticed people taking pictures with the palace guard. I went up there to see and the palace guard asked me to come in for a picture. There was an Indian family already waiting, their son posing with the guard. I requested if I could go in next as my bus would leave. They were very sweet and even took my pictures. What was not sweet was the palace guard. As soon as I stood next to him, on the pretext of a pose, he put his hand on my butt! I didn’t want to create a scene (I didn’t have time) but I also didn’t want to let him get away. So, I pinched his arm so hard, he would never ever even dream of a butt anymore. The Indian family, sweetly even waited while I pinched him, of course they had no idea what was happening. So, now you can see a series of pictures with the guard’s expressions changing and my smile getting wider. 😀
Once back in the bus, a family from Manila, next to me struck up a conversation and were awed by how I traveled alone and lauded me for it. We got down at the next stop which was supposed to be near the National monument, but after following the map and walking around in circles we all came back to the bus stop. I gave up on going to the National monument and got into the next bus. I skipped the next stop which was for the bird park and got down at the National mosque. Lady luck was just not on my side today. I missed the last entry by 3 minutes. All the mosques are shut from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. everyday in KL. I asked the staff there if I could walk in till some point to just take the picture of the very famous blue roof of the mosque. Obviously, I was denied. As I was walking back, two men were coming in. Being a good and helpful person I informed them that the mosque was shut till 3 p.m. They thanked and started walking away. One of them turned back, pointed to the scorpion tattoo on my ankle and asked if I bite? Lol! Seriously?! I giggled like a moron and said no. Well, there is something about an Australian accent. Then he asked if I was dangerous, and I answered “maybe” I had reached the pinnacle of my flirting powers! I am glad we walked away, if not, I wouldn’t have had a single more word to say!
I had a long wait for the next bus and once I got in, I did the stupidity of getting down at the next stop, the Merdeka Square. It just took a minute to take the picture and then I was done. I was cursing myself for not sitting on the upper deck of the bus and just get done with the pictures, even if that would have left me with a sun stroke! It was burning hot and I died a thousand deaths waiting for the next bus to come, which was supposed to come every 20 minutes. I got the mandatory pictures of all the major monuments like the Abdul Samad Building, Jamek Mosque, Royal Selangor club, so the tourist in me was super happy.
I skipped the next stop and got down at Chowkit for my lunch. I wanted to eat the most famous Nasi Kandar of Kuala Lumpur, at the Restoran Kudu Bin Abdul. The address online said Chowkit, but it was much closer to the earlier stop of the Hop On Hop Off bus. This meant I had to walk quite a bit and also bear the cat calls. This shocked me! I never had to come across this in any of my earlier solo trips. I somehow made it to the restaurant, which even a lot of local (or maybe they were not exactly local) people didn’t know.
The queue snaking out!! I wondered for a bit if the queue was for something else and not the food. Realized I wasn’t going to be that lucky. I had a 45 minute long wait before it was my turn. While waiting all that while I learnt how I had to order. It’s a meal of steamed rice which is served with a variety of curries and side dishes. The list is humongous and everything looked so tempting! Fried chicken, fried fish, chicken curry, fish curry, oysters, fish curry, prawn curry, beef curry, pork curry, squids, crabs, eggs, okra, bean sprouts and 4 different gravies! The list was endless! Everyone was talking in Malay and I was getting worried how I would order. But, as soon it was my turn, the staff switched to English. 😀 I asked them to give me whatever they think was good. So, they made a special combination of multiple different gravies, the juice from all the meats, chicken curry, bean sprouts and okra. OMG!! Yummm! I got their special drink, don’t know what it was called. It was a pink, sweet, fizzy drink. Each mouthful was worth every second of the wait.
When I went up to pay, the man at the till asked me where I was from. Chit-chatted a bit where he told me that he had visited Hyderabad a few years ago. We walked out together and I asked him for the way to the Hop on Hop off bus stop. He offered to take me there. We walked talking about various things. He told me how there is a free bus line. You don’t have to pay to ride on those buses! How very cool! But, I was getting a little worried. It was broad daylight but the neighbourhood didn’t look very safe and I was hoping I hadn’t made the wrong call by accepting his help. Just then, we reached the bus stop and I kicked myself for doubting him.
After a 10 minute wait at the bus stop, I was off to my next stop, the palace of culture and Titiwangsa lake. My big mistake! The palace of culture looked so great in pictures, but was nothing special when you come to it. I took a few pictures as I was already there and then started making my way to the Titiwangsa lake. So. When I planned this holiday, I was looking forward to visiting KL’s multiple open gyms which are situated in their public parks, Titiwangsa being one of them. I wanted to go and see the place so that I can revisit if I wanted to. The sun was blazing hot and I was having a hard time walking around, post such a filling lunch. Worse, the neighbourhood. Cars slowing down as they passed by me, boys zooming past on their bikes catcalling. I was uncomfortable and scared. And remember, it’s day time. That’s how bad it was. I could see the lake after 5 minute walk and realized it was dirty and unkempt. There was no way I was going to go there now, or later. Specially not when I felt so unsafe.
I walked back to the bus stop and missed my bus by 10 seconds. I waited for the next one which was supposed to come in 20 minutes. My luck, it took 40. I decided to sit in the upper deck now as I could take pictures of the major monuments as we pass by. Some lovely old chinese style buildings, Petronas and KL tower later I alighted at Chinatown. Ani was keen on me going to the Petaling Jaya street for the shopping. I am not big into shopping so I walked around, bought a few souvenirs and drank coconut water. Got into a conversation with one of the hawker ladies who was shocked to know I was Indian. She though Indian women were always covered top to bottom and din’t travel without men of their family. Told her she had mistaken us for women of some other nationality and enlightened her a bit on how we really were.
I walked back to my bus stop which was right outside Evergreen Tea house. The cute little Bone china dishes beckoned me and I went in. Bought various flavours of tea for my tea loving family and friends and a cute little bowl for myself. As I was still waiting for the bus, the girl at the store offered me a chair and some incredible rose and lavender tea. Hmmm, that reminds me, I should make myself some tonight!
Bus was here and I was off to the last destination, the Sentral market. This place is a collection of multiple different stores selling all kinds of things. I went crazy buying gifts for everyone. Time to get back home and the bus doesn’t turn up for more than 30 minutes. Ani starts calling me and asking me to get back home in a cab. It was costing approximately 70 Ringgits, which is 1260 bucks!! That’s a lot for a cab ride! I took a cab to KL sentral. My cabbie was a Tamilian who could barely speak English. I knew he was Tamilian because of the music playing in his car. In my broken Tamil I tried to convey where exactly I wanted to go. He was thrilled! He apparently thought I was a white girl (Dunno how or why he thought this brown girl was a white chick!) We spoke in detail about various things. I was amazed with the amount of Tamil coming back to me from my childhood.
Once at KL Sentral, I took a train back home and then a cab to the apartment. Couldn’t wait to crash and go to bed!
To be continued…..