They Built Skyscrapers in the Jungle

Kuala Lumpur Travel Blog

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Merdaka Square

Kuala Lumpur is a bustling, exciting city, where wild colors and bright lights seem to linger in the sticky, humid air. Stand in the middle of the train station and watch the diversity of KL whizz around you -- a varying yet balanced melange of East and West, of modern and traditional, of Muslim, Hindu, Bhuddist and Christian. Ladies swish by in dazzling, decorated headscarves and neatly cut Malay chi-pao-esque dresses paired with smart western heels and shiny leather purses. Young Indian couples in jeans and polos and groups of trendy Chinese teenagers mill about the food court, which itself is wafting competing smells of curry, noodle soup and cinnamon buns. It's a veritable hodgepodge of different traditional cultures mashed up against the modern world; it's everyone from everywhere.

.. and they're all riding the monorail!

KL's architecture is reflective this mishmash of worlds. From around Merdaka Square, you can view the traditional arched windows and gumdrop spires of mosques, while modern skyscrapers loom in the distance and the Petronas Towers soar toward the sky. Recently defeated as the highest building in the word, the towers are a 21st century translation of Muslim architecture -- the pointed spires remade in concrete and steel. Inside, a multi-level mall sells all your modern conveniances, and is crowded with people escaping the stifling heat and humidity.

Even in December, it was incredibaly hot and humid in KL. You slowly come to the realization that, yes, they've carved out a futuristic city in the right middle of the jungle.

Merdaka Square
The drain drizzles down as I walk uphill toward Menara (KL) Tower, the fifth tallest tower in the world, which has an amazing panoramic view at the top that actually looks down on the Petronas Towers. It's twilight when I get there, and amongst the tourists and wedding guests of a couple getting married "in the sky" (as boasts the promotional poster), I watch KL fade into darkness, the many bright lights of its evening facade beginning to twinkle in the pastel dusk.

My second connecting flight to Korea doesn't leave until late, so I spend some time at another mall, which seems to be the national pastime in KL. Is JP right? Is everywhere in the world really just like New Jersey?

On the way back to the monorail, this adorable little scrawny kitty scampers in my path and starts rubbing against my leg, mewing and purring with wild and hungry abandon.

Mosque
Feeed me! Feed me! I love you! it says to me telepathically. Dammit. Screw the monorail. I run across four lanes of traffic to get the cat some food from 7-11.

A few minutes later, I'm back across the street with a 7-11 hotdog in hand.  I trot back to where Kitty was to find.... another woman feeding the cat with a can of tuna. Turns out, she's also in KL on a layover, also was adorably assaulted by the kitty, and also ran across the street to the 7-11 a few minutes before I did, just to buy the cat food. That little two-timer.

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Merdaka Square
Merdaka Square
Merdaka Square
Merdaka Square
Mosque
Mosque
Petronas Towers
Petronas Towers
Giant Mall
Giant Mall
Merdaka Square
Merdaka Square