bargaining in Chinatown
For a quick, last-minute trip to Singapore's nothern neighbor, I'd say this one was definitely better than expected. Kuala Lumpur
is the capital city of Malaysia, and is a bustling, albiet polluted, example of Southeast Asian development. I would say the place is more fun than Singapore, as there are less rules, but it's dirtier and has a somewhat corrupt government. Quick history lesson- at least according to our crazy Indian taxi driver- Malaysia is made up of pretty much three types of people (the same as Singpaore): Chinese, Indian, and Malay (Muslims who originally came from Indonesia). Whereas the Chinese dominate in Singapore, the Malays in power have developed a corrupt government and continually discriminate against the other two races.
Chinese and Indian schools teach English and the people tend to be more tolerant, but they have trouble being accepted into the universities. Some Muslim schools refuse to teach the "Chiristian" language, and many students have trouble getting jobs in the service industry (there is surprisingly a lot of English used there), so many get appointed to government jobs (Malay's control about 99% of all position). This is probably a backlash from when the Indians were in charge during British colonial rule (it was the same with Singapore). Anyway, there's some quick cultural backround, some of it probably exaggerated by our Indian friend, but it gives you the gist. It's basically like Singapore with a much heavier Muslim influence.
Most of the group took an overnight train on Thursday night from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur.
the Patronus Towers
It wasn't that nice, but not bad either. Our taxi driver over said the train station was kind of crappy since it was under Malaysian control. The beds were on either side of the car and on two levels; I had a top bunk and it was pretty comfortable. I'm not sure how many hours of sleep I got, but it was enough. We then took a taxi back to our hostel. You gotta watch out for taxis here! Many of them don't use a meter and just try to work out a flat price in the beginning. It's understandable since they have to pay their cab company a bunch of money every day, and usually the meter just doesn't cut it. But working out prices can be a pain in the butt. The Mayview Glory Hotel looked kind of shabby on the outside, to be perfectly honest, but the inside was much nicer and the owner was wonderful about helping us arrange transportation, tickets, or anything else we needed.
the KL Tower
She even let us keep our bags locked up until we could check in. Now it was off to see the city!
We started off by checking out nearby Chinatown for some deals from the numerous street vendors. I ended up getting a fake Gucci belt for about 30 ringgit (10 bucks). I figure I'll hold off most of my street haggling for China though. It'll probably be cheapest over there. We then took a bus over to the KL Tower, which is very similar to the space needle in Seattle. We had made reservations for their lunch buffet (~$30) in the revolving restaurant on top. It was incredible! The view of the city was amazing (although hazy - the pollution was easy to see), and the food was even better. We had a wonderful view of the Patronus Towers, which are twin towers that are the 2nd tallest buildings in the world.
Cicy looks terrified
Some of the food was wierd, but I was most impressed by the cheese tray and dessert selection. We don't get enough cheese here in Asia! It was nice to pound a few slices down. It was also funny looking at some of the other white people, who had to wear these wierd little skirt things since they wore shorts and weren't up to dress code. What a bunch of noobs! People in Asia don't ever really wear shorts. Nothing says "I'm a white tourist!" like wearing shorts. Me and my friends try to stay fashionable, although in the heat of the day, we don't care what people think. After luch, we went outside to play with the friendly monkeys and had a good time.
After that, some of us went back to the hostel to check in, got changed, and headed ofver to Times Square, the biggest mall in the city.
Shopping is usually boring to most of us guys, but this place had an amusement park in the top three floors! This was probably some of the most straight-up fun I've had in a while. There were little rides all over the place and even a roller coaster (that went upside down)! Of couse we bought the unlimited pass, so we stayed there for a few hours just riding rides over and over. It was pretty awesome. We then split off into smaller groups, and my people (Charlie, Charles, Thomas, Cici, and Troy) got some good chicken as a Halal (Muslim version of kosher) restaurant. We then walked some of the lively street and found a place with a good deal on a "beer tower." This thing was basically a gallon or two container full of beer with a core full of ice and a tap on the bottom.
It fit about 9 beers and was quite good! The six of pus put two away pretty easily. We then decided it was time to get back and get ready to go out clubbing.
We started the night at a sports bar and watched some of the Euro 2008. It is basically a soccer trounament among all of the European countries. Since we don't have TVs in our rooms in Singapore, watching soccer again was really fun! We then decided to try out a club. Zouk is a famous club with many locations worldwide (we've tried it out in Singapore). So we decided to check out how it was in KL. To be honest, it was just alright. It was much smaller than the one in Singapore, but still had an OK atmosphere. We were probably the coolest people there, which tells you something; don't get me wrong, I know I'm cool, but it just wasn't hopping over there.
view from below
Maybe Zouk just isn't popular over there. Anyway, we still had a good time.
The next day, we wanted to go check out the Baatu Caves. I could be spelling that wrong, but whatever. You get the gist. They are a little bit outside the city, and I'm pretty sure It's a Hindu temple. Or maybe Buddhist. I don't really pay attention to all that stuff, I mostly just look at how cool everything is. There were 272 steps leading up to the cave entrance, and it was a little tiring! there were also monkeys all up and down the area, many of them eating random tidbits of food and trash, and some of them even a little vicious - watch out for your stuff, they'll take it! The caves were very beautiful and fun to see, so we stayed there for a little while and then decided to come back into town.
at the cave entrance
We went to another mall this time, but could only stay a short while. I got a green tea cream blend frappacino at Starbucks. Let me tell you about this green tea drink! I've had it a couple of times in Asia now, and it is really delicious. I think they sell it in America, but nobody gets it. It's like a green milkshake with whip cream on top, and it is to die for. Anyway, just a sidenote on that. You should try it sometime.
We got back to the hotel, where we had arranged a van to take us to the airport (which surprisingly was about an hour outside of the city). Probably the funniest thing ever happened going through security outside our gate at the airport. Thomas geniously decided to bring a bottle of Crown Royal on the trip (which we didn't even need or use), which was perfectly OK for the train.
But since it was way over 100ml, he couldn't take it on the plane. The security official was really cool about it, and said we could dispose of it ourselves. So we did. About 8 of us went and bought some cokes and polished off quite a bit of liquor before the flight. Made for a nice flight! It was very nice to get "home" to Singapore, where the streets are always clean and the water always drinkable, but being in Malaysia for a couple of days was fun. The vibrant city of Kuala Lumpur is definitely a place worth seeing. Only one more week in Singapore!