Contrasts in KL

Kuala Lumpur Travel Blog

 › entry 16 of 20 › view all entries

We left laid-back Luang Prabang on the Lao Airlines turbo-prop 50 minute afternoon flight to Vientiane, to avoid 10 hours on the bumpy mountain road. One night then in sleepy Vientiane to catch the morning Air Asia flight to Kuala Lumpur. It's Malaysia's low cost airline and could certainly teach Ryanair a thing or two - 15kg of luggage free, allocated seats, cheap food and drinks, and only one small credit card charge. So different from the other 2 airports, each of which only had a handful of flights, KL International Airport sported dozens of planes, a large immigration hall, McDonalds, Starbucks and moderately expensive taxis - 100 Ringits (20 pounds) for the 70km 70 minute motorway ride to town. The tuk tuk to Luang Prabang Airport had taken 10 minutes and cost $3.

KL is an interesting mix of a city. The Petronas Towers dominate, and despite their sci-fi looks are actually quite attractive, especially when lit up at night. Most of the many other city high rise buildings have little character. There are several upmarket shopping malls, with shops like Gucci, Bulgari etc, moving down to M and S (yes!) and Debenhams. You could be in any western city. But other malls, most notably Low Yat, which specialises in electronic goods, are like glorified markets. There are hundreds of stalls, stallholders tout for business, haggling is the norm.

There are lots of restaurants, bars, and coffee/ sandwich shops. Alcohol is readily available, but not cheap. O'Brien's Irish Sandwich Bar is a big chain, and specialises in hot wrappos and shambos !!?? Lots sit in coffee shops with their lattes and wifi. Then round the corner, there are dozens of cafes that spill out on the pavements with plastic tables and chairs, offering Indian, Chinese or local Nonya dishes, and at each one a waiter touting for business.

Some old colonial buildings remain, as do areas of early 20th century Chinese and Indian shophouses. While some are dilapidated, others are very attractive, but many are under threat and from the monorail you can see where the latest new development is to happen.

So the city is a real mix of east and west, old (disappearing) and new. You're sort of reassured with traffic on the left, proper 3 pin plugs, Tesco Extra. But then you smell the durian fruit (prohibited in the hotel), pass the genuine massage parlour touts, and glimpse the Petronas Towers in the background, and know it is truly foreign.

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