Turning 30 in Kuala Lumpur

We rounded off our Malaysia trip with a couple of nights in KL and James suggested that it would be nice to have a bit of luxury as it was also Caro’s 30th birthday whilst we were there. The main criterion was a bath, which isn’t the easiest thing to come by in Malaysia but James eventually tracked down an apartment in the City Centre that fitted the bill. Caro would gladly have spent her entire birthday lounging around the apartment but we still had a bit of sightseeing left to do so after a breakfast of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs we set out into the already scorching heat to visit Bukit Nanas. We were stymied almost immediately as the entrance nearest to KLCC was completely blocked off for building work so we moved it to the end of our agenda and made our way to Merdeka Square, through the streets of Kuala Lumpur.

The square and surrounding area include a large number of the key sites in KL and a large regeneration project is ongoing along the river, incorporating a heritage walk. Whilst the riverside has nicely been revamped the river itself is still pretty revolting so there is a fair bit of work left to do. We ticked off the countdown clock, which wasn’t working properly whilst we were there but was a nice place to cool off, St. Mary’s Cathedral, the Masjid Jamek and the City Theatre.

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Our favourite building in the square was the beautiful Sultan Abdul Samad Building with its turrets and spiral staircases.

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Immediately in front of the Abdul Samad Building is the padang and along the far side of the green lawn is a low-slung mock tudor building, the Royal Selangor Club, which looked ridiculously British (one felt that one really should be wearing plus fours or cricket whites) and jarringly colonial against the backdrop of skyscrapers.

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Fittingly, the faux country club and the whole padang are dominated by the flag pole where the Malaysian flag was first hoisted upon the declaration of independence on August 31st 1957. We strolled across the Klang river towards China town, taking in the few snatches of street art to be found in KL.

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Once in China Town we made straight for Pentaling Street Market. Every manner of tat and knock-off can be bought here and the hails from the vendors are coupled nicely with the rumbling of the mechanised chestnut roasters.

We were overtaken by a sweaty, panting, red-faced stream of cyclists on a city tour as we left China Town behind us and climbed the gradual slope up to the southern end of Bukit Nanas. The day had reached peak heat by this point and as we cowered under the trees for shade we thanked our lucky stars that we weren’t on bikes. We had come to Bukit Nanas specifically to walk the much-lauded canopy walkway and, braving the heat once more, we tramped up the steps through the trees.

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The walkway was thoroughly underwhelming. Apparently, you can see wildlife from up there but all we could see were the tops of the heads of the people swarming on the paths below us. The walkway itself had also seen better days and it didn’t look as though much had been done to maintain it.

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This theme rang true throughout the park. It was obvious that at some point a good deal of money had been invested but through lack of either interest or funding the whole place was falling in to disrepair.

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Having made it to the centre of the park we decided to try and find an exit closer to our hotel and wound up scrabbling our way down sets of stairs that had been completed abandoned to let nature take over.

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We emerged at the other side of the building site that had flummoxed us earlier in the day and were despairing that we would have to climb back up the hill again when one of the construction workers waved us lazily through the building site and then settled back down to sleep.

Back at the apartment James managed to hook the laptop up to the television, got Netflix working and deposited Caro in front of Moana before heading back out into the heat to find the last important ingredients for the evening’s birthday celebration. A google search had revealed that champagne is not the easiest thing to track down in KL but a tour of a few shops yielded a bottle of Bollinger and some snacks.  Back at the apartment Caro sat in the bath, drank champagne, ate crisps and read for a couple of hours. Pure bliss.

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After Caro’s soak, we ate take away pizza in front of a film. It was a quiet 30th but exactly what Caro wanted.

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We had a flight to Jakarta the following morning and we were both a bit muggy headed as we caught our grab to the airport. We did have the presence of mind to ask the driver to stop at the Petronas Towers on the way out of town so we could get a picture of KL’s most famous landmark.

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We have been in KL twice now and neither time did we particularly fall in love with it, there is quite a bit to see but we have found other Asian cities much more engaging. It was nice to have a couple of nights of luxury to wind down and prepare us for the next leg. We loved Malaysia as a whole, particularly the food and the orangutans. Having made the most of our 3 weeks we were ready for Indonesia and a new adventure.

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