It’s hard to know what to say about the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur (KL, as a totally pointless observation, Malaysia sure does love to abbreviate). I should have more to say than I do, at least as a comparative – I was here 9 years ago but really can’t remember all that much about the place. I guess KL didn’t leave that much of an impression on me. Twice now.
Kuala Lumpur is a curious place full of stark contrasts. One minute you could be among the hustle & bustle of Chinatown’s claustrophobic Petaling Street Market, stepping over homeless people passed out on the side of the road & around chasms in city paths, & the next minute you could find yourself shopping in air-conditioned comfort in the likes of Prada & Gucci while staring up at the shiny Petronas Towers. KL has obviously come a long way – in the space of about 150 years it has gone from a disease-ridden tin prospectors hovel in the jungle to a modern metropolis. But there’s no denying that it’s rough-around-the-edges kind of place, and most of the time it’s rough in the centre, too.
Petaling Street Market
KL is full of old British colonial buildings and mosques (it’s a Muslim country, one that was once governed by the British) but to me, and to a lot of visitors to the city, it is all about the iconic 88-floor, 451-metre twin skyscrapers of the Petronas Towers.
While they are a spectacle at any time of day, at night they really shine thanks to the illumination of the their 83,500 m² of diamond-faceted stainless steel & 55,000 m² of laminated glass.
– César Pelli, the Petronas Towers main architect (1995)
I’ll be on a flight to Australia tomorrow, bringing to an end a 3-week southeast Asian jaunt through in Thailand, Malaysia & Singapore. As such KL is my last stop in the region. For some reason I always find it hard to warm to last stop locations. So that, coupled with the fact that I returned to the city suffering Singapore withdrawals, probably didn’t do much to enamour me to KL & its noise, fumes & general overbearing scruffiness. That said, I still enjoyed this visit: the central city region is small so distances between sights are short; the street food is delicious & ubiquitous (there are some 50,000 street food vendors in the city alone); it’s cheap; & it has the Petronas Towers (oh the Towers). Other than that I haven’t a whole lot to say about KL, so I won’t. As much as I want to I wish I could go out on a Petronas Towers-esque high. But I can’t.