The shape of things to come: friends, YAT (Yet Another Temple), birds (aren’t birds beautiful to behold), a modernist take on mosque design, and another trip up the TV tower (at night).
Suggested song: Kids by Robbie Williams
Preliminaries – Hotel Pick-Up and Ticket Troubles
After another lazy start into a sunny day, Kuala Lumpur was calling for attention again, its siren song of car traffic and construction noise drawing me to KL city center. Refreshed from a morning dip in the rooftop pool, where the magnificent view gave a taste of the adventures to come this afternoon, Uber-ing into town was a breeze. Stepping out of an air conditioned, spacious SUV at the Hotel Istana, Florian and Diana greeted me with the first challenge of the day: buying a collared shirt for the young man and getting tickets for the Petronas Twin Towers for the both of them.
Alright then, we had time on our hands anyway, while we waited for Carlos and Jörg to rise from their comatose, jet-lag induced slumber. Mall shopping in KLCC, not necessarily something I thought I would be doing much before coming here. Oh well, no problem, I’d manage… after all, time spent with friends is always quality time. Heading through the maze of air conditioned passageways that interconnects the downtown area’s office towers and shopping venues, we arrived at the Suria KLCC mall annex of the Petronas tower. And this without getting lost, turned around or trampled to death by other tourists on a shopping spree — small miracle right there. As a gesture of gratitude to the Goddess of Luxury Travel Commerce, we devoutly went through the rites of mall shopping: gazing, price-tag checking, gasping, grabbing, trying on.
While waiting and browsing, my eyes settled on a pair of leisure pants. Oooh, they looked nice. Hmm, ok, let’s take these babies to a secluded and quiet fitting room and get them acquainted with my shapely lower regions. Yeah, comfy, perfect fit on the hips, nice. Where’s the mirror? Outside. Stepping out of the fitting room… why is the attendant snickering benevolently at me? Ah, mirror, mirror on the wall who’s the fairest o… Ok, I see, the pants are hemmed for Asian-length legs. No wonder I felt a cool waft around my calves. Not wanting to look even more like a total git than I usually do, I placed the article of clothing furtively back whence they came. Meanwhile, Florian had, somewhat reluctantly, settled on a pair of polo shirts. That done, we ambled over to the ticket box at the towers.
Having scouted the location the day before, getting to the ticket counter was a straightforward exercise. Up an escalator, into the towers’ proper, around a corner, down another escalator (that escalated quickly!), and to the furthest accessible end of the basement. Lo and behold, there was a queue today! Yesterday, I could just walk up to the counter, waiting time zero minutes, nil seconds. Not so much today. Estimating a good 20 to 30 minutes of queueing, I did what any good friend would do. I told them ‘Good luck, see ya at Starbucks’ and headed off to meet Carlos and Jörg in the lobby. Together, we enjoyed the warm hospitality of the Suria Mall’s Starbucks, burning daylight. The latte tasted as it always does while the three of us (sans the two still waiting in the ticket queue) were planning out the activities for what remained of the day: Thean Hou Temple, the Kuala Lumpur Bird Park, the National Mosque, a stroll through Chinatown, and for the guys and gal a trip up the TV tower. I planned to skip that last attraction; for one, I had already been up the day before, for another, I still had to pack and get up early for a visit to the Petronas Twin Towers before my departure to the Cameron Highlands the next day.
When we were 5 again, Florian and Diana having returned unsuccessful — all tickets for possible future ascents had already been sold — we set off. We Uber’ed to Thean Hou Temple, another polite and competent driver at the wheel.
Thean Hou Temple – It’s not a Candi!
We found the temple glistening in the sun, all bright and colorful. After missing the correct entrance, we wound up in front of the wedding registrations office. Looking around me and finding no suitable candidate to wed — wrong gender, wrong gender, in a relationship, wrong gender and in a relationship — I determined that we definitely had taken a wrong turn.
A closer inspection soon revealed the stairs, to the side of the temple, that would let us enter its proper. Gilded statues, bright red columns, colorfully painted ceilings, the smell of burning incense sticks, and a pagoda roof… a proper little Buddhist temple with a view of the city. It was quite charming. We wandered around a bit, enjoying the sun and the surroundings, took off our shoes — a bit of a chore when you are silly enough to wear boots — and entered with the proper respect.
The inside of the main hall, dominated by the colorful statues of three goddesses, was refreshingly cool. It was a strange mixture of the administrative and the sacral: the doors at our back and the statues in front, the side walls lined with desks set up like a counter, here and there a computer screen on top. Well, I guess even goddesses might need a front office to deal with us pesky mortals to keep the slate clean of mundane business, like temple administration. A good 30 minutes later, we found our Uber driver still sitting in the car park. So, we employed his services again.
Kuala Lumpur Bird Park – Ogling Feathery Fowl
I really like birds, pretty much everything about them: their feathery gown, their derrières when they walk, their proudly swelled chests. Birds are magnificent creatures, watching them makes one feel lighthearted and ready to take to the air oneself. And the chicks tend to be cute. Well, I am no expert bird watcher, it’s more or less something I highly enjoy from the perch of a park bench. But for now, I’m down for ornithology. Grab your binoculars, come follow me!
The Kuala Lumpur Bird Park is the world’s largest free-flight, walk-in aviary — and I quote here straight from the ticket stub, so it has to be true! 50 ringgit for 90 minutes of bird watching and strolling. Not quite as inexpensive as my Yogi consultation yesterday, yet considerably more birds to see. So, well worth the investment! Range-wise you get everything from your run of the mill parakeet, to jungle fowl, eagles, peacocks , flamingos, all the way to ostriches. So, if you like ogling birds, from any angle, this is the place to be in Kuala Lumpur. Beware though, birds can be dangerous.
National Mosque of Malaysia – Wholesome Sights
But enough already with the silly innuendos. With the bird watching done, the National Mosque of Malaysia is just down the hill. Its modernist design, having been completed in 1965, sports a splendid turquoise roof, white tiles, open spaces through which a refreshing breeze wafts and relaxing surroundings. As far as sacral architecture goes, it is quite a bit more accessible, stylewise, than Christian churches from the same period, managing to combine a certain 60s style and grandeur with a certain lightness.
If you appreciate that kind of thing, it is quite beautiful in its own right, although older, classic mosques in the Islamic world are clearly more appealing from an artistic point of view. When you visit, check up beforehand, the mosque is closed to non-Muslims during prayer times.
Menara Kuala Lumpur TV Tower – Night Views and Antics
Ok, so next up was food. We were running quite low on fuel, so to speak, and an excellent place was promised by Traveladvisor to be just around the corner in the National Textile Museum… that was unfortunately closed today. The structure was beautiful and I am certain that dinner at Chef Adu’s would have been marvelous. Well, Jörg, Carlos and I had food at a streetside cantina a few meters further, while Florian and Diana bid us farewell to go back to the hotel, totally spent and still jet lagged.
Which raised the question of what to do next. Traffic was completely gridlocked, apparently some street closures for a political summit event had extended rush hour well past 8 o’clock. Getting back to my Airbnb was not an option, yet. Well, a brisk walk through Chinatown would do. And it did. From there, the guys wanted to head to the TV tower, on foot. Not too bad, just another half-hour walk or so. When we arrived, traffic was still going nowhere, and I was essentially still stuck in downtown KL. Oh well, might just accompany my buddies up the tower and see KL from above at night.
This was nice enough. We did some antics in the sky box, a glass bottomed overhang on the observation level, got off the elevator on the wrong floor by accident — nice conference rooms up there, by the way — and had an all around good time. Was it worth going up twice? Alone, no, but with two friends who hadn’t done it before, sure!
By the time we got back down, traffic had cleared, it was time to go back to The Leafz. An hour later, I was snugly in bed, snoozing towards my visit to the top of the Petronas Twin Towers and the bus trip Tanah Rata hill station in the Cameron Highlands.