“Malaysia, Truly Asia”! I had heard it at least a thousand times but was indeed very curious to find out just why. That was exactly why I was extremely excited when we took a Thai Airways, Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur, flight from. It was about a calm and peaceful journey over white fleecy clouds, without a single air-pocket dip. An ultra-modern airport greeted us, where many of us Bengalis had a tough time understanding what Pintu written in plenty of places actually meant! What on Earth was this common Bengali pet name doing in this South East Asian airport? After some considerable ‘research’ we learnt that Pintu stands for something as unromantic as a Door! Well, confusion over, we all queued for boarding the airport sky-train which would take us to the main arrival building. Bright and red, these glide very smoothly over rails in between building and complexes. Another surprise − there was no luxury coach waiting for us. On the contrary, our travel company had arranged for mini vans for transporting 6-8 passengers at a time. Well − first things first − I quickly hopped in to the front seat of one, making myself comfortable for what may be a long drive. We were on the road for roughly 50 mins or so, on roads WITHOUT potholes, honking or traffic jams.
Photo Credits: Petronas Twin Towers - Kuala Lumpur
Photo Credits: Tugu negara - Kuala Lumpur
It was a cloudy day and there was a slight drizzle. We drove through the capital/administrative area known as Putrajaya and saw really well-planned, neatly-lined rows of houses on both sides of the road, as if skillfully painted on a canvas. After some time, from a distance, against a cloudy sky, I could catch a glimpse of the Petronas Twin Towers. KL city is finally here, I almost cried aloud. We drove amidst the traffic and finally arrived in front of our temporary dwelling place, ‘Myhotel’. Strange name indeed!! A smiling face escorted us to our room. When I turned to tip him, he refused. Why − my instant question? His quick reply was apnara Bangali (You are Bengalis). He was from Bangladesh like many of his fellow-workers. A language really connects! We started a conversation that lasted for more than twenty minutes and ended with making him accept the tip. Fast forward to the next day − the day of our city tour. After a quick but filling breakfast, we hopped on to our buses to bag preferred seats. A back-bencher, I made a beeline for the last seat since from there I could click undisturbed. First came the national monument (Tugu Negara) set amidst lush green surrounding. It is the world's tallest bronze freestanding sculpture depicting a group of soldiers with the Malaysian flag. This very impressive sculpture has a semi-circular entrance with a gilded domes and the platform provides a panoramic view of the city. A cenotaph beside it stands tall, honoring those who have laid down their lives for the nation.
Photo Credits: Jamek Mosque - Malaysia travels
Photo Credits: Queen Victoria Fountain - Malacca
Our two guides were Malaysian nationals but originally one was a Tamil and the other a Punjabi. They both tried their best to cater (in terms of language) to a crowd comprising individuals from nearly all parts of India and finally both switched to Hinglish. We were informed that Kuala Lumpur means "muddy confluence" in Malay and is actually a point where two rivers form a confluence. Soon we reached the Jamek Mosque at the point where the Gombak and the Klang rivers meet. Next came a stop at the famous Merdeka Square with a 95 meters tall flagpole, the tallest in the country and one of the tallest in the world.
Photo Credits: Sultan Abdul Samad Building - Flickr
Photo Credits: Royal Selangor Club - TripAdvisor
There was some sort of a parade practice going on with horses and men in impressive uniform. This gave us a chance to go for a group picture. From here one can get a good view of several government buildings, the Cop's Fountain, the Sultan Abdul Samad Building and the Royal Selangor Club. All these are a remnant of Malaysia’s colonial past and thereby can easily tell a foreign traveler much about Malaysia’s history.
Photo Credits: National Mosque - Asmibogart
Photo Credits: Monorail - Wikipedia
Another important landmark that we crossed was the National Mosque of the country or “Masjid Negara”. A pristine white structure, topped with a 16-pointed blue star main roof along with a very high minaret, appeared before us. The sun had come out in its full strength and the building actually glistened in that light. Our guide remarked that we were lucky that it was not a Friday, else we would not have been able to make a stop and take pictures since the road would have been over-crowded with the cars of devotees. All throughout our drive through this cosmopolitan city, we came across busy streets like the Jalan Perdana and the Jalan Ampang, i.e. the one that goes all the way to the mighty Petronas Tower, the highlight of our city trip. The monorail network seemed to be quite well spread as we could see overhead tracks at several points. Suddenly, a member of our group cried out “When do we get to visit the Petronas? How long do we have to wait?” Not just then, we were told. The Batu caves first.
Photo Credits: Batu Caves - Nerd Nomads
Photo Credits: NiceRightNow
A drive of about half an hour brought us all to a mountain side, where an enormous, awe-inspiring gilded status of Lord Murugan greeted us. Located just outside KL city, this is a much-visited Hindu shrine and attracts visitors from all corners of the world all the year round. A challenge of climbing 272 steps for all those who wish to pay a visit to the main cave temple! But, is that all? Not quite. Imagine going up those steps surrounded by MONKEYS of all shapes, size and gender. The only common thing was their tremendous desire to tug at our clothes, bags cameras, mobiles etc. and snatch from us whatever seemed even slightly edible. The stair climb did not seem as much of a stress as did the constant reminder to avoid the over-friendly monkeys. One tiny scratch and the unfortunate one would have to rush for medicines and injections. I was really lucky since none of the monkeys found me interesting and worth disturbing! The inside of the limestone cave left us awe-struck. Geographically speaking, the limestone is around 400 million years old and the entrance is naturally shaped like a spear-head. The natural rock formations, the stalactites and the sunlight weave an unearthly web of light and shadow. It is all Nature’s handiwork, the beauty clearly triumphing over man-made structures. To be honest, I found several tourists not paying enough attention to the temple structures as they seemed more interested in selfies etc. There were other caves also but we did not get the chance to visit them since the clock was ticking and we had to hurry back without slipping or falling.
Photo Credits: Dosa - Foodkarting
Photo Credits: Vadas - Scroll.in
As is usual with any travel group, some fellow-tourists just vanished. Some went shopping on their own, some were coolly sipping coffee in the eateries as if they had all the time in the world. The restaurants there were owned mainly by Tamils and the smell of freshly made dosas and vadas filled the air. I too was just about to order some food when I heard someone speaking in Bengali. It was a young shopkeeper with his mobile. Bangladesh again! His stall had all types of Malaysian souvenirs and I collected quite a few at a discounted price all because of my mother-tongue. Bidding him goodbye, I rushed towards our bus only to see the guides trying their best to spot passengers and then coax them to get into the bus.
Photo Credits: Kuala Lumpur
Photo Credits: Pinterest
Soon we were all seated and the bus moved out of the parking lot. Adios, Batu Caves! It was time to return to the cosmopolitan city once again, since our tour was not yet over. Next we stopped for photos at the world famous Petronas twin tower. After that, our bus sped towards an ultra-modern city area where stands an impressive landmark, the KL Tower or “Menara Kuala Lumpur”. It was a cloudy day and I was quite skeptical about spending hard-earned money and going all the way to the top, just to see clouds all around. However, Luck favored me that day. At first I was unable to make out a single thing even from that height, but the Sun suddenly made its glorious appearance and the entire city of Kuala Lumpur was there before us. A view from so high up is indeed a visual treat! Had the guides not reminded us of the time, I could have stood there all day!
Photo Credits: Beryl's Chocolate Kingdom: Justgola
Photo Credits: Olive Tree - RedCard
It seemed that Fate had designed a sweet, delicious part to the day’s bus journey. So, our last ‘sight-seeing’ stop was Beryl’s Chocolate Kingdom, a mega store of chocolate and chocolate products. The shop was stacked with chocolates of all imaginable shapes size and flavor. What hospitality, each one of us was given different kinds of chocolates to taste and I am sure we were at least some kilos heavier when we walked out. There wasn’t a single person who was not carrying packets of chocolates. Buy as much as you want to, our Malaysian hostess had encouraged, adding sasta milega with a smile. I guess she really knew the Indian mindset. We had had enough for a day, but could we return to our hotel on an empty stomach? Never. So, we drove to the Olive Tree, an Indian eatery located just beside the Royal Palace or the Istana Negara, home of the Malaysian sultan. The well-lit building glistened against the backdrop of the night sky and was a photographer’s delight but for the hungry lot steaming hot desi khana was definitely a greater attraction! Photo credits: Banner Left: Financial Times; Banner Center: CNN.com; Banner Right: Australia Security Magazine