Our short stay in Kuala Lumpur was, as it turned out, far too short. By the time we left S?i G?n we were simply anxious to get back to Australia and regain some sense of stability in our lives, but we discovered that KL is a marvellous city and we would like to go back and spend more time there when we can.
The first thing that struck us after being in a country which lacks them was the freeway systems and of course the speed at which the traffic travels on them. KL airport itself is something of a revelation but coming into it you can see clover leaf intersections everywhere and there is clear evidence that among the old coconut plantations a massive multimedia corridor is under construction. This corridor is aimed at making Malaysia the silicon valley of SE Asia by providing an area from which businesses can develop and promote new technologies.
KL is a very modern city with some very tall (the tallest) and uniquely designed buildings, but what I liked about it was its “laid back” attitude. Official opening time for most shopping centres is 10-am but most traders could be seen ambling in at 11 or 12 and setting up for the day and the city seemed to come awake in a very leisurely fashion. Traffic in the city centre can be heavy but it is orderly and I don’t think that I heard a car horn the whole time I was there, except for a few notable exceptions. On a couple of occasions I heard car horns being pressed continuously for long periods of time and finally I got to see why. Because parking areas are in short supply around where our hotel was it is common for motorists to double park and block another car against the kerb. When the driver of the blocked car returns and wants to get out the preferred method of gaining the attention of the blockee is to sit on the horn. Mystery solved!!
The best, (in my humble opinion) thing about KL was the food. Fortunately in the process of becoming a model and streamlined city the powers that be have allowed street food to remain and I would suggest that it is encouraged as the small street directly behind our hotel is known famously as “food street”. In fact we only had to walk metres from our hotel front door to find food of all varieties so it wasn’t difficult to locate some “true happiness”.
Directly across the road was an Indian Halal restaurant that is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and their food was inexpensive and fantastic. although our stomachs reacted very badly to the new tastes and spices which we piled into them. Beside our hotel we could go eat Thai, Vietnamese, Malay, Italian, Indian, Western, Chinese just to name a few all situated in tiny restaurants. In the opposite direction was a Chinese noodle restaurant that opened late and stayed open until very late and was always packed with people tucking in to great looking food. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to eat there this time but it will still be there on the next visit I’m sure.
On our first day in KL we realised just how physically and emotionally tired we were. The last week or so in S?i G?n staying out late and bidding farewell to different groups of friends was more tiring than we had anticipated. Because of that we gave up trying to walk about and look at things and went back to the hotel and slept for about 7 hours. I don’t think that I have ever felt as exhausted and drained of energy as did at that time. Every part of me ached and my legs simply would not carry me about. However, we recovered sufficiently enough to explore, although not as much as we would have liked.
KL has a fantastic rail transit system that, while maybe not as good as the one in Hong Kong, certainly equals the system in Bangkok. It’s clean, cheap and very efficient. Getting around the city utilising it was easy and one day we decided to pick one of the lines and travel to the end of it to see what was there. We ended up in a town called Rawang and, even though it was blisteringly hot and we were still not in great condition, we spent some time up and down the main street gazing with fascination in the shops that were completely dominated by people of Indian origin.
One last thing about KL that impressed us no end was the polite and friendly attitude of the people no matter what their ethnic background. (I do not include the airport taxi people at KL Airport in this group, but that is another story). Everywhere we went we were treated with smiles and courtesy the most striking example of which was the way we were greeted at our hotel upon check in. This has only been bettered by the service that we have received from many people since arriving back in Australia, but that also is another story that will reflect upon the level of service that people experience in Viet Nam.
We are looking forward to re-visiting KL on our way back to Viet Nam, but this time for a longer stay hopefully.