Singapore and Malaysia by Irene Butler.
Pix by Rick –
As Yogi Berra would say, “It was de ja vous all over again.” Having spent a month between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore last year, we relished the familiarity and looked forward to re-visiting our favourite haunts.
We had already done a lot of the “touristy” things last time round, and with our arrival in KL (being after a five month brisk pace through the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Syria, Jordan, Sinai region of Egypt, Israel and Vietnam)…we were content to do just hang out and do as little as possible.
It was not hard to fall into a relaxed mode in the AnCasa Hotel, with
every amenity for a great price – and in our desired location, on the edge of Chinatown. Our most difficult decision of the day became choosing a restaurant for our evening repast. This choice was often a toss-up between the “yellow” or “pink” open-air restaurants (dubbed from the colour of tablecloths) along Chinatown’s bustling pedestrian market streets. Both had great food, but the “pink” (which is Roland Seafood Restaurant) won out for service. It was a riot to watch Liu, a no-nonsense buxom lady overseer shout orders to the staff and the always smiling gentleman Ho out front enticing customer’s in with a cardboard sign for Tiger Beer and an open menu.
Savouring the spiced rice with egg and chicken bits cooked in a coconut was a delightful choice at the “pinks”… that is… when we were not swayed to go with their tangy lemon chicken with vegetable rice. While munching away monks came round offering hand-woven bracelets in lieu of a donation; a lady with a deformed foot always came around with little Kleenex packs for sale. Over time my right arm had bracelets strung from wrist to elbow, as well as a healthy stash of tissues.
After our fill we wore off a calorie or two walking around these narrow streets – which were supposed to be blocked off to traffic – but had an occasional vehicle crawling through often touching the canopied stalls of the street vendors. There were tons more restaurants, racks of fruit and pull-carts with sizzling fried tidbits, and every kind of “knock-off” that exists – from Rolex watches, to Jimmy Choo purses, to Louis Vuitton scarves, to Versace tops, and every other big name designer, as well as pirated movies that had barely hit movie screens.
For a change of pace we took the metro to the Petronas (or KLCC), the stunningly attractive twin towers, which at 88 storeys (452m/1,483ft) were the tallest buildings in the world from the time they were completed in 1998, up until 2004. They are still the tallest “twin” towers. A six-level shopping mall fills the base area, with over 300 specialty shops and “authentic” designer fashions, a 12-screen cinema, fabulous restaurants, and gigantic food courts.
Books and relaxing go hand-in-hand. We capitalized on the finest
used book store a few blocks from our hotel. Kedai Buku Book Centre in the Central Market with its well-stocked shelves was the perfect place to bring in books already read, and be compensated with a reduced price on our next selections. The soft daily rains in the late afternoon or early evening were conducive to snuggling up with a good book.
Several times we were treated to wild thunderstorms. I thought I had seen the ultimate in thunderstorms being raised on the Canadian prairies, but they paled in comparison to the tropical variety. The crashing booms jarred us off our chairs, and the sheets of rain spilling out of the pitch black rolling clouds which were in rhythmic intervals lit up with jagged halogen streaks or startling flashes that encased the whole sky. Nature’s ultra-extravagant sound and light show.
An hour of two later the sun was out again, and we would slosh through the streets in the sauna-like 30 degree temperature thinking, “Ahhh, this the life”.
Suggested “home-away-from-home” in KL: AnCasa Hotel & Spa, Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock – Ph: 603-2026-6060 E-mail: email@example.com www.ancasa-hotel.com
We hopped a bus from KL to this wonderful city, the last leg of our journey. Once again we gleefully set out to enjoy familiar spots, especially in the eating department. Near the Santa Grande Hotel Bugis (where we stayed) and the famous Sultan Mosque is Zam Zam Restaurant. The sign outside reads, “the best Muslim and Indian food in town” and we are believers! The melt-in-your-mouth Chicken Briyani is the result of the chicken being soaked in a marinade made of tomato puree, yogurt, ginger, garlic, chilli paste, turmeric, cumin, coriander. This man-sized portion of meat is found under a heaping mound of basmati rice simmered in its own mix of spices, including saffron. YUM!
It was to Toast Box for lunches – thick cake-sweet fluffy white bread dripping with melted peanut butter, chomped down with gulps of the milky sweet Chai tea.
The skies were mostly overcast with intermittent rains for our five
days here, which did not deter us from taking a thrilling ride on the Singapore Flyer, the world’s largest observation wheel. At 165 metres it is equivalent to a 42-storey building. It is comprised of 28 capsules, each can accommodate 28 people. We could see the whole city/country, as this gigantic wheel made a complete rotation. If the day had been clearer we would have been privy to glimpses of Malaysia and Indonesia.
Before we knew it, it was time to go home – bittersweet as always – on one hand… mourning that our travels were coming to an end; knowing we would miss groggily stumbling down to the “breakfast included” each morning, deciding what swirl of sites and sounds we would take in that day, and our enjoyable encounters with the friendly locals – on the other hand… we were hipped-up about once again stepping over the threshold of our cozy condo and relishing the thoughts of reuniting with our family and friends.
Just a side-story before signing off. While doing a book reading down in California this past spring, an fellow that looked as old as Methuselah slept (or so I thought) through my whole presentation. I ended my reading with Mark Twain’s famous words, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
No sooner than the last word was out of my mouth, this old-timer sprang up and shouted, “I have a quote, ‘see the world before you leave it!’” Our exact sentiments.
Safe travels to you all always! Until our next travel adventure, Irene & Rick