Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

ChinatownNo time to unpack! After placing our luggage in our hotel room, we are out the door in a flash, almost tripping over our own feet to get to the pedestrian streets of Chinatown.

The PinksSettling in at the “pink tablecloth” restaurant, our attention is soon solely on scooping out the chicken and veggie rice from the coconut it was baked in….traditionally our first Kuala Lumpur meal and it’s as awesome as ever! “Mama” comes over to check if all is okay with our order; this 60-ish smiling army-sergeant lady will instruct her staff to right any wrong pronto.

Our next day’s supper is always the lemon chicken, so crispy on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside and swimming in tangy fresh lemon sauce, pared with savoury BBQ pork rice at the “yellow tablecloth” just down from the “pinks” – names we have given these restaurants as they have not digressed from their trademark tablecloth colour “since always” say the staff, who never seem to change either, except they’re all older.
Our Malaysia Photo Gallery

ChinatownWe never tire of these narrow “ped-streets”, which is really a misnomer with the odd wayward motorcycle or vehicle squeezing out customers along the rows of vendor stalls. “Come look Sir…Rolex watch. Come see Prada handbag Miss.” (I look around to see if there is a young girl behind me…no… they get an “A” for ego-stroking. Tourists poke and prod the goods for knock-offs of name brands in everything from purses, sunglasses, shirts, and more.

Back to food, and when is it not all about the food?…. small take-away food stalls compete in the mix along the streets; fruit of every description (some cut into wedges to be eaten with a wooden skewer out of a plastic bag), ice-cream treats, roasting chestnuts churning in a billow of smoke, and grilling stations for Loong Kee (salty, sweet, and soy flavoured preserved meat, usually minced chicken or port, that is flattened into 4”x4” squares, and then grilled over charcoal). Once we tasted Loong Kee, we were addicted! The perfect snack, along with BBQ pork steamed buns and a Tiger beer for in-room dining at our hotel while watching a movie. And having not one – but TWO movie channels was like a casino-win after this trip’s 24 countries where we considered it good luck to even have an English news channel.

Being our fourth time to Kuala Lumpur, we still find Chinatown a great base from which to re-visit old haunts, such as the Petronas Twin Towers and KLCC Shopping Mall. These iconic towers were the tallest buildings in the world between 1998 and 2004 at 452m (1,483ft) and still the 7th tallest in the world.

Petronas Twin TowersAfter a 30 minute walk from our hotel to the towers in the searing heat, we welcome the blast of air-conditioning and a thirst-quenching iced-coffee before store-browsing and/or taking in a matinee in the large theatre complex. Donning the extra shirts brought along to counteract the theatre’s over-chill, we delight in munching popcorn while a current blockbuster movie spins its tale.

Sand ArtCentral Market (Pasar Seni) is another great hang-out. Handicrafts reign – hand-stitched purses, tablecloths, woodworks, handmade jewelry. We stop to watch the sand-artist at work – intricately filling a bottle with coloured sand to produce a picture, which when tightly packed and corked will not shift.

Rice Bamboo TreatI come away with Sea Cucumber Soap, and am game when Rick says we can’t leave without a tray of “Putu Bamboo” a rice flour/coconut sweet treat that is steamed in hollowed out bamboo stocks.

BrickfieldsOne day we make our way to Brickfields area, and find it true to its other nomenclature “Little India”, being so like the city streets of the “big” India. Colourful clothing shops are packed with sarees and salwar kameez for m’lady and lehenga for the gents. Shelves are loaded with glitzy jewelry. Curry wafts out of the eateries. Trust Rick to note a sign for “lassies” and he needn’t twist my arm to dive in and place our order – my choice is mango, Rick’s is banana – and within minutes are slurping cool refreshing yogurt-y goodness!

 New Year Decs ShopChinese New Year is creeping up with hotels/malls/streets decorated in brilliant red and glistening gold displays in lanterns, balloons, floral bouquets, cartoonish Chinese figures, and all manner of shiny shimmery paper. Specialty shops are well-stocked with home decorations, and customers haul out bags full.

This being the Year of the Goat or Ram, according to the 12 year cycle of the Chinese Zodiac ,with this year’s celebrity incorporated into each display. As well as goats, this zodiac also includes sheep or any member of the Caprinae family, often called the “goat-antelope” family, for example in Mongolia the Mongolian gazelle is this year’s animal of distinction.

Some locals prefer or also refer to the lunar New Year celebration as the Spring Festival. Signage with a goat sailing high over a bed of flowers with the wording, “Spring into the Year of the Goat” covers both nicely. A tradition that children are no doubt gleeful about is being given “ang pows” – money in little red envelopes, imprinted with the faces of the gods of longevity and wealth. Overall predictions are that this is to be an auspicious year of promise and prosperity, of kindness and benevolence.

ChinatownChinatown is of course ablaze with lighted decorations, making for a thrilling night walk.

Year of the GoatMalls are fiercely competitive. The winner has to be Pavillion Mall (Bukit Bintang area) with its gigantic golden mountain goat and a virtual sea of red that starts in a canopied walk outside of the main doors and continues on the inside down red-carpeted stairs to the huge central forum that blooms with red-and-gold-every-things.

Soon New Year’s Eve and Day are upon us….in surprising silence… not even fireworks. We have perfected our “Gong Xi Fa Cai” (Wishing you a prosperous New Year) but there is no one to aim it at. The streets have taken on an eerie emptiness. One exception is the nearby bus terminal, thick with luggage toting locals clearing out of the city for a holiday family visit, and even those who remain in the city are most likely at gatherings of relatives and friends. So, we “Gong Xi Fa Cai” the hotel staff and each other and retire to our room with our stock-pile of holiday fare and read, play games, and watch movies, which we figure is a fine way to herald in the lunar New Year.

Post- New Year the chaotic bustle is back in full swing. We even are privy to the narrow streets of Chinatown resounding with drum clamour and boisterous Lion Dance; the huge red-fabric-covered feline forms rear, sway and move about propelled by the synchronized movements of the humans inside.

Throngs of worshippersIn every country we visit we are continually on the look-out for unusual and unique experiences; something we have never seen and mostly likely will never see again. Earlier on in this Malaysia visit, we had the good fortune to attend such a mammoth cultural event – the Thaipusam Hindu Festival, wherein body piercings and devotees carry “kavadi” up 272 steps in religious fervour – a separate story is listed on our site under “Thaipusam Hindu Festival” – or click here to read now.

Nice BusKuala Lumpur with its ethnic mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian cultures has always been a “feel-good” place for us…. a place to relax and recharge before moving onto Singapore, our usual South-Asian port of departure back to Canada – and it is time to do just that. We purchase tickets for the 4.5 hour trip to Singapore on a Nice bus (Nice being the name of the company as well as a really nice bus).

Rick, my finance minister, is at it again… I note his calculator is not emitting steam…and its operator looks rather mystified….“Hey Irene, are my calculations wrong, or are you are falling down in your spending? The daily tally for Malaysia (head scratch) okay…I did include the flight here from India, and still – with our accommodations, food, entertainment, sites comes to $114.54 per day!” Hmmm…I’m thinking…does that not equate to more splurges in Singapore?

Recommended Kuala Lumpur Accommodation:
AnCasa Hotel & Spa – a few steps from Chinatown market streets and Pudu-Sentral Bus Terminal (serving destinations throughout Malaysia and Singapore). A short jaunt to the KL Sentral Station. Close to Central Market, and a half-hour walk to Petronas Towers. Great service and amenities for a reasonable price.


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