The rain in Malacca stopped about half an hour before we were due to leave! We were picked up by our driver for the 2 ½ hour journey north to the city of Kuala Lumpur, unfortunately it was the weekend of the Chinese New Year so everybody was on the move, we were warned to expect heavy traffic for the next few days. In the end the journey took about 3 ½ hours but it was quite comfortable and it was interesting to watch the changing landscape.
When we arrived we checked into the Renaissance Hotel, a large, city, chain hotel, it was 5* and in a great location but lacked the character we enjoy in the small boutique hotels we have been staying in. Once settled we went for a walk around to get the lay of the land. First impression of KL, a big, noisy grubby city dominated by traffic and construction sites! On our first full day we decided to take the Hop-on-hop-off bus tour, as usual we did the complete circuit without hopping off, planning to make a note of things we wanted to go back to and see. It took about 3 ½ hours because of the traffic and we didn’t see anywhere we wanted to visit. Back to the hotel!
That evening we had tickets to visit the famous Petronas Towers, the towers were 500m from the hotel so we walked along to them and reported to the tour desk. They only issue 600 tour tickets a day and they are released 3 days in advance so our tour company had done well to get them for us, lots of people were turning up hoping to buy tickets but they were disappointed. Our tour group had about 20 people, we were escorted to a lift which sped us to the glass bridge on the 46th floor which links the two towers, the views were amazing and we spent about 10 minutes taking them in. From there we took another lift, travelling 6m per second to the observation deck on the 86th floor, it was like being on a plane. We could see our hotel far below and see roads stretching out of the city into the distance. Amazing! After the tour we looked back at the towers from the plaza below, in the dark they sparkle as if they are made of silver and gold and they are very elegant. KL had redeemed itself a little bit.
Opposite the towers there was an Indian restaurant that our taxi driver had recommended the day before, he said it did good food at a reasonable price, that would do. When we got there it wasn’t so much a restaurant but a large covered terrace packed with plastic tables and garden chairs bustling with customers and waiters delivering plastic plates of food. Feeling brave we headed in and found a seat. Service was very unceremonious but the waiter was helpful and took us to a buffet area so we could see what was on offer. We ordered a large plate of spiced biryani rice, two portions of chicken curry, a naan bread that came with a dish of lentil daal and two glasses of lime juice. The food was very good, as promised, and the bill came to £4.90.
The next day was very showery so we stayed in the hotel most of the day and waited for the rain to pass, it cleared mid-afternoon and at 17.00 we met a guide called Ahmad who led us on a walking tour of KL street food. He took us by tube train to the Indian quarter where we walked through a market and viewed on of the city’s newest mosques. First food stop was a hawker stall serving traditional Malay food, we tried a delicious fish soup with noodles and a sweet dish which we thought was dessert but Ahmad said was a side dish; it was shaved ice mixed with rose syrup (like Turkish delight) and condensed milk, underneath the ice we found green noodles, sweetcorn, black beans and cubes of jellied seaweed, unusual but surprisingly nice. Next stop was a Punjabi restaurant where we tried chickpea curry with a chapatti and daal with delicious naan bread. Back on the tube to a traditional Malay village which has survived in the centre of the city, there was a night food market lining the street selling all kinds of food. Ahmad took us to a satay stall and ordered a pile of beef and chicken satay sticks with a rich, spicy peanut sauce and rice cake. I went to take a photo of the chef cooking the satay over a bbq, he was very insistent that I didn’t take a picture until he had got the coals blazing to create a show. We washed the satay down with fresh coconut water straight from the shell and enjoyed talking to Ahmad about KL, food, his family and lots of other things. The time was flying by. Our last food tasting was a Malaysian dish called Nasi Lemak, rice cooked in coconut milk and served with curry and lots of condiments like anchovies, chili sambal and hard-boiled egg. It was nice but we were both too full to finish it. From there we took the tube two stops back to our hotel where Ahmad dropped us off at 21.30. It was a good experience and we felt we had got a bit further under the skin of KL but we were quite happy to be moving on the next day.