January 18, 2013

Traveller Tales: Simply Malaysia


2012 – The year I was fortunate enough to find myself on a trip to Malaysia. Selamat Datang (Welcome) to my wonderful experience of this country and its vast array of cultures.

After a very long trip (3 flights from Cape Town via Johannesburg and Mauritius) I found myself in Kuala Lumpur - a city that seems to never sleep and the 4th greatest shopping destination on the planet. It was hot. Really hot – and I arrived in the early morning (07h50). From the airport it was approximately a 2 hour drive to our first hotel, the Swiss Garden Residence. The hotel has a wonderful pool deck, and a fantastic gym. The food is good, and the service is excellent. Staff are friendly and always willing to help. The hotel is situated about 5mins walk from the major shopping district. It is super safe to walk around by yourself at any time of day or night. There are ATM’s nearby where you are able to draw cash, should you not have arranged for forex prior to your travels. The rate of exchange is approximately R3 to the Ringgit. Even with this exchange rate, you will find that everything you buy costs a lot less than in South Africa.


Independence Square

Kuala Lumpur City Centre
I would definitely recommend a City Tour of the old and new Kuala Lumpur. We passed by the Old Train station, a national Mosque and then stopped at Merdeka Square (Independence Square). It was here the Union Flag was lowered and the Malayan Flag hoisted for the first time at midnight on 31 August, 1957. From there I went on to Chinatown. After all, when in Malaysia you have to experience the local shopping and culture. I would not recommend Chinatown to anyone. It is crowded, and not the cleanest of places. As you walk through the stalls, you are bombarded with salesmen trying to sell you everything from clothes to food and gadgets. Even when you decline, they follow you through much of Chinatown still making offers. By the time the first one has given up, you have another 3 on your tail. Not a very pleasant shopping experience.



  
That evening I went to the Saloma Restaurant and theatre. An amazing (and spicy) buffet dinner was served while we watched the dancers and singers performances. Something you have got to do while in Kuala Lumpur. What an experience! Well worth it!

Right next to the Saloma Restaurant is one of Kuala Lumpur’s little secrets – the chocolate factory! No photographs may be taken inside. As you walk in you are greeted by a huge chocolate dragon. The chocolate is really good – and good for you – or so they claim, the chocolates are high in fibre and low in cholesterol. Not sure how true that is, but they tasted really great!


Saloma Restuarant and Theatre
I also found myself lucky enough to stay at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Kuala Lumpur. What an amazing view this hotel has. The cuisine is excellent as well as the service. Club lounges, breakfasts overlooking the city skyline, and a skywalk that takes you right into the heart of the shopping district. Here you will find everything from high end stores to your local vendors. The shopping experience is a lot nicer than Chinatown and you can find most of the same items for less.

When in Kuala Lumpur a visit to the Royal Selangor Pewter Factory is a must – here you will witness ladies making pewter items at an astonishing rate! It is also the most modern and largest pewter factory in the world, with an international reputation for its high quality. You are also welcome to try your hand at some craftsmanship – not an easy task I assure you. 


Pewter Beer Mug – Royal Selangor


Trying hard to hammer in a straight line

A trip to the Petronas Towers where you can walk across the sky bridge at a height of 170m is definitely on the “must do” list. The view from the observation deck on the 86th floor is magnificent. You can see the entire city as well as the King’s Palace – another monumental building. Make sure you include this on your itinerary and take a photograph with one of the palace guards.


Petronas Twin Towers


The King's Palace

    
If you’re in Kuala Lumpur for the nightlife, then stay out late and enjoy Bukit Bintang’s fabulous clubs, bars, restaurants and caf├ęs. Don’t be alarmed at the little kids outside at night – this seems the “norm” here. You will see local vendors selling their “genuine fake” watches with their kids in tow, right next to the ladies of the night.

One of the highlights of my trip was a visit to the Batu Caves, which is a famous pilgrimage place for Hindus.  As you approach the Batu Caves, you will see a towering statue of Lord Murugan, a Hindu deity, which dominates the scene from a kilometre away. A flight of 272 steps leads you up to the sacred temple caves. Once you reach the top, it is said that you are able to see heaven. 


Inside the Batu Caves
Batu Caves - Lord Murugan statue
Another highlight was the trip to the UNESCO heritage city of Malacca. Every building is so well preserved, and as I have said to those that I have shared my travel stories with, it feels as if you have stepped back in time into an old Asian city. You will find the most beautiful Chinese Temples, Hindu Temples, Mosques and Churches in this city. 

Something that brought a decidedly South African feel to my trip was “Jonker Street” in Malacca; it is the shopping destination where you can buy antiques and beautiful local handicrafts. When in Malacca, everyone will tell you to try their famous pineapple tarts. Malacca also claims to make the best coffee in Malaysia and for all the coffee lovers out there, I’d recommend a visit to the local coffee shop – any of the locals will be able to direct you to the coffee shop just off Jonker Street.
Chinese Temple – Malacca

Jonker Walk/Street - Malacca

I stayed at the Renaissance Hotel in Malacca. The service is not that wonderful, but the hotel is really nice and located close to the city centre. 

Malacca is also the home of the Portuguese Fortress Porta de Santiago built in 1511 and St Paul’s Church where St. Francis Xavier, as well as the wife of Jan van Riebeeck, were once both buried. When in Malacca, a visit to a typical Baba Nyonya restaurant comes highly recommended, not only by me, but by the locals and also the tour guides. Here you will be served the typical Malacca fare, a fusion of Malay and Chinese cuisine. The best meal I had on the entire trip!
St. Francis Xavier

Porta de Santiago
On the way from Malacca to the capital, Kuala Lumpur, we stopped at Putrajaya, Malaysia’s new administrative capital. Putrajaya was created as a model garden city with a sophisticated information network based on multimedia technologies and termed as Malaysia’s first Intelligent Garden City. You are able to take a tour of the city by boat past the many astonishing landmarks such as the Putrajaya Mosque and the Prime Ministers Department. After the boat cruise, make a stop at the ice-cream parlour just outside the boarding point – they have the most interesting flavour combinations. Also, it’s always hot, so you could use that as your excuse to try out a few scoops or three!


Putrajaya Mosque & surrounds

Putrajaya International Convention Centre 
Simply put, Malaysia is a destination that should be on your travel bucket list – even if only to visit the Batu Caves. This truly is a once in a lifetime experience – one I will not soon forget.


SURE TRAVEL BLOG CONTRIBUTOR:
With a love of travelling (of course!) and the outdoors, Anthea is always up for an adventure. She is absolutely nuts about foreign cuisine and loves ballet, opera and classical music/theatre. She will try just about anything and the one thing she appreciates most about being in a foreign country is learning about the different cultures and religions. 

3 comments:

love it! Did you climb the 272 steps and "see heaven"?

I did indeed! Took a while to get to the top of those steps but it was well worth it. At the top of the climb, you see an opening in the cave where the sunlight pours in. It does feel as if you've stepped into a bit of heaven.

Awesome Anthea, looks like a great, crazy trip!

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