This city is incredible. It was exactly the break we needed from living in a "developing" country for the last six months. Kuala Lumpur (KL) feels like it could be anywhere in the US or Europe. It has well designed, smooth roads, amazing shopping facilities, an efficient transit system, and a beautifully diverse culture. It helped, too, that nearly everyone could speak English significantly better than we have experienced in Vietnam.
On our first evening there, we hit up the Central Market which has been in operation since 1888. There were all kinds of fun trinkets to buy, but the highlight was the fish bath. Derek and I were brave and stuck our feet into a tank of hungry, dead-skin-eating fish. They basically just suck the dead skin right off your feet. It does not hurt at all, but it tickles like crazy!
The first full day found us at the Batu Caves. Batu Caves are are Hindu temples located 272 steps up a mountain. The area has been home to Hindu temples since 1890, and there is a yearly pilgrimage of over a million people to the site. The best part, however, was the monkeys. Dozens of monkeys! Everywhere! They were jumping around, scampering between tourists, and playing with the other monkeys. We found that they were not aggressive at all, though we have heard that monkeys can sometimes be a bit grabby. We even got to see some teeny baby monkeys clinging to their momma's fur.
After our hike to the caves, we went back to our hotel for a nap and a swim. Owen was very excited to test out his diving toys from Santa. (See the pictures below.) We went to a local mall for dinner and some shopping. I could not believe the stores they had! It really felt like a modern mall in the States.
KL Bird Park and the Petronas Towers
Day Two took us to the bird park situated in a vast nature preserve on the east side of the city. There is also an orchid garden, a butterfly park, the National Mosque, the National Planetarium, and an Islamic Arts Museum all in the same area. We had planned to do the bird park and the orchid garden in the morning, but the bird park was so gigantic and beautiful that we spent a lot longer there than I had anticipated. We got there right as the park opened which meant there were very few other tourists despite it being the Christmas holiday. (In fact, we noticed that the city doesn't really get moving until lunch time.)
After a fun morning of feeding birds, looking for orange birds, and watching an intense white bird grab a lizard snack right in front of us, we went back to the hotel for a nap.
The evening brought us to the heart of downtown KL at the base of the Petronas Towers. These towers are 88 stories tall and the 7th tallest structures in the world. They are breathtaking. As are the grounds around the base: ponds, fountains, an expansive children's' park, an aquarium, and yet another huge shopping mall with every high-end label you could hope for. We perused the shops, let the kids play on each of the 20+ play structures, and enjoyed a lovely fountain light show set to the classic song "My Heart Will Go On," the instrumental version, of course.
The fountains and light show were by far Owen's favorite part of the trip. He found it absolutely breathtaking and proclaimed (as we watched the light show) that it was "the best moment of his entire life."
Sunway Pyramid Mall, Iceskating, and the KL Aquarium
We didn't slow down at all on Day Three. I had learned that there was an ice skating rink at a mall nearby, and since Derek hasn't been able to skate in six months, I knew we had to go. Oliver and I walked around the mall while Derek and Owen hit the ice. It took Owen a bit, but he started to recall those lesson he had last spring.
While at the mall, we purchased a few of those clothing items that you just simply cannot find in HCMC and ate lunch a delicious vegetarian restaurant.
Since Oliver took a nap in the baby backpack (Ergo), we decided to keep on trucking. Instead of going home from the main train station, we hopped on another line and went back to KLCC by the Towers to go to the KL Aquarium, located by the KLCC park in the convention center.
The KL Aquarium was a bit expensive, but it was great fun for the boys. We got there at about 6:30 (after eating dinner) and their last admission is at 7:00. The process for buying tickets took an oddly long time, but once inside, traffic flowed well. The staff was great and even let Owen hold a starfish, a sea cucumber, and a crab. We got to see sharks and orange fish, so Oliver was happy too.
The transit system in KL is remarkable. We took the trains ever day to as many locations as possible. We even took the KLIA Express train back to the airport the morning we left. The train system was cheap, efficient, and clean. No matter what time we showed up at the station, we never had to wait more than 15 minutes for a train. There is a line that goes all the way up to Batu Caves, one that drops you off right in the city center, and a direct line straight to the airport. It was great, and it also meant the traffic on the high ways was not ridiculous like it is in HCMC. And the boys loved watching the trains come and go from KL Sentral (the main station) from our hotel window on the 20th floor. There was even an orange train, so Oliver was very happy.
We will be back to Kuala Lumpur. And we will probably stay in the same hotel (Best Western Premier). I am thinking we might go back as early as April. We have a five day weekend due to some national holidays...