After another overnight bus ride, we wound up in Kuala Lumpur, once again in the Chinatown area. The streets were closed off to vehicular traffic, permanently, which afforded a chance for all parallel parking space and sidewalk space to be taken over by street vendors. I felt bad for some of the established businesses on the street because their front entrances looked to be set back a good 30 feet from the main foot traffic and mostly blocked off from view by the street vendors.
The next day, Rachel’s older brother Manu flew in to join us for a few weeks. We decided to go see Kuala Lumpur from the observation deck of the twin Petronas towers in downtown Kuala Lumpur. These are the tallest twin towers in the world, though there are several single buildings taller than them individually. Online it said that a limited number of tickets are given out each morning (and confirmed by taxi drivers), so you have to go wait in line at 7am, and then come back at your designated time slot. So, I got up at 7am on my birthday, wandered the combined light rail / bus station trying to figure out how to get there, and finally got there around 7:50am.
The Kuala Lumpur light rail system is probably the least tourist friendly transit network in Southeast Asia. There are no maps of the rail network on the actual platforms, and only one map inside each station (I went to 4 different stations). The map that you do manage to find is only written in Malay, with no English translation/version available. No brochures or maps you can take with you are available. Staff at the information desk was unhelpful and quick to tell you to go away. It was frustrating trying to figure out how to go 3 kilometers by light rail train on that Thursday morning despite the Chinatown station being nearly empty.
Back to Petronas:
I waited in line until 8:30am. A gate opened, allowing the line to move forward to a ticket desk. By 9am, I’d gotten tickets. They cost 50 ringgit each (about 17 USD). Our time slot was for 2:15pm.
We rode in a massive elevator to the Skybridge that connects the two towers on the 41st floor. The elevator rose at 5-6 meters per second, though the windows of the elevator just showed a static image of the skyline so you didn’t notice it. We got 20 minutes on the skybridge, which allowed us to take in some great views of the city. Then, we rode up to the observation deck on the 86th floor and got to spend about 30 minutes seeing the city.
Afterward, we wandered down to the mall that encompasses the first 5-6 floors of the towers. We celebrated my birthday by putting a match on a cupcake (a candle substitute), singing happy birthday, and eating the cupcake. It was good.
Later, we went to the Petronas signature art gallery, which had an exhibition of photographs from The Star (the daily newspaper in Kuala Lumpur). Some of the photos were stunning, and the captions noted that they had won photographic/journalistic awards for them.
Later that evening, we headed out to dinner and drinks. We stopped off at The Ship, a steakhouse in the Bukit Bintang area (the entertainment district). The place had been recommended to us by a Chinese couple we had met a few weeks ago in the Cameron Highlands. I had chicken filet and king prawns with corn on the cob, french fries and a side salad, with some whiskey, which was really good.
After dinner, we headed upstairs to Funtheque, their in-house bar, which had a live cover band come on at 11pm or so. Some more drinks, some walking around on the busy entertainment strip, a random encounter with an Aggie from Texas, and then some drinks at the Reggae Bar, where we’d eaten dinner our first night in KL a week earlier. And then, chicken nuggets from KFC. A great day for my birthday.
It’s surprising to see which American corporations have a presence in Southeast Asia. 7-Eleven, has completely saturated the market in Bangkok and much of Thailand, but was missing in Cambodia and Laos, only to pop up again in Malaysia and Borneo (though with a substantially reduced footprint). KFC has many locations in Thailand, Cambodia and Malaysia. We saw a Burger King and a Subway in Thailand. I think someone mentioned a Pizza Hut in Thailand also. No Mexican restaurant chains though. For gasoline stations, there’s been Esso (part of Exxon), Shell, and CalTex (part of Chevron).