93. Holding Out For A Hero

from “Secret Dreams and Forbidden Fire”, Bonnie Tyler, 1984.

So we are back in Bangkok and taking a brief hiatus from moving around every month. While the travelling is great and we are really enjoying seeing lots of new places, after a year on the road we decided to take a break and stay in Thailand for a while. Hey, we are not getting any younger and in this case a rest is as good as a change 🙂

Geeks that we are, we spotted the ads for the Thailand Comic Con 2017 on the Bangkok Skytrain, which is definitely the kind of nonsense we enjoy and an event that we’ve not experienced before. Hosted at the Paragon Hall in the Siam Paragon mall made this very easy to get to, so we rounded up a few of our fellow gamers from Battlefield Bangkok and arranged to meet up with Aaron, Conrad, and Matt to see what it was all about.

Matt was planning to come along in cosplay as Thor but was unfortunately overruled by Mrs. Matt and so we didn’t get to explore the venue in the company of the mighty Asgardian 😦 Still there were plenty of others dressed up and they were very popular with people looking for photos.

The entry tickets were 100B each so not too bad and with two large halls of stands and vendors there was plenty to keep your average geek happy for a couple of hours, and here’s a few pictures of what we saw.

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TCC 2017 – milling around outside looking for Aaron, Conrad, and Matt.

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TCC 2017 – no not Godzilla, definitely nothing like him, oh no.

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TCC 2017 – Gundam! Ooh quite takes us back to the Gundam Front in Tokyo. Ah, happy days.
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TCC 2017 – this is how you were supposed to be dressed Matt!
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TCC 2017 – can we keep him? Please?!

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TCC 2017 – now this lot were charging to have a picture taken. Bugger that for a game of stormtroopers.
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TCC 2017 – come on sing along now: “In your satin tights… fighting for your rights…
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TCC 2017 – no idea who the band was or what they were singing but we enjoyed it anyway.
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TCC 2017 – there’s always someone photobombing my shots! 😛
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TCC 2017 – mind where you’re sticking that, love…
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TCC 2017 – the Power Rangers have really let themselves go in recent years…
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TCC 2017 – come on Philip this is the guy we have to fight if we want to get out to the toilets…

The Thailand Comic Con 2017 was good fun as our first event of the kind, despite opinion that last year’s Comic Con was better. Maybe we will catch the next one in 2018 and can compare.

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92. You Keep Me Hangin’ On

from “Another Step”, Kim Wilde, 1986.

For our last day in Kuala Lumpur we thought we would take things a little more sedately and elected to spend some time looking around the KL Forest Eco Park. This covers the hill – called Bukit Nanas, or Pinapple Hill – atop which the KL Menara Tower sits.

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KL Forest Eco Park – there it is on Pineapple Hill, as seen from the hotel room.

The KL Forest Eco Park, covering 9 hectares, is one of the oldest permanent forest reserves in Malaysia and the only stretch of tropical rainforest within the city. It used to be bigger but urban development and the KL Menara Tower have encroached on the forest somewhat. However, it has recently seen the addition of a 200 metre long canopy walkway to encourage visitors, providing them with an aerial view of the treetops and the city beyond.

Time to get the insect repellent on, the walking shoes ready to go, and explore.

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KL Forest Eco Park – ah there’s the walkway. Um, how do we get up there?
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KL Forest Eco Park – hello again KL Menara Tower.

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Philip took great delight in making the walkways go bouncy-bouncy, thinking it would be scary – he’s a very naughty boy. It worked on the Kuranda Skyrail in Australia many years ago but it doesn’t work any more after conquering vertigo on the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb, so there 😛

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KL Forest Eco Park – hmm, wonder what those strange bobby-danglers are?

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This is a great bit of green space to explore and hopefully the forest will not shrink further due to urbanisation. With free entrance and opening during all daylight hours, the KL Forest Eco Park is a wonderfully peaceful way to spend a little time away from the city and get back to nature. Just the kind of relaxed end to our visit to Malaysia’s capital we wanted.

Goodbye Kuala Lumpur.

91. Union City Blue

from “Eat to the Beat”, Blondie, 1979.

Once part of the British Empire, Malaysia gained its independence in 1957. However, many buildings and other architectural elements from that period still abound in Kuala Lumpur, and on a sunny morning we went for a look around some of the more well known historical locations in and around the area of Merdeka Square.

We arrived at the nearest metro station of Masjid Jamek and went looking first for the Moorish-style central mosque. But getting out of the station at the right exit point proved to be trickier than we thought as Kuala Lumpur’s mass transit line interchanges are not always as close as you think or as well connected for switching lines.

There was also a lot of area redevelopment work going on so we had to make our way through the clock square to get around and find the mosque.

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However, as it turned out parts of the mosque were also being redeveloped and additionally there was some kind of event going on and so there was no admittance that day to the poor tourists who had made their way along to see the mosque. In the end we really only got to see the mosque from further away as we headed towards Merdeka Square.

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Masjid Jamek – the central mosque and out of reach. Maybe next time.

Fortunately we weren’t too turned around after our vain attempts to find and access the mosque, and so with trusty GPS mapping in hand we found our way to Merdeka Square.

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Merdeka Square – literally ‘Independence Square’.

It was in Merdeka Square that the Union Flag was lowered and the Malayan flag raised for the first time on 31 August 1957 when Malaysia gained its independence. The flag pole is one of the tallest in the world, reaching some 95 metres high.

Surrounding the square are several buildings of historical interest and the most eye-catching of these is Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad. The building originally housed the offices of the British colonial administration, and was known simply as the Government Offices. It was later renamed after Sultan Abdul Samad, the reigning sultan of Selangor at the time when construction of the building began.

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Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad – the KL Menara Tower and Petronas Towers lurk in the background.

On the north side of the square, where the funky flower-headed lampposts live, is St. Mary’s Cathedral, an Anglican church dating from 1894. We decided to head inside for a look around and a chance to get out of the heat for a little while.

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On the opposite side of the square from the cathedral is the Kuala Lumpur City Gallery, easily spotted by the “I Love KL” statue along with the queue of tourists all seeking that must-have selfie with it. Opting for the “I Love KL” sans International Vagabonds picture, we then went inside to look around and see what the City Gallery was about.

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The Kuala Lumpur City Gallery is essentially the main tourist office for the city, and comprises an information centre, a large gift shop and café, as well as a couple of small galleries on the history of the city.

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However, the main point of interest is the scale model of Kuala Lumpur which is used in an audio-visual display to highlight aspects of the city: past, present, and future. The model is really very large, approximately 12 metres by 15 metres in size and the show was great to watch although with its fast pace and with so much going on over such a large area it wasn’t easy to catch everything to be seen.

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Kuala Lumpur City Gallery – part of the scale city model, with the KL Menara Tower and Petronas Towers visible.

With the ticket price for the city model show just RM5 and redeemable in the café it was time for a well earned sit down with a cup of tea and a slice of cake and make some plans for further adventures in the remaining couple of days of our time in Kuala Lumpur.

90. Fly Away

from “5”, Lenny Kravitz, 1998.

Kuala Lumpur has several pleasant natural world outlets for the busy tourist to take a break from the city. We had already explored some of the expansive Perdana Lake Gardens with its lovely botanical areas and noted that adjacent to the gardens are the Kuala Lumpur Bird Park and Kuala Lumpur Butterfly Park.

The last time we had experienced anything like these wildlife sanctuaries was around a decade ago in Australia (in Queensland’s Port Douglas and Kuranda) so we were keen to take a look and enjoy seeing the birds and butterflies in the sunshine.

The Bird Park is a 21 acre aviary of lush and forested grounds where the birds are free to move and fly around the huge enclosures, and is one of the largest such bird parks in the world.

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Visitors get the chance to see the animals living in a better environment than just being caged (although some of the birds are) whilst the birds themselves can live fairly naturally and get away from the pesky humans if they want to. There are around 3,000 birds in the park covering covering approximately 200 different species.

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KL Bird Park – show off.
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KL Bird Park – this cheeky chap followed us around while we enjoyed an ice cream.

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The Butterfly Park is a little more hidden away and, while not as large as the Bird Park, it is still the largest butterfly garden in the world featuring an enclosure that is a maze-like garden of ferns, vines and exotic plants studded with small pools and waterfalls in which thousands of butterflies live.

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The butterflies are somewhat less accommodating in their desire to be photographed as they flit and flutter around, but we enjoyed their frolics nonetheless.

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Butterfly Park – hmm, not sure how well Mr. Deadleaf Butterfly has camouflaged himself against my bag…

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Butterfly Park – although there were flowers in the garden there were lots of feeding stations with picked hibiscus flowers for the butterflies to enjoy.

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We spent a very pleasant and leisurely afternoon strolling around the two parks enjoying the flora as well as the fauna; they are a great way to appreciate the birds and butterflies and get up close to them.

89. Losing My Religion

from “Out Of Time”, R.E.M., 1991.

Kuala Lumpur had one other museum we were quite keen on seeing in addition to our visit to the city’s Muzium Negara, namely the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (IAMM). Opened in 1998, the IAMM is the largest museum of Islamic arts in South East Asia with more than seven thousands artefacts from the Islamic world.

A quick car ride and we were back in the environs of the Perdana Gardens, bought our tickets and were soon ready to explore the IAMM.

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IAMM – bright, spacious and full of interesting things, hurrah!
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IAMM – one of the domed ceilings inside the museum.

The museum is spacious, bright and clean; really quite a pleasure to tour as despite there being other visitors, it’s not really crowded at all and you can view the exhibits at your complete leisure. There is plenty to see and it is well organised so you can view any of the galleries that take your interest, including jewellery, textiles, ceramics, glassware, metalwork, and our perennial favourite: arms and armour.

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You really do need a whole morning or afternoon if not more to do the IAMM justice and we spent a very relaxed afternoon touring the museum.

This is definitely one of the most pleasant new museum buildings we’ve visited on our travels and with all the interesting exhibits and artefacts means the IAMM should feature very highly on anyone’s visit to Kuala Lumpur.

88. A Different Point Of View

from “Very”, Pet Shop Boys, 1993.

One of the first of Kuala Lumpur’s sights that we saw was the Menara KL Tower, mainly due to the act that it was visible from the hotel room. As it had an observation level it of course earned a place on our itinerary, though the Petronas Towers were a higher priority. But with the Petronas Towers done, and with the slightly disappointing views from there, we decided that the Menara KL Tower was going to be a much better option for getting a proper look from above at Malaysia’s capital city.

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Menara KL Tower – as seen at sunrise from our hotel, the Sheraton Imperial.

The Menara KL Tower is the seventh tallest in the world, and is located in the midst of the KL Forest Eco Park, a place we visited a little later in our time in Kuala Lumpur. Despite the tower’s relative proximity, we still got a car there as the only approach was up a long winding road after firstly braving the very busy and not so pedestrian friendly local area. And so just a few minutes later we arrived at the Menara KL Tower on a very bright and sunny morning.

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We were amongst the first of the day’s visitors to the tower and as the tower wasn’t too busy either so we had bought our tickets and were whisked up to the outdoor observation desk almost before we knew it. This deck provided an almost 360 degree view although there was a section of it that was out of bounds for some reason. And, as part of the observation level, are two Sky Boxes: glass cubes that extend beyond the level of the deck – you know, with glass floors to look at the ground far below!

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Menara KL Tower – one of the two Sky Boxes, situated on opposite sides of the outdoor observation deck.

Thinking that the queues for the Sky Boxes would only get longer, we decided to do both of these first before spending more time looking at the overall view of the city. We were obviously in experienced observation deck company as there didn’t seem to be anyone ahead of us baulking at standing on the glass floor. Rather the main delay were those taking endless selfies, many of whom seemed barely to even look down through the glass floor once inside. Of course we preferred pictures of our feet and what was below.

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Menara KL Tower – all together now in a high pitched voice: “We’re walking in the air!”

With the glass floors suitably walked on, it was time to wander around the observation deck and get a good look at Kuala Lumpur.

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Menara KL Tower – in the distance you can see the rocky outcrop that is home to the Batu Caves.

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Inside the tower amidst the gift stalls and other information was a map of towers across the world that are part of the World Federation of Great Towers (website here). Looking at the featured towers we can see we’ve done a fair few of these already but there’s evidently plenty more awaiting us on the road ahead.

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The Menara KL Tower was definitely one of the best observation decks we’ve visited on our travels, and the gorgeous clear day only made this a better experience. If you really want to see Kuala Lumpur properly from above, we think you should visit the Menara KL Tower not the Petronas Towers.

87. Just The Two Of Us

from “Austin Powers – The Spy Who Shagged Me” soundtrack, Dr. Evil, 1999.

Surely one of the biggest (no pun intended) must-sees in Kuala Lumpur is the Petronas Towers. Until 2004 – when they were overtaken by Taipei 101 – they were the tallest buildings in the world and to date they remain the tallest twin towers in the world. At the base of the towers is the Suria KLCC, which is an upmarket shopping mall, and surrounding it all is the 17 acre KLCC Park.

With all that to see we headed off to the metro and were there in just a short three stop trip. First off when we arrived we decided to pop outside of the Suria mall and just check we were in the right place for the towers, and there they were!

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Petronas Towers – looking fine in the sunshine.

But before we got too touristy it was lunchtime and we needed to fortify ourselves for the afternoon. And after just a minute of browsing in the Suria mall we spotted a place called The London Sandwich Co. Curious we looked inside and it was a indeed a sandwich shop very much like Eat and Pret back in the UK. With a good choice of very tasty looking sandwiches, as well as some interesting options for bottled fruit juices, we decided to try it out. And very good it was too, a reminder of lunchtimes out back at home.

Suitably fed and watered it was time to take a proper look at the Petronas Towers set against a glorious blue sky.

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The KLCC Park around the towers is a very pleasant space with a lake, shady trees and spaces of grass to enjoy, and we had a pleasant stroll around although the sun was blisteringly hot so the shade of the trees was very welcome.

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The park also affords some different views of the Petronas Towers.

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We had planned next to go up to the observation levels to get our first high rise view of Kuala Lumpur but as we discovered when we went to the ticket office admission is timed, is in groups, and there were no slots available until later that evening. We um’ed and ah’ed for a few minutes and then decided that, as we also wanted to visit the Menara KL Tower, that we would give the Petronas Towers a go at night, especially as we wanted nighttime pictures of the building anyway.

Fast forward five hours and we were back for the Petronas Towers part II. And the towers do look amazing in their simple but highly effective white lighting as we saw when we arrived.

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The observation levels come in two parts; first is the bridge between the two towers, and second is one of the uppermost floors of one tower. Each group is about twenty people in size and you are shepherded around and give about fifteen minutes in each of the observation areas, so really there isn’t that much time to look a leisurely around. And unfortunately while we were there the heavens decided to open and there was a torrential amount of rain obscuring the view 😦

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Petronas Towers – on the observation bridge between the towers.

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Coupled with the fact that really the Petronas doesn’t offer the best view of the city – the upper deck is not really suited to 360 degree observation, and the building lights interfere with taking pictures – we did find that the Petronas Towers is not the best observation experience we have had on our travels so far. As we’ll cover in a later blog, the Menara KL Tower was actually a much better option for seeing Kuala Lumpur from above.

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Petronas Towers – the height comparison display on the upper observation level.
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Petronas Towers – Philip decides to play with a virtual tower explorer, controlled by waving your QR code ticket around, rather than look out of the window. He’s a very silly person.

By the time we descended back to ground level the rain had pretty much stopped – typical! – and we had a last look at the impressively illuminated towers.

Despite the rain and somewhat lacking view we really enjoyed our visit to the Petronas Towers – both daytime and nighttime – and it is definitely one to feature on any visit to Kuala Lumpur.