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.

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86. Shadow On The Wall

from “Crises”, Mike Oldfield, 1983.

With another country comes time for our traditional visit to its national museum. We called up an Uber car and headed down to the Perdana Lake Gardens to explore Kuala Lumpur’s Muzium Negara. The Muzium Negara was opened in 1963 – six years after Malaysia’s independence – and was built on the site of the former Selangor Museum, which was destroyed during World War II.

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Muzium Negara – the main hall.

The Muzium Negara is set across two floors with four main galleries adjoining the central hall. The central hall is sometimes host to temporary exhibitions while the galleries host the main exhibits. The four galleries are divided into four thematic categories: Early History (gallery A), the Malay Kingdoms (gallery B), Colonial History (gallery C), and Independence & Ethnicity (gallery D). The galleries have a natural historical flow and it makes sense to do them in order: A, B, C, D.

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The galleries were well done and very interesting with many wonderful exhibits and we enjoyed getting a great introduction to the history of Malaysia and its evolution as a country.

There are several other buildings adjacent to the Muzium Negara and one of these was currently staging an exhibition on shadow puppets, a historical art form common to many Asian countries.

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There were plenty of traditional shadow puppets on display, though our eye was definitely caught by several of a far more contemporary nature.

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The Muzium Negara is ideal for an introduction to the history of Malaysia; big enough to keep your interest for several hours yet small enough that you can do the whole place in a morning or afternoon. And with the adjacent Perdana Lake Gardens you can go for a walk afterwards. And so we did.

85. R.O.C.K.

from “Viper’s Creed” soundtrack, iLL, 2009.

For our first real venture out into Kuala Lumpur we decided we would take in its most famous natural wonder: Batu Caves. Situated in the northern outskirts of the city, Batu Caves is a huge limestone hill that juts from the landscape. The main cave itself is also home to a Hindu shrine, dedicated to Lord Murugan, and is one of the most popular outside India.

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Whilst being around 400 million years old, Batu Caves was in more recent times used in the mid 1800s by early Chinese settlers as a source of bat guano, which they used to fertilised their food crops. The caves then became famous in 1878 when they were recorded by the colonial authorities. Then towards the end of the 19th century the caves were promoted as a site of worship by an Indian trader, and a shrine was built within the main cave, and it is now known as the Temple Cave. To reach the Temple Cave you have to climb up 272 concrete steps to the entrance, and at the foot of the steps stands a 43m tall golden statue of Lord Murugan.

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At the base of the hill on the western side is the Ramayana Cave, and this was the first one we decided to visit while we mustered our energy to face the 272 step climb to the Temple Cave. The Ramayana Cave depicts the story of Rama in a series of statues along the irregular walls of the cave. While not exactly what we would call sophisticated, this story of Rama depiction using colourful statues did not seem too demeaning of the location, unlike the additions to the Temple Cave as we were to discover.

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The climb up the steps to the Temple Cave were fortunately not overly challenging in the heat although a few stops along to the way to pause and take in the view were welcome. The steps are in four lanes – two up, two down – and as usual there are always some people in the wrong lane making things more difficult; it’s not hard to pay attention to the up/down arrows!

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One attraction – or peril – are the macaques which live in and around the caves. They are quite unafraid of humans and can pose a bit of a hazard to tourists as they can be quite territorial. We saw a number of them attempting to menace children with the parents having to fend them off.

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The macaques are also always seeking food, and some visitors do feed them. This isn’t a good idea in our opinion – it is what has led to them being both unafraid of humans and also actively trying to snatch anything edible (and otherwise) from people. They really should be left alone – they are wild animals, not pets.

The Temple Cave is a huge cavern of craggy rock, with a large opening in the top, and numerous plants growing up in the inaccessible heights. It really is very impressive, but – for us – somewhat spoiled by the presence of the changes for the shrine.

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In all honesty we felt the shrine and other building works in the Temple Cave have spoiled a real natural wonder. Concrete, poor construction, iron bars, fairy lights, tacky statues – really we thought it was such a shame to ruin such an amazing place of innate earthly beauty.

We recommend you go for the cave, not the shrine.