With ornate design and friendly practitioners, Sri Mahamariamman in Kuala Lumpur is sure to leave you awestruck.
Petaling Street is renowned for selling fake goods, everything from designer watches and bags to football jerseys and video games. Originally, the street was open to traffic, but it has since become an enclosed area, complete with transparent roof for protection against rain. Bargaining is the norm when buying, but nowadays stall owners have become so used to this 'game' that they're reluctant to reduce their prices too low (like in the old days). Still, it's a must visit if you're in K.L. Even though it's more crowded, it's best to go at night when it's cooler and there are more stalls. The top photo shows the main entrance to the street, and the bottom photo shows the view as you walk in.
Along the riverbank near Central Market, you'll find beautiful works of street art. These paintings were legally made with the blessings of Kuala Lumpur City Hall, which organized a competition recently to allow street artists to express themselves in a controlled environment.
The traditional coffee shop in Malaysia is called Kopitiam (pronounced "ko-pee tee-um"). Here you can find simple food, like toast with kaya (coconut jam), soft-boiled eggs, and noodles. And, of course, coffee and tea. The decor usually consists of round wooden tables and stools with marble tops. Over the past few years, a new breed of kopitiams has emerged. These are franchised imitation cafes, usually found in shopping malls. The decor and menu is the same, but of course the prices are a little higher. One of the most successful franchises is the Old Town Kopitiam (pictured).
A popular street stall usually means there's something delicious going on. Uncle Bob sells fried chicken. To be exact: juicy chicken breasts covered in crispy bread crumbs and sprinkled with Original or Spicy flavoring. Should Colonel Sanders be worried? Maybe not yet, but who knows 10 or 20 years from now :)
The Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia houses over 7,000 items. These include old Qur'ans and Islamic manuscripts, textiles, pottery, arms, jewelry, and models of important Islamic architecture. There's special focus on Islam in China, India, and the Malay world. It's a truly breath-taking collection (as well as home to an outstanding museum shop). This is one of my favorite places to visit in K.L.
One of the most iconic buildings in Kuala Lumpur is the Sultan Abdul Samad building, located in front of Dataran Merdeka. It was built in the 1890s, and was named after the reigning Sultan at the time. The architecture of the building has a distinctive Moorish design, and the clock tower is like K.L.'s very own Big Ben. It was at Dataran Merdeka (or Independence Square), which the Sultan Abdul Samad building faces, that Malaysia's independence from British rule was declared on August 31st, 1957. The building used to house the Federal Court, Court of Appeals, and High Court, but is now home to the Ministry of Information, Communications, and Culture. Malaysia's Independence Day and New Year celebrations are often held here, with dazzling firework displays.
An ice drink commonly found in the local stalls or cafes is the "Three Layer Tea." It's made up of palm sugar, evaporated milk and tea. The process of making it starts with pouring palm sugar into a tall glass, followed by ice cubes. Milk is then slowly poured over the ice, filling up one third of the glass. And finally tea is poured on top. If carefully executed, you'll see a nice segregation of the three colors: dark brown, white, and light brown. Of course, after you've admired the look, you need to stir it well before you drink it.
Central Market in K.L. started life as a wet market in 1888. It's now a one-stop shopping destination for Malaysian handicrafts and souvenirs. It also holds cultural and arts events at the outdoor stage in front, as well as art exhibitions at the Annexe Gallery in the back. There are several restaurants and food stalls inside, so you can shop for hours and not worry when the hunger pangs strike.
The Durian is fondly known as the king of fruits in Southeast Asia. It's a fruit that the locals love, but that many outsiders find to be an acquired taste. In fact, Andrew Zimmern, the presenter of the Travel Channel's Bizarre Foods, (the guy who eats the world's craziest and weirdest things) can't stand durians. The name durian comes from the Malay word "duri," which means "thorns." Cutting open a durian is an art. You have to cut along certain lines created by the thorns, which are barely visible. If you get it wrong, it would be tough to open. Once cut, you use your palms to push apart the insides to reveal the yellow flesh. The smell of the durian is strong enough to make you salivate or faint, depending on which side of the fence you are on regarding it's taste. If you're ever in Malaysia, you must give it a try. Who knows? You could end up liking something that Andrew Zimmern himself can't stomach!
As Malaysia is a Muslim country, mosques can be found everywhere. One of the most famous mosques in K.L. is Masjid Negara (the National Mosque). It was built in 1965, and can accommodate some 15,000 worshippers. This photo is of the Mihrab. It's a semicircular niche in the wall at the front of the mosque and it indicates the direction of Mecca, which is the direction that worshippers face when praying. The Imam (the one who leads the prayers) stands close to the Mihrab, and everyone else congregates in rows behind him. As can be seen here, the Mihrab is usually quite intricately designed and decorated with Islamic motifs.
The best place to view the iconic Petronas Twin Towers is from Sky Bar, across Kuala Lumpur City Park on the 33rd floor of the Traders Hotel. There is construction going on all over KL as an indication of where Malaysia is headed, but in gaping at the awe-inspring steel glow, and when you consider the towers' six-year stint as the tallest buildings in the world from 1998-2004, you could be forgiven for thinking Malaysia has already arrived. View the full album!
If you're in KL and you need to buy something to take home, go to Central Market. You can find beautiful hand-made products like batik kaftans and wood carvings. At the same time, you can also find tacky souvenirs like t-shirts and fridge magnets. Take your pick.
Whenever I am in a large city in Asia, I check to see whether there is an outpost of the Taiwanese dumpling chain, Din Tai Fung. I have an unnatural addiction to their xiaolongbao, or pork soup dumplings. I have stalked these dumplings in Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, and even Bellevue, Washington. The dumplings are hand made in the window of the restaurant. Each pillow of dough includes a small ball of pork, and a gelatinous bit of stock, which turns to soup when steamed. The house promise is a minimum of 18 individual folds in each dumpling. The dumplings are delivered to your table steaming hot, and dipped in vinegar with shredded ginger. I usually despise chains and avoid them at all costs, but Din Tai Fung provides me a consistently lovely dumpling, all across Asia. Pure heaven in 18 folds.
When visiting Kuala Lumpur, it is impossible to not see the Petronas Towers. Any architect knows that when you build the world's tallest skyscraper, it will only hold that title for a while, and then it will be surpassed. So what better way to maintain rarefied status than to build, not one, but two mighty towers and then put a bridge between them. The best part about the towers though, is that they turn the lights off precisely at midnight every night. We stood at the base of these majestic structures, and at the stroke of midnight watched as the lights clicked off down the height of the buildings. Even with the lights off, the Petronas Towers still look absolutely amazing. Much like a truly beautiful woman, the make-up (lights) merely accentuate the true brilliance that resides just below the surface.
These two young gentlemen were kind enough to let me take their portrait. After our photo session the one on the right gave me quick tour of this fabulous Hindu Temple.
I don't think it is any big secret that one of the best views of Kuala Lumpur's Petronas Towers can be seen at the Sky Bar. The Sky Bar is located on the 33rd floor of the Traders Hotel. It is über hip, with an amazing interior, but its coolness doesn't warrant the prices to eat there (considering you can have a fabulous meal in K.L. for $5-10), so I would recommend just going for a drink (or three, in my case). No reservation is needed to grab a table near the bar, and, if you're lucky enough, you can get a high-top table near the windows. Have a few drinks while ambient lounge music pumps from the speakers and have fun people watching.
In Kuala Lumpur, if you visit the famous Masjid Jamek, don't forget to go around and walk along the river side. Turn to the other side to have a look at this beautiful building.
Right smack in the middle of K.L., beside the Twin Towers, is this little area consisting of tall trees. It's at the corner of Jalan P. Ramlee and Jalan Pinang ("Jalan" here means street or road). I used to drive past this place all the time, but never noticed this little forest until recently. It's a nice space to hang out if you need a break from the hustle and bustle of the city.
K.L. is a shoppers' heaven. You can find everything from cheap goods to upmarket shopping malls like the Pavilion K.L., pictured here. The Pavilion K.L. is located in Bukit Bintang, one of the main shopping areas in K.L. Shops here are usually open late, typically closing at 10 p.m. every day.
The old K.L. Railway Station on Sultan Hishamuddin Road used to be K.L.'s main station. At one time, it was the most important and busiest station in the whole of Malaysia. As a child, I remember feeling very excited when we went there to see relatives off or to board the train ourselves (which wasn't very often). The station was built in 1910 and is an example of colonial-style architecture, heavily influenced by Moorish and Mughal designs. There used to be a famous hotel within the building called the Heritage Station Hotel. Sadly, it closed down a couple of years ago. The beauty of the building is what is seen on the outside. There is nothing extraordinary inside apart from a little railway museum. The station now serves only local commuter trains, and has lost its importance since the bigger and more modern K.L. Sentral Station was established not too far away in 2001.
At one end of the huge KL Bird Park is a lake and waterfall. You can actually walk behind the waterfall - which is where I shot this photo.
Stopped in for lunch at the Old China Cafe near my hostel in Kuala Lumpur after hearing many positive reviews. I was Extremely delighted with how incredible everything tasted especially this Spicy coconut milk curry Squid with pineapple and bell peppers.
...stay at Traders Hotel, Kuala Lumpur. Apart from its nice, modern interiors and lovely little pool on the rooftop, it's located right smack in the middle of KL, with an unbelievable view of the KLCC Park and of course, the Petronas Twin Towers. Go jogging in the park in the morning and then have a bite at one of the many cafes at KLCC (KLCC is the shopping mall at the base of the Towers). Traders Hotel is also within walking distance to the shopping district of Bukit Bintang. Public transport is conveniently available in the form of the nearby monorail and LRT (Light Rail Transit) stations. The hotel is actually joined with the KL Convention Centre, so it's the perfect place to stay if you're attending a conference or exhibition. Incidentally, this photo was taken at the Club Lounge on the 32nd floor.
Kuala Lumpur, or KL as it's affectionately known, is a relatively young city compared to the rest of the world. Because of the multi-racial mix of predominantly Malays, Chinese and Indians, the merging of cultural diversity makes it an absolutely fascinating place - and don't even get me started talking about the scrumptious food! But it has grown rapidly over the last 25 years or so. Humungous shopping malls have sprouted everywhere and 6-lane multi-level highways and flyovers result in convenient accesses as well as massive jams. At the end of the day, KL is my home. It's where I was born and where I've lived most of my life. One thing that you may not find in the travel brochures is that you can get some truly remarkable sunsets here. In this photo you can just about see the Petronas Twin Towers, still one of the tallest buildings in the world, with the KL Tower to its left.
On a photo walk in Kuala Lumpur I came across this kind gentleman who had a cigarette in each ear. I asked him If I could take his portrait, he took ONE out and then struck a pose. People are fascinating.
A devout hiking a flight of steps at the National Mosque (Masjid Negara) in Kuala Lumpur. There are special visiting hours for those who are not Muslim (these are typically between prayer times) and to visit those inappropriately dressed can borrow robes from the Mosque free of charge.
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