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This stall was selling moist chocolate cake. When we ordered some, the lady doused our cake with a thick chocolate sauce. Needless to say, it was sinfully scrumptious!
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 Feathered Friends Photo Booth in the KL Bird Park gives you the rare opportunity to have your photo taken with some exotic birds. I had a go with my family and we were all very nervous having these birds perched on our arms and backs. We ended up having stiff poses and forced smiles but it was worth it! This lady who came in after us was very brave. She had seven birds on her!
On any muggy night in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia you could find yourself being driven home in a sunken cab and look up to this blur of the Petronas Towers, a KL centerpiece that you can't miss. That is, of course, after you get your fill of the culture, cuisine and mix of all that makes Malaysia "Truly Asia".
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.
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!
The largest collection of Islamic art in South East Asia can be found in the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia. There are four floors, spread over 30,000 square meters. Two floors are designated for permanent collections, while galleries in the other floors are for temporary exhibitions. The museum has a lovely Middle Eastern restaurant and a wonderful gift shop. Not only can you buy souvenirs and books but also actual Islamic artefacts from around the world.
The Night Market (or "Pasar Malam" in Malay) can be found at various places throughout K.L. and Malaysia. It's an open-air market which starts around 4 p.m. and ends around 10 p.m. You can find a variety of things for sale. From fresh meat and vegetables, to dresses and home accessories, to toiletries and herbal supplements. Most people go to buy freshly cooked food to take home for dinner. There are lots of local delicacies available, like satay, fried rice, noodles, grilled fish, and kebabs.
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.
This Kuala Lumpur institution is in the heart of the Bukit Bintang shopping area. In the basement of the Lot 10 shopping mall, at 50 Jalan Sultan Ismail, a developer built the quintessential food court. It's an atmospheric hawker center, with over 30 stalls, most of which are branches of famous K.L. eateries, each with their own specialties. These include barbecue pork and duck, wonton noodle soup, dim sum, Singaporean specialities like radish cake, Korean dishes, and desserts like ice kachang—a crushed ice and fruit dish. I was sitting at a crowded table at Lot 10 when I realized I could live in K.L., so long as I were walking distance from Lot 10. Everything I ate was fantastic and reasonably priced.
One of the 'must-dos' for visitors to K.L. is to visit the Petronas Twin Towers. There are hourly sessions where you are taken up in groups, stopping first at the Skybridge on the 41st floor. The bridge links the two towers and is 170 meters above the ground. You're given about 15 mins to walk about and take pictures. Then you'll be taken up to the 86th floor, for one of the most commanding views in all of Southeast Asia.
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!
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.
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.
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 :)
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.
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.
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.
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.
In Malaysia, we have a drink called "white coffee." But it's not a latte, nor are the beans white in color! White coffee originated in the town of Ipoh, Perak many, many years ago. The coffee beans are roasted with margarine (yes, margarine) to give it extra body. For the traditional black coffee, sugar is added during the roasting process. But for White Coffee, the beans are roasted with only margarine. Hence, "white" is taken to mean "pure" (i.e., without the additional ingredient of sugar). Either way, the coffee is strong and sweet. White coffee is served mixed with sweetened condensed milk, and usually comes in a cup and saucer with a one-tone flowery design. In K.L. you can get white coffee at any local coffee shop (Kopitiam). You can also buy instant white coffee packets in the supermarket for your caffeine fix at home.
With a name like "The Bread Shop," it stands to reason that the bread at this little establishment must be something special. And, sure enough, it is. This bakery cafe is located in the residential area of Bukit Damansara, hidden amidst a short row of shops. It's far away from the malls and touristy areas. Still, when I went there with my wife for breakfast, the place was packed. The cheese and tomato toast pictured above was from a delicious multi-grain loaf. Another specialty of the bakery is their cranberry and walnut loaf. They also serve pastries and buns that are not commonly found at other places.
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).
Left to right: ice lemon tea, tea milkshake, Teh Tarik (or 'stretched tea'). Just three of the many choices you can find at the Cameron Valley Tea House in the Publika shopping mall. The best thing about the Teh Tarik is that it's bottomless, something quiet rare in KL.
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.
...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.
Malaysia's social elite love to let their hair down and dance the night away, and the new 'hot spot' for Malaysia's elite, culinary fraternity (as well as celebrities and visitors), is Marini's on 57. With the best views of the city and Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur's hottest rooftop restaurant, bar, and lounge will have something to impress everyone. For business meetings, take in the old-world charm of the cigar and single malt lounge—the largest of its kind in the country. With soft saxophone music, plush leather couches, and a fine variety of wines, single malt whiskies, and cigars, it is the perfect place to entertain business partners. If dancing your night away in a chic bar with award-winning mixologists is more your style, then the Bar is the place to be seen. With a futuristic design-encompassing floor to ceiling glass walls and a roof that provides perhaps the best view of the Petronas Twin Towers and the KLCC Park, the venue is set for a pleasurable night dancing to the live DJs over drinks. The crown jewel is the restaurant. Featuring authentic Italian cuisine, with the freshest ingredients and quality imported meat cuts, guests will be treated to mouth-watering food. My personal picks? The wagyu. As Malaysia's highest rooftop restaurant—located on the 57th floor of Petronas Tower Three—bar, and lounge, trendsetters from all around will be flocking to Marini’s on 57 for a night of luxury and amazing views.
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.
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