Nice to meet you, Malaysia!

We landed safely (even survived the fumigation 😉 as the sun was setting across the tarmac in Kuala Lumpur. We lost an hour in this flight. We were now in a new time zone. As our descent brought land into our sight lines, I was amazed at the long piered ports and extremely large ships I saw along the coastline. In doing some research I think they may have been oil tankers. As we glided over more inland territory I saw mangroves change to palms with narrow dirt roads passing through them. Immigration process into Malaysia was friendly and efficient. We decided on this off shoot excursion instead of paying for a Thai visa which would have allowed us a stay past 30 days. Instead, when we return to Phuket we will be in a new cycle. Soon we were exchanging our baht for ringgit and getting our taxi voucher at the ticket counter. Our dollar did not quite get us the value we had become accustomed to these last few weeks in Thailand but still we could not complain. We found cost of goods to be slightly less than the US during our stay in KL but higher than what we found throughout Thailand.

Our driver loaded our bags and we struck out on the Maju Expressway and then on to the E20 leg headed for Kuala Lampur, the capital of this democratic parliament run country which has a federal monarch (who is the government leader as well as it’s leader of Islamic faith). Our travel to the city was about 35 miles, farther than we had anticipated, or really given much thought to. Great highway system and easy traffic flow made for smooth travel although there were three toll areas to pay at as well. (This was included in the precalculated amount paid for at the counter.) As we drove, lighted cranes were strewn throughout the skyline from suburb to city. This has been the case in each of our destinations this trip as well as in our travels these past few years. Leading us to think there must be some margin of wealth throughout our world economies. (Or is it simply all a debtor mentality?)

Our greeting from Avtar, who turned out to be a great Concierge full of information to share, was warm and prompt. He directed the doorman to handle our luggage and assisted the front desk with our check in at Invito Hotel Suites just at the edge of Bukit Bintang. He also escorted us to our room, stowed our luggage and explained the room amenities. First rate and truly a suite. Full kitchenette with stovetop, cookware and dishes, dining table, sofa, 50″ TV, desk, king bed and balcony. A great spot with ease of access to city attractions. We freshened up a bit but wanted to check our surroundings. On the way out we chatted some more with Avtar who shared his favorite spots in his home city as well as some of its history. This country’s freedom is 60 years young!

KL is known as a shopping mecca, as a matter of fact one of the first things Avtar said when we inquired for his to do recommendations was “Do you like shopping?” Um, not really. Well, on our galavanting around we definitely saw why. From Asian hand made to Zara with H&M, Valentino and everything in between, if you are a shopaholic put this city and the entire Klang Valley on your desired destination list. Yes, once again we found ourselves wandering through these mall mazes both for the relief of air conditioning and sometimes the easiest cross route to get somewhere else. These are first rate shopping centers! (They make me dizzy just like malls at home do!) We did go see Kong at Pavilion KL Cinema. My movie buff couldn’t resist the 17.50 MYR ($4 American) ticket price that got us in this first rate theatre for a new release. There was no national anthem to start the movie here as there was in Thailand but despite the rating, anything near a swear word was bleeped (as they were on TV channels in our room). Kong is totally worth seeing by the way.

On a subsequent day on our short getaway to Malaysia, we dined at a place called The Ship. Dressed in dark wood with a nautical theme this was labeled the best steakhouse in town. We had Oysters Rockefeller and a smoked salmon app to start followed by an oxtail soup (regional specialty) for my partner and a wonderful crab and creamed corn in seafood broth for me. One ribeye and one pepper steak pleased our weekly “need” for beef. Our server, Manouz, was attentive throughout and allowed us to dine leisurely, as we prefer. At the end of the meal we chatted and he shared the story of this job. College educated, speaking excellent English, it is his 5th year at The Ship, he is 36. They are good to him, he earns well but is from Nepal. Once a year he returns home to renew his work visa and visit his wife and two children. His son who is 14 serves as man of the house when he is gone, his daughter is 12. He hopes this is his last year in KL. His goal has been to save enough money to open a family business. To give his son opportunity to live well without this type of sacrifice. To, at last, be home with his family. His story, and others I will share are meant to make us all think how truly lucky we are. Count your blessings each day as you start it and appreciate, leaving no room for complaints, and your life becomes more rewarding. Our night ended at a street bar called Sutraa. A great location to people watch, we smoked hookah, drank cocktails/beer and interacted with the locals. Great fun and actually the night ended with Schwarma from the food truck.

One day, we took an excursion to the KLCC Aquaria. We ate lunch there and interacted with a family (Mom, Dad, 6,4 and 2 year olds and Grandma), suburban Malay locals. The father was so proud of his family and shared little tidbits about his country. All Malay children learn English in school. It is seen as a road to success. The aquarium itself was first rate and we certainly saw some species such as the Crocodile Fish, a Frog Fish, a Giant Catfish that was 5′ long and a fresh water Stingray that were new to me. It was an afternoon well spent during one of the daily afternoon thunder, lightning and downpours we experienced in this tropics area.

The transit system in this city will take you anywhere and it is clean and diverse. One day we took the monorail to KL Sentral, not only the central hub of the transit but…another beautiful multi-story mall! The KTM komuter train took us from there to Batu Caves. The site is dear to the Hindu practitioners and honors Lord Marugan. (Check out this link about an annual event held at this site known as Thaipusam. Our concierge Avtar had bragged to us that first day about his brother’s participation and what great prosperity he reached after it in his life.) A grand statue of Marugan stands at the bottom of the 272 step climb to the caves. The caves were formed from limestone and contain stalagtites and stalagmites. The central cave was over 50′ high. There are shrines housed within the cave and monkeys frolic along the stairway and at the entrance. It is a very serene place. Located adjacent to the main cave, is another cave, not totally explored, named the Dark Cave. It is only accessed on guided tours which we took advantage of. There were extraordinary examples of nature housed here. Given torches (flashlights) and hard hats we were off in to the darkness of the interior. Our guide, Faiz, was trained in Biodiversity and employed by Cave Management Group who manages and does studies of the caves for the owner, the Malaysian Nature Society. Faiz had an extensive amount of knowledge and was enthusiastic to share it, showing us spiders, rats, bats, centipedes and rare rock formations. If you are so inclined to donate to these types of works, he gave a heartfelt plea at the close of the tour for donations to their eco-conscious efforts. This was a great experience both naturally and spiritually. The climbing and walking workout was pretty rigorous as well. Upon returning to the city, we were in desperate need of a shower. The humidity inside the caves was greater than outside, talk about sweaty! On the way back to the hotel a restaurant caught the hubby’s eye, not uncommon, he stopped to look over the menu and I people watched.

Dining In The Dark was an original experience this past Monday evening without a doubt. After we showered and dressed we headed over for the 8pm seating. We were met by our host, Justyn. He brought us to the lounge area and explained our evening. We would start here but then be escorted to the dining room to be met by our guide and experience dining in total darkness. Our guide would be blind or partially blind and help us through our evening as well as serve us. Justyn explained it would challenge our other senses. It was also promised that nothing so strange to our pallet that it would be offensive would be included. Trust was key. Justyn began our introduction to using all of our senses by having us taste our welcome drink. Neither of us identified all three flavors leading us to know we would have a challenge when our sight was not available. Next, we were provided an eye mask and given a cup of rice and tasked with finding 5 paper clips included in the mix. Easy right? No. We each only found four and were convinced it was part of the challenge. Not so. When our mask was removed, sure enough, there was the fifth. We were escorted to the door of the dark dining room. Our adventure began when we were introduced to AK, our guide. He instructed us to put our hands on one another’s shoulders. With him leading, we were guided to our seats at our table. The sheer darkness was nearly panic giving, especially for me. If you know me well, you know the fear that is my greatest is what may lurk in the dark. My heart was in my throat. AK deftly seated us and explained our table layout and it’s “landmarks”. We were amazed at the zero light atmosphere that had been achieved here as well as the peace and relaxation it offered once we settled in. Each course was a true exploration of communication and our infancy of dependence on senses other than sight. We managed to toast by touch with pre dinner cocktails and paired wine courses. We had great laughs and were in awe of those, like AK, who knew nothing but this darkness. This appreciation again lends to the path of discovery on the meaning of this life. Be grateful every day. AK wound down our evening by talking to us about our likes and dislikes to share with the chef. Conversation led us to him expressing the wonder of the northern coastline of Borneo where he was born. He encouraged us to return and partake of this area of the country and it’s slower, more original Malay lifestyle. Escorting us out, hands on shoulders once again, he asked us to share our experience so that others will come visit him and he can share and learn about the world through others eyes. Justyn met us again at the exit and showed us through a print and photo description of every course of our meal and encouraged us to share with him where we were surprised at our incorrect instincts. Hearing, touch, smell and taste indeed had steered us astray on a few items. We paid our check of Myr 168++, which we found such a reasonable price for such an incredible experience. We finished our night with foot reflexology, pondering of life and packing for the next step of our journey.

Flying to Phuket was not scheduled until 6:05pm Tuesday. We checked out at noon, scheduled our cab and stored luggage with the bellman. Seeing the KL Tower from a distance was good, it was pretty at night with the Petronas pair lit up nearby. City view from it’s sky deck was on my list of desires while in this city. (My dear one is tremulous with heights and claustrophobic. i.e. good thing those caves had high ceilings!) Food was on my partner’s mind but could wait. Some direction ànd outlining on a çity map from the concierge on duty and we were off on foot. Merely a 15 minute jaunt from the hotel. (PS I should have tried it on Sunday on my own, bet I would have have beeñ fine.) Well, my map reader led us as directed with me objecting that my senses told me left.(My siblings, my children and my loved ones in heaven are most likely in stitches right now. Although I have improved to knowing my directions when I can spot the sun, notoriously, I lack a sense of directioñ.) My leader stated to me that we were about halfway there, then halts. He had realized the circle on the map is Petronas not KL! My sense had been correct 🙂 Turning around we used the map (Confusing at best with names like Jalan Chulani and Jalan Chulah running at parallel curves to one another.) and our sightings of the top of the tower to guide us. Arrive we did and were off to the top (421 meters) with option for observation deck at about mid height as well. The view was breathtaking. If you’ve ever been to the 102nd floor observation deck of the Empire State Building which stands at 1251 feet you have the idea. An incredible experience was standing in the sky box, which only I tried. A glass enclosed box (floor too) that could be entered with no shoes or bags of any kind, hung extended from the skywalk by steel girders). Let me tell you, this was breathtaking in a special kind of way! If you haven’t seen the picture I posted on Facebook, check it out. You’ll get the sense of it! We did stop at the midway point of the observation deck as well as a portion of the sky deck was closed off and we wanted to make the quick circle view of the entire valley. Visibility was better also as we were under/in the haze instead of somewhat above it. Hands of the clock quickly approached 2:30 so we quickly made our way back to the hotel and had our lunch while awaiting our airport taxi. The ride back there was informative since we traveled in after dark and now had some sense of the lay of the land. Exiting the country was a simple, friendly process as well. If you are ever in the area, we highly suggest a stop in this progressive city!

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