Flying over the Vietnamese countryside en route to the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, allowed us a completely new perspective on the country where we’d spent the past four weeks. It also allowed us something you simply do not notice at ground level.
The landscape is dotted with hundreds of pockmarks. Bomb craters from a time when north and the south of the country rained death upon each other with their foreign allies. If its reason wasn’t so horrible, at the height we were, it was almost beautiful!
Our flight path took us over the Gulf of Thailand, and as land approached, even from the air with its neat rows of palm trees and well paved roads, Malaysia already looked far more ordered than Vietnam.
With our Air Asia flights in both directions requiring a stop and change of aircraft, we’d decided to make the return leg an overnight one as neither of us had spent any time in Malaysia before.
Not really knowing much about what there was to see and do and without any better ideas, from Hanoi we’d arranged a hotel and tickets for an evening viewing session of the Petronas Towers, but beyond that, who knows.
Our first impressions were pretty good. Getting around the city proved pretty easy using the simple and efficient railway network, a free tourist map and our feet. We got settled at our hotel (where we dumped our bags and freshened up), collected our tickets from reception, ate a delicious Sambal rice for a late lunch and before strolled our way towards the towers. We didn’t have massive expectations, but felt you couldn’t really visit the city and not come and see them.
It was hard not to be awed by their size as we got closer. When you’re in amongst the city it is quite easy for the towers to get lost, but up close they became very impressive.
From that point the experience only got better! With viewing from two locations, our first stop was the Skybridge which links the two towers, situated on the 41st & 42nd floors.
It was here that the clouds began to break slightly as dusk arrived and the sun began to set. This is when the building began to come into its own. The views were spectacular, even without completely clear skies. With the viewing being done in groups, we made sure we were in the first to allow us the best chance to get photos without people in the way!
What made this more incredible was how as the skies slowly darkened, how cleverly the lights of the towers took over. Before your very eyes, these huge towers began to claim the night.
From the Skybridge it was onwards and upwards to the even more spectacular views from the observation deck on the 86th floor (the towers themselves are 88 levels high).
With some real techno information displays you could learn a bit about this building as well as some of the worlds other impressive monoliths, but for us it was really all about the views.
Dazzled by what we’d seen, it was eventually time to leave, so we made the rapid descent by elevator and felt it was time for a beer.
Nearby we found an Irish style pub/bar which gave us great views of the towers, and tucked into our most expensive beers in over a month!
The following day, we again took advantage of the great rail network in the city and on a very humid day, made our way north to the Batu Caves. The caves are supposedly one of the most famous Hindu sites outside of India, so we felt it was worthy of a visit.
Dodging marauding monkeys which seemed intent on anything edible left lying about (there did appear to be a lot, but hopefully it had been bought and left with the intention of feeding the monkeys and wasn’t simply litter), we made our way up the large flight of stairs and into the cave itself.
The caves were interesting enough, without being amazing, but perhaps we’d had our fill of temples after a month on the road already.
Nestled beside the caves however down a small path (also littered with monkeys) was another nook signed as the Dark Cave. It did have an entrance fee which was part of a guided tour, but what this place was, was a conservation sight for some creatures that are found nowhere else in the world. Included amongst these are a trapdoor spider and cave snake.
It was certainly interesting to learn about this small and underfunded conservation project and I’d encourage anyone in KL to get there, have a look and hopefully the tour fees can do some good.
We spent the rest of our afternoon back in the city, wandering around on foot as we just couldn’t be bothered getting any more money out from an ATM (at lunch we’d forgotten to add the service tax to our fund calculations so having overspent, it left us fairly skint).
There were still some nice places to see, such as the old Kuala Lumpur Railway Station. This relic of the British colonial rule also had a small museum within which occupied us for a short time.
We took in a few Mosques (the exterior only) as well as the Merdeka Square which is purported to have one of the worlds largest flagpoles at 95 metres high.
Again the heat and fatigue from weeks on the road wore us down, so before long we collected our belongings, made our way to the LCCT (Low Cost Carrier Terminal) for our flight home.
It had been an extremely rewarding and enjoyable trip, but it was straight back to work to dream of our next destination on what remains a very long list of places to see…