Blog // Tales from the trail
Well, Christmas eve to be more specific. Although we did find an absolute gem for a coffee stop on Christmas morning 2 minutes walk away from our back-packing hostel (Pssst, it's called Merchant's Place on Merchant's Lane, hidden behind a blue door...but you didn't hear it from us) which we savoured before speeding off to the airport for our next destination, perhaps the destination of all destinations, New Zealand.
We hadn't felt like it was Christmas at all up until this point, in muggy, sweltering temperatures and having not been harassed by Christmas jingles or tinsel since October. This all changed though when we arrived in Kuala Lumpur, which was looking and sounding more Christmassy than you might expect in a Muslim country. It was when we walked around the fancy and very large Suria mall at the base of the Petronas Towers on Christmas Eve, having treated ourselves to a movie at the flicks, that we remembered all the stresses of last minute present-buying; watching people blitz round laden with shopping bags and lists and we were secretly pleased not to be a part of it this time around. We did however enjoy a festive meal that evening, which then reminded us how much we enjoy Christmas dinners and nostalgic memories for family and friends started creeping in over our digestive peaty whiskeys. Oh how fickle the mind, and sprouts, can be!
I'm not sure how many of the World's capital cities acquired their names but Kuala Lumpur means 'muddy confluence'. Not very inspiring really but at one point in time that's all it was. Now, however, it is a sprawling metropolis much more glitzy than its swampy beginnings, having a number of the World's iconic buildings looming on its horizon and by 2020, quite a number more, we learnt from the 3-D model spectacle at the Kuala Lumpur City Gallery. 300 more to be exact between 2015-2020! Yikes. KL is definitely a city on the rise and promises to be a fitting and vibrant competitor to its neighbouring tower-filled Singapore.
KL is a modern and user-friendly capital and has charm to it despite its sprawl. However in spite of the plethora of public transport networks including several rail options, traffic snarls up the main roads for most of the day and I imagine must be the cause of some frustration for those who live there. We spent our couple of days walking around the sites on PAVEMENTS, a nice novelty, the mix of colonial, Indian and Chinese influences abundant.
The most photographed building in KL is not as you might expect, the gleaming metallic Petronas Towers, but the 'Sultan Abdul Samad Building', built by the British as their base for central government departments, using the architecture of the Mughal Muslim mosques in India as their inspiration. It was here that the British flag was lowered and the Malaysian flag raised for the first time to signify a newly-independent nation and is one of the most important historic sites in the country. It remains green, previously a cricket ground for the British administration (priorities, right?) and is a welcome space in the midst of the busy city.
Another gem of emerald green lies in the city's botanical gardens, which took a bit of navigating to cross disused rail lines and busy spaghetti-junctions. A huge open space, overlooked on one side by the new skyscrapers in town, with various and interesting gardens and structures, we spent very pleasant morning strolling around before the sun beat us down and we quickly relented following our noses to a popular outdoor eatery for a bowl of spicy curry soup. Food, yet again, proved to be high on the menu of priorities and it didn't disappoint - delicious and fresh fusions to cater for every taste.
We mused whilst having a beer in an Irish bar underneath the Petronas Towers, surrounded by expat business-men clocking off for Christmas, that living in KL probably wouldn't be much different to living in Dubai (particularly as it felt like the inspiration for Burj Khalifa, Dubai mall and the surrounding eateries and fountains had come from this very spot in KL). But we also suspected that the same work-hard, play-hard style of living would dominate and more and more over our travels we have been inspired for a more favourable work-life balance. And why not?!
And so, KL concluded six months of Asia-living for the sprouts, underpinned by an array of smells, noises and spices full of energy and some truly amazing experiences. We boarded the plane excited for our first Antipodean adventures, but if I'm honest, with a small pang of remorse for all the noodle stalls we were leaving behind!
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