First Impressions of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The KL Beach Club and the Petronas Towers
This is not a travel guide!
Earlier this week I spent two days in Kuala Lumpur. I flew in on Sunday afternoon and out again on Tuesday night. And I was working Monday and Tuesday. So I don't claim to know the place at all well. This hub is just my first impressions, together with a few snatched phone pics and some idle musings.
One twin tower
Somewhere near the centre...
That's what I told the taxi driver at the airport. I'd slept overnight on the plane, fitfully, but well enough to feel human, was travelling light as I always do, and saw no good reason to waste time in my hotel. So this is where he dumped me, right in front of the Petronas Twin Towers, until recently the world's tallest structure and still the tallest twin buildings. Out of the taxi, the first thing I noticed was the weather. Warm, about 32C (90F), and very humid. Hazy sun through broken clouds. A very quick look around yielded no bars, so the next most obvious thing to do was go up into the tower for no better reason than to look down over the city. Visitors have limited access, to the skybridge only, but as I was due to work inside on the following day, it wasn't too hard to talk my way through security and up to the 60th floor.
Looking out, I was immediately struck with how much nicer the place is than Qatar. Distant blue mountains, plenty of greenery, public park land in the city centre, and even sensible spacing between the bigger buildings. Best of all, not a trace of desert sand - some things pall after a while.But there's only so long you can spend tempting vertigo and from somewhere sixty floors below I seemed to hear the forlorn call of a cold beer...
Don't knock the normal
In this totally new environment, it was obvious that I had to turn left, then right, cross two streets, dodging several kamikazi motorcyclists, and take the second left again, where there was bound to be a choice of bars. Years of travelling teaches you these things! It may be a simple one, but few pleasures compare with sitting in a street level open air bar, watching the world go by. You can't do this in the Middle East, where bars are mostly windowless and tucked away inside hotels. And in December, you can't easily do it in Europe either.
The Rum Jungle
The particular bar I'd found was the Rum Jungle, well named because you couldn't see the inside walls or ceilings for creeping lianas. Above the bar, four or five good-sized baracudas were doing anticlockwise circuits of their huge glass tank. Below them, the painfully thin head barmaid kept her staff on the hop with shouts of encouragement or abuse, as required. She looked about 73, and probably was. Something told me this was a place to come back to in the evening. But having polished off some chicken satay and one or two beers, the long haul flight was beginning to catch up with me, so I found my hotel and grabbed a couple of hours much needed sleep.
Evening brought only darkness. The temperature and humidity were still the same. Being equatorial, there is hardly any variation all year round - a perpetual summer land, by Northern standards.But when I got back to the Rum Jungle, I found most of the street interest seemed to be in an almost adjacent bar called the Beach Club where a rock band were in the process of setting up. This place was, shall we say, lively. The band were excellent - a mix of Filipinos and Malaysians with a European lead singer, playing mainly classic heavy metal. Further entertainment was provided by the bar girls, many of them from Thailand. Very friendly, thoroughly gorgeous and entirely for sale. You can't and mustn't judge these girls by Western standards. Theirs is a different world, where life is lived differently. And as an alternative to the music, the beer and the girls, there was yet another tank of baracudas...
The park behind the towers, which I'd looked down on the previous day, is very popular with the office workers, especially at lunchtime. Fountains and water features give the impression of coolness, though it's far from cool. The mix of people is wonderful. Apart from the local Malaysians, there are many from China, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Australia and a few Europeans. It's a very cosmopolitan city. The country is Islamic, but very different from the Gulf States. The dress code is far more varied and casual, and headscarves, when worn, are mostly in brightly coloured silk. No black veils in evidence.
The Towers, again
Because of the way they've landscaped the area, you can get great views of the towers from the park behind. They're very google-able for statistics, but what I picked up just from talking to folk is that there are 88 inhabitable floors and the skybridge is not anchored to either tower, to allow for natural movement. They are impressive, so I'll let them speak for themselves:
Just a room
This is the room where I was working. Apart from the view, it's unexceptional. But it is the only room I've ever shared with a bolt of lightning. It's on the 60th floor, and in the evening, when the storm broke, just watching the rain was exciting enough. I could have done without the lightning literally coming into the room at ceiling height, wrapping itself round the main pillar, a bit like a brilliant white helter-skelter, and exiting at floor level. The static discharge stayed still for about two seconds before disappearing. Apparently it's a common occurrence and the building is designed to take it. Fair enough, but I'm glad I wasn't leaning on the pillar at the time...
So that's it. First impressions of KL. Definitely a place I'd recommend for a visit and certainly one I'm hoping to go back to.
Thanks for reading!
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