July 14, 2008

Malaysia: July 9th - Kuala Lumpur

Given that there was no breakfast included at the hotel, I opted for a Cornish pastie at one of the open air cafes along Bukit Bintang and took some time to catch up with my diary and do some people watching, which always fun in a busy city.

At around midday, I took a combination of the monorail and LRT as far as Masjid Jamek, where there is a very impressive looking mosque, which was apparently designed by a British architect some one hundred years ago.

From there it is a short walk to reach what is referred to as Chinatown, where some of the old shophouses and colonial-era buildings are still standing despite the relentless pace of development in KL.

Of course, I ended up popping into Central Market, which like Covent Garden, was formerly a produce market that now mainly caters for tourists. It contains dozens of shops selling different trinkets, souvenirs and antiques, with the prices and quality of goods varying enormously. There were shops selling exactly the same 'ethnic' knick-knacks you find in Thailand and Vietnam, whereas others offered nice batik prints or wood carvings at much higher prices. It was fun to spend a little time wandering around, and there was also the added benefit of a cheap food court, where I had some black pepper chicken claypot for lunch.

Upon leaving Central Market, I continued down the road a bit and found a superb shop called Peter Hoe Evolution, which had lots of original stylish batik sarongs, shirts, table linen and so on, as well as other bits and bobs. It was nice to be able to wander around without the pressure to purchase.

Just around the corner, there was a second larger store called Peter Hoe Evolution + Beyond, which also sold furniture and soft furnishings and had its own cafe.

Opposite this store is the Guandi Temple and a little further down the street there is the Sri Mahamariamman Temple, with its huge ornate entrance.

It was starting to rain at this point so I decided to head back the way I had come, stopping off in Central Market on the way for a 30-minute foot massage, which was welcome after all the walking I'd been doing on the trip.

Seeing that this was the last night of the trip, I decided to do things in style a bit in the evening, and, after returning to the hotel to shower, freshen up and change, I headed towards the swanky Starhill Gallery mall. This is a beautifully laid out mall with about five floors of luxury shops that I would never dream of entering, let alone buying anything. However, on the lower ground floor, there is also a wide selection of places to eat. Following recommendations in the Lonely Planet, I opted for a stylish Indian restaurant called Vansh, which, although a little pricier than other places I'd dined at, was not too expensive given the quality of the food and surroundings. The waiting staff were something else. They have all obviously been trained in trying to sell as many dishes as possible ("Just a wafer thin mint, monsieur?" comes to mind), and if I had accepted all of the suggestions, I don't think I would have been able to stand at the end of the meal. Very good food nevertheless.

To round the night off, I had a drink in the swish outdoor cafe/bar Lecka Lecka, though passed on the option of a hookah (shisha).

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