Showing posts with label Kuala-Lumpur. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kuala-Lumpur. Show all posts

Monday, January 17, 2011

Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia

I am sitting in my living room, dressed in four layers of clothing (hanten, fleece, sweater and another sweater), tights, fleece pants and two pairs of socks and still shivering like it's January in Japan. Because it is. And to make it a truly miserable night, I thought it would be only fitting to torture myself even more and reminisce about the tropical goodness of Malaysia. Because that's where I'd rather be right now.

One of the places that the awesome Lina took me to was the Islamic Arts Museum in Kuala Lumpur. To be honest, the only thing I knew about Islamic art was that it existed, so the visit was not only fun, but also quite edifying.

I liked this museum so much that two days later I made plans to visit it again, but you know how it goes... the best laid plans... and all that. Two days later there simply wasn't enough time.

Why did I like this museum? It made me feel like an Oriental princess. There I was, in my long, culturally sensitive clothing (but no head scarf yet) gazing at dainty silver things, admiring Koran scrolls, pretending to be in a time warp and sticking my nose into rooms that looked like film sets from an "Arabian Nights" remake.

No, you're not allowed to take photos inside. But if you do it discreetly, nobody seems to care.

The museum is literally across the street from the National Mosque, and there's a Hop On/Hop Off bus stop across the street.

The building itself is not very interesting (at least not for me), it's all modern, angular, very chi-chi design. But inside it's pleasantly cool and airy. There's also a very chi-chi gift/book shop there. And an equally chi-chi restaurant. Needless to say, we didn't eat there.

Next time I go there (if, when - no idea), I need to be better prepared and read up on Islamic arts beforehand, so I don't look like a total moron. Which is what I was during my visit last month.

It seems that my list of excuses for another trip to Malaysia is getting longer and longer... And who can blame me? It's a great place to visit!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Night at Petronas Towers

To the person who emailed me just to tell me that the title should say "Petronas Towers at Night" - go away. You're stupid. 
Now that we've established that, the title stays as it is.

Thick volumes and countless blog posts have been written about the Petronas Towers already, but that of course doesn't phase me in the least bit and I'm still going to add my 2 yen. Ringgit. Whatever.

I've been fascinated by this building (these buildings?) ever since I saw that movie in which Catherine Zeta-Jones does that ballet thing in slo-mo over red laser lights. Was she blindfolded while doing it? I don't remember...

And oh yeah, that old Scottish guy who once upon a time used to be James Bond was there, too. Whatever...

All I remember from this movie was that Ms. Zeta-Jones looked magnificently hot and the Petronas Towers looked magnificently..., well, magnificent.

I don't know why I found them so fascinating. Just two buildings connected with a sky bridge. Should be nothing special. But somehow, they were.

When I was there in December, I didn't go on the sky bridge. It's no longer free, and the fact that you have to line up ridiculously early in the morning to get one of the limited number of tickets was too much for me.

Maybe next time...

This is the view from the Menara Tower:

And a closeup of the spires:

The actual name of this complex is KLCC and there's a fancy shopping mall there, too. With the most hideously designed parking lot ever. But at least the grounds are pretty.

So yeah, that's about it. They're pretty.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Lunch at Madam Kwan's in Kuala Lumpur

After Lina's excellent report on her blog, I thought I might as well add my 2 ringgit to the story.

The day we were meeting for lunch at Little Penang Cafe, I was actually running around like a headless chicken. In the morning I was at Menara KL Tower admiring the views, and then I got a brilliant idea of walking down to Merdeka Square and taking some sort of train from there to Mid-Valley.
Yeah, stupid. I know. NOW I know. But I didn't know it back then.

And so upon realizing just how stupid my plan was, I figured the best way to remedy the situation would be to just take a taxi to the mall.

Now, getting a taxi in KL seems to be either very deceptively easy or fiendishly hard. Take your pick.

In front of some bank I found a taxi stand with a line of taxis awaiting customers.

I approached the first car and got in. The driver asked me where I wanted to go. I told him to Mid Valley Mall. He said "meter broken. 56 ringgit." I laughed in his face and got out.

I approached the second taxi. This driver saw that something had just happened with Contestant Number 1 and was very cautious. He rolled down the window and asked me where I wanted to go. "Mid-Valley Mall," I told him. He looked at me very carefully and started with his "meter is broken" story and upon seeing my face, he realized he made a mistake. He pleaded with "only 30 ringgit!" I laughed in his face and walked over to Contestant Number 3.

He saw that something was up, Contestants Number 1 and 2 were furious and getting out of their cars, so as soon as I got in his taxi, he immediately said "Meter is working fine miss, where do you want to go?" 

 And he even had a Hello Kitty tissue box holder in the back.

And so he got me to Mid Valley in record time and for 15 ringgit. Yeah, probably still too much, but I told him he needed to be there by 1PM and damn, he did it. He backed out (in reverse and partly on a sidewalk) from a massive lunch-time jam (which if we had stayed there, would have gotten us to Mid Valley sometime around Easter) and took a very creative route instead. And he got me there on time. Very impressive all around.

 Taken from the taxi before the driver yelled at me to roll up the windows. He said something about snatchers on scooters who can grab my camera and zoom off.

When I arrived, it turned out that the waiting time at Little Penang Cafe was approximately 5 years (give or take a month) and that's how we ended up at Madam Kwan's upstairs.

Everything was oh-so-good. I'm drooling even now when I think about that lunch.
And feel free to drool too. Just be sure to protect your keyboard.

Char koay teow - NOM NOM NOM!!!

Stinky bean something, a.k.a. stir fried veggies with belacan - NOM NOM NOM!!!

Otak-otak, or fish in banana leaves - NOM NOM NOM!!!

There was also fried rice, fried chicken and this magnificent thing (not fried):

Shaved ice with some red flavor thrown in, along with a magnificent collection of stuff: raisins, nuts, corn, sweet beans and generally - the sort of stuff you have absolutely no clue what to do with on a normal day. But it was yummy - NOM NOM NOM!!!

Now, if you excuse me, I am hungry. I shall go sit in the corner and weep while looking at these photos.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Night Market in Kuala Lumpur

Because no trip to Malaysia would be complete without a visit to a night market, my friend Lina wasn't all that surprised when I informed her that was where I wanted to go.

Which night market? Because Kuala Lumpur has scores of them, I let my local guides make that decision. And since I have absolutely no sense of direction, I can't even tell you where it was. Yes, I'm that useless sometimes. But now I know that we went to Jalan TAR.

I've been to similar markets in other countries, but in one respect Malaysia was vastly different. And different in a positive way. What I liked was that almost no one harassed me. No one tried to sell me the earth, the sun, the moon and everything in between at, for you my friend, a very good price! No one tried to touch me, or even accidentally brush up against me. No one whistled or made obnoxious noises as I walked by.

Even though I was very clearly a tourist carrying a camera, I was, for the most part, left to my own devices. People were unfailingly friendly and approachable. And the whole experience was hassle and harassment-free.

If you're still in doubt over whether I liked my night market visit, just remember that they also sell food there. And apart from onions, shrimp and coconut milk, I haven't yet met food I didn't like. Yeah, it's a miracle I don't weigh 300 lbs by now, because let me tell you, food and I have this very special kind of relationship - if food's there, I eat it.

And at the night market, our relationship was in full bloom - there was plenty of food. And I ate it. Actually, I should have eaten more, but was worried that my hosts would think I'm some kind of a bottomless pit, or that I stuff my face like a pig in heat. So, instead, I behaved in a very cultured way and carried my video camera.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Lunch at Malay Tea House in Kuala Lumpur

Once upon a time when I had the good fortune to live at the crossroads of the known universe, there was a Malaysian restaurant that Dr and I used to frequent. I don't remember its name, it was Penang something or the other. But aren't they all named Penang something or the other? It was a dark and musty place, and you sure as heck didn't go there for the ambiance and decor. You went there for the food.

And the food was delicious. No, scratch that, it was heavenly. It was a delirium inspiring feast enough to launch a thousand ships. Oh, wait, that's a different myth, but you get the general idea...

So, needless to say, when I landed in Kuala Lumpur, there was only one thing on my mind. Food.

That demon was finally satisfied when on Christmas day I was led by the hand to Malay Tea House at Central Market.

Yeah, yeah, so what that it was touristy? After all, I was a tourist. A very hungry tourist. I was also a rather tired tourist, because the genius that I am, I skipped breakfast that day, just so I could eat like a madwoman during lunch.

So yes, where were we? Ah, Central Market. Malay Tea House...

As it was already after the lunch hour rush, the place was empty and quiet. We had a choice of tables (they have three different kinds) and decided to sit in the corner to keep our antics to ourselves.

The tables by the wall were white (the photo above), the tables in the center had a glass top with spices underneath.
The silver pot is filled with water used to wash your hands. Malaysian oshibori, if you will, except with no towel.

We sat at a normal wooden table, because the last thing I wanted to see was my own reflection in the tabletop while I was shoving food into my mouth.

So yes, what did we shove into our mouths? Not sure, but it was yummy.

You can find detail descriptions and prices in this entry over at Lina's blog.

I'm not a picky eater, or at least I'd like to think that. Apart from a few things, I'm willing to try just about anything. And those few things are: raw onions, leeks, shrimp, coconut milk and Thai food in general.
As you can imagine, coconut milk was going to be a problem. We were in Malaysia after all. But my friend very expertly selected from the menu only those items I could enjoy. And she chose wisely. Everything was delicious. 

And because it was a teahouse, take a wild guess as to what we were drinking.

Yep, tea. My favorite turned out to be the one with those little eyeballs floating in it. Yummy!

I'm not much of a tea drinker. In fact, those who know me know full well that there are only two officially approved beverages I consume. Water and Diet Coke (Coke Light). However, in the absence of Coke Light, I have to make do with Coke Zero in Japan.

But if you're into tea, at Malay Tea House they have you covered. There were plenty of choices for your drinking pleasure.

So that was lunch. I miss Malaysia already.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Batu Caves

After my visit to the National Mosque (Masjid Negara) in Kuala Lumpur on Christmas Day, it was only fitting to complete my Christmas experience at a Hindu temple.
And that's why on December 26th, I found myself climbing the 272 steps to the temples at Batu Caves.

There was no religious festival going on that day and the place was relatively quiet. There were some people there for blessings and other assorted whatnots, but it wasn't too crowded.

The steps, while steep, were not as challenging as say, Konpira shrine in Shikoku. And climbing them was a pleasure. Supposedly, for every step up, one sin is forgiven. So all in all, I managed to get rid of 272 sins. Not too shabby for a day's work, wouldn't you say?

Once up in the caves, it was divinely cool and refreshing. It was also calm and peaceful, the occasional souvenir and "take a photo with my snake" peddler notwithstanding.

One of the deities worshipped there is Lord Murugan and Batu Caves are the most popular Hindu shrines dedicated to this god outside of India.
The huge golden figure you can see there is supposedly the largest Lord Murugan statue in the world.

Tourists can enter the shrines, but of course, shoes must be removed. I have this paranoia of walking barefoot in public places, but luckily I was wearing socks that day. Some of the feet I saw were really nasty.

I'm sure Batu Caves must be a lot more interesting during a religious festival. But I'm not complaining. I liked the peaceful atmosphere of an ordinary day.

What I wasn't too fond of were these fried snacks:

And here's a somewhat shaky video of that visit:

So, between a mosque and a Hindu temple, which one did I like best? Hands down, and a million times more - the National Mosque.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Fountains of Kuala Lumpur

I like fountains. Not that I would ever stick my feet in one, or anything (there goes my fear of standing and recycled water again), but it's fun to watch other people do it. And when a kid slips while walking on the edge and falls into the water head first, heck that's even more fun. Free entertainment at its finest.

But where were we? Ah yes, fountains... I've always liked them, but until recently they were nothing more than artistic or ornamental architectural details to me. Pretty to look at but otherwise as useless as two tits on a bull.

Yesterday, however, when I was strolling around the Independence Square in Kuala Lumpur, I finally had my very own private fountain epiphany. Hey, better late than never, right?

Even though it wasn't sunny, it was still quite hot.

While I sat there wiping the sweat off my brow (walking around is hard work after all) and listening to the gurgling water, I began to feel noticeably cooler. Just the crisp, clear sound of it was enough to bring the temperature down a couple degrees, at least in my mind.

No wonder there are so many fountains all over Kuala Lumpur. Just having them around makes the place feel fresher and cooler. And I guess subconsciously I've known it all along for a long time.

The fact that I've been walking around KL taking photos of random fountains only seems to confirm it.

Yes, it does look like I have a new obsession. Oh well, better fountains than pantless people or goat sex, or something...

And they are indeed everywhere... I mean fountains, not pantless people.

And so what that some of them (like the one below) didn't spit any water? A fountain is a fountain is a fountain... as a very wise man said a long time ago.

See? It feels cooler already!

This is my Watery Wednesday entry.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Mosque on xmas day

So, you're in Malaysia, it's Christmas, and you have absolutely no clue how to celebrate it. You think and think, and you decide you'd really like to go to the beach. But you're in Kuala Lumpur. So you do the second best thing after going to the beach. You visit a mosque.

I mean, why not? Malaysia is a predominantly muslim country after all. It's easier to find a mosque than a church here.

But since you're in Kuala Lumpur, you might as well go to one of the grandest mosques out there - Masjid Negara - the national mosque of Malaysia.

And as it happens, that was exactly what I did.

I put on my culturally sensitive clothing (long skirt, long sleeved shirt, black socks), my friend Lina provided a headscarf and off to the mosque we went.

Here it is as seen through a bazooka lens from the Menara KL Tower.

The structure was designed by two Malaysian architects and one Brit in 1965. And yes, the roof looks like a blue umbrella. It wasn't always blue, though. Once upon a time it used to be pink.

The structure is quite big. it can fit 15 thousand people, though the guy inside claimed more like 22 thousand. Either way, that's a lot of people. And I just hope people with clean feet. 

I didn't mind taking off my shoes, after living in Japan, I'm used to it. The tiled floor was pleasantly cool. If it was me, I'd go there to pray just to escape the heat. 

Tourists are welcome to visit outside of prayer times. But yes, you do have to dress appropriately: cover your arms, legs and head for women, and long pants for men. If you're wearing what most tourists are, still, no worries, there are rental coverings at the entrance. 

Once inside I could take photos freely and nobody bothered me. The only place I couldn't enter was the prayer room.

That was fine by me. I didn't go there to pray. But I do have to admit that this place had its own kind of hypnotic magic. And almost immediately after leaving, I found myself pondering going there again.

So yes, I can officially say I went to a mosque on Christmas day. How's that for speshul, huh?

Adding to the collection box

And the views from the windows were spectacular too:

The "space needle" tower is of course the famous Menara KL.

And that was on Christmas day. On the following day (Boxing Day, December 26th, whatever you want to call it) I went to a Hindu temple.

Ahhh... Malaysia.... There's something there for everyone.

This is also my entry to the absolutely fantastic Show Your World meme.