For my second day of Kuala Lumpur tourism I followed the Lonely Planet’s other walking tour, covering the Colonial District and Little India.
Just like Georgetown, KL really is a city of many faces. You might expect that after having already witnessed Malaysia’s diversity I wouldn’t have been surprised by the stark difference between Merdaka Square, the focal point of colonial KL, and Chinatown just a few blocks away. But I was. It’s hard not to be.
The cramped, smelly alleys lined with dilapidated old buildings were gone, replaced by a huge grassy cricket field and magnificent museum-like architecture.
In fact, the area around Merdaka Square is absolutely surrounded by interesting (and spotless) attractions: KL Memorial Library, the Royal Selangor Club, St. Mary’s Cathedral, the Natural History Museum, the Sessions & Magistrates Courts, even the enormous flagpole where the Malaysian flag was first raised in 1957.
Suddenly KL felt as clean, modern, and pleasant as anywhere I’d ever been – and my image of the city changed almost completely.
…That is, until the effect was interrupted as I sat to jot down some blog notes. The moment I did, a guy sat down next to me and started pestering for cash. I was typing and had headphones in, so he actually had to tap me to get my attention. He claimed he’d just been let out of prison and needed a bus ticket back home. I told him I only had a few bucks and needed it for lunch (which was true). He continued to push. I told him I was in the middle of something, and to please ask someone else. He wouldn’t leave. “See, this is why it’s so hard to turn things around,” he said. “Sometimes I think I should just go back to mugging people as nobody’s willing to help. It’s the only way I can get money. Yeah, I should just mug people…”
Nice thinly-veiled threat there, buddy. I gave him like 3 ringgit just to get out of my face
(One thing I’ve noticed is that people often do seem a bit more pushy with their begging here than in Thailand; perhaps it’s because they speak such fluent English and know they can communicate easily with foreigners. It’s unfortunate that such a pestering half-threat would dampen the vibe of an otherwise great afternoon. But whatever. I finished my blog notes and was on my way soon enough.)
After concluding a round of the old colonial buildings in Merdaka, the tour took me back past Masjid Jamek and into Little India.
Though quite a bit larger than Georgetown’s, I did find this Little India to be noticeably less atmospheric – there were far more non-Indians wandering about, and many were dressed in pretty typical Western attire.
But perhaps more noticeable was the absence of Bollywood music blasting through the streets. Ambient music always does wonders to add feeling to a scene – and I guess the inverse is equally true 🙂
From here I spent a fair amount of time exploring some shopping malls – which is extremely unlike me – but considering this was my first big city in a month I did have a few things to replace.
KL may be far from my favorite stop of the trip, I will say this: it sure is convenient to be able to pop into a store and find whatever you need, from a new hard drive to a stick of Western deodorant 🙂
The tour concluded at Asian Heritage Row – an oddly named street that’s really all about upmarket restaurants and trendy bars and clubs.
As this was just minutes from the City Center I figured it’d be the perfect chance to head back to the Petronas Towers for one last attempt at some long-exposure nightshots.
…And voila! The park was still opened and the shots came out great.
I was now just one “must-see attraction” away from being able to leave KL with a clean conscience…
A panorama from the Petronas skybridge 🙂
Note: These posts are behind realtime; the above took place on Tuesday, January 25th.