"Malaysia, truly Asia!" - Pulau Penang & Kuala Lumpur

Jan 30, 2011

We arrived in Pulau Penang on 22nd January after a boat journey from Pulau Langkawi. We checked in to our room (which resembled a cell as it had no window & smelt distinctly musty) at New Banana Guest House and then we went for a stroll around nearby Little India and Chinatown. There were hawker food stalls everywhere and delicious smells filled the air so we munched on samosas, Indian sweets (from a great place called Mr Sweets) and other delicacies as we walked around. Penang is known as the ‘food capital of South East Asia’ and we could immediately see why. The food smells were coupled with the smell of incense burning and Indian pop music was blasting from all the stalls and shops. We had dinner at a restaurant in Little India which consisted of a cheese roti, chicken tikka masala, daal, tandoori chicken, a naan, rice and a mango lassi each and it only cost £6. It was amazing!

The following day we explored Kompleks Komtar (the shopping district) as well as Little India and Chinatown some more. Penang has loads of colonial period buildings and because of this, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site (yes we’ve visited another one!) but there are also malls and cosmopolitan areas; Penang is the second largest metropolitan area in Malaysia after Kuala Lumpur. On Monday we caught a bus to Ayer Itam (10km out of the city centre) to visit the Kek Lok Si temple; a Buddhist temple (the biggest in Malaysia) which stands on a hill with gardens, a turtle pond, numerous shrines, loads of sculptures and the ‘Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas’. There is also a huge bronze statue of Kuan Yin (Goddess of Mercy) that overlooks the site and it is the tallest bronze statue in the world. We spent the whole day there as there was so much to see and we were exhausted by the end of the day. We really enjoyed our three nights in Penang. The city has a great vibe and there are lots of different cultures there so it’s really interesting and exciting.

On 25th January we caught the bus to Kuala Lumpur (KL). We checked in to our hotel (Tune Hotel) on the outskirts of Little India and then headed straight for the Petronas Towers. The Petronas Towers are two twin skyscrapers that were the tallest buildings in the world from 1998 to 2004 (they are still the tallest twin buildings in the world). The buildings are just incredible and we took loads of photos of them. We then headed in to Suria KLCC (a shopping mall below the towers) for a mooch around and for some dinner. We have loved our five nights in KL. It’s probably our favourite city so far as it’s really cosmopolitan, there’s loads to see and do, the transport system (the MRT & LRT) makes it so easy to get around and it’s quite compact so it doesn’t take too long to get anywhere. It’s also really clean and green; the city is surrounded by jungle so there are patches of it everywhere. The only bad point is the price. It’s not expensive compared to England but it is compared to the other countries we’ve visited so we’ve been having to restrict ourselves a bit so the spending doesn’t get too out of control. Our favourite area has been Bukit Bintang, the shopping district (of course). KL is abundant with huge swanky plazas, filled to the brim with designer labels, boutiques, cafes & restaurants (but there are still a few bargains to be found). Our favourite mall is the Pavilion which has 1,000 shops in it! We’ve had a bit of a spending splurge and both treated ourselves to a few new tops & Jimmy bought a new pair of specs. We’ve been very tempted to treat ourselves to luxurious jewelry, watches and sunglasses but we’ve managed to keep the temptations under control in the hope that we’ll find some bargains at the Singapore airport duty-free shops. We’ve visited Lake Gardens (a big park on the outskirts of the city) twice. On our first visit we went to the Bird Park which is the worlds largest walk through aviary. There were so many species of birds there and most of them are flying around free as the park is covered by a massive net. You could get really close to them (and stroke a few) and it was a fantastic day out. We went to the Butterfly Park on our second visit (the same principle but with butterflies) which was good but we were a little disappointed after our day with the birds. We went to the cinema last night to see ‘The Green Hornet’ in 3D which was really funny but also a tad annoying.

Yesterday we were up, ready and out by 7am as we wanted to get tickets to go up the Petronas Towers (which are sold from 8.30am every morning until they’re sold out but we’d heard people get there from 5am onwards to get tickets!). We got there at 7.30am and there was already four lines queuing so we joined the back and at 10am we made it to the front. By the time we reached the front they had sold out of tickets but you could buy tickets for the following day so we bought tickets to go to the bridge (on the 41st floor which links the two towers) and to the observation deck (on the 86th floor). We went up at 5pm today and it was brilliant! Unfortunately there has been heavy rain all day today (the first day we’ve had to take out our waterproofs) so you couldn’t see that far but it was still a great experience and it was a great way to end our time in KL. We were supposed to be getting the train to Singapore at 11pm tonight (1st class) but we got to the train station at 10.30pm to find that our train had been cancelled due to flooding as it’s been raining all day! We were offered a full refund but nothing else. We asked how we could get to Singapore and the lady said that the trains tomorrow are fully booked so we’d need to sort something else out ourselves! We found out that the bus terminal closed at 10pm so we’ve checked in to a hotel and just booked flights with Air Asia to Singapore tomorrow at 11.40am for £50! We’ve not had much luck with transport recently!

Hope everyone’s well and the weather back home’s improving. We haven’t had any sun for over a week now so the tans are fading and it’s starting to look like we’ve not been away at all!