Last evening, after a 12+ hour flight, we emerged from the Kuala Lumpur airport to catch a breath of the humid and hot air. We are in Asia. This is the start of the trip. There are six of us: Tomek and Iza (the newlyweds), Ola and Paddy, and Weronika and I. Everyone is excited and tired to start exploring. Following a long bus ride into town, We made our way over to Chinatown to the hostel we had reserved. Turns out it was not a flea infested hovel as the guidebook has described. Not too shabby for $3 per person.
We caught breakfast at the hostel and went out to explore Kuala Lumpur. We started off with the Islamic National Museum as it was close by. In addition to the large collection of jewelry, Qurans, and other artifacts, it offered a welcome reprieve from the midday sun.
Afterwards we headed to the aviary. We ate lunch as various birds pecked at the food left over on plates at empty tables. The giant hornbill chased Ola around the restaurant. We walked through the park and admired the parrots, emu’s, birds of prey, and everything else in between. The rain started pouring and we wrapped ourselves in the cheap raincoats which we bought at the gift shop.
We toured the now-empty Merdeka Square as the sun set and the rain continued to come down. This is the place where Malaysia declared its independence six decades ago. The muerzin called to prayer from a nearby minaret as we walked around and admired the mixture of architecture.
We were now looking for food so we walked to the Chinese food market we had found the night prior. One of the things I was looking forward to is eating some fruit which is either hard to come by or simply not available in Europe and the United States. The fruit vendors did not dissapoint. Already we had a chance to taste the lychee-like rambutan and the wonderful but hard to describe mangosteen. The fruit which evoked the most emotion was durian. It stinks to high heaven and has a strong taste which many people describe as foul. Personally, I found it to be not too bad, with a taste which reminds me of sweet garlic.
One of the quirkier things we wanted to do was to go the fish spa. We actually found one not too far away from where we were and went in. We washed our feet and dipped them into a long fish tank. Instantly, little fish started nabbing. It took a few minutes to get over the insane itckling feeling. However, after a bit, it stopped feeling like little fish biting your feet but instead a pleasant tingling sensation.
The night finished off with a long walk to see the magnificent Petronas Towers. We admired these twin giants against the backdrop of the cloudy sky.
There are many first impressions. The city is modern yet dilapidated. It’s crowded yet green. The people are very helpful and friendly and it is easy to get around as seemingly everyone speaks English. The biggest minus is the wildlife, if these sort of things bother you. The cockroaches are as big as mice, and the rats are as big as cats. Worst of all, they nonchalantly roam around and are found all over the place. It’s going to be interesting.