Friday, January 9, 2009

Kela? KL, Malaysia 2006



Someone had posted a query on facebook recently – “what can I do if I have six hours at KL?”

I must admit that I was a bit stumped by this question despite our trip to Malaysia couple of years back. I went there for a conference. Kainaz joined me after that and we spent a few days at KL followed by Langkawi in 2006.

The truth is that Kl’s left a blank spot in my mind. I think the KLCC Petronas Towers at KL sum it up – steel, chrome, modern, impressive but robotic.

KL isn’t a bad city. Don’t get me wrong. It is clean, has manicured roads, sparkling malls, it has a variety of restaurants and night clubs. The people are friendly and helpful and speak English

I guess we were a bit spoilt by our trip to Bangkok last year.

Bangkok had Sukhomvit which was very lively and full of character. KL’s Golden Triangle was quite empty by 9 PM. Bangkok had the majestic Royal Palace and the Buddha temples for sightseeing. KL’s sightseeing trip consisted of a national ‘museum’ which had stuff from 1960 or so, Merdeka square – a garden at the end of the day - and batik factories. And the guides were quite perfunctory compared to those at Thailand. Bangkok had lovely street shopping which one could do at Sukhumvit, the Sum Lum night market and the Chatuchaak weekend market. The shopping at KL was largely at malls. The prices were more expensive than India for the same stuff. Bangkok had Cabbages and Condoms and lovely street food. KL had food courts in malls which shut by 9 and the odd food court. Bangkok had Pat Pong. KL was famous for famous night clubs such as Zousk (?) but apparently that’s open only on certain days of the week. You can go to places such as Ayuthaya, Floating Market, River Kwai from Bangkok. You can only go to Genting if you like gambling or amusement parks or to the comparatively drab ‘historical city’ of Malacca from KL.

I don’t want to make this a KL versus Bangkok thing but the point I am trying to make is that going to KL could be like staying in a five star hotel assuming money’s not an issue. The experience is picture perfect but sterile. It is a place to go to if one wants a break. But it didn’t strike me as a place to go to collect memories.

A bit like the word ‘kela’ in Hindi or ‘kola’ in Bengali, this means banana, and is kid’s slang for 'very ordinary'.

Would love to know if you have a different take on KL

Traveller’s notes:

- avoid going during Ramzan, everything shuts early

- public transport such as the subway does not cover the entire city. So stay close to the Golden Triangle as the city is quiet dead for tourists outside this. We stayed in a hotel which was slightly away to save 10 USD per day. Ended up spending much more on cabs. The Tamil expat cabbies or notorious for not following the meter. So look for Chinese cabbies
- The malls have more variety than in India but everything is more expensive than here. Thailand is cheaper
- Liquor is duty free at Langkawi, so cheaper to buy booze there
- Everyone seemed to have seen Shahrukh Khan during the shooting of Don
there!

Disclaimer - this article is not sponsored by the Thai ministry of tourism. The writer is open to offers of Bahts from the same though

5 comments:

NAVAL LANGA said...

Very useful tips for the travelers.

Naval Langa
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Scarlett said...

I didn't like KL too much either. There isn't much to the city except for Petronas & well manicured gardens. You can spend one day at Genting at the most. Haven't been to the rest of Malaysia but Langkawi is supposed to be good. Shopping in KL is good but super expensive!

BTW...Cabbages & Condoms is famous for it's after-meal gift!! ;)

The knife said...

Thanks Naval

@Scarlett: Langkawi really depends on the hotel you are staying in. A bit like South Goa.

Yes, I'd read up about it. But must thank Jasojit from IMRB Cal for recommending it. He had recommended this and Soi 5. Both were bang on. He knows his food

Manish Sharma said...

Malaysia is such a heaven for travelers, Different Culture, language, religion, food culture, dressing, architecture , Historical building, beautiful beaches ,plateaus, Deep rivers, Fascinating natural sites, thrilling wildlife…Over all Malaysia is best destination for travelling for more information you can go to Tourist Information Guide

The knife said...

Manish, thanks for dropping in. Yes, Malaysia is very good at marketing itsef.

When will we in India ever learn. The other day I read about the municipal corporation person at Bombay crying about having to maintain 'heritage building'. Any other country would have made tourist attractions of much less

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