Monday, May 7, 2018

MARVELS OF MALAYSIA

After sightseeing in Hong Kong and Macau, our next destination was Malaysia. The currency here is MYR (Ringgit) and is equivalent to around 17 INR. But for whatever little shopping we did here, we were able to pay in INR.

Our wake-up call at our hotel in Hong Kong was at 4 am. We were ready at our lobby at 5 and started for the airport before 6. After group booking of our luggage and getting our boarding passes, we enjoyed our packed breakfast before going through Security Check and Immigration which was smooth as we had separate queue for senior citizens. 

The flight from Hong Kong to Kuala Lampur was of 4 hour duration and included a delicious Indian meal. We landed in Kuala Lampur airport at 12.30.

Here there was no separate queue for seniors for Immigration but there was not much crowd.

Soon after boarding our luggage and ourselves in our coach, we headed straight to the Indian 'Restoran' Jaipur Mahal. You are not going to believe this - but we relished some typical South Indian dishes here - curd rice and 'thayir molaga' (fried special dried chilli) and 'pakkodam' (a variety of chakli). Incidentally, Malaysia boasts of a large population of Tamilians.

The weather was warm and we had to remove our light sweaters. As we drove through the city of KL, looking at the imposing buildings, 
our local guide Nancy gave us information about the country and the landmarks. She spoke very good English. Later, she even joined us during 'Antakshari' and entertained us with some Hindi songs.

We picked up very useful Malaysian words - 'Tandas' (Rest room),'ton ton' (ladies) and 'pon pon' (gents). And the word for milk is ...'susu'.

We drove around and passed Cyberjaya, a town with a science park as the core that forms a key part of the Multimedia Super Corridor in Malaysia. This IT-themed city aspires to be the Silicon Valley of Malaysia

Adjacent to Cyberjaya and developed along with it is Putrajaya, Malaysia's new seat of government. Putrajaya, the idea of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, became Malaysia's third Federal Territory, after Kuala Lumpur and Labuan, in 2001. It is a planned city and the federal administrative center of Malaysia. The seat of government was shifted in 1999 from the overcrowded Kuala Lumpur to Putrajaya. Kuala Lumpur remains Malaysia's national capital and is the seat of the King, the Parliament, and all the foreign embassies, and the country's commercial and financial center.

We crossed a bridge and got down from our coach. 
The scenic view was fascinating with the 'Putra Mosque' seen far away beyond the man-made Putrajaya lake. 
We got a closer view of the mosque as we drove to Dataran Merdeka Square. This iconic spot has been a focal point for many events. This was the historic site where the Union Jack flag was lowered and the Malayan flag first hoisted at midnight on August 31,1957, Malaysia's Independence Day. 
Originally the cricket green and rugby field belonging to the Royal Selangor Club, was reclaimed by Kuala Lumpur City Hall in 1987 and developed into an underground shopping mall-cum-car park, with a new field laid on top of it. Plaza Putra, as it is called, is also the site from which a 100-meter high flagpole rises.

Opposite to it is Sultan Abdul Samad building complex which houses Government offices.





The High Court building and the beautiful area with fountains and waterfalls are picturesque spots.

'Perdana Putra' is the Prime Minister's office.


Our next halt was at Harriston Boutique - where we got ....... to taste and buy handcrafted exotic chocolates in various flavors. But of course they were expensive being unique. We also got to see the cocoa tree and fruit and a description about the process of chocolate-making.

The last point of visit for the day was KL Tower, the tallest Telecommunication Tower in SE Asia and the 7th tallest in the world. It was completed in 1995. We went up to the observation deck  by elevator ( which takes 54 seconds to go up and 52 seconds to come down)  and also up to the Sky deck




enjoyed the beautiful 360 degree aerial view of Kuala Lumpur. I bought a souvenir of Petronas Towers from here as there seemed no scope for shopping in Malaysia; it was reasonably priced and more importantly, Indian currency was accepted. In fact, it eventually turned out that this was the only shopping I did here.

After this, it was tasty Indian meal at Olive Tree ....

after which we checked into our room in Hotel Pearl International.

A very nice, spacious, and invitingly cozy room beckoned us.




The next morning, we enjoyed the bustling view from our room window.

We had continental breakfast, along with paratha and lentils before starting out for the day.

The morning was cloudy, so we carried our ponchos. 



We had seen the awe-inspiring Petronas Twin Towers several times during our city tour. Now we were excited to go there for a photo stop. The tallest buildings in the world from 1998 to 2004 and the tallest twin towers in the world till today, Petronas Towers are a landmark of Kuala Lumpur, along with the nearby Kuala Lumpur Tower. 


Our first halt for the day was at Petronas Twin Towers, 
where we had our group photo clicked by a professional - with a complimentary copy from our tour company to each of the families. 

Suria KLCC is an upmarket mall located at the feet of the Petronas Towers. 


We took a quick peek of one of the largest shopping malls in Malaysia, Suria KLCC, boasting around 300 world famous brand stores. Chinese New Year decorations greeted us everywhere.


We then had a halt outside the King's Palace.


This grand Istana Negara was opened in 2011. It replaced the old palace which was located at a different compound in central Kuala Lumpur.

Then we drove to take the cable car to Genting Highlands. It was still raining but we were glad we'd be spending most of the day indoors at Resorts World Genting (RWG). The place is a hill resort development comprising hotels, shopping malls, theme parks and casinos, perched on the peak of Mount Ulu Kali at 1,800 meters high. The integrated hill resort represents a popular weekend getaway, connected by major highways, and cable cars service accessible by two different cable cars, Genting Skyway which at its opening was the world's fastest and South East Asia's longest gondola lift, and the newer Awana Skyway. 

We took the former and as we went up, enjoyed the ten minute ride, watching through the rain-stained window, 
the greenery, the foliage and flora and 
the buildings nestled amidst them as we reached the top. 

The hill resort is the brain child of a single person Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong, 

who managed to get approval for alienation of land. Then began the Herculean task of construction of access roads and then the first hotel by 1971. Thereafter followed more construction leading to expansion with malls and casinos. Resorts World Genting is the only legal land-based casino in Malaysia with two Casinos - Genting Casino and Sky Casino. With spring-like climate throughout, it is a favorite tourist attraction.

As we walked up to our lunch place, we did not fail to notice the string of eateries lining up - you could choose any cuisine of your choice. 

Well, the restaurant we had booked for lunch (12.30 - 1.30),

had Indian cuisine mainly and a dash of Chinese and SE Asian. 


And .... hold your breath - mouth-watering array of exotic desserts - 
cakes, pastries, ice creams and jellies and fruits of course.

We then had a couple of hours at our disposal to check out the Casino and for shopping. The Casino was a sprawling place packed with gamblers - we just went in and walked out in a few minutes. For a little bit, 
we watched the decorations and 
Audio-Visual treat as the decorations came down and up to the music.

Next we did a bit of window shopping, lounging around the branded shops in the mall, with no shopping list in hand and no shopping ideas in mind. 

Our legs yearned for rest. There were no seats in the vicinity. The handful outside the casino had already been taken. We noticed some tourists seated on the floor. Though this idea is strictly 'no no' for me, I had to give in to my weak legs and I plopped down next to my husband. We made ourselves more comfortable, removing our shoes and stretching our legs, leaning against the wall! My, my, what a bliss! An hour was enough for us to recover our energy.

Then we came down by cable car. By now the rain had stopped. As we had been indoors, we didn't need the poncho.

At 4 pm, we started our drive to the nearby Batu Caves and Murugan Temple. 


The limestone forming Batu Caves is said to be around 400 million years old. The natural formations of Batu Caves are awe-inspiring. An Indian trader K. Thamboosamy Pillai, inspired by the 'vel'-shaped entrance of the main cave, built and dedicated a temple to Lord Murugan within the caves in 1892. Batu Caves means 10th Caves / Hills for Lord Muruga, as there are six important holy shrines in India and four more in Malaysia (the three others in Malaysia are Kallumalai Temple, Tanneermalai Temple and Sannasimalai Temple). The cave is one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India, dedicated to Lord Murugan. Wooden steps up to the Temple Cave built in 1920, have been replaced by 272 concrete steps. I doubted my capacity to climb 272 steps, but one look at the steps kindled my enthusiasm - wafer-thin steps - it should be a cake-walk and believe me, it was. We could climb up and come down in around 30-40 minutes.

Of the various cave temples that comprise the site, the largest and best known is the Temple Cave, housing several Hindu shrines beneath its high vaulted ceiling. 


Outside the caves stands Lord Murugan statue, the tallest statue of a Hindu deity in Malaysia, 140 ft in height and second tallest statue of a Hindu deity in the world (second only to the Kailashnath Mahadev Statue in Nepal). It is located at the Sri Murugan Perumal Kovil at the foot of Batu Caves. It took 3 years of construction; made of concrete, steel bars, and 300 liters of gold paint brought in from neighboring Thailand, it cost approximately 24 million rupees. It was unveiled in January 2006 during Thaipusam festival. Our visit was soon after the festival this year. We were told there would be surging crowds during the festival.

The towering golden Murugan statue is really impressive. 

It started raining and our group sat in the small restaurant, had coffee .......

some did shopping, some checked out the jack fruits and tender coconuts - it was as if we were in Kerala. I was specially happy to bump into Tamilians everywhere and strike up conversations with them in Tamil.

We drove back to KL and had good Indian dinner at Gem Restaurant after which we returned to our hotel. We then packed our bags to check out the next morning to proceed by coach to Singapore.