Malaysia – Part 1

Kirsty and I recently returned from what turned out to be one of the most exciting, action-packed and mentally enriching breaks we’ve ever been on.

I must admit, Malaysia wasn’t somewhere we were particularly familiar with – for example, I had no clue Borneo was part of the country, split into states shared by Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei?!?)

Our lovely pals, Carla and Alessio, moved to Kuala Lumpur at the end of last year and asked us to come visit. So, we jumped at the chance; there’s no way better to explore a new city/country with good friends, who already have the lay of the land.

Alongside a scheduled few days in KL staying with Carla and Alessio, we were keen to experience other parts of this tropical kingdom. So, with the help of Carla/Alessio, and another friend who’d lived in Malaysia (thanks Stu!) we put together an itinerary that would take us across to costal Borneo, then into the world’s most ancient rainforest, and finally back to the northeast tip of mainland Malaysia to stay on the Perhentian Island(s).

Here’s a chaptered breakdown of what we got up to in each place – I’ll try and keep the ramblings short, so the photos/videos can do the talking 😉

Kuala Lumpur –

The night-time view atop a helipad bar in the city centre.
Carla and Alessio kindly put us up in their incredible, city-centre apartment – a couple of blocks from the Petronas Towers. From the dizzying heights of the 39th floor, we could see out across the city and into the hills surrounding KL. We were well and truly spoiled by our hosts, experiencing an exciting ex-pat life in this buzzing metropolis.

KL really is the perfect mixture (and balance) of old and new – sporting enough skyscrapers and architectural wonders to rival any other South-East Asian city, or global city, for that matter. Every structure is built/inspired by this awesome melting pot of cultures and people – notably Chinese, Indian, British and of course, Malay.

Funnily enough, KL shouldn’t really be a city – by conventional standards. It’s not particularly near the coast (so no port), nor on a single, major river. And it’s hardly protected like a fort atop some great hill or mountain. From my hazy 37-degree memory of our open-top bus tour, KL came about as a meeting place for tin-producing traders at the converging point of two small rivers – and from there, expanded exponentially. And so a city was born when the trader’s first roads met at this ‘muddy confluence’ – which is exactly what Kuala Lumpur means in Malaysian. Nice fact Greg. Probably not entirely accurate, but hopefully close enough.

The KL-ites are fiercely proud of their cultures and city’s history – I’ve never seen so many museums in one place! There was even an entire (rather large) museum dedicated to the Malaysian police! Respect.

There are a ton of beautiful green spaces in KL – which add to the ‘city balance’ that I mentioned earlier. Although it’s a metropolis – it doesn’t feel like your typical concrete jungle, as Mother Nature well and truly has her presence felt on almost every block with parks, gardens and general greenery.

The smell of food across and throughout the city streets at all times of the day is amazing – again, all the more magical thanks to the epic mix of cultural (culinary) knowledge and skill. And the smells are intensified by the incredible heat and humidity – partnered with the distinct feeling that the sky’s going to open up and piss puppies and kittens any second.

Despite the fact there’s massive amounts of construction happening everywhere in this vast 21st century city (a la Dubai), there’s a humbling reminder of the country’s religious past and present each evening as the beautiful, lingering echo of the Adhan (Islamic call to prayer) rings out from the mosques across the packed 8-lane highway and past the glitzy shopping malls.

KL, you’re quite some city!