Tag Archives: Shopping

A change of pace….Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Arriving in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia was like returning to civilization for us. Don’t take that as we missed civilization, it was just a whole different experience than we were used to. For example, there were signs (in English, but the fact that they had signs is the significant part) that very easily led us to a waiting bus to the center of town. No haggling with taxis trying to take advantage, just plain signs. And then we got on a monorail! And it was easy.

From the monorail, we had a good view of the buildings and streets as we zipped by. It was bustling with people, cars and buses. And not in a chaotic fashion. People (some) were obeying stoplights and even some cars stopping for pedestrians (not all, but some).

And then we discovered ‘mall culture.’ Kuala Lumpur or KL if you are a cool kid, is jam-packed with shopping. Huge buildings, full of everything you’d ever need (or not need) to buy. We took a walking tour of the Chow Kit neighborhood near our hostel the first day and then a train to the Petronas Towers, where we met up with an old friend of Riki’s from middle school.

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Petronas Towers
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KL Tower

We went up to a helipad that had a great view of the city, despite the rain and then had a multi-course dinner at a popular place. The sun doesn’t set until after 7 pm because of funny time zone lines and I think that creates a different timetable for people here. Restaurants stay open very late and we found that many stores don’t even open until noon. Completely the opposite of every other country we have visited in Asia.

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Petronas Towers from the bottom (which is a mall)
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Proof we were here
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From the helipad
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Sunset from the helipad – bit cloudy
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Petronas Towers from the helipad

Because of trading, Malaysia is a mix of many cultures.  The British were here, so were the Dutch.  There are many Chinese and Indian descendants, as well as some Portuguese.  English is widely spoken, though Mandarin and Tamil (from southern India and Sri Lanka) is also taught in government schools.  Islam is the predominant religion, but Buddhism, Christianity and Hinduism have significant followings as well.  Makes for a quite a melting pot.

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KL is the capital and most populous city in Malaysia. And it shows. Despite being a public holiday weekend, there were tons of people out and about. We were told many had gone away for the long weekend. Kuala Lumpur is not a very old city and thus doesn’t have the historic architecture like in other parts of the country. It is mostly towering glass buildings with bright lights and metal protrusions.  But it also has some smaller scale attractions near Chinatown – which we stumbled upon mostly by accident.

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Crazy incense
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Hindu temple in Chinatown

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Street art

The next day was a shopping day, pretty much like Christmas in May for us. Having worn the same pair of shoes everyday since August, Riki’s soles were to a point where it was dangerous to walk on wet surfaces. After meandering through a few malls we found a good athletic shoe store and Riki bought a new pair. I also found a pair, hoping to alleviate the blisters I’ve been nursing since we first hit Bangkok in September. We even managed to get Riki a new watchband. Like I said, Christmas.

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So many escalators
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Big net in case you fall
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Delicious Chinese BBQ lunch at the mall
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I forgot to mention the seven story rollercoaster we stumbled upon.  Inside a mall.  There was also archery and numerous other rides.

Riki’s friend had invited us to Sunday dinner with her family and we were splendidly treated to an amazing home-cooked meal. There was wine and a couple of British dishes that I will have to eat again (including sticky toffee date cake). We had a great time catching up and hearing about ex-pat views of KL.

A bit overwhelmed by the size and noise of the city, we booked a bus for the 6 hour trip north to Georgetown, Penang, a city known for its UNESCO status and wonderful food. Can’t wait.

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Straight Vodka….Bangkok to Kathmandu & Beyond

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We spent our last few days in Bangkok researching about Nepal and wandering some neighborhoods we missed last time. We also switched hostels, from an interesting place on the water with a lot of character, but noisy toilets and questionable structural integrity to a place we had stayed before we went to Ayutthaya. We sacrificed windows and character for a/c and cleaner bathrooms.

We took the river ferry down to the skytrain and over to the commercial center full of shops and hotels. We didn’t have much success shopping for hats, but Riki found a smaller tripod so he can swap out his larger one when we meet up with my parents next week. The next day, we took the river ferry across to Wat Arun. The Thonburi neighborhood is one of the older ones and has lots of little side streets, as well as walkways along the water. And unlike Ayutthaya, the cats rule the streets here, not the dogs.

Good bread has been very hard to find and we have been craving it for awhile. Not far from the backpacker’s area in Bangkok, we found a great bakery with real bread run by ladyboys. And they have wifi. We went every day, even twice one day to eat fresh bread and research for Nepal.

On Wednesday we flew through Kuala Lumpur to Kathmandu. We were unimpressed with Malaysia Airlines, mostly because of the service. They ran out of chicken meals and brought me a vegetarian meal, but an hour later. And they brought Riki a tall glass of vodka when he asked for a beer, without anything to mix with it. So that was weird.

We arrived very late in the evening in Nepal and luckily the power was on and we got our visas pretty quickly. Getting our bags was a trip, just as we had heard. It is very hectic around the baggage claim. People with carts crowd the belt and it’s almost impossible to get to the front. But as soon as Riki had sent me off to check another belt, our bags arrived. We made it to our hostel and spent the next day wandering around Thamel looking for a trekking guide and supplies.

And this is where it gets awesome. Very conveniently, we arrived in the midst of Dewali/Tehar/Dipwali (known by a variety of names here), which is a big four day festival. For this festival, everyone decorates their buildings with lights. When we flew in, we could see all the lights, on almost every building. Incredible for a place known for its power outages. They must have saved up their power for this festival because we had no problems with power outages during these days. They also make incredible rice/sand pieces to invite the goddess of wealth into their homes. We walked around for hours looking at these and watching little kids go around from house to house asking for money.

Very early the next morning, we took a bus to Pokhara, the second largest city in Nepal. This 8 hour trip cost $7 and travelled along the highway, which was more high then way. It was barely two lanes (one each direction) and really bumpy. Sometimes we were very close to the edge. Other times, it was so bumpy we were actually bounced completely off our seats. Luckily they were soft and we didn’t hit any traffic jams. We have heard horror stories of people trapped on the highway for hours because of accidents. And it’s the only road.

We checked into a really nice family run place in Pokhara and spent the afternoon checking out the trekking agencies. That evening, still during the festival, the sidewalks were filled with people dancing. We stopped at numerous places to watch individuals and groups dance in front of the gathering crowds. Riki really enjoyed this and there are probably a hundred pictures from this night.

Because of the festival, the permit office was closed and we were not able to leave as early for our trek as we had hoped. This was fine by us, as we had plenty of time and wanted to see what the festival was all about. Saturday we did a short trek uphill for two hours to the World Peace Pagoda. We only got a little lost and ended up finding a troupe of monkeys. They were fascinating and we also probably have a hundred pictures of them. They were drinking from a small pond and had tiny babies with them. Eventually we made it to the top and had an excellent view of the city. The clouds even cleared a bit and we could see the Himalayas.

In August, there was a large landslide right under the pagoda and a few people died. The remnants are still very visible. We walked down a ton of steps (for practice for our trek) and found a boat at the bottom to take us back across the lake to Pokhara. That evening we found a ton more dancing on the sidewalks.

On Sunday, we returned to one of trekking agencies and arranged for a guided 5 day trek to Poon Hill for the next day. We spent the afternoon shopping for hats, gloves and provisions (including Snickers bars, which are big with trekkers).

 

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Note the initials. They knew I was coming.

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