Tuesday, October 14th, 2003 – Day 238
Sorry for the short blogs over the past week or so. I have been taking it easy and find it harder to concentrate in a web cafe for an hour writing it up. Ah well.
I stayed in bed until 10.00am. A good nights sleep. There isn’t a whole lot to see in KL and if there is, its all pretty close to where I am staying. I went to:
I got a bite to east in the central market. There is a food court upstairs. Its a tourist oriented market.
The original Central Market, built in 1936, used to be a wet market, but the place is now a cultural center (air-conditioned!) for local artists and craftspeople selling antiques, crafts, and curios. It is a fantastic place for buying Malaysian crafts and souvenirs, with two floors of shops to chose from.
National Mosque (Masjid Negara)
Built in a modern design, the most distinguishing features of the mosque are its 73m (243-ft.) minaret and the umbrella-shaped roof, which is said to symbolize a newly independent Malaysia’s aspirations for the future. Could be true, as the place was built in 1965, the year Singapore split from Malaysia.
Click on the picture to see it in its original size
Kuala Lumpur – Painting the National Mosque roof. Looks gravity defining. (14-10-2003)
Surrounded by colonial architecture with an exotic local flair, the square is a large field that was once the site of British social and sporting events. These days, Malaysia holds its spectacular Independence Day celebrations on the field, which is home to the world’s tallest flagpole, standing at 100m (330 ft.).
Kuala Lumpur Railway Station
Built in 1910, the KL Railway Station is a beautiful example of Moorish architecture
Click on the picture to see it in its original size
Kuala Lumpur – Railway Station . (14-10-2003)
The railway administration building across the way is more visually appealing. That’s my opinion anyway.
Jame Mosque (Masjid Jame)
The first settlers landed in Kuala Lumpur at the spot where the Gombak and Klang rivers meet, and in 1909 a mosque was built here. Styled after an Indian Muslim design, it is one of the oldest mosques in the city.
Click on the picture to see it in its original size
Kuala Lumpur – Jame Mosque. (14-10-2003)
Nice Mosque in the city centre (if such a thing exists in KL). While I was there, the vast majority of people there were sleeping in the prayer room. Maybe its the only place in the city for a power nap during lunch. There must have been 20-30 people asleep on the prayer floor. What gives!
Sultan Abdul Samad Building
In 1897 this exotic building was designed by Regent Alfred John Bidwell, a colonial architect responsible for many of the buildings in Singapore. He chose a style called “Muhammadan” or “neo-Saracenic,” which combines Indian Muslim architecture with Gothic and other Western elements. Built to house government administrative offices, today it is the home of Malaysia’s Supreme Court and High Court.
All the above were free. Nothing special about any of them. KL is a funny old town but I like it. There is no city centre or anything of great interest but it has a relaxed air to the place.
I took a metro (1.60 R) to KLCC. I am lucky that Chinatown is close to a metro Stop as there are five train routes and each one is operated by a different company. The lines don’t seem to connect in any logical way. Anyway I got to Petronas Twin Towers at 2.30pm, but they have only limited free tickets to the sky bridge each day. They gave me a ticket for 4.45pm. I went back to Chinatown to eat and then headed back to the towers. Each group of 15 has about 10 minutes before been asked to leave again.
After 5 years of planning and building, Petronas Twin Towers has been completed. Standing at a whopping 451.9m (1,482 ft.) above street level, with 88 stories, the towers are the tallest buildings in the world. From the outside, the structures are designed with the kind of geometric patterns common to Islamic architecture, and on levels 41 and 42 the two towers are linked by a bridge. Visitors are permitted on the sky bridge daily from 10am to 12:45pm and 3 to 4:45pm every day except Mondays and public holidays.
Linkin Park (a music band) have done the same visit earlier on today. They play in KL tonight. The elevator guy said they are prety nice guys.
Click on the picture to see it in itดs original size
Kuala Lumpur – The Towers . (14-10-2003)
There was a good exhibition of visual puzzles on the ground floor of the towers. You know the ones: look at a picture and see two faces, or look at a picture and look away to see a bulb.
It was only 5.00pm. I called into the main post Office to see rates. I then called into a few shops.
Suria KLCC, located just beneath the Petronas Twin Towers, has to be KLs best and brightest mall, and its largest. If you purchase electronics, make sure you get an international warranty.
I took the metro back to chinatown. It was 6.00pm and there was nothing else planned for tonight.
Wednesday, October 15th, 2003 – Day 239
As mentioned yesterday, I did little last night. The nighlife aint so hot in KL. There is a Reggae bar at the bottom of my hostel but it as full of Nigerians (no kidding) so I took a rain cheque.
Again I got up late (around 11.00am). I had seen much of what is important in KL yesterday. I did little today.
I visited the Post Office to send a parcel. I walked around China town etc. I went to the main bus station to buy a ticket to Penang for 9.15am tomorrow morning. There are about 10 bus companies for every route. It keeps prices down but its hard to pick one over another. The ticket was 23 R.
Some things I have noticed over the past few days, but have been too lazy to mention.
- The Guinness BELIEVE CAMPAIGN. In Ireland its focused on believe in scoring a goal or believe Guinness can get you drunk. Here its BELIEVE you can become a millionaire and Believe you will own a GLOBAL FRANCHISE. Weird. They have these Guinness posters of people counting there money. Very different emphasis. Its a popular drink here and I have seen many people drink (only in bottles here) it in Singapore and here in KL.
- Air Con in buses. In the bus to KL I had to turn off the AC most of the way as it was so bloody cold. It seems Air con on Malaysian buses come in either freezing or cryogenic.
- I did mention that Singapore was a quasi democracy, but thinking about it, I bet half of the South East Asia population would give there right arm to go and live there such is its prosperity.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has towered over his country’s politics for more than two decades. He retires next week. He is a head case when it comes to Jews and the West.
His prestige projects to boost national pride included the world’s tallest building – the Petronas Towers – and the transformation of a palm oil plantation near the capital into the world’s first “Multimedia Super Corridor” – a cyber powerhouse intended to rival California’s Silicon Valley.
With the onset of the Asian economic crisis in 1997, Dr Mahathir refused to accept that his grandiose schemes were partly to blame for Malaysia’s massive debt. Instead he blamed foreign currency traders, including the financier George Soros, for what he termed a worldwide Jewish conspiracy.
Malaysia emerged relatively unscathed from the Asian financial crisis after Dr Mahathir defied the International Monetary Fund, introducing controversial currency controls which effectively isolated his country from the global economy.
But relations with the West have continued to fluctuate. In June this year Dr Mahathir described Westerners – or more particularly “Anglo-Saxon Europeans” — as proponents of “war, sodomy and genocide”.
Regarding DVD’s in Chinatown, sellers can not openly sell them. Middlemen have lists of the latest films and can get them for you if you wait 5 minutes. The prices 10 R for a DVD 5 or 15 for a DVD 9. The DVD 9 comes with the special features, extras etc. If you ask they will bring to where they are stored. I always do as I am looking for classic movies not the latest Hollywood blockbuster. They will bring to shops, then usually upstairs to a locked room where you will see thousands of DVD’s. You could spend an hour going through them. They are not the cheapest here but they have the greatest range. They are chaper in China and Vietnam but Malaysian Sellers have classic, Cult and art- house movies which the other countries do not.
Thursday, October 16th, 2003 – Day 240
Today, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has called on Muslims to use brains as well as brawn to fight Jews who “rule the world“.
“The Europeans killed six million Jews out of 12 million. But today the Jews rule this world by proxy… 1.3 billion Muslims cannot be defeated by a few million Jews,” he said, speaking at the opening of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference in the Malaysian administrative capital Putrajaya.
Dr Mahathir, who is renowned for using such conferences to make scathing attacks on the West, bows out as prime minister in a week’s time after a 22-year rule.
“This tiny community has become a world power. We cannot fight them through brawn alone. We must use our brains as well,” the prime minister said.
Anyway I was up around 8.00am. I have had a few good nights sleep here in the travelers Lodge Hostel. Its quiet and the owner is efficient. It was 22 R for a double bed. The bed covered 95% of the room. The only other furniture was a chair. There was no room on either the left or right of the bed, so you shuffle out through the bottom of the bed.
My bus was at 9.15am but I was there by 8.45am. I was told platform & (there are about 20 platforms) and was waiting. Its a hive of activity with no 2 buses looking the same because there are so many competing companies. By 9.10am I was worried as the next two buses in line for Platform seven were not even going to Penang. I went back up to the ticket desk (again there are about 60 of these) and asked. They jumped and said the bus was now leaving from a petrol station down the road. It seems passengers from various companies pool people. I was led to a window and was pointed a bus down the road. I marched down there. He had no idea if I had a ticket for his bus, but decided to leave me on.
It was a pleasant journey to Penang. It took nearly 6 hours. We stopped twice for toilet breaks. The road infrastructure in Malaysia is first rate. They are also a very forward looking country. This is especially true when it comes to technology. They are tech crazy here. One just has to look at the computer business, software stores etc. At the KL airport you can check yourself in, via a passport reader and a thumb recognition device.
Penang is unique in Malaysia because, for all intents and purposes, Penang has it all. Tioman Island (see chapter 10) may have beaches and nature, but it has no shopping or historical sights to speak of. And while Malacca has historical sights and museums, it hasn’t a good beach for miles. Similarly, while KL has shopping, nightlife, and attractions, it also has no beach resorts. Penang has all of it: beaches, history, diverse culture, shopping, food — you name it, it has it. If you only have a short time to visit Malaysia but want to take in as wide an experience as you can, Penang is your place.
Penang gets its name from the Malay word pinang, in reference to the areca plant, which grew on the island in abundance. The nut of the tree, commonly called betel, was chewed habitually in the East. In the 15th century it was a quiet place populated by small Malay communities, attracting the interest of some southern Indian betel merchants. By the time Francis Light, an agent for the British East India Company, arrived in 1786, the island was already on the maps of European, Indian, and Chinese traders. Light landed on the northeast part of the island, where he began a settlement after an agreement with the sultan of Kedah, on the mainland. He called the town Georgetown, after George III. To gain the help of local inhabitants for clearing the spot, he shot a cannon-load of coins into the jungle.
Georgetown became Britain’s principal post in Malaya, attracting traders and settlers from all over the world. Europeans, Arabs, northern and southern Indians, southern Chinese, and Malays from the mainland and Sumatra flocked to the port. But it was never extremely profitable for England, especially when in 1819 Sir Stamford Raffles founded a new trading post in Singapore. Penang couldn’t keep up with the new port’s success.
In 1826 Penang, along with Malacca and Singapore, formed a unit called the Straits Settlements, and Penang was narrowly declared the seat of government over the other two. Finally in 1832, Singapore stole its thunder when authority shifted there. In the late 1800s Penang got a big break. Tin mines and rubber plantations on mainland Malaya were booming, and with the opening of the railway between KL and Butterworth (the town on the mainland just opposite the island), Penang once again thrived. Singapore firms scrambled to open offices in Butterworth.
The Great Depression hit Penang hard. So did the Japanese occupation from 1941 to 1945. The island had been badly bombed. But since Malaysia’s independence in 1957, Penang has had relatively good financial success. Today the state of Penang is made up of the island and a small strip of land on the Malaysian mainland. Georgetown is the seat of government for the state. Penang Island is 285 sq. km (171 sq. miles) and has a population of a little more than one million. Surprisingly, the population is mostly Chinese (59%), followed by Malays (32%) and Indians (7%).
I walked to the hosel in Little India. It was the Broadway Hostel. I took a double bed for 35 R per night. It is the nicest place and nicest room I have been in for a while. Its large with cupboards etc (not that I need them), a big window overlooking the city etc and some nice showers. My place in Kl only had toilet, shower combines and they were shared. That’s right. In a bathroom smaller than your average cupboard where toilet paper isn’t used was a shower head. You basically had to stand in the toilet to have a cold shower. Not nice.
I walked around the Penang Chinatown and Little India. There was a Chinese Opera in one Temple.
Chinese opera of the Peking variety is a difficult abstract art which synthesizes music, drama, dancing, and acrobatics along with very elaborate costumes and a minimum of props, according to traditions and customs dating back as far as the twelfth century. Very early in their training Chinese opera performers begin specializing in one of the four principal types of roles: sheng (…..), tan (…..), ching (…..), and chou (…..). It should be noted that, at least theoretically, any of these character roles can be portrayed by persons of either gender. The male roles, sheng, are divided into mature, young, and militant or martial, personality, and social position ranging from common to royal. The hsiao sheng is usually a young scholar or a lover; the wu sheng, a fighting or military man; the lao sheng or hsu sheng, an aged man; the hung sheng, a red-faced aged man. The militant or martial males are skilled in the art of kung fu.
Click on the picture to see it in it´s original size
Melaka – chinese Opera (16-10-2003)
I did little else. There are hundreds of night time food stalls here at night and I ate well. Lots of hippies and bars here as well showing movies at night. I did walk back to the bus station where the shopping complex called KOMTAR is located. Short for “Kompleks Tun Abdul Razak,” it is the largest shopping complex in Penang, a full 65 stories of clothing shops, restaurants, and a couple of large department stores.
It is a nice relaxed town and its easy and safe to walk around although its quiet after 9.00pm as they go to bed early. Lots of tourist bars but not many tourists frequenting them. A good view old American gents with young local lady friends!! One thing was that I could not find a ATM that took VISA. I was in bed by 12.00.