Sunday, 6 February 2011 12:00 AM
This year we’re following the odyssey of Peter and Christine Helliwell as they undertake an entirely self-funded bike ride from London to Sydney to raise money for charities Medicins Sans Frontiers and Mary’s Meals. The intrepid couple will be sharing their experiences in a blog for Travelbite.co.uk and here is their 48th blog entry:
In total we spent three or so days in Kuala Lumpur, and somewhat to our surprise we quite enjoyed it. Our perception had been that as a city it did not offer an awful lot for tourists to see and do, and in some ways that is true, but actually it is a nice place to relax and take things easy.
Our first day there was spent recovering (i.e., eating and snoozing) from our long ride down from Phuket, before meeting Pete’s sister Sarah and her friend Becky when they arrived from the UK in the afternoon. Not surprisingly they were somewhat tired from the long journey, as well as jetlagged, but they still managed to stay awake long enough for us to go out for dinner to a local Indian restaurant (a very local, eat-with-your-hands-rather-than-cutlery type of place; we still haven’t got the hang of eating like that to be honest, it just ends up being messy!) before heading to bustling Chinatown for a beer or two.
Because Malaysia imposes very high taxes on alcohol, drinking is definitely not a cheap way to spend the evening, so after nursing a beer each for a while we headed back to the hotel for a well-deserved good night’s sleep. Well, for us at least – our room was nice and quiet, whereas Sarah’s and Becky’s had paper thin walls that transmitted the sound from all the surrounding rooms – not good when you want a good sleep after a long flight.
Despite a poor night’s sleep and the jetlag both Sarah and Becky managed to drag themselves up the next morning at a reasonable hour, and after a leisurely breakfast we headed off to see KL’s main cultural sight, the Masjid Jamek, the most important mosque in Malaysia. We took headscarves etc so we would be able to enter the mosque, but in fact we needn’t have bothered as they provide wonderful wizard-like gowns and scarves for visitors to wear while looking around. We looked quite ridiculous.
The mosque was nice but not that exciting, and certainly not as impressive as many of the mosques we have seen on our trip so far, and so we did not spend long there before moving on to look at the colonial area. This is located around what used to be a cricket ground, and is complete with mock-Tudor buildings etc, constructed during Malaysia’s colonisation by Britain. An interesting reminder of the past but all rather out of place these days.
Next on our agenda were the lake gardens, a large park containing, among other things, a large walk-in aviary, a butterfly garden and an orchid garden. We had heard that the Hornbill restaurant by the aviary was good, so we headed there for lunch and indeed we were very impressed. The restaurant has a balcony overlooking the aviary, so while you are eating you can observe lots of impressive birds flying around and indeed sometimes coming and sitting on the balcony rail hoping for some of your lunch.
Although lunch was more expensive than we would usually go for, the food was great and it was a really enjoyable experience. We also felt that there was no need to pay the high entrance fee to visit the aviary afterwards, as we had seen most of the birds in it. Definitely recommended!
We then spent some time wandering around the orchid garden and the butterfly garden, before deciding that the big black clouds building ominously above us were a warning that we should take shelter back at the hotel for a couple of hours. For dinner we headed to Little India, figuring this would be a good place to eat; in fact we were quite wrong on that front.
After an hour wandering around looking for a restaurant and instead only finding sari shops we eventually found a rather basic place by the market. Not quite what we were looking for as it was more Malay than Indian food but it was cheap and tasty so we weren’t complaining. After dinner we once again headed to Chinatown for beer and prawn crackers before collapsing tired into bed (sightseeing is surprisingly hard work, particularly when hot).
The next day Becky went off to try and buy some new glasses, while Sarah and Christine went for a refreshing swim at the local outdoor pool and Pete did some shopping. We met up in the afternoon to go for a Chinese massage – very welcome therapy for our tired muscles. In the evening we headed up to the KL skytower, which is the highest building in KL and offers great views. Unfortunately it was a little hazy so we couldn’t see too far beyond the city limits.
After that we headed off for dinner – having got a definite recommendation for a good Indian restaurant this time – and had a bit of a blow-out meal (i.e., we ordered just about everything on the menu!) in honour of Pete’s birthday, which was the next day.
Sarah and Becky were due to fly up to Krabi early in the afternoon the following day to continue their holiday in Thailand, so we said goodbye to them late in the morning when they headed off to the airport. It had been really nice to catch up with them so we were quite sad to say goodbye.
We consoled ourselves by heading to Sunway lagoon, a huge water/theme park complex on the outskirts of KL – a birthday treat for Pete. We had a fun few hours whizzing down various flumes before changing and heading to the theme park for some rollercoaster action – great fun. As it was a Wednesday the complex was quite quiet which was great as it meant the queues were nice and short.
It was interesting to note the wide variety of dress worn by women in the water park – everything from skimpy bikinis to full-on ‘burkinis’ (head to toe coverage). Aware of the appropriateness of dressing modestly in a country like Malaysia, Christine had planned to wear her sarong over her bikini for the day, but the rules at the entrance said loose clothing could not be worn. So the sarong went in the locker, only for us to find that most people were ignoring this rule and wearing something over their swimsuits, leaving Christine feeling a little silly. Still it wasn’t a problem as she definitely wasn’t the only one making this slight cultural faux-pas, and nobody seemed to mind.
Peter & Christine Helliwell
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