Saturday, 2 June 2012

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

May 24 - May 27, 2012

Darkness had fallen by the time we reached our final destination, the capital city; Kuala Lumpur (KL).  Withdrawing some local currency we were immediately confronted by a young man begging for some of our ringgit; the value of which we were still uncertain.  One train stop down the line from Sentral Station (not a spelling mistake; we were to come across many such leftovers from 120 years of British rule) Suzies guesthouse was easy to find off Jalan Sultan (Jalan literally translate as Street) and located on the outskirts of China Town.  Relieved to be free of the weight of our bags we rehydrated with some hot tea and ventured out to satisfy out stomachs.  

This must be the first China Town in my experience so far that actually made me feel like I was stepping into the country itself, perhaps influenced by our recent foray into Hong Kong and recognizing the kinship. Red lanterns and signs in Chinese characters hung illuminated over the bustling market place vibrant with a particular energy and the aroma of food lingered in the air which I grew increasingly interested in sampling.  Tourists and locals alike thronged narrow, crowded streets even as it was approaching 10pm, amongst stalls selling cheap counterfeit bags, watches and purses who's merchants continuously call out to passersbys "special price for you, Sir.  Come have a look!"  or "A new bag for you ma'am? Discount just for you!".
A group of tables hosted a menu which we peered at and we were immediately accosted by two people insisting we stay. "Sit, Sir." "Beer Sir?"  The prices appeared reasonable and food choices attractive so we sat under the glowing red lanterns. My senses were stimulated as my eyes darted around the scene attempting to take it all in; the cacophony of noise, people, smells and colour as always an assault after a day travelling.  One man took over our service offering beer which we turned down.  Confused, he asked his colleague to confront us with an actual, real, three dimensional bottle of beer which we turned down again, as they hovered over our table waiting for us to make a decision on our gastronomic choice.  

We avoided the temptation to spend money on things as we wandered around this part of town for the three days we spent in KL but one little place got the best of me.  We were tempted into a shop with free Chinese tea samples then lured further in by the extensive amount of gorgeous tea sets, loose leaf tea and a beautiful young Chinese woman who's passion for tea far exceeded even Julians'.  She approached and quickly needled us for information on our lifestyle so she could suggest the perfect tea accessories and within moments presented us with small ceramic cups and a loose leaf tea defuser; perfect for travelling.  I could feel myself getting sucked in to her tricks but it was when she sat us down at a table and we experienced a tea ceremony with all the pomp and posture as tradition dictates that the deal was cemented.  She was so very passionate about tea and her love was infectious.  The set up was gorgeous; a carved, double layered tray served as draining board for washing the tea as well as service platter for the ornate tea set. As the tea continued to steep, the delicate hands of our host repeatedly filled our three ounce hand painted cups each time we drained them, her constant chatter educating us in the manner, the importance and the benefits of tea. The flavour was gorgeous, and changed markedly with each steeping. She exalted the value of tea and possibility of aging it to increase its worth considerably in quite the same was as wine ages, matures and gains value as years pass.  I was sold and despite the misgivings of Julian who remains much more an advocate of black rather than green tea, I managed to wrestle funds and am now the proud owner of my own little travel Chinese tea set. 

The main attraction of KL for me may have been China Town but for Julian however he came for an entirely different reason; the Patronas Towers:

"Ever since the towers were unveiled to the world in 1999 I have been an admirer. Something about the twin metallic Goliaths' captured my imagination and among the tallest buildings in the world I was very much looking forward to photographing them. Of course, 13 years after their completion I could never hope to take either the very best shot nor even anything original. They are what they are, they are (beautifully) lit the same way night after night and every angle has been covered by those more competent and more organized than I; I just wanted to see them with my own eyes and take my own images away as is my habit. 

Another habit of mine is to rise before Brianne and take a morning stroll alone around new places. Partly to get my bearings but mostly just to soak up the atmosphere of a place without distractions from my own life. I had already sneaked a look at the Towers that morning and got my first impressions, touched them and found the point I wanted to shoot from, so when Brianne and I retuned that afternoon I was able to rush around, gushing at the gills to her about how fabulous the design is "And from this angle…" "And how about from here?" "Do you wanna touch it?" whilst she humoured me (somewhat unenthusiastically I thought) and told me yes, they were very nice.

Waiting for the light to change from afternoon to dusk, we went in search of some sustenance. We headed NE out of the financial district and crossing a couple of busy arterial roads (during rush hour) and walking for about an hour we ended up settling on a roadside establishment and a dish of "mee goering" which it turned out translated as "bloody hot noodles!" Not exactly to my taste but with hunger pangs abated, we headed back into the city centre on our return journey. The air between us was a little fractious, I would have been happy to wait, hungry, in the centre for darkness, Brianne objected to walking through miles of nondescript concrete to find her much needed meal and had developed a blister on one toe, but eventually we made it back to the towers just as dusk was falling and bought ice creams and postcards. 

The postcards were a revelation. I had approached the Twin Towers from the SW, walked around the front of them and then across the junction for the best view. There are skyscrapers on all sides and I just assumed that was how one viewed the Towers. An arial shot however shows there is the small matter of a 50 acre public park behind them. We both thought it might be a good idea to investigate and I suggested we might find the park if we walked round the other side of the towers. Briannes' mind apparently works slightly differently and suggested we might just try and sneak straight through the middle; in the front doors and out the back. 

As darkness fell I set up the tripod and shot from a couple of locations for about 15 minutes whilst Brianne waited patiently. When I was done and packed away, we strolled nonchalantly back across the junction, circumvented the obvious security guards and sneaked in the front doors; right into the biggest, busiest shopping mall in Malaysia!

Apparently the existence of the mall is common knowledge since there were about 10,000 people there before us, spread across the park at the rear and five floors, including a huge food court (which would have been nice to know about a few hours previous). The park was teeming with folk just out enjoying the cooler evening air, socializing and doing the things city folk do. Having wandered around the shops, bought nothing and made our way outside; I dutifully joined the throng of tourists with their i-Phones, i-Pads, compact cameras, DSLRS and tri-pods, and set up my own."

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