Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Best KL Trip Ever!!!

Last week, I was able to ikut (follow) my family to Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. We left Ipoh last Thursday evening and arrived in KL that night. After spending Thursday night and Friday morning with my host family's relatives, my family and I spent Friday afternoon and evening in the wilayah persekutuan (federal territory) of Putrajaya, which is located near KL and acts as the center of the administrative sections of the federal government. The city has offices for all sections of the government, and my host father even works in the veterinarian department in Putrajaya.

The Bridge in Putrajaya

Putrajaya International Convention Center

The City and the Skyline is absolutely beautiful, especially at night!

My host family and their relatives

Putrajaya is an absolutely beautiful city, and it has an amazing skyline! Having been in a suburb of Ipoh for the last few months, I haven't been able to see this type of development and industrialization; however, this experience in Putrajaya showed me that Malaysia truly is developing rapidly even though it is already quite advanced. The city's roads are clean and maintained, as this city is taken special care of due to its importance in federal affairs. At night, the streets are relatively empty, as most workers and officials have left their workplaces in the evening in order to avoid the inevitable traffic jam (more on this later!), and one can peacefully go sightseeing without much noise or disturbance.

The next day, we spent more time chatting with my host family's relatives and relaxing before preparing to visit other relatives in the city. That evening, we attempted to travel across the city to visit those relatives, who live in a different part of KL. However, we got caught up in the KL evening jam, which is notorious for its atrocious size and tendency to delay people from getting around KL. In the evening, around 5 or 6, many people working in downtown KL are trying to get to their homes in the suburbs and satellite towns of KL. Although the resulting traffic jam filled with vehicles and people trying to exit KL is very time-consuming, it is interesting to see how the KL traffic works. In the morning, around 8:00 or 8:30, most people are trying to enter KL in order to get to their jobs, and in the evening, those same people are rushing to get out. So, after spending time in KL, I've been able to see when and how to enter and leave KL in order to avoid rush hour delays, whether that means leaving early or waiting an hour or 2 before going. Public transportation such as the LRT and monorail trains are also very helpful, as they have set schedules that do not change depending on the amount of people trying to enter or leave the city.

 Later on Saturday night, we visited the KLCC area, where the famous Petronas Towers are. We spent time window-shopping in the Suria Mall, which is actually right between the two towers, and taking pictures near the fountain in KLCC. Thanks to the amazing modes and quality of my camera, I got several awe-inspiring pictures (seriously, my camera is amazing); to me, these pictures were worth a thousand words. Although we didn't get to go to the top of the Petronas Towers that day, we did decide to return to KLCC in order to make it to the top (which we did! More on getting to the top later in the post!). 

Me in front of the Petronas Towers, the tallest twin towers in the world

On Sunday, my host family and I went to Zoo Negara (National Zoo). We saw lots of animals that were native to Malaysia, as well as many more that came from Africa, Europe, and other parts of Asia. Although I'm not much of a "zoo person," I did enjoy getting to see a Malaysian zoo, as well as observe a popular Malaysian place for entertainment and relaxation during a vacation. The zoo's activities were very similar to some of those that I've seen in American zoos or amusement parks. In fact, I thought parts of the zoos were extremely similar to Sea World in San Antonio, Texas.

A camel, called unta in Malay

A giraffe looks into my camera.

After the zoo, we went to Batu Caves, a notable Hindu temple in the outskirts of KL. The temple is actually a huge limestone cave that one has to climb a large number of stairs to get to. Every year for the Hindu festival of Thaipusam, hundreds of thousands to even millions of pilgrims and Hindus travel to Batu Caves, where the largest statue of the Hindu deity Lord Murugan stands. The caves are breath-taking from the outside and the inside. The temples were closed that night, but we would return to climb the 272 stairs up to the cave temple the next day (more on this later).

Me in front of the HUGE statue of Lord Murugan

On Monday, we truly had a bevy of places to visit and sights to see. We started our day off by visiting Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square), where the flag of Malaysia was flown for the first time at midnight of August 31, 1957, Malaysia's Independence Day. We saw the nearby Sultan Abdul Samad Building, which holds the Ministry of Information, Communications, and Culture of Malaysia. This buillding overlooks Dataran Merdeka and the surrounding area.

My host family and me with the six prime ministers of Malaysia

Me on the Dataran Merdeka grass in front of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building

The Malaysian flag in Dataran Merdeka. In 1957, the British flag was taken down, and the Malaysian flag was raised in this square.

After visiting Dataran Merdeka, a truly historic and monumental place in Malaysia, we proceeded to see a display of Malaysian planes and helicopters at the Muzium TUDM (Muzium Tentera Udara DiRaja Malaysia, or Royal Malaysian Air Force Museum). The airplanes were very interesting, and we even got to board some and take a few interesting pictures! I've visited a few airplane museums in the U.S., including the Smithsonian and one smaller museum in Texas. Although this museum could not compare to the Smithsonian, it certainly was very interesting to see.

The sign says, "Welcome to the Museum of the Royal Malaysian Air Force."

Me in front of the Royal Malaysian Air Force emblem

In a Malaysian helicopter

In a plane

In a small bunker with a fake turret gun

What a pilot would look like in full uniform (with his right hand missing!!)

After the Muzium TUDM, we went to the old Istana Negara (National Palace), where the sultans of Malaysia used to reside. In 2011, a new Istana Negara was built and replaced the old Istana Negara as the home of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (the king/sultan/ceremonial head of state). The old Istana Negara was then converted into a museum for visitors to see. The palace looks huge from the outside, and on the inside, it is bigger than I imagined. The house includes bedrooms, bathrooms, closets, powder rooms, and even a dentist's office, all of which are lavishly adorned and maintained. Although photography was prohibited in the main section of the house, it was allowed in another wing of the building, so I got a few pictures.

The insignia of the Istana Negara

In a ceremonial room in the house

In front of the gate to the palace

After walking through the glamour and awe of the Istana Negara, we moved on to Muzium Negara (National Museum). The museum was very interesting, and it contained a lot about Malaysian history, culture, and leaders. I learned a lot about the history of this amazing nation through the exhibits and artifacts in the museum. I also learned a lot about how Malaysia got its independence and about recent events in Malaysian history. Moreover, I learned much about trade in Malaysia and how that trade contributed to the culturally vibrant flourishing of the three main races in Malaysia. I truly feel that Malaysia is a vivid and beautiful nation after visiting this museum, as I now understand more about Malaysia's history and culture. 

This statue of Buddha was recovered from a tin mine in Ipoh.

A sculpture of a Hindu deity from the days of trade in the Indian Ocean

An interesting mural of a soldier of a kingdom from many centuries ago

Cool flag map of Malaysia

We still had two places to visit that day. After the Muzium Negara, we went to a national monument for those soldiers who have passed away in some of Malaysia's wars and battles. This place was very reminiscent of monuments in Washington D.C., as it had similar architecture and design. The sculpture of the Malaysian soldiers on the hills actually looked very similar to the statue of the soldiers in Iwo Jima. I really enjoyed visiting the memorial and paying my respects to the soldiers who have fallen over the years.

Behind me is the obelisk of the memorial

The fountain in the memorial

The statue that somewhat resembles the Iwo Jima memorial

Finally, my family and I returned to Batu Caves in order to climb to the Hindu temple inside the caves. We walked up the 272 steps in the temple to get to the top of the caves, where we visited Hindu shrines. After climbing to the top of the caves, we descended to the temple at the ground and visited a few other temples nearby.

Me in front of the stairs to the cave temple

The cave temple is just ahead!

My host siblings and cousins with me at the top of the cave temple

A nearby temple has a large statue of the Hindu deity Lord Hanuman. I'm sitting on the right toe of the statue.

We returned home exhausted but happy that we were able to see so much of Kuala Lumpur that day. We had been to all the museums and historical sights we wanted to visit in the city, and we planned to visit the two tallest buildings in KL the next day.

So on Tuesday, my host mom, host siblings, and I went to Menara KL (KL Tower), a telecommunication building that ranks among the tallest telecommunication towers in the world. There, we took a lift to the observation deck, where we were able to get a look of the entire city of KL. I saw the Petronas Towers, the U.S. Embassy, and even the Lord Murugan statue at Batu Caves. The view from the KL Tower was amazing, and the ability to do something that I had been wanting to do since coming to Malaysia was very enjoyable. After visiting the observation deck of the KL Tower, we walked to a nearby Malaysian cultural village. This cultural village was basically an idyllic and touristy group of kampung (village) houses from each state of Malaysia. Even though this cultural village was meant for tourists, it was interesting to compare the houses on display to ones that I had seen in all the different states.

At Menara KL (KL Tower)!

We are about to enter the Observation Deck of the KL Tower

A view of the city of KL from the KL Tower Observation Deck

Using a sightseeing telescope, I was able to see the Lord Murugan statue at Batu Caves, about 15 kilometers away!

Me with the Petronas Towers and the rest of KL in the background

The Petronas Towers

Me standing next to a glass image of the KL Tower, which is the 7th tallest telecommunications building in the world

The stadium in the picture is Stadium Merdeka, where independence was first officially announced on August 31, 1957.

Right behind Stadium Merdeka is the Mandarin Court Hotel, where I stayed during my arrival orientation directly following my arrival in Malaysia.

An awe-inspiring view of the KL Tower from ground level

The Malaysia cultural village below the KL Tower

After the KL Tower, we visited the Petronas Towers. First, we went to the 41st floor of the towers, where we walked inside the sky bridge, the part of the structure that connects the two towers. It was truly an amazing visit for me, as I have been fascinated with travelling to and walking inside the Petronas Towers' sky bridge for many years. The sky bridge gave me many amazing views of the KLCC area and of the city. After walking along the sky bridge, we were taken to the 86th floor of the Petronas Tower 2 (Tower 1 is closed to the public), where we took pictures with the background of the other tower and the city of KL below us. The highest floor of the towers is the 88th floor, so we were very close to the highest point in the tallest twin towers in the world.

At the entrance to the tourist elevator

A model of the Petronas Towers

I'm about to go up!

The entrance to the sky bridge, 170 meters above ground level

Suria KLCC shopping mall and the KLCC fountain from the 41st floor of the Petronas Towers

On this side of the sky bridge is the reflecting pool and a view of the city.

In the middle of the sky bridge

The city of KL is below and behind me!

On the 86th floor, with another model of the two towers

A view from the 86th floor

The Petronas Towers are the tallest twin towers in the world.

Petronas Tower 1 and the KL Tower in the distance are behind me.

A model of the spire at the tops of both towers

After these awesome visits to the Petronas Towers and the KL Tower, we called it a day and took a bit of a break. The next day, we returned to Putrajaya in order to get a better look at the National Mosque and the Prime Minister's Office. Both were splendid buildings, and we truly enjoyed getting a better view of two incredible places in Putrajaya before ending our trip.

The National Mosque

The Prime Minister's Office in the background

Overall, this trip to KL was amazing, enlightening, and unlike any other in the past. I got to do so many interesting things, take part in many amazing activities, and experience Malaysian culture in the bustling capital city of the country. For me, the most culturally rewarding part of this trip was observing the amount of development and industrialization Malaysia truly has. In Ipoh, which is a much smaller and more remote city, one cannot see much development; for example, most of "downtown" Ipoh is much smaller and lower than downtown KL. In KL, one can really understand how technologically and infrastructurally developed Malaysia actually is just by looking around. Seeing the KL Towers, Petronas Tower, and the other skyscrapers and towering buildings in KL showed me that KL is at the heart of a rapidly blossoming Malaysia and that Malaysia's development is by no standards low. Although I have been to KL and have seen the city before, this trip was special because I was able to travel across, within, under, and above the city; therefore, this trip allowed me to develop a more complete perspective of the incredible city of Kuala Lumpur and the beautiful nation of Malaysia.

Jumpa Lagi!-See you soon!


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