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K & L Reunited in KL

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The best parts of the past few days has been hanging out with fellow Canadians who we already KNOW (and although I do love meeting new people, it was quite nice to not go through the normal progression of new person questions…”where are you from?” “what do you do?”), and who have a home that we could crash at for a few days. Before I get into the wonders of Kuala Lampur, I must begin at the beginning…from our descent back into the third world in Malaysia.

Melaka

Our first stop in Malaysia was Melaka, about half-way between Singapore and KL. We actually had no intention of coming here, until our friend Matt told us it was lovely, and we had a few days to kill before Leanne was back from her trip to Cambodia.

Melaka is a sleepy town, with a population of about 600,000. Immediately, we could tell that Malaysia is a richer nation than Indonesia – it was cleaner, with nice looking restaurants and stores. Melaka is actually a World Heritage CITY, and had an inscription on a building about it being inducted in Quebec, Canada. Pretty cool. It was somewhat reminiscent of Venice or Amsterdam, as the center of town was built along a really nice little river that meandered its way through.

We finally found this place based only on Chinese symbols

We finally found this place based only on Chinese symbols

I must admit, we didn’t do much here – there wasn’t much to do besides poke around Chinatown, eat glorious food, and go see museums (of which there were about 10 in the near vicinity). Scott and I aren’t really museum buffs, so we spent most of it making pilgrimages for food and napping away our full bellies.

Food Pilgrimaging

Our first food pilgrimage involved finding a Baba Nonya restaurant (Baba Nonya is the kind of food that is a result of the combination of Chinese and Malay heritage – so essentially, Malaysian born Chinese). We had been recommended a restaurant, only in Chinese symbols, by a new-found friend in Singapore. So, off we went with four Chinese symbols written on a piece of paper. We thought it was pretty much going to be like finding a needle in a haystack, but we actually found the place after only about 10 minutes of searching! We sampled some of the laksa curries and baba chendol (ice shavings with kidney beans, some sort of green bean thing and chocolate). It was interesting on the palette.


Us at Capitol Satay - you basically stick a satay stick with stuff on it and cook it in the boiling peanut sauce in the middle of the table.

Us at Capitol Satay - you basically stick a satay stick with stuff on it and cook it in the boiling peanut sauce in the middle of the table.

The next food pilgrimage involved finding the highly touted “Capital Satay.” We found that one pretty easy (thanks to our orange bible, the Lonely Planet) and queued up. Even at 9 p.m on a Thursday, this place was popular…and all the locals were lined up – an excellent sign. We met a nice fellow named Kien, a Vietnemese expat living in Japan and doing post doctoral work on architecture and we all decided to try this out together. Now, Kien has a very special place in my heart. We came to the restaurant after a very sweaty run (even though it was 8 p.m at night and pitch black, the humidity is so intense that you can’t help not feeling like you just ran laps around a bikram yoga room), ready to feast. As we were sitting down, Kien says “you look like very nice couple.” I smile and think “oh, he must mean that we just look so happy and relaxed from the past three blissful months!”…but he continued on…”like movie stars.” WOW. If we look like movie stars three months into a trip with about five different raggedy outfits each, no makeup, and disheveled hair and sweating profusely, we must be doing pretty good. He also told Scott he looked like someone famous…and we asked “Michael Owen?” And he said “YES YES, that’s it!” (we had been told Scott looked like Michael Owen earlier that day and had no idea who he is until we performed a google search…apparently a very sexy David Beckham look-a-like soccer player.)

Anyway, onto the food. At Capitol Satay, you picked out all your “satay” items to cook from a shelf – you could choose anything from bread to crab stuffed peppers, to raw shrimp and chicken. We took a bit of everything. Then, you proceeded to “cook” it in the boiling peanut sauce, located in the middle of your table, heated by a propane tank. I was a bit anxious about the whole cooking raw meat situation….but it seemed to work out and we didn’t get sick. It was one of the most interesting culinary experiences of my life.

The Reunion Begins

Our first night in KL was spent catching up on Leanne’s life – she’s been living there for almost a year, and we haven’t had many opportunities to connect since she’s been gone. We got a tour of the Mind Valley office (can I work there, please?), met all of her awesome colleagues, and hung out in her lovely apartment. After a full catch up sesh, we got all dressed up, and she even let me borrow a dress and wear some jewelry! It was such indulgence after wearing my same tired four dresses that I have with me.

At the reggae bar with our Hookah

At the reggae bar with our Hookah

We went to a very fancy restaurant called “Work in Progress” and dropped the equivalent of two nights accommodation on food and drinks (thank goodness we were crashing on her couch for free). Leanne is living the high life in KL, that’s for sure! It was nice to splurge and spoil ourselves a bit though. :) Next, we tried going to a place called Luna Bar, but they felt Scott was not attractive enough to enter. We didn’t bring any jeans or nice shoes for him on this trip, since both are heavy and impractical items…and we have a bit of a philosophy when backpacking that if a bar won’t let us in with flip flops and shorts, then we don’t want to go there – not chill enough for us. The cover charge was also astronomical for Asia – about $25 Canadian dollars! We decided to come back on Sunday, when they don’t charge cover and Scott could borrow some jeans and shoes from his new BFF, Evan (another homegrown Edmontonian living the life in KL). So, off we went instead to Leanne’s “stomping grounds” Cheng Kat – to her favourite bar, Twenty-one. Bad news though, they wouldn’t let scroungry little Scott in, either! This is insanity! It’s not even that nice of a bar! So, we tried our luck at a raegge backpacker bar. Bob Marley only has love and peace for travelers like us, right? They’ve got to let us in, right? Almost no. They didn’t like Scott’s shorts, but obliged us our entry (probably so Mr. Marley wouldn’t gasp in shock from his grave). Upon getting in, however, we were told we weren’t allowed to sit at any of the tables unless we got bottle service. What was this place, Vegas? It’s KL in Malaysia! Jesus. We managed to find a table outside and ordered some sheesha (very popular over here in Asia) and hung out for most of the night…only to make one last stop at another watering hole called “Pinchos.”

The Hangover

The karma-rich Indian restaurant Annalakshmi

The karma-rich Indian restaurant Annalakshmi

Unfortunately, we spent the majority of our second day in KL moving pretty slow…a result of the strong alcoholic bevvies that they like to serve here. We watched a bit of Olympic hockey (GO Canada!), then took off on a little adventure for some good hangover food.

Our respite came in the form of a wonderful South Indian restaurant called Annalakshmi. The super cool thing about this restaurant is that you pay by donation. The restaurant is structured on the philosophy of good karma, and that when you give, you shall receive too. So, you pay according to your ability and what you think the food deserves. We had a delicious meal and indulged far too much! We pretty much waddled out of there, our bodies comatose from the rich food running through our veins.

We made a painful visit to the Petronas Towers (I was wishing for my youth and a stroller around this point) and walked around Chinatown. We tried to bargain hard for a few items, but things are more expensive here. Sunglasses that were 50 cents in Indonesia are now $6. We gave up, and decided we’d try our luck in Thailand…according to our memories things are cheaper there.

Batu Caves and Banana Leaves

The 100-ft Hindu god at Batu Caves

The 100-ft Hindu god at Batu Caves

We woke up early on Sunday morning and headed off to see the Batu Caves. Leanne had given us some good directions (bless her soul, she’d already been there three times this year, so we gave our tour guide the morning off). We met a new friend named Gian on our way there, and made the trek together.

The Batu Caves are a place of Hindu worship, and we happened to stumble upon them during a very large meditation retreat. The place was packed with women wearing the most beautiful saries, men wearing the traditional Indian outfits, and everyone lined up to pray in one of the three temples located either on ground level, in the cave, or really high up in the cave.

We made the 300 step or so walk up the stairs to the caves and it was very beautiful. A clan of Macaque monkeys (holy monkeys?) live up in the rocks, so we watched them mischievously steal people’s food (a lot of it which, I do believe, were offerings for the Hindu gods), remembering fondly our banana monkey experience in Ubud (was that really only a few mere weeks ago?!)

After our adventure, Leanne took us for “banana leaf” food – another delicious Indian treat where you are served all your food on a traditional banana leaf and you are supposed to eat with your hands. The curries were awesome, and we spent another afternoon waddling around afterwards.

This afternoon also marked the purchase of my highly sought after “Muslim outfit.” Having been traveling in Muslim countries now for a few weeks, I’ve decided I need to blend in more with the local women. Most of the Malay women wear the full head scarf, long skirt, deal…and I’ve been running around in some pretty revealing tank tops and short-shorts, which were very Australia and Bali appropriate during their heyday. I was a bit tired of men’s reactions: “Sir, could you give us directions to the bus station?” Man in uniform replies with open-mouthed gape at my chest area. I say to Scott as I try to clutch my shirt closed: “my shirt is too revealing. You need to ask.” I have also been videotaped and whispered at, and it was just time to get something to cover myself up with. I’ve been wanting some linen, so Leanne took me to a nice little boutique where I was able to get a very conservative linen top and some leggings. It’s hot, but it’s better than sex craved Muslim men looking at me. I must admit, if you are used to not seeing even a woman’s hair or ears, shoulders and breasts are pretty extreme.

Luna Bar

View of the Petronas towers from Lunabar.

View of the Petronas towers from Lunabar.

Our visit to Luna Bar deserves it’s own section, because it’s hands down, the most amazing bar I’ve ever been to. Now, this is saying something, because I’ve partied with the best of them in clubbing capitals like Ibiza, Paris, Vegas and New York. I gotta say, the Malay sure know how to design a rooftop bar.

Luna Bar is located on the top of a very posh hotel, looking out onto the Petronas Towers (another famously stunning landmark akin to the Eiffel Tower, the Sydney Opera House, and the Statue of Liberty). These puppies are made of pure steel and exude elegance, especially while lit up at night. The bar has tables that are built out over the city with glass walls so you are essentially sitting perched over KL, with the KL tower to your left and the Petronas Towers to your right. To top it all off, there is a pool located in the middle of the bar (it adds a nice touch), and in the men’s toilet, you actually pee in a glass trough that overlooks the KL tower. Unreal. We spent our last evening in KL with our old friend Leanne, and our new friend Gian, talking about the world, life and our futures. Best way to end our sejour here.

On the way home from our fantasmic bar experience, we stopped at an all-night “mama” (cheap cheap resto) Indian place and discovered a new favorite food – roti chenai (deliciously bad deep-fried flatbread) and roti tissue (a really thin bread caked in sugar and condensed milk inside, shaped like a volcano). KL really has the life…an unbelievable night club scene, topped off with the best after-bar food you can find for about two dollars. :)

Roti tissue - the paper-thin roti drenched in condensed milk and sugar inside... so good.

Roti tissue - the paper-thin roti drenched in condensed milk and sugar inside... so good.

We are now safely settled in our bus, heading into the highlands of Malyasia (called the Cameron Highlands). I am all prepared in my nice little Muslim outfit, ready to rock it. Here, we will spend a few days touring tea plantations, strawberry farms, and other such delights that grow in higher altitude jungles. Scott is sleeping next to me after a long night spent watching the Gold Medal Canada/US match (Team Canada freaking rocks). I figured it was important that one of us have our wits about us today, so I sacrificed my game watching instead. That’s love.

1 comment to K & L Reunited in KL

  • awesome post! was so great meeting you two & I hope the rest of your travels continue to be adventurous and hopefully cheaper than KL!

    who knows – may just need to jump on a plane & come join up with you guys somewhere along the way ; )

    keep on livin’ the dream,

    Evan

    PS I love how you write as if you actually experienced peeing through the glass trough Kenna. maybe you did..?

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