Malaysia Musings: look beyond the skyscrapers and the exciting night life for a rich cultural experience
"May is the worst time to visit Malaysia. The humidity will kill you."
"Oh, it's just another Southeast Asian country with skyscrapers!"
"Try one of the European countries instead."
These are only a few of the bits of advice that I received before I booked my flight tickets to Malaysia. I decided to ignore their dire warnings and listen to my 'inner voice’ instead. This country had always been on my slam book list of 'Places I want to visit when I grow up' and I had to make this dream come true.
My agitation and anxiety about the weather and the country took a back-seat the moment I reached KL International Airport.
To begin with, I discovered that Malaysia in the month of May, is beautiful. The skies are blue with a few cotton candy clouds and there is very little rain. Or maybe I just got lucky...
Secondly, I was captivated by the cityscapes and the enchanting rainforests that the country is known for.
Malaysia also has beautiful beaches and a busy island life. And while no vacation is long enough to immerse in the cultural mix of Malay, Chinese, European and Indian influences that Malaysia has to offer, I have listed a few experiences that you should not miss on your trip to Malaysia...
A Captivating Cityscape – Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur is a typical city – complete with skyscrapers, glittering lights, men and women in black suits and of course a watch-tower.
The Petronas twin towers
But KL’s cityscape has more to offer than just the Petronas twin towers. Walk down the bustling streets for another 2 kms and you will reach the Menara KL Tower.
Take the high-speed elevator to reach the top of the tower and you will discover that the view on the sky-deck is completely worth it. The KL Tower is 421 m high and gives you a 360-degree view of the Malaysian capital. If you want to catch a glimpse of the mountains in the horizon, visit the tower during the day. The night view, on the other hand, is a party in itself.
Old city charm
Dataran Merdeka has an old-city charm that you cannot miss. The Merdeka Square has a flag post in the centre, where the Malayan flag flies high. It was in Merdeka Square that the Malayan flag was hoisted for the first time in the country, which is why, it is also called ‘Independence Square.’
If you visit the Independence Square around Ramzan, you would be able to buy local spices, incense and cosmetics at bargain prices.
Every year on August 31, the National Day Parade is held at the Independence Square and it is also the site of the first Independence parade.
For those who have always wanted to experience the dramatic change of guards in UK’s Buckingham Palace and if a Euro-trip looks like a far-fetched dream, Istana Negara is the place to be. This is the official residence of the Monarch of Malaysia and is opened for the public during Diwali every year.
If you are tired after all the walking around and have a little time to spare, drop into the Harriston chocolate boutique. Besides the usual nut wrapped chocolates, don’t miss the signature ruby and tiramisu chocolates that are available there.
Modern town - Putra Jaya
A 25-km bus or ferry ride from KL will take you to the administrative centre of Malaysia. Here you can enjoy the 20th century architecture of Putra Jaya, with its coloured domes, silent lake and lush-green paths. The entire city is man-made, including the lake.
While the streets of Putra Jaya seem to have European influences, the administrative buildings are inspired by Islamic architecture. There are a number of bridges here. The most important bridge in the planned city of Putra Jaya is its Y-shaped Seri Wawasan Bridge.
Enchanting rainforests - Genting Highlands
If you thought Malaysia is just another South-east Asian country with skyscrapers, you are wrong. Almost 57 km from the bustling city of KL, lies the lush green rainforests of Pahang, Malaysia.
You will spot Mount Ulu Kali, at almost 1,800 metres above the sea level, which houses Genting Highlands or the Resorts World Genting.
Genting Highlands is a perfect escape from the heat and to enjoy some adventures too. It comprises hotels, shopping malls, indoor theme parks and casinos, and offers a 'wonderland' of its own.
The two cable cars - Genting Skyway and Awana Skyway, offers breathtaking views of the 120-year old rainforests of Malaysia as they take their passengers to the City of Entertainment. The Skyways stop at two stations - at the Chin Swee Cave Temples and the Sky Avenue Shopping Mall.
The Sky Avenue Shopping Mall is home to a vast range of restaurants. The Coffee Terrace is the place to be if you want the best of all worlds – as the restaurant has an extensive all-day buffet spread comprising Indian, Western, Japanese, Chinese, Thai and Malaysian cuisine.
While the Skytropolis Indoor Theme Park is one of the main attractions at Genting Highlands, the more adventurous tourists can try to get lucky at the Sky Casino.
From India to Malay - Batu Caves
Batu Caves is probably one of the most touristy places in Selangor, Malaysia. Besides the cave temples in the limestone hill, the landmark of the Batu Caves is the large statue of Lord Murugan. This golden statue is the tallest in Malaysia and third largest statue in the world!
A rainbow coloured stairway of 272 stairs leads to several Hindu shrines and legends, at the top of the caves. Walking up to the caves is not easy as it is a long trek and one must be careful of the hundreds of monkeys that have made the caves their home!
Once you explore Malaysia, it will always seem that no vacation is long enough to explore the beauty of this country and its unique mix of culture and modernity.
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