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Entries in Malaysia (4)

Tall Buildings and a Fine Meal

1047435-836438-thumbnail.jpgI don't know why, but I've always had a fascination with tall buildings.  I'm in the right place for that since our hotel is connected to the 2nd and 3rd tallest buildings in the world.  We've spent most of the first two days in Kuala Lumpur exploring the ginormous mall that connects the two towers together.  It is perhaps the biggest and best mall I have ever seen, and coming off of nearly two months of traveling where malls do not exist it is quite refreshing. We’d almost forgotten what it’s like to pay at a cash register instead of arguing at a stall in a market over the price of a toothbrush.

Last night we had the best meal we have ever eaten. And since our tagline is “Eating and Drinking Our Way Around the World” I think that’s saying a lot. It was not just the best meal of our trip, but the best ever. Frangipani, a French nouveau concept, is located in an ultra hip area of KL (as we locals call Kuala Lumpur) and made a definite statement from the outside. Not overdone, but clearly defining itself. Which is the same thing that can be said for the two story open interior which boasts a tastefully done pool of still water in the center.

The meal started off with our waiter telling us about the two specials of the day, an asparagus dish and a sardine dish. We picked the asparagus. A moment later a panicked waiter comes out apologizing profusely that they just ran out of the asparagus. We say no problem and don’t give it another thought until Chris Bauer, the head chef, comes out to personally apologize and offer us the sardines on the house. Not huge fans of sardines we graciously accepted so as not to offend. Turns out the dish was one of the finest things I have ever tasted, with imported sardines rubbed with fresh sea salt and prosciutto.

1047435-836437-thumbnail.jpgI’m not going to bore with some overly wordy and pretentious description of the courses to follow, but let’s just say that each was brilliant. There was not one single ingredient or garnish that wasn’t the best I’ve ever had. As a Jew I’ve had my fair share of smoked salmon, but nothing has ever compared to the tea smoked salmon starter. When it was time for dessert Chris returned to our table (as he had a few other times throughout the evening to make sure everything was ok) to see what we wanted. To say everything on the menu looked tempting was an understatement, so we told him to pick something and surprise us. Next thing we know he’s marching out with half the wait staff to present us with the most beautiful sampler I have ever seen. Our very first 10/10 on the Wandering Walkers Restaurant Rating Scale (or WWRRS for short).

A Rare Site to See in KL -- Jason in a Museum!

1047435-838297-thumbnail.jpgWe got dropped off by our taxi driver in Chinatown this day. We figured by the looks of it on the map it would be an easy walk over to the park in the center of town. Maps can certainly be deceiving not clearly defining railroad tracks, or the large gulches of water blocking passages. Over an hour of winding our way through the streets at mid-noon in about 90 degree heat, 100% humidity we stumbled onto the park. I saw the Islamic Arts Museum from afar, and figured this would be a perfect time to capitalize on the fact that museums are always air conditioned to freezer like temperatures. Jason took the bait and we were in.

1047435-838296-thumbnail.jpgThe feature exhibit “Spice Journeys –Taste and Trade in the Islamic World” was perfect, seeing as we’re eating and drinking our way around these countries. This was certainly no SF MOMA, but it did the trick. More than anything I was amazed to see Jason in a museum seeming somewhat interested in it all – I guess a food based exhibit will do that to him.

With no set plans in place after wandering around the park for a while, we decided we’d make it our mission to get to the KL Tower (the tallest building in KL). We thought we don’t need no fancy maps, we’ll just look up in the skyline and track it as we go. In theory this is a wonderful idea, although not sure if you’ve ever tried to get to a tall building merely by following where it appears to be. Let’s just say 2 hours later, drenched not only from the sweat dripping off of us, but also from the rain that ensued, we found it.

1047435-838294-thumbnail.jpgThe view from atop this 287 meter structure was pretty amazing – you could see a 360 view of everything in a 50 km area. They also give you an audio tour to guide you through what you’re looking out at – more than anything Jason was into the ambient Moby music playing in the background. By far the coolest thing was the insane lightening storms that opened up from the sky. Bolts were literally illuminating in the horizon, and the rains turned from a trickle to a full-fledged downpour. That’s when we knew we’d be taking a taxi home to end that adventure filled day.

Ode to Jennathan and All Solo Travelers. . .

1047435-839852-thumbnail.jpgIt didn’t hit me until yesterday at the Kuala Lumpur bus station just how difficult it could be to travel alone. The scene   at this bus station was insanity – people everywhere, to the point we could barely roll our bags through the crowds.   Each time we moved in any direction our backpacks seemed to knock over the person next to us. It was easily 90   degrees, and there was no air-con in the lovely station. Our bus to Melaka was leaving in 10 minutes, and the 3 hour bus ride would have no pit-stops.

This is where my respect for the unaccompanied traveler comes into play – just the feat of going to the bathroom with your entire fleet of luggage gets major props. I luckily had Jason to watch my big bag, and stupidly decided to keep my large backpack on. I could barely squeeze through the turn stall to get into the bathroom, on top having to scrounge for money to pay for the entry. Then came the task of jockeying for a stall with that large thing on my back, since people don’t line up in many S. Eastern countries – you kind of have to fight for a stall. The constant stream of ladies pressing into the very crowded bathroom was a claustrophobic’s nightmare

The thought of adding a rolling bag into the mix would have been unheard of – not to mention the floor was sopping wet and I felt like I had to disinfect my shoes just from standing in the puddles of bathroom water. So, what would you do if you were all alone, with all your bags, and no-one to watch your stuff? WWJD – what would Jennathan do? I must admit, I think I would have had a nervous breakdown in this moment!!!!

Mediocre Malaysia

My Malaysian experience falls squarely between The Best Country I’ve Ever Been To and The Worst Country I’ve Ever Been To. A perfect five if you will. While there were certainly plenty of great things about this country and plenty of not-so-great, nothing really stands out one way or the other. It’s a schizophrenic culture of equal parts Malay, Chinese, and Indian that don’t really meld into any single identity.

As I mentioned previously though, if you like big buildings this is a good place for you. Even though there’s really only the two twin towers and one large communications tower to marvel at. The rest, again, fall right smack dab into thirty-story mediocrity. It was great to be reminded of what a mall is like, and it was nice to know we had the option of going to Chile’s if we wanted to. Not that we ever ever would of course.

1047435-842732-thumbnail.jpgMalacca (or Melaka or Malaka – there’s a zillion ways to spell it apparently) was a pleasant surprise. We didn’t have the bar set all that high, but the Dutch influence was neat-o and it was obvious they spent a good deal of effort maintaining the original facades. A very walkable town, although as you can see in the video I decided to try my hand at driving a Trishaw. Much to the amusement of Joy and the normal driver. There was a nice night market (although we’re starting to find these all too common) but what set this one apart was stumbling on a room of Malay Line Dancing. Yeah, you heard that right.

There is also an old Portuguese Settlement in the southern outskirts of the city. We decided to trishaw it over there, but our first guy was too old to make it the distance. So he pawned us off onto another guy who just barely made it. We nicknamed him El Gordo as at first we thought the locals were laughing at us for riding in one of these stupid things. Then we realized they were actually laughing at how fat our driver was. But it was all worth it because we had the best crab of our lives caught right off the shore we were eating on.