Kuala Lumpur: The City with Three Towers

Finally, the last stop in my February trip. Before coming back to Korea, me and my friends went back to Malaysia to check out the capital, Kuala Lumpur. As the capital, I expected more from the city as compared to Malacca, and honestly I think it was more of a fun place to visit.

For one, there’s more stuff to see and do. Kuala Lumpur (from now on KL because I can’t spell) is a fairly big city with a decent amount of things to check out. We weren’t there for very long though, about a day and a half, but we still managed to see a decent amount.

The moment you get into the city, the most striking thing you see are the towers. Many cities have towers and they add to the overall atmosphere of the city, typically towering (heh) over the rest of the city and thus making it a pretty significant landmark.

The KL Tower in the early afternoon.
The KL Tower in the early afternoon.

So KL is pretty unique because it actually has three towers. The first tower is the traditional one, KL Tower. It looks like any other regular ol’ tower with a standard plain base and an observation deck. It also lights up in a bunch of different colours at night.

The other two towers are definitely much more spectacular. Technically, the Petronas Towers are not towers, but rather skyscrapers, but they’re called towers so here we are. Those are probably the most iconic buildings in Malaysia as they are twin buildings that are also connected. Being twin towers is important because by themselves, they wouldn’t be that impressive.

But the fact that there’s two and they’re joined by a giant mall makes all the difference. They’re actually pretty spectacular to look at, especially at night when the towers are just awash in light and look magnificent

The Petronas Towers at night.
The Petronas Towers at night.

The three towers are within walking distance of each other too. My hotel was close to the KL Tower but after maybe a 10? 15? minute walk you could reach the Petronas Towers too which was cool.

The least cool part though, was that I actually didn’t go up any of the towers. This is surprising because I actually really like going up towers to check out the city from observation decks. Pretty much every time I go to a city I check out the tower there. I did that in both Malacca and Singapore and also had the plan to do so in KL as well, but the theme of the trip was just, bad coordination and planning.

The stairs leading up to the Batu Caves.
The stairs leading up to the Batu Caves.

The first day went ok. We went out to check out the Batu Caves which was really cool, probably my highlight of the KL leg of my trip. The next day was a lot less coordinated. I thought that KL had a lot to see, but when you get actually get there you realize you don’t really need to spend that much time there.

For example we took the city bus for a bit. Out first stop was the Istana Negara which was really nice, but you weren’t allowed in. So you essentially got on the bus, got driven to a palace, walked around for five minutes, then got driven back to the city.

A lot of the city was similar too. Lots of nice scenic and interesting spots, but you walk around for a few minutes and realize there’s actually not too much to do.

Istana Negara, the residence of the Malaysian monarch.
Istana Negara, the residence of the Malaysian monarch.

Although I will admit, a lot of the city is nice. It’s just that I thought that there wasn’t much to do. Maybe I was just doing it wrong, and I probably was doing it wrong. But whenever we went to a park or to a random tourist attraction, we just ended up walking around for like 30 minutes and moving on because there was nothing there to keep us there.

I feel like KL is one of those places that has a lot to offer if you spend more time there. There’s enough stuff in there that I’m sure you can really find some unique stuff there. But being there for only a day and a half really limits how much you can do, especially considering you want to see as much as you can, which naturally results in spending minimal amount of time actually indulging in what the city has to offer.

But anyways back to the towers. I went to the base of the Petronas Towers and went into the mall, but we never went up. And my hotel was literally next to the KL Tower, but due to a massive fail in timing, we got to the tower at like 9:30 and just missed the last entry for the observation deck. Which really sucked because I really wanted to go up the tower to look at the Petronas Towers.

The National Mosque of Malaysia.
The National Mosque of Malaysia.

Malaysia was the first Southeast Asian country I went to, and also the first Muslim country I’ve been to. It was different and pretty neat to go visit, but I don’t really feel an urge to make a trip out of it and go again anytime soon. That said, I wouldn’t mind doing another short trip, like a day or two, to KL where I can check out a bit more of the city and reconsider my first impression. Even like a eight hour layover or something would be acceptable. I totally wouldn’t mind going up one of those towers, considering how I missed out last time.

And this is it! I’ve finally finished the recap of my February trip. Just in time for the end of 2016 too which is good because I was worried I wouldn’t get it done in time. Luckily this means that I have entries on this blog about every trip I’ve done (going home doesn’t count), which is pretty neat. I’ll write about travels again when I go somewhere new, but for now, other types of entries!

Singapore: The Theme Park City

Continuing the retrospective of my trip in February, the third part of my trip was to Singapore. I’ve actually heard a lot about Singapore before I went and was always curious to go. In fact, despite Malaysia being the main destination for that part of the trip, I was actually looking forward to the visit to Singapore the most.

I always think that city states are really interesting. They’re obviously really small so that impacts the development of the city a lot. When you’re dealing with a country the size of Canada for example, you can only micromanage so much. But with a city, you can do a lot more. Governments, businesses, the people, everyone. It’s like a breeding ground for their own unique culture and style. Which honestly is really cool.

The Esplanade theaters, which are shaped like durians.
The Esplanade theaters, which are shaped like durians.

Prior to my trip to Singapore, the only city states that I’ve been to were Hong Kong and Macau, which are both very unique cities too. Hong Kong feels very mature. It’s like a big financial city with many different traditional elements. Macau on the other hand doesn’t even really feel like a city, rather more like a traditional town that just so happens to contain a massive gambling strip. It feels quite artificial in a sense because you know it was developed for a specific reason.

Singapore feels kind of like a mix of that for various reasons. For one, it has that big city feel like Hong Kong does, but things feel a bit, newer, I guess. A lot of the buildings feel very modern and unique, especially with their interesting architecture and designs. Their streets are also really clean and well decorated with both modern and natural elements. The overall atmosphere feels quite nice. I really liked it there.

In a way, it kinda reminded me of Disneyworld or something. You’re in a place that kinda feels familiar but just, more magical or something. The buildings are nice and fancy, and everything is just very prim and proper. When you’re walking through the city you also end up finding many interesting buildings or displays just scattered around, which makes it like a mini adventure even when you’re just walking down the street.

Mirror orbs in a park-like area.
Mirror orbs in a park-like area.

My favourite part of Singapore by far was the Gardens by the Bay. It’s absolutely amazing because it’s probably the most unique fusion of natural and man-made elements I have ever seen. You’re in this giant park right behind the Marina Bay Sands, which is a sight to behold to begin with, but you’re not looking at the Sands, you’re looking at the two unique observatories that jut out of this.. forest of both real trees and supertrees.

I don’t even really have the words for it. It’s just such a unique park. First off, those two observatories are really cool. The Cloud Forest is definitely the coolest conservatory I’ve ever seen. Not only is the building aesthetically pleasing to look at, but the exhibit itself is mindblowing. It’s such a cool showcase of plant life and the route you take going through it is really awesome too. Parts of it are on suspended bridges which just adds to the whole experience. The other observatory, the Flower Dome, was cool too, but it was not as unique as the Cloud Forest.

Suspended bridges branching in the Cloud Forest.
Suspended bridges branching in the Cloud Forest.

The main theme of this post really is wonder and amazement. There’s just so many things I thought was so cool in Singapore that despite only really being there for like, a day and a half, I had an amazing time.

Maybe it’s because I’m a design student now, but I’ve found myself appreciating unique design a lot more now than I used to. Going back to the idea of the design of city states, obviously the basic needs of the citizens and residents are paramount. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t go above and beyond in other aspects, especially when you’re dealing with a smaller area where atmospherics can actually be applied. In a way, it kinda brands the city too and makes it more attractive for tourists.

I really think that Singapore does this really well. Whether you’re wandering the downtown core checking out the fancy buildings, or at Sentosa, which like actually is a theme park, or even while you’re checking out the nature at the night safari, everything in Singapore feels so uniquely Singaporean. It’s hard to explain, but the feeling is really neat. The city is so cohesive and well integrated.

The sense of natural co-existence is fairly strong in Singapore.
The sense of natural co-existence is fairly strong in Singapore.

Overall, I had a really great time in Singapore. My biggest regret of my entire February trip was that I couldn’t spend more time in Singapore. A variety of reasons ended up making my visit a bit shorter than I liked, but I did a lot when I was there. And honestly, everything was fun. Expensive, but fun.

I would definitely go back to Singapore. In fact, I’d go back like, soon too if the opportunity arose. I think that when I go back to Southeast Asia, I’m going to use Singapore as a hub for sure. I felt very comfortable there and liked what I saw, and there’s definitely more cool things to be seen. I’d recommend people to go check it out too.

Like I said, it’s a bit expensive though. I think it’s probably the most expensive place in Asia, even more than Japan. Which honestly is just more shocking due to where it is, since all the countries around Singapore are fairly cheap. Regardless, totally worth it.

Malacca City: My Friend’s Home City

Back in February I had a chance to visit a few places on a quick escape from Korea. One of those destinations was Malaysia, which I went to after my week in Hong Kong. It was my first time in Southeast Asia and I wasn’t really sure what to expect.

I didn’t really plan too much for the Malaysian part of my trip actually. I normally like planning things in advance when I go on vacation, but this one was a bit special because I was going with friends, one of which actually lives there. We all met in Korea, and so we’re from different countries and it just so happened that our Malaysian friend decided to go home for Chinese New Year and invited a bunch of us to go visit him while he was there.

It seemed like a good opportunity because not only was a lot of people interested in going on this trip, he could also show us around too. So we had like, what, 10 people? Or so, and we all met up in Malaysia. Our first stop, was Malacca City, where my friend actually lives in.

The street market in Jonker Walk.
The street market in Jonker Walk.

Since there were so many of us, I didn’t stay at his house, but I did go there to check it out. It was kinda cool because there’s a show in Korea called “내 친구의 집은 어디인가” which translates into “Where is My Friend’s Home”. It’s a spin-off of another show, “비정상회담”, where a bunch of non-Koreans living in Korea discuss things and share their perspectives and experiences.

Since that original show was so successful, they decided to create a travel show where a bunch of the members would go and visit another member’s home country. I used to watch it a lot but then I started getting pretty busy and stopped watching. But regardless, this entire trip had that feel.

It was kind of the same deal too because all of my friends that were on that trip were from different countries too. It just so happened that we met up in Korea and ended up going to Malaysia because this random dude invited us. So it had a cool dynamic to the trip.

See, the church says Melaka but Wikipedia says Malacca so I don't even know anymore.
See, the church says Melaka but Wikipedia says Malacca so I don’t even know anymore.

Malacca is alright. It’s kinda like the cultural and historical city of Malaysia and they have a lot of historical buildings and remnants of a different time. It’s kinda neat to look at, but the city itself is quite small. After about a day and a half we ran out of stuff to look at.

Which is kind of a shame because I thought there would be more to do so I ended up staying an extra day which ended up being kind of a waste of time. I should’ve just went to Singapore one day earlier, but whatever, live and learn I guess.

Not many tall buildings.
Not many tall buildings.

It was kinda a neat intro to the country though. It was definately very different from any other place that I’ve been to so far. It was February but it was still 30 something degrees, which is straight up ridiculous to me. But, since it’s always summer that also means there’s an abundance of lizards.

Now, those who know me know that I had lizards. I have like, a distinct phobia when it comes to these disgusting animals. It was pretty bad when I was in Malacca because since it wasn’t like, a big city, there were lizards everywhere. It made life quite difficult for me since I’m honestly incapable of doing anything if I know a lizard is nearby.

During the day it was a bit better, but once the sun went down the lizards start coming out in full force and I couldn’t bring myself to be near any walls while outside since they’re literally everywhere. Even the thought makes my skin tingle.

Malacca has an interesting mix of cultural and historical sights.
Malacca has an interesting mix of cultural and historical sights.

Overall Malacca was ok. I don’t think I’d ever go back though. Doesn’t really seem like the place that you would go back to if you were just going to sightsee. And if you were going to go sightsee, just a day or two would be enough. Think of it like a brief stop on the way from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore. If you think of it like that it’s totally worth it.