KL the second time around did not jump any surprises at us. I find KL similar to any of the big cities in India. Crowded. Thankfully,The Heritage suites at MinesCity is away from the hustle and bustle of the downtown area and Kenny, the cabbie who we had hired to be our chauffeur during our stay this time, had to drive a long stretch of the country side to reach the place. Kenny alias Ali ( If you are wondering if he was a Christian or a Moslem, he was neither, he was Buddhist), was a short man with gelled slick hair.
He had an unquenchable need to chatter all the time , as we found out over the next few days, and not necessarily intelligent talk. His conversations were peppered with plenty of Malanglish ( Malay English) He kept ending all his sentences with Corey-na (Correct na?) to get our agreement.
We witnessed some commotion caused by a high strung man and his cabbie just as we arrived. The other cabbie drove away fuming and shaking his fists having refused his fare. Not a pleasant sight to watch just as you arrive at the suites on a holiday. The gentleman who had had the tiff, looked harmless and docile in a pair of Bermuda shorts. Just as I was framing an opinion about cabbies in Malaysia, he got into another tiff with the check in attendant. His family, parents, wife and son, all dressed in matching length outfits, restlessly shuffled their feet till the man of the house came back with the key cards to their rooms. We waited till they were done. That family looked like they really needed this break.
The check in attendant waited for the ruffled party to leave so that she could pour her heart out to the next family, ours, waiting to check in. We were in the best of our conduct and the lady tried to win some brownie points with us telling us how efficient she was and how she had to manage the front office all by herself in the absence of two of her co workers. We looked behind our shoulders and it didn’t seem that she would have to do much since we were the only families checking in at that point. She gracefully ran us through the what-to-do-around-KL list and educated us on the safety (or the lack of) of tourists around the city. She offered us one of the best rooms in the condominium (we got better treatment than the previous family that had pissed her off) with perhaps the best view since we hadn’t rushed her and that is where we probably scored over the other family. Maybe the fact that we spoke Tamil which was her first language as well, did help. She was Malay all the way otherwise, from the way she was dressed to the way she wore make up over her dark complexion.
I agree the room had a view. What she did not warn us about was that the room came with a scent too. It smelt like it had not been aired out since the last pest control treatment. Our first impressions of the room being spacious and bright was scarred by the smell that was emanating from the kitchenette drainage and the cupboards. We activated all the air cons in the condo and ran the water in the sink hoping to wash the odor off. We called the front office attendant and appraised her. We unpacked. We were hungry. It is amazing how hungry you get when on a vacation. We knew that the condo didn’t offer any food, in terms of restaurants, except for one that served Chinese Vegetarian. If you have lived in Singapore or this side of Asiapac, you know how vegetarian dishes here are very different from the Indian vegetarian that we are so used to. So we gave that a pass and drove out to the city in search of one of man’s basic needs.
We bumped into our friendly check in attendant and reminded her that she needed to freshen up the room. She offered a change of rooms to another spectacular room with a view on a lower floor but we were already unpacked and were too hungry to consider the offer without letting the hunger pangs interfere. So, we settled for the same room but wanted it fresher smelling than it was.
How far away the condo was from the hustle and bustle of the city hit us now, when we went looking for a place to have lunch at. We drove and we drove and we drove some more. We wanted to eat decent Indian food and had already decided where. All we had to do now was to find the place. When we finally did find the place, a board there greeted us with a note that said that the restaurant was closed on Mondays. So to save time and to avoid fainting in desperation for food, we stopped at the next Indian restaurant we crossed that served south Indian food on banana leaf. The lesser said the better. Lets just leave it at this- If it had not been for the hunger pangs that was threatening to blind us now, we would never have eaten there.
On our way back from lunch our friendly cabbie suggested we stop at The Midvalley mall for some shopping. Akank wanted to get back to the glorious pool we saw at the condo but having driven that far into the city we thought we should spend another hour even if it meant just stopping at the mall. When we drove back home (amazing how a foul smelling place soon earns that status in a matter of half a day), it was past four in the evening. All of us just wanted to go to bed before we did anything more. Akank was not up for a swim nor a fight. As soon as our heads hit the pillows, we were blissfully fast asleep.
We awoke refreshed and headed to the much talked about Petaling street. It lived up to its hype and reputation. Thousands of shacks selling Prada, Gucci, Lv and other leading brands in accessories. At Petaling Street you can buy ties by Ralph Lauren, Hugo Boss, Armani, Leather accessories for one third the price of the original. One walk through is enough to spoil you for choices. The grand finale of the day was the dinner at The Bombay Palace. We had to make up for the bad choice of restaurant we made at lunch. The restaurant was renowned for it’s high quality Indian food, said Kenny. All over the walls were awards proclaiming the fact. We indulged in high calorie grilled veggies and other shahakari delights and headed back home, appeased.
Have you wondered why they make cots that are so short when they have no clue what sizes the guests who will use them be? The night was comfortable and soon the lack of sleep took over and it didn’t matter how long or short the bed was, after a restful night we were ready for the Day. The first was a visit to the Royal Selangor Pewter company. I was not sure how this was going to go, but as it turned out, I was pleasantly surprised.
Our chirpy young driver Kenny met us at the appointed hour and drove us to the factory. We had a two hour tour of the museum, the factory, the visitor centre and purchasing pewter gifts for people back home. For someone who had never heard of pewter until that morning, I can easily talk about the alloy for an hour at least now.
We learnt how it all started in the 17th century and how the business is run by the 4th generation family of the founder. We saw the skilled workers carving pewter goodies and making new products out of molds. The largest beer mug made of pewter that made it to the Guinness records is here too.
At the end of our tour, we were accosted by the one of the directors and a direct descendant of the founder who told us the amazing story of the lucky teapot and how it came into being the trade mark product of the Royal Selangor company. Of course, we came back with our wallets lighter but we were pleased as punch and knew that it was the best two hours of the morning.
From there we drove to Batu Caves.The 272 step steep climb didn’t look like a good idea to me. My ankles still felt sore, so I was content watching the others climb. Batu caves turned out to be a photographers delight. The huge idols of Hanuman and Murugan were the most photographed.
By the time we were done at Batu Caves, all of us were hungry and we knew exactly where we were heading to for lunch. The elusive restaurant that was closed for yesterday. Annalakshmi was different here. What was familiar was the quality of food; what was new was the cost of the meal. We learnt that the pay as much as you wish, that the KL Annalakshmi offered, did not always payoff most times because they have a lot of Indians, who like to come here for a meal and walk away without even paying a penny. This is one of those rare occasions when I feel terribly sad to be Indian. We ate a sumptuous lunch and paid handsomely. The volunteers nodded in appreciation and the manager assured us that we had indeed paid well.
Our quelled appetite, heart and mind that were happy after the visit to the Royal Selangor Pewter company and the invigorating walk at Batu caves (for the climbers) made a wonderful first half of the day. We rested, snoozed and rejuvenated till sunset. We had a fluid plan for the evening. We voted against driving up to the fireflies swamp ( the black clouds overhead did not look encouraging at all) and decided to go swimming instead. We stayed in the pool for two hours watched the sun set from the pool.
A short walk from the residence took us to a dosa joint. That is what we did for dinner. On our way we met a couple of men who were in the escalator with us. They said they were from Libya. Naturally we asked them what the current situation in their country was. One of the men managed in broken English, with a loud noisy kiss he blew into the air “My president is safe. All is good.” Gaddafi fanatics. Thankfully we did not voice our opinions. On our way back, the dear husband (who believes that one should be polite to the neighbors even if you don’t feel particularly friendly with your own family), found out from another co passenger in the lift that she was from Iran. The lady had flawless skin (among other flawless attributes), and was wearing clothes that her forefathers would not approve of. She spoke Farsi that sounded so much like Arabic. She could have easily walked the ramps for some leading couture designers even without any make up. Maybe not. She was not skinny by any stretch of imagination. Maybe made it to Hollywood with a pretty face like that.
We had stayed up past midnight recalling the events of the day, watching music on Telly and examine our new purchases from Royal Selangor.
We woke just past 8 in the morning . We had promised to meet Kenny at 9.30 at the lobby to drive us to Genting Highlands on Titiwangsa Mountains about 1700 meters above sea level. After toast and coffee that had become our staple breakfast in the last three days, we were good to go. We drove to the Sky way cable car and took the magnificent route through the Malaysian tropical forests. The 3.4km distance was covered in a 15minute span. The views from the cable car were breathtaking.
By the time were reached atop the hill, Kenny had driven up in his Alza and was beaming at us from the exit gates of the cable way. Was it breezy and cold there. What a change from tropical weather. Loved it.
The weather as I said, was fabulous, cold , foggy and sunny at the same time. The lady at the counter cautioned us that there would be no refund of the outdoor theme park ticket if it rained. ( I had a feeling that this warning of no refund had something to do with us being Indian, but maybe that was just me). Even though there were menacing gray clouds that were overhead, the spirit of the place refused to let us accept that it would rain down the day and thankfully we were right. Through out our day there at GH, the weather stayed beautiful, divine.
It was as though paradise had opened its doors to her every whim and fancy. She managed to convince her dad to live on the edge for exactly three minutes of his life after which he gave up. She tried out all the extreme rides without getting fazed by the queues or the fact that she was attempting it all by herself.
At the end of the day she was much quieter and looked like the wind had been knocked off her. That is what happens when you live life on the edge. Look at us wimps. We were good to go for a few more hours. After a late lunch at MarryBrown, a brand that we were familiar with from back home at Chennai (little did we know it was a Malaysian brand), we were ready to drive back from Genting.
The drive back was another fascinating journey. We stopped on the way back at the Chin Swee Chinese temple.
The founder of Genting Highlands theme parks is said to have built this temple in honour of the Goddess here and taken her permission, so to speak, to run his business atop the hill. There were larger than life statues of the Buddha and we climbed the nine tiered pagoda to view the fabulous surroundings. We were treated to large doses of green, quiet, cold, peaceful ambiance.
Kenny was a good driver and brought us back to the base in time for us to chill and put our feet up before dinner. We drove back into the city for dinner. Too much of good food is boring too. We realized that after dinner. Maybe tomorrow we will do something else.
After a long restful night, the house stirred awake at 8 in the morning. We had a lazy start to the morning since we were not meeting Kenny till 10 am. Today was take it easy day. A drive down to Bukit Bintang and the place Kenny has been hard selling to us that made crocodile leather goodies….
The leather goodies place was where we went to at first. Learning for the day: Always give a half hour additional cushion time to the cabbie, on days you want to take it easy. The leather goods place had this executive who showed us the different hides they used to make their products.This was he first time I saw raw hide of ostrich (it had the markings from where the feather had been plucked off) and snake( even the touch feel of it made my hair stand on its ends). They also had sheep and crocodile hide. There were plenty of bags, wallets, belts and pouches on sale. The chirpy sales attendant announced that it was our lucky day since they had a half price sale on most goodies just for that day ( a dialogue I am sure one would hear every day at that outlet). The place was a frequently visited tourist stop. We saw many people picking things of their choice. We did our bit of shopping too and walked up to the Beryls chocolate kingdom next doors. We were treated to a taste of different chocolate flavours by the sales attendants there. We picked green tea chocolate, white and almond chocolates for back home. Their ice-creams were a delight too.
We stopped for lunch at Ciao , an Italian restaurant, located in the Royal Selangor Golf Club. Another fantastic recommendation from Kenny, our ever enthusiastic, well informed, cabbie. The ambiance was genuinely Italian( Trust me, I have been to Italy and this joint is this close to the real thing) and the pizza they served lived up to the Italian reputation. A restaurant one must eat at while in KL. After lunch, we drove to Bukit Bintang which turned out to be the streets with the most malls in Malaysia. After being in Singapore for a year, malls anywhere else really don’t impress you much. But because Kenny would be disappointed, we played along.
By the time we walked back to the car it was past four in the evening. We drove home. Around sunset, we went back for a dip in the pool. We watched another glorious sunset from the pool on the 7th floor. Dinner was a low key affair. Dosas at Seetharham. Dorai (the man who attended to us a couple of nights back) was pleased to see us there again.
KL without the regular tourist spots is much more fun. Will love to go back another time.