W1702 – Towering inferno

In my last post, W1702 – Going ape for breakfast, I described a very wet visit to Singapore Zoo on my final day of three spent in Singapore. We set sail in the late afternoon, and arrived in our next port of call, Port Klang in Malaysia early the following morning.

Port Klang is the port for Kuala Lumpur, and the shore tour I had selected that day was to view the best of Kuala Lumpur. The tour was 9 hours long, including the transfer time from the port to the city, which the brochure said was around 75 minutes on a good day.

It was quite a walk along a pier over the water to reach the terminal building, where we had to descend two escalators to reach ground level and our coach. I was a little unsure of the slogan on the back of the coaches, but I was very impressed with how plush the interior was fitted out:

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Our local guide was born in Malaysia, but his great-grandparents had emigrated there from Southern India, and he spoke with quite a strong Indian accent. I found I had to concentrate quite hard to pick up everything he said, which was tiring as he was one of those guides who talked continuously without any pauses. He was clearly very proud of his country, which is great, but when for example he kept pointing out models of cars made by Malaysian car companies that were in front of the coach it became a little tedious, not least because most on the coach couldn’t see them anyway.

The roads initially were quite rough and bumpy, but as we got nearer to Kuala Lumpur they improved considerably. The traffic was comparatively light, and it took us the 75 minutes to reach our first stop, the National Museum. After leading us to the entrance and handing over our tickets, the guide gave us an hour of free time to explore the museum. Here are a selection of items that caught my eye both inside and outside the museum:

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Also visiting the museum was a large party of kindergarten children, all dressed in red uniforms. I noticed that they all had yellow stickers on their backs giving their details in case they got lost, which I thought was a good idea:

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Re-boarding the coach, we then drove to our next stop, a park where both the Cenotaph and National Monument are located. The Cenotaph was originally erected close to the railway station following the First World War by the British administration, to honour those from the British Malayan colonies who were killed in the war. The cenotaph’s inscription later included fallen British Malayan soldiers of World War II, added after the conclusion of World War II and the resumption of British rule. In 1964 the Cenotaph was moved to it’s current location next to the National Monument when a flyover was built in it’s old location. The National Monument is dedicated to the 11,000 people who died during the 12-year Malayan Emergency (1948–1960), and was completed and officially opened on the 8th February 1966. On the 27th August 1975 the monument suffered extensive damage due to an explosion set off by a communist terrorist, it has since been restored to its original state. It is the world’s tallest bronze freestanding sculpture grouping:

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Also in the park I photographed the national flower of Indonesia, the Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, and some sculptures erected to commemorate the Association of South-East Asian (Asean) Countries:

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Our next stop was just by a busy roadside close to a modern mosque, which was unusual in that it’s dome was not the standard onion shape. We had stopped to view the old railway station, with it’s Moorish architecture, but we were some distance from it, and standing right next to a very busy roundabout it was almost impossible to understand what our guide was telling us about it:

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We then drove to a five-star hotel, we’re we had an hour to enjoy a buffet-style lunch, along with several other coaches from our ship also out on tour. Although almost all the passengers on our coach returned on time, one couple managed to be 15 minutes late, and coolly walked on board with barely a whispered apology, making us even further behind our schedule.

We then drove to view the most famous building in Kuala Lumpur, the Petronas Twin Towers. They were completed in 1996, and at 451.9 m were the tallest buildings in the world until 2004 – they remain the tallest twin towers in the world. The towers feature a double decker skybridge connecting the two towers on the 41st and 42nd floors, which is the highest 2-story bridge in the world. It is not attached to the main structure, but is instead designed to slide in and out of the towers to prevent it from breaking, as the towers sway several feet towards and away from each other during high winds. It also provides some structural support to the towers in these occasions. The bridge is 170 m above the ground and 58.4 m long, weighing 750 tons.

As we approached the Twin Towers on the coach I caught this photograph of their reflection in another tower block, which I think I prefer to the photographs I could get of the towers directly when once again we made a brief stop at the roadside, as we were shooting into the sun. I did catch a more interesting view of the fountains below the towers though:

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I was then able to get a better shot of the twin towers from the coach window as we drove on, the sun being at a better angle:

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We then drove past a temple on our way to our next stop, at the Kuala Lumpur Tower. This telecommunications tower, opened in 1996, stands some 421m high and is the 7th tallest freestanding tower in the world. Here we were given tickets to go up the tower, and after queuing to use one of the four express lifts we had extensive views across the city – mainly it seemed of lots and lots of tower blocks, either completed or under construction:

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It was an even longer queue for the lifts going down, and once we were all back together at the coach we set off again across the city. After passing the entrance to Chinatown, we pulled up beside the road outside the former administration offices from when the British ruled Malaysia. We stayed on the coach as the guide explained how they are now being renovated, and also pointed out the half-timbered buildings across a park on the other side of the road, a very British-looking sight:

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We then left the coach, and our guide led us down a side road, and pulled a screen aside from one of the many construction works going on in and around that area to show us the convergence of the two rivers flowing through Kuala Lumpur – the Klang and the Gombak:

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He then led us literally through a construction site to reach a large covered market, our final stop on this marathon tour. Outside the market was the last postbox dating back to British rule. Here we were given 45 minutes to shop, and while I am sure some of the passengers were delighted with this, I was bored after around 5 minutes looking around inside, so went walkabout outside and actually found some older buildings as well as more market stalls:

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As we walked wearily back across a car park to our coach, we passed another of the coaches doing the same tour, marooned with a puncture. We were able to rescue only 9 of the people on that coach, goodness knows when the rest of them finally made it back to the ship.

By now it was rush-hour time, and it was a painfully long and slow journey of almost two hours back to our ship. Fortunately the ship’s representative on board managed to persuade our guide to keep quiet for most of the way so that we could doze, but he only did so after telling us even more about the city, and telling us a sequence of jokes, which mostly produced groans rather than laughter.

We returned to the ship extremely hot and tired, and after a much needed shower it was off to the café on board to eat as it was way past our set time in the restaurant for dinner.

This always was going to be a marathon tour, and as it was billed as the best of Kuala Lumpur I had assumed that there would be lots of great things to see as there had been in Singapore. However my abiding memories are of tower blocks after tower blocks in extremely hot and humid conditions – almost like an inferno – and I didn’t feel the former made it worth enduring the latter for so long. The tour needed to be much shorter, not least to ensure the return journey was made well before the rush-hour chaos on the roads.

The next day was a desperately needed sea day to recuperate, before we arrived in Phuket, Thailand. My adventures there, involving a speed boat and James Bond, will feature in my next post.

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