Malaysia Land of promising smiles

“A great marriage is not when the ‘perfect couple’ comes together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences….. Dave Meurer”

It was a trip to mark our 30th wedding anniversary. Thirty years of togetherness, 30 years of loving and at times hating each other. We wanted to go on an overseas trip but our upper-middle-class mindset was still hesitant to spend money for enjoyment. We poured through brochures, Internet, travelogues, and finally zeroed in on Malaysia.

I consulted many friends who had visited Malaysia and planned the itinerary. My niece in Kuala Lumpur also guided us. We decided to visit Kuala Lumpur, Penang, and Malacca. We got our tourist visas and booked our flight tickets to Kuala Lumpur from Kochi international airport. Next, we booked our rooms in hotels in Penang and Malacca and also bus tickets from Kuala Lumpur to Penang and Malacca. My husband, my younger daughter and I boarded Air Asia flight K 0039 from Cochin International Airport at 12 midnight on May 27, 2019, and landed in Kuala Lumpur International Airport four hours later.

We were received by Mujib Rahman, a driver arranged by my niece, Divya. He took us to her place, a luxury flat on the 21st story of a condominium opposite Bukit Jalil stadium, where Commonwealth Games were held. After a wash and change of clothes, we were off in Rahman’s SUV to Batu Caves.

The limestone forming Batu Caves is believed to be around 400 million years old. They were known only to local residents until 1878 when the American naturalist William Temple Hornaday brought it to light. K. Thamboosamy Pillay, a leader of the Tamil Hindu community in Malaya (as the region was then called), built a temple within the caves in 1891. There are 272 steps to climb to reach the top. Right below the cave is a beautiful golden Murugan statue and at the top, there are a lot of other deities and small temples.

The caves themselves are mesmerising as the limestones eroded with the passage of time gives the caves a haunting feel. Suddenly it started raining. That is the beauty of the tropical climate. Sun and rain play hide and seek throughout the day. From there we started our journey to Genting Highlands, a highlight of Kuala Lumpur. On the way, we stopped at a strawberry farm with an abundance of Lavender, Orchids, Anthurium and Gerbera flowers.

Mujib Rahman left us at lower Genting where we had lunch at an Indian-cum-Malayan restaurant and tried the Nasi Goreng, which is a type of Malayan fried rice and then bought tickets for glass-floored gondolas. Genting Skyway is also recognised as the ‘World’s Fastest Mono Cable Car System’ with a maximum speed of 21.6 kilometers an hour and the ‘Longest Cable Car in Malaysia’ and probably in Southeast Asia.

Resorts World Genting is an integrated hill resort development comprising hotels, shopping malls, theme parks, and casinos, perched on the peak of Mount Ulu Kali at 1,800 meters high and nestled near the border between the states of Pahang and Selangor, Malaysia.

Our second day in Kuala Lumpur started early as we had booked the 9 am entrance ticket to Petronas Tower. To escape traffic snarls, Mujib suggested we leave by seven and reached there by 8.45 am.  Once considered the tallest building in the world from 1998 to 2004, the Petronas Towers designed by Cesar Pelli stand as a cultural and architectural icon in Kuala Lumpur. Completed in 1998, the Towers are a reflection and homage to the dominant Islamic culture of Malaysia. On Tuesday it was our 30th wedding anniversary. So we got the opportunity to be together on the 86th floor of the towers and we captured the moment and got a framed photograph as a souvenir for 63 Malaysian Ringets.

Next on our agenda was the bird sanctuary, which is home to more than 3,000 birds of 200 local and foreign species. The main feature that distinguishes Kuala Lumpur Bird Park from other bird parks is the concept of free-flight. It took us more than three hours to cover the park. We later had lunch at an Indian restaurant, ‘M Grill’, owned by our guide and driver. Our next visit was to the aquarium which is an oceanarium beneath the KLCC convention center and is one of the largest aquariums in South East Asia. One of the highlights of Aquaria KLCC is a giant tank, a 90m walk-through tunnel with a moving travelator in its center. Inside you’ll be surrounded by sand tiger sharks, huge stingrays, and more. The Stream plays host to the giant water rat and the adorable Asian small-clawed otter.

After dinner, we left by bus for Penang, our next destination. The bus reached Penang at 5 am. As the hotel check-in time was 3 pm, we washed at the bus terminal and after breakfast, we left for Georgetown, the capital of Penang. Georgetown is listed as a Unesco World Cultural Heritage Site. After leaving our luggage in our hotel, we went to check out the city.

In 2012 Penang’s municipal council hired London-trained Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic and entrusted him with breathing new life into some of the atmospheric Chinese shop-houses around the inner city. The project was a success with Zacharevic turning certain areas into thriving tourist destinations.

In the afternoon we took a bus to a famous Chinese temple, Kek Lok Si‌, on a hilltop at Air Itam, near Penang Hill. Kek Lok Si is the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia. The complex is divided into three zones while the temple grounds comprise the hill entrance, souvenir, food, and drinks stalls and the turtle liberation pond.

Next on our list was Penang Hill. The Habitat Penang Hill provides the most authentic, diverse, and educational Malaysian rainforest experience. At the Curtis Crest Tree Top Walk at the top of Penang Hill, we had 360-degree panoramic views of Penang Island from the highest viewing point of Penang. That evening we took grab taxi and went to upside studio and from there saw beach Fort Cornwallis, Esplanade, and all other government buildings. We returned to the pavement cafes of George Town where we had a variety of tortillas, apple crumble with chocolate sauce, and soya milk and tea.

We took a bus from Penang at 10.30 pm and reached Malacca at 7 am. After breakfast at a Tamilian restaurant, we caught a taxi to Victoria Square where lies the history of Malacca. The main square of Malacca is the center of the town and all other places are at a walkable distance from there. We also went on a cruise and to Jonker’s Street famous for the varied cuisine culture of Malacca. We returned to Kuala Lumpur by 10 pm.

The last day in KL was spent at a leisurely pace. We also went to Mid Valley Mall to buy some souvenirs for friends back home. We returned home carrying a load of pictures and wonderful memories of our first trip abroad.

by Nipuna Sudha

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