Photos from India

Friday, March 7, 2008

Kuala Lumpur

A day and a half was more than enough time to have a look around Kuala Lumpur. The city wasn't such a bad place to visit but from a tourism point of view, there is just not that much to see there. I spent the first afternoon there wandering around the colonial district which is filled with fascinating examples of old Moorish style buildings and afterwards I strolled through the overwhelming markets that occupy most of China town. Between fake Rolex watches and pirated DVDs, I have to admit that it is a shoppers delight. While I didn't purchase one single thing there, I found it is cheaper to buy movies in the markets as is the case through most of Southeast Asia than to rent them back in the U.S.

My second day in Kuala Lumpur I awoke early and made my way to the Petronas towers where I stood in line for an hour and a half in order to obtain a ticket to walk across the sky bridge that joins the two towers together a little less than half way up. They only give out 1200 tickets a day so I was told to arrive early in order to obtain one. As I came down the stairs inside the tower I found there to already be a short line. It was strange however to see that there were no boundary ropes to contain the line in any sort of order. As the line grew, at the direction of a security guard, it began snaking it's way back towards the ticket counter now on the opposite side that you entered the room. To everyone who came in, it now looked like there were two lines and they would all come and stand behind me as I was standing at the turn where the line reversed itself. Even though all the people in the second line were facing the back of the room instead of the ticket counter, I still had to explain to everyone who came that this was not the back of the line. After three more lines of people built up in this same fashion, the end of the line was basically shoved into a corner and the space between the first line and the wall kept becoming more cramped and cramped while the side that you entered on remained wide open. To add to this, the wall that enclosed the other side of the line was a fitness club for the building and all of the health conscious Malaysians who worked there had to battle their way through the mass of people to get to the door. I kept wondering why in a building so complex the simplest portion was designed so poorly.

At the ticket counter, the line problem did something even stranger. Just before you walked up to the ticket counter there was a small rope near a yellow x on the floor that stated to please do not stand on the x to allow people to pass through. Seeing a slightly bland corridor leading in the direction the x on the floor let to, I figured that it was for security and other building personnel to pass through. To the opposite side of the ticket counter was a small museum which I assumed would eventually lead towards the elevator to take us to the bridge. After a quick exploration of the museum, I found that it was my turn to go up to the sky bridge and was quickly led through the other line, across the yellow x on the floor to the elevator that would take me to the top. I don't know if it was the architect in me thinking but this had to be the worst arrangement I had ever seen for something so simple. You don't typically find things like this is buildings that are not only amongst the tallest in the world but also the main tourist draw in the entire city.

Along with about 25 other people, I piled into a cramped and very drab looking elevator. It felt as if we had been stuffed into a cargo elevator at the back of some garage in order to not be seen by the wealthy occupants of a building. It was strange to see as everything else in this building was so first class. At the sky bridge level we all departed and were promptly discharged onto the bridge. Looking out the window was a pretty amazing experience as the roofs of nearly every other building in the city were below us and here we were not even half way up the towers! After our ten minutes on the bridge was up, our group was quickly ushered away to make room for the next group to visit.

I left the towers and took some photographs of the outside on an unfortunately gray and overcast day. Finding a place to sit down in the nearby park I consulted my guidebook to see what else I could spend my day doing in the city. Other than visiting the top of the KL tower, there didn't appear to be much left for sightseeing in Kuala Lumpur. Combined with the fact that I was staying at the absolutely worst hostel in Southeast Asia, I decided to visit the Air Asia office and move my ticket to Sumatra up one day thus allowing me to leave the following morning.

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