1st – 21st April – ‘Living in Malaysia…’

…eye to eye, station to station

Just singing my own lyrics to the tune of James Brown’s 80s cheesy classic Living in America – been singing it non-stop for the last month!

So, the past three weeks we’ve been ‘living’ it up on the 22nd floor of an apartment block in the Bukit Bintang area of Kuala Lumpur, staring out at the views of the neighbouring tower blocks. The famous Petronas Towers alluring structure is a constant reminder of where we are! It has a bit of a Lost in Translation feel about it at times. I’ve tried setting myself a routine each day to follow, getting up early and working etc. I won’t lie, it’s actually quite hard to do after four months off! Come mid-afternoon the clouds darken and a thunderstorm approaches, turning the skyline apocalyptic. This happens almost daily at around 4pm. Amazing storms to watch – we’ve seen lightning bolts striking the towers, was jaw dropping – the thunder being so loud I had to put my fingers in my ears (or was just too scared!).

We’ve been hitting the bars quite a bit here too. The apartment is two minutes’ walk away from the party area (we’ve nicknamed it South Street, for those Romfordians out there, you will get the idea!). We found the Gypsy Bar within the first week, it sells what seems to be the cheapest pint in KL – £2.20 if wondering – not exactly the nicest bar, a lot of drunk Australians, Malays and Brits (with a couple of Davies’ on occasion of course). We both said to each other that the feel around this area is a bit sleazy, numerous amount of interesting characters around, a hell of a lot of western men with Asian women half their age on their arm too… I’m sure you get the picture.

One of the top areas is Bangsar, about 7km from Bukit Bintang. It’s a bit like the equivalent of what Bandra was in Mumbai, very hip with all the latest bars, cafes, shops etc to visit. We went there on a couple of occasions, thanks to Time Out Kuala Lumpur’s good recommendations. We had an awesome brunch (see below) and a tidy haircut (little trim for Stevie D). We also spent Easter Sunday here, accidentally stumbling in to a Christian rock band playing in an old warehouse (no joke!). I kinda had a feeling it was a religious event, but the poster looked good. Oops… It was interesting to see the types of people gathering at this gig though; Malay, Chinese and Indian Christians, as well as the expats. The most mixed and diverse gathering of people worshipping that I have seen on the trip so far, catchy little numbers from the band too.

We visited the impressive Islamic Arts Museum one morning. Was really interesting, learnt a lot about the religion as well as its history in India and China. The setting of the museum was in a stunning mosque-style building, with domes and intricate mosaics dotted around. I highly recommend going if you get the chance, some beautiful pieces to see and plenty to learn about an often-misunderstood religion.

A rare day where it was raining all day took us to one of the standard ‘tourist traps’ of any city… the aquarium. Interesting in places, especially the coral and conservation sections. I would say it was a bit overpriced, but we ended up spending almost two hours there so worth it I guess.

The last few weeks has gone sooooo quickly, it’s quite scary. More so than any other time on the trip. There have been a few down points with living in an apartment – we’ve both being a little bit too lazy at times, it’s too easy to just stay indoors. I wanted to do something different every day but never actually did it. Also, the fact that we were on a strict budget everything felt a bit déjà vu in the third week. It all gets a bit too comfortable! That aside we’ve experienced a unique part of travelling, living like a local for a few weeks… popping in to the same coffee shop every morning, tracking down the cheapest places to eat, finding the best supermarkets, visiting the theatre (we went to see the Chinese play Thunderstorm which was translated in English), domestic cleaning (which after four months off I was quite looking forward to doing it!). It’s a cheaper way of travelling that’s for sure – our apartment was £20 a night, working out £800 per month pro rata, which for central KL is a bargain. Also, you get a better glimpse as to how the city works rather (good and bad) than during a weekend stay.

Food

A short list of a few of our favourite places that we’ve eaten at during our three week KL stint….

Hogan Bakery – this is a Taiwan bakery that’s recently opened, about a 2-minute walk away from our apartment. Fantastic breads and cakes some with a slightly different twist to what you would get in Greggs! They tend to give us a daily freebies too 🙂

The Pantry – this café was in Bangsar and recommended in Time Out for being one of the best places to have brunch. Had a fantastic ratatouille with poached eggs in an arrabiata tomato sauce. Ruddy delicious, and a combo I would never think of working.

Pulp – KL is a coffee lovers dream, and this place (also in Bangsar) is listed as a ‘must’. I thought it was a bit pretentious to be honest, the variety of coffee was insane (nitrogen-infused brew anyone?!). Maybe it’s because I’m still not a massive coffee lover, Steve highly rated it however.

Jalan Alor – I’m mentioning this street food market again as we visited it a couple times more, but this time I was kind of put off. We saw a couple of rats just a few metres away from where we were sitting (luckily I didn’t scream the place down). Also the food and price isn’t as good or cheap as to what you can get in any of the food markets or mall courts. I think they realise tourists flock here so charge a bit more… worth checking out though, quite a buzzy place after 10pm.

Simply Life – we thought there was a lack of veggie options around town, so annoyingly we  only stumbled upon this place a few days before we were leaving. Best vegetarian restaurant I’ve been to I think, serving up dishes that had the most exotic types of mushrooms and vegetables I’ve ever eaten, all with a fusion blend of Asian spices, so so tasty and innovative. Their vegetarian Nasi Lemak (my favourite dish in Malaysia) was fantastic.

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