Yes, getting high was topping my list of things to do when I got off the bus in Kuala Lumpur. Although, not likely the same sort as those sharing the Reggae Mansion with me. Within the year, I had been to 9 or 10 major world cities with Singapore being added to that list within a week. But in all that time, including 5 months in Bangkok, I hadn’t yet been atop a skyscraper. I intended to change that here.
Kuala Lumpur is home to the Petronas Towers, the world-famous twin-tower connected by a sky bridge. Its surreal silvery glow dominates the skyline from any part of the city. I had first seen it as part of the convoluted story of Entrapment when it seemed to be on a 5x daily repeat on HBO 10 years ago. This, I had resolved, would be the skyscraper I would stand atop.
It didn’t turn out that way.
Getting there was simple enough. From the Little India/Chinatown area where the Reggae Mansion is, it was a short walk, following the direction of those shining towers.
Walking through Kuala Lumpur was a wholly different experience than Bangkok; mostly in that it was pleasant. Granted, KL is a much smaller city than Bangkok (14 million vs. 3 million) but it was just a nicer feel to it. Sidewalks were clear rather than filled with odd stands and motorbikes. Buildings were varied, well kept, and attractive. On the way, I passed through a good portion of downtown Kuala Lumpur and what I think was the central commercial district of the city.
Arriving at the base of the Petronas Towers, there was a mob of tourists trying to take photos. In order for one photo to be taken of me, I had to agree to take several pictures of others. It ended up being better to just photograph them and them take my own MySpace-style self pictures.
When I finally got inside, it was far too late. Apparently, you must but your tickets to the top of the Petronas Towers early in the morning. And only a limited mumber were issued. I could not get into the towers that night, despite my pleas to the ground floor security.
That left me with only one other option: the KL Tower. One of those rotating towers akin to the Seattle Space Needle or Toronto CN Tower, it stood even higher above Kuala Lumpur than the Petronas Towers. The annoying part of this came when getting to it. It stands higher geographically because it is on the top of a relatively steep hill, which you must ascend before entering.
The ticket to go up into the KL Tower includes the choice of a few other entertainment options once you came back down. So, ticket in hand to go up, I would be returning to the ground level to an apparent racing simulator.
At the base of the tower’s elevator hung a marvelous chandelier reminiscent of the faceted surrealism of the Petronas Towers. At the top was a quiet observation deck sparsely dotted with gift stands, a handful of visitors, and a very large wall display making sure they all knew the KL Tower was the “Tallest Telecommunications Tower in the World”.
One advantage of this tower’s admirable panorama was that it included the Petronas Towers amidst its starscape skyline, something I admittedly would not have seen from atop the towers themselves. A similar situation presented itself when I was considering going to the top of the Empire State Building or the Rockefeller Center in New York a year before. However, the price of both of those put me off of the idea.
While slowly looking the observation deck, a Malaysian father and daughter approached me. The daughter didn’t speak English, but the father asked me if she could take a picture with me. I agreed, not often having been in that situation in Thailand, and a little wary of it.
After she had gotten her picture, he offered to take one of me with the city in the background. So it worked out well enough.
The city was a quiet one compared to not just Bangkok, but most large cities I have been to. Occasionally I came across the stray nightlife, but nothing seemed to be going on in the streets past 8 or 9 pm. This seemed particularly true in the Little India & Chinatown area of the city where my Reggae Mansion hostel was located.
Thankfully, that was not the case for the Reggae Mansion itself, which came complete with a rooftop bar. And this place was going strong very late into the night. Like the Reggae Hostel in Penang, the Mansion also had its own American entertainment coordinator.
This proved to be a fantastic hangout for the nights I was in Kuala Lumpur. The first night, the coordinator got a very large game of waterfall going, which lasted for some time. The next night, the hostel arranged a 70’s night, complete with a dance competition. Several activities followed in the consecutive nights, though just sitting in some of the large lounge chairs and taking in the view from the rooftop as you chatted with random travelers proved to be the most fun.
KL city itself has only 1.6 million people, but the metropolitan area houses between 5 and 7 million inhabitants.
The most happening nightlife is concentrated along the trendy Bukit Bintang (Star Hill) area, a stone’s throw from the Petronas Towers.