Visit to KualaLumpur and Cambodia – 1
When my husband asked whether I would like to accompany him for an International conference he was attending in Kuala Lumpur, I reluctantly agreed with a rider ofcourse because I didn’t fancy visiting the same place twice. I had earlier gone to KL in my capacity as Governing Board member of SERFAC, an NGO based in Madras. We were guests of the ArchBishop of KL. I said the trip should include a visit to Cambodia as well, as I longed to see the world famous Heritage site –Angkor Wat, the biggest Hindu temple in the world. We boarded the Malaysian Airlines on the 28th. June at 10p.m. reaching KLIA at 4.30 a.m. local time ( we are two and a half hours behind ). Unlike during my first visit in 2002 August, when we made our way to the exit, we had to proceed towards the aero train from our terminal to exit. We reached our hotel Istana (it cost 87 ringits by a cab, one ringit is around rs. 13.50) ) in an hour.
The hotel is centrally located and just a kilometer away from the Petronas Towers. We had a stunning view of the twin towers, from our room.
The conference was organized by IBIMA and I had an opportunity to be a silent spectator at a session chaired by my husband and the one where he presented his paper. What impressed me most was the women participants , academicians from middle east who were traditionally dressed covering their heads with scarves, unhesitatingly shooting away questions, sometimes unnerving the speakers who appeared at a loss as how to answer their queries.
After the conference I had a chat with one of the participants, a youngster who enlightened me on the several practices of Islam and was curious to know about our religious practices. It was interesting to hear him talk about how he met his great grandmother for the first time when she visited them in Pakistan from India six years ago (she was 121 years at that time) along with 25 other relatives and friends (a few were Hindus he said). His house which was on two levels had 16 rooms in all, and the central area around which a few bed rooms were situated could accommodate around 150 people. The irony of it is at present just his parents lived there as all the children were away.
The first on our itinerary was a visit to the Petronas Towers.
As a prelude we got to see a video clip about how this gleaming structure of steel and glass towering 451.9 metres high over the city was built — the architects who designed them, amount of steel used, the number of workers involved, the safety measures taken, etc. which we watched in awe. In a flash of 40 seconds the high speed elevator took us to the 41st. floor and we walked onto the sky bridge which connects the two towers. Well, there is no denying that we did have a spectacular view of the city from here but one never gets the “top of the world” feeling when you know the towers extend to a much greater height above you ! (However I had the satisfaction of the ride because I couldn’t manage it during my first visit when I along with others stood at the base and craned my neck to see the tip).
Next we headed to MAPU, Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit, Prime Minister’s Department Complex, housed in a mosque like building and all the 25 of us were ushered into a conference hall for a presentation by a senior official on “ICT Initiatives in Public Sector ” which was followed by a question and answer session. Absolute silence and decorum was maintained during the 45 minute presentation and his support staff of three Malaysian women were quick in providing inputs whenever he needed in answering questions (I was itching to take a photograph but warned that it was strictly prohibited.)
We visited the KL Craft complex where a 10 day long festival for Promotion of Marriage Works was in progress.
A Punjabi wedding was being demonstrated, a full fledged affair with vibrant dancing to lively music by men and women adorning Punjabi style colourful costumes, the event culminating with the bride and groom united in marriage.
Something more interesting awaited us in the enclosure nearby where a number of parallel demonstrations such as fabric painting, flower making, flower arrangement, delicate embroidery etc. were going on but when the aroma of fresh masala vadais filled our nostrils we were drawn towards the stall. We found a traditionally dressed muslim woman meticulously frying urad dhal vadais in a large pan of steaming oil. Offering one each as a sample to the visitors gathered, she said the cost of two vadais was a dollar. When we spoke in English she wanted to know from where we had come. The moment my husband said India and Chennai, she immediately lapsed into Tamil saying she hailed from Trichi and her next words : “Uncle, you can eat as many vadais as you want, you don’t have to pay for them.” left him flabbergasted and amused at her gesture ( I wondered at how language and region had its affinity).
Savouring the crunchy vadai which just melted in my mouth, (I must confess it was the best that I ever tasted in my life, vadais in our Saravana bhavans too cannot match their crispness and delicious taste) I asked her about the recipe which she most willingly and unhesitatingly shared with me.
A visit to the largest Pewter Factory in the World reminded me of the famous writer Paul Theroux who said (while addressing a gathering a few months ago at the LandMark Book Store in Chennai) that a travel writer should go back to the country he visited to observe the changes that have taken place between the years. The guide took us on a tour of the factory which we noticed was flooded with groups of small school children who also came on a visit.
Some of them were promptly scribbling away notes while people on the job were explaining the different processes the metal undergoes before the final product is made. I eagerly searched for pewter key chains and strands made of onyx ( which I had picked up during my first visit) and was thoroughly disappointed to learn they didn’t constitute among the items displayed. The dazzling jewellery made of gold, silver that was studded with precious and semi precious stones didn’t appeal to me, moreover I found they were exorbitantly priced !Also I noticed the personal touch was somehow missing about the whole visit.
Any number of visits to Batu Caves are welcome for their sheer magnificence of stalactite and stalagmite formations from the tourist’s point of view. The religious can have a darsan of the famous Murugan Temple inside a cave which you reach after a steep climb of 272 steps.
Since there was a sudden downpour accompanied by thunder and lightening many of us had to contend ourselves visiting the more accessible shrines of Ganesha and Hanuman at the ground level. (I was happy that I was able to take some pictures of the Murugan temple during my last visit to KL.)
Malaysians are basically non vegetarians but hotels like Sangeeta, Saravana Bhavan and Woodlands located in Masjid India come as a savior to diehard vegetarians provided they have the patience to brave the peak hour vehicular traffic and accede to the escalated fare demanded by the cabbie in the name of traffic conjestion. I couldn’t help recalling my earlier experience when the Arch Bishop saw to it that the vegetarians among us got good south Indian breakfast and lunch served at the venue of our stay. We were even treated to a seven course pure vegetarian dinner at one of the posh hotels in the city.
The annual Sale in KL, which the shoppers wait with bated breath was being inaugurated on the 5th. Of july, the morning we had left for Cambodia. However we had a taste of the curtain raiser —-milling crowds at the garment section of a super store hastily grabbing and scrutinizing what ever they could lay their hands on ! A scene that reminded us of shoppers back home when the sale is on.
N. Meera Raghavendra Rao