Kuala Lumpur revisited

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.

Scene infront of hotel
Scene infront of hotel

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. 

KL Towers
KL 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.

Activity in KL craft complex
Activity in KL craft complex

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).

Dr. Rao with lady who made Vadas
Dr. Rao with lady who made mouthwatering Vadas

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.

School children involved in understanding process
School children in understanding process

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

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