We flew Air Asia from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur (KL) and spent four nights in KL and three in Melaka. Kuala Lumpur or KL for short, is the capital city of Malaysia. It is staggeringly modern with the landmark, eighty-eight storey, Petronas Twin-Towers, and a height of 450 meters into the sky, with architecture to challenge the World’s greatest. On the other hand, Melaka has seven hundred years of history, so for us they were amazingly different.
In KL, we stayed in a serviced apartment and upon arrival were upgraded so we were delighted with our very comfortable stay. We flew one-way to KL, with no onward plans. The first morning, we took the metro to KL Sentral ( it is spelt with an “S”), the main railway station, and visited the tourist information office, who were extremely helpful and we were able to flush out a rough itinerary for Malaysia. Later that day, we went to the famous KL twin-towers and visited the shops, that are quite up market.
Our second day in KL, we took the hop-on-hop-off bus, starting at midday and valid for twenty-four hours. We saw some of the main attractions in the downtown area, then jumped off for lunch in a trendy area and had two lovely spicy salads. We returned to the bus and headed for the KL green belt and got off again at the butterfly park (open link for photos) where we spent a couple of hours and took some great photos (our photos to follow). Later that night we set out looking for another lively area highlighted in our tour but it was not that special – however, we did find an authentic Italian restaurant which was very nice.
Once a tin mining settlement and a British stronghold from 1857 until Malaysia gained its independence in 1957, KL is now a sprawling, reputable, modern, urban city. The legacy British influence can still be seen in some of its colonial buildings. A fine example is the Cathedral Of Saint Mary The Virgin built in English Gothic style at the end of the 19th century, with a pipe organ built by Henry Willis in 1895.
Our third day in KL, we returned to the hop-on-hop-off bus and got off at the KL Tower, standing 421 meters high and having an observation deck and revolving restaurant. It was very impressive, with beautiful city views. After that we just wandered around the city and took in the many sites. KL also has a really good Chinatown, known as Petaling Street, so if it is designer copies you want, this is the place to find them!
The following day, we went by road to Melaka and checked in to a comfortable modern hotel. We had a room on the fifteenth floor with a staggering view of the Straits of Melaka. After unpacking, we went out for a walk to get our bearings. It was incredibly hot and humid – we were very near the Equator here. We took a cyclo for an hour’s tour around Melaka’s old quarter. We learned about Melaka’s colonial history under the Portuguese, Dutch and the British. It was amazing to contrast the steel and concrete of KL with Melaka’s delightful old buildings. Melaka has been an important trading post, before Singapore, going back seven hundred years. In the 15th century Melaka was the most important port in Southeast Asia.
Our second day in Melaka, we concentrated on walking around the historic old city, seeing things like the Chinese quarter around Jonker Street (open link for photos), Queen Victoria Fountain (open link for photos etc. ), St. Xavier’s Church and Christ Church, located in the Dutch Square and built by hand, some two hundred years ago, with the ceiling beams amazingly built without any joints. We also visited the remains of the Portuguese fortress built in 1511 and partly destroyed by the Dutch 150 years later, but the British finished the job properly and destroyed it in the 19th century, just leaving what remains today and overlooking both the town and the Straits of Melaka.
Other highlights in Melaka, which we saw and would recommend included:
- Melaka Bridge
- Stadthuys (Dutch Town Hall)
- St Paul’s Church
- Statue of St. Francis Xavier
- Cheng Hoon Teng Temple (open link for photos)
On our third day we visited some excellent museums and the wonderful China town again, with its Cheng Hoon Teng Temple, the oldest Chinese temple in Malaysia and built in 1646. We also visited the Baba and Nyonya Heritage House which is a mixture of the way of life going back as far as the 15th century and showing an insight into the mix if Malay and Chinese cultures that intermarried and today are called Baba. Chinatown is also famous for its antique shops and used to be a collector’s first stop in Malaysia and a dealers hub, but sadly there are now too many copies and not too many original pieces. The many Chinese restaurants are bewildering and are excellent and very reasonable – we had some really good meals in Melaka and some excellent sea food.
In terms of museums, we would particularly recommend the following:
These two museums provide enormous insights into the different races in Malaysia, namely the Malays, Chinese, Indians and Aborigines, especially into their superstitions about choosing a new home! On a more serious note, Malaysia has had serious racial conflicts in the past and these days potential racial tension is currently controlled by robust legislation.
We had a very interesting stay in Malacca (also spelt this way). It is a delightful old town with a river running through the center of town, with cafes on the banks and lovely old bridges crossing over.
On balance, we suppose that we preferred Malaka’s old world charm and history, compared to the stunningly modern concrete jungle of Kuala Lumpur.