Monday, December 12, 2011

Kuala Lumpur: Hit and Miss

We had a long holiday weekend at the end of November. The kids had Friday off for American Thanksgiving but not Thursday. Hubby had Monday off for Islamic New Year which was actually on Sunday. Got all of that straight? Notice that the off days don't actually line up.

Anyways... we decided that this would be a good time to explore Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. Because it's a 4 hour drive from Penang, and the airfare was so cheap – US$60 per person roundtrip – I decided that flying was the way to go. The day before we left, I realized that the airport is actually one hour outside of town. Then, our one hour flight was delayed by almost two hours. It ended up taking us 6.5 hours from the time we left home to our arrival at the hotel. Next time, I think we'll drive. The up side is that we can honestly say our return trip involved a buggy (think stretch golf cart), a taxi, a train, a bus, a plane, and a car.

The other big mistake was trying to visit the Petrosains Discovery Centre on a public holiday. I do believe we're on an unofficial mission to visit every interactive Science Museum in the world. Penang has zero kiddie, hands-on museums, so we were really looking forward to this. I mean really, REALLY, looking forward to it. We were met with a massive throng of uniformed school children on a field trip. Add in all the other tourists who were also there for the long weekend. The museum dude looked at me like I was crazy for not making a reservation. He told us we could have tickets to enter in a couple hours, but that would have left us about 45 minutes to explore before leaving for the airport.

So, we instead ended up in a nice, nearby bookstore, Kinokuniya. It was the best bookstore I've visited in Malaysia, but it's no science museum. Air Asia limits carry-on luggage to one piece each weighing no more than 14 pounds (crazy, right?), so I had to figure out what alchemy was needed to magically make all our new purchases much lighter.

Luckily, the good outweighed the bad on the trip. For starters, we had an awesomely amazing room at the Traders Hotel. Check out the night time view.

At 1482 feet, the Petronas Towers are the 3rd tallest buildings in the world.

A ginormous (who invented that word) park spread out before us. It had dream jogging paths, multiple playgrounds, a huge wading pool, and a Water Symphony Lake with programmed fountains. The Aquarium was right next door, and a magnificent mall, Suria KLCC, connected to the complex.

The room itself was nice and big, and the kids were in the connecting room. The rooftop pool had both a hot tub and warm tub nestled in a lily pond and surrounded by the ultra-swanky Sky Bar. The hotel also had one of the best breakfast buffets I've seen. A visitor could really get a taste of Malaysia here since all the major cuisines were represented with Indian roti canai, Nyonya cakes, Chinese dim sum, and Malaysian curries. Of course, they offered western dishes like a lovely cheese plate, frittatas, croissants, fruit and yogurt.  The fresh squeezed juice stand had about 8 different pitchers of juices – apple, pineapple, kiwi, orange, starfruit, etc. – you could mix together as you wished. There was even a Gluten-free corner.

Customized Noodle Soup station

We noticed a few burka-clad women in line, but we didn't see them in the dining room. How exactly does a gal in a burka eat if she can't take it off in public?

The younger kiddos and I had fun exploring the Aquarium next door. It was small but very well done. Maria liked sticking her head in the bubble that popped up in the middle of the otter habitat. Brad lingered on the travelator that tunneled through the large tank surrounded by sharks, stingrays, and other aquatic life.

On our only full day in Kuala Lumpur, we hit Batu Caves which is so wondrous it gets its own post and the National Museum which covers Malaysia's history from prehistoric times, through European colonization, up to its independence.

Gilded throne – Doesn't it look comfy?

Upin and Ipin is a popular kids TV show in Malaysia.

We wrapped up the day at Ben's, a tasty East-meets-West fusion restaurant that channels the vibe of a Manhattan townhouse. (Not that I've ever been in a Manhattan townhouse.) The kids were able to order "normal" food like Spaghetti Bolognese whereas I opted for the Asian-style Duck Confit Salad with pomelo, cucumber, lychee and pineapple ensconced in an endive resting on a banana leaf and garnished with peanuts.

Interesting and good

I was so stuffed I didn't have room to try out what looked like a killer bakery case. As a nice touch, each table had a box of conversation cards to help tech savvy diners separate from their phones and have a face-to-face dialogue.

"Give your fingers a rest. Stop texting and tell me your deepest secrets."

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