Malaysia has been through some tough times in 2014. Despite the incidents, the people of Malaysia continue to have faith that soon things will change and the odds will soon be again in their favour.
"Malaysia is Truly Asia" is the national tourism statement of the country. The country is an all year round destination that suits all different types of travellers offering a continuously fascinating cuisine and culture for all kinds of taste buds.
When I landed at Kuala Lumpur airport I was full of excitement and utmost curiosity about discovering this famous city. We were staying in Panggung Bandaraya in KL city centre which was just about 45 minutes away from the airport.
I was eager to see the city’s attractions so the afternoon we arrived we went to see the MUD Musical Show - KL's latest theatre tourism attraction. The show features the story of Kuala Lumpur and their people's bravery in surpassing devastating calamities and trials, therefore turning their dreams from mud into shimmering gold. The story and the cast had the audience engrossed from start to end. The show cost MYR60 per person and has two performances per day.
Our hotel in KL was the Seri Pacific Hotel. This is a 4-star hotel that is strategically located in the city. It is just behind the World Trade Centre, next to a metro train station and 15 minutes away from Bukit Bintang, the city's famous shopping district. In the evening, we went to explore Bukit Bintang, which was filled with lots of locals and tourists, and lined with different shopping malls such as Pavillion, Farenheit 88 and Berjaya Times Square.
The next day was the most important part of our tour: Malaysia's 57th Merdeka Day (Independence Day). We had to leave early from the hotel around 6:45AM to get to the Merdeka Square before traffic got too bad. This was the same place that independence from British colonization was announced last 31 August 1957. Over 100,000 people gathered in the Merdeka Square to mark the anniversary by waving Malaysian flags, cheering and shouting Merdeka (independent or free). Throughout the day there were multi-cultural shows, colorful parades from different companies, schools and military officers, and a breathtaking performance from Malaysia's Air Force with their helicopters and jet fighters. I was really impressed and it was an honor to witness such an important national event.
In the afternoon, we went to the Petronas Twin Towers - the most famous symbol of Malaysia and the world's highest double decked bridge. The Petronas was just 15 minutes away from our hotel. We visited the Skybridge on level 41-42 which connects the twin towers and provides a spectacular view of Kuala Lumpur City. Later on we moved to the Observation Deck located at level 86 providing a more breathtaking view. The tower is open from 9AM until 9PM 7 days a week. For taking the photos it's best to go during sunset so the sunlight is not so strong. If outside the Twin Towers, it is better to take pictures of the exterior when the sky is bluish and a little dark. Also, they have a gift shop which offers unique designs and quality items at an affordable cost.
Tip: Tickets to visit Petronas Twin Towers cost MYR80 per adult and MYR30 per child. To get the most of your experience pre-book your tickets and try to go on a weekday.
The other memorable experience was the Kuala Lumpur Bird Park - the world's largest free flight walk-in aviary. This is only 5 minutes away from KL city centre. The bird park is 20 acres wide and has two zones which would take around one and a half hours to finish. They also have a bird photo shop which interested most of the visitors. They could put as many as 5 different birds on you for photo-taking. This will cost around MYR 20.
On the third day of our tour, we checked out from the hotel and went to visit I-City. I-City is located in Shah Alam, which is just 35 kilometers away from Kuala Lumpur. I-City stands for Intelligent City. We visited the I-City’s Waterworld which boasts the Tornado Ride and the Snowalk with ice sculptures and ice rides below 5 degree Celsius temperature. We also entered the Red Carpet, a wax museum that has over 100 characters such as famous celebrities, icons and world record holders. I was lucky to take pictures with Jet Li, Barack Obama, Jackie Chan, Nelson Mandela, Queen Elizabeth II, Albert Einstein and Michael Jackson. Of all the attractions I enjoyed the Trick Art Museum the most. This museum showcases 3D paintings that trick the eye. My photos actually looked like I was a part of the painting. The entrance for each attraction ranges from MYR 15 to MYR 45 per person.
After this, we drove to Ipoh which is 210 kms from Shah Alam. In Ipoh we went straight to
Lost World of Tambun, which is situated right at the foot of Tambun Caves. This is the largest water theme park in Malaysia and amazingly they also have a Petting Zoo, Amusement Park, Lion Feeding Show, Team Building facilities and Horror House inside the theme park. In the park we visited the Crystal Spa (exclusive for ladies) and the Foot Spa which has reflexology stones and the Hot Springs which is good for the skin. The rooms in Lost World of Tambun hotel were ideal for families with their interconnecting rooms. The Lost World of Tambun and I-City are actually good substitutes for Genting Highlands which outdoor theme parks have been closed since September 2013 and are due to open only by 2016.
After breakfast, we headed to Cameron Highlands but had a stopover in Kelli's Castle for short photo stop. This was an unfinished mansion owned by a Scottish national, William Kellie Smith. The construction started in 1915 but had stopped when he died in 1926. The mansion, which has now been converted into a tourist attraction, is believed to have the ghost of Kellie Smith. According to our guide, there were some locals who had been seeing the ghost of Kellie from afar in the mansion. Just entering the master bedroom and the bedroom for his children gave me goose bumps! From the top of the mansion there is a breathtaking view of Ipoh's surrounding countryside. This intriguing mansion was the setting for the 1999 movie - Anna and the King. After about an hour, we moved on to Cameron Highlands.
The journey to Cameron Highlands was a very challenging - not for us, but for the driver, because of the zigzag roads. There are basically two routes that can be used - Tapah and Simpang Pulai. We took the Simpang Pulai route which was longer but was just moderately zigzag compared to Tapah which is the short cut but has a lot of sharp curves. We took the Tapah route on our way back which made me feel dizzy. When we reached Cameron Highlands I was really awed with the ambiance of the Strawberry Park Resort where we were staying. The room was dimmed and was very cozy. There was no air-conditioning in all the rooms because it was very cool already. The had rooms from Studio size all the way up to 3-Bedroom apartments, which are perfect for families.
That same day, we visited the famous BOH Tea Plantation. The road to the plantations is flanked on both sides by picturesque rows of tea farms. The view of it was very relaxing to the eyes. When we arrived at the plantation, we were taken to the tea factory then to the viewing deck of the whole tea farm. It was the perfect place to enjoy a cup of BOH tea while looking at the view. After that we went to the Honey Bee Farm where we saw lots of beehives with the bees just quietly staying inside, then to the Butterfly Farm with huge black butterflies. Souvenirs are quite cheap on these farms and you can bargain for a lesser price if you want.
On the next day, we checked out from the hotel and headed back to Kuala Lumpur. We stayed in Impiana Hotel which has very nice rooms and has the greatest buffet breakfast that I had so far during our trip. They have both of Asian section and Western section. The location of the hotel was also strategically located next to the metro, night clubs and walking distance to Bukit Bintang. In the afternoon we went to the Central Market which was only 10 minutes away from our hotel. The prices of the souvenirs and bags are very cheap here and if you buy in bulk you will get them even cheaper. Our guide advised us to bargain only if we have the intention to buy as the vendor will really get angry if we don't buy after bargaining. After shopping we went to China Town in Petaling Street. China Town has lots of bags, perfumes, clothes for all ages, make up and wallets which are really cheap. In the evening, we had a Dinner with Musical Show at Saloma Theatre Restaurant which has dinner shows with different musical and dance performances in traditional costumes. The performers also asked the audience to join them in dancing in the stage. I tried their traditional dance with bamboo frames, which was quite fun.
Our last day in Kuala Lumpur was spent on a sightseeing tour of Putrajaya before we took our flight in the afternoon. We visited the Perdana Putra where the Prime Minister's Office is located, the Putra Mosque, the Putrajaya Lake and some important government buildings. After the tour, we went straight to KLIA for our flight back to Dubai. Our flight was quite amazing as we have been upgraded on both ways into Business Class. A special thanks to Thai Airways for such a comfortable and luxurious flight to Malaysia.