Kuala Lumpur

One of our main reasons for coming to Malaysia was to visit with an old colleague of Karen's whom she had met while working at the Chicago Board Options Exchange. We also had a little time on our hands while the details of the Jordan job were hammered out, and both of us tire quickly of the beach scene. We knew very little about Kuala Lumpur, but what we found might just be the nicest city that we visited in Southeast Asia. With a remarkable balance of greenspace and inspired architecture, coupled with forward thinking transit systems, Kuala Lumpur leaves you with the distinct impression that for cutting edge urban planning America is going to have to face east. Another thing that struck us about KL, and other cities in Southeast Asia for that matter, was the conspicuous absence of beggars or homeless. It leaves one questioning what has gone wrong at home.

Of course the most commanding view on Kuala Lumpur's skyline is the stainless steel clad Petronas Towers. There is hardly a spot in town where the towers escape your view.

Before Petronas was built the tallest structure in Kuala Lumpur was KL Tower. At 1381 feet, KL Tower is more than twice as tall as Seattle's Space Needle. Although the Petronas Towers are more than a hundred feet taller, KL Tower's vantage point from on a hilltop leaves them seeing 'eye to eye' as the photo at right shot from the observation deck at KL Tower indicates.

Kuala Lumpur has a nice tourist bus similar to one that we had been introduced to by the president of a Brazilian biker group in Curitiba. In addition to the towers, it visits such tourist attractions as bird, orchid, and butterfly parks, as well as museums, mosques, and national monuments. Above the gate of the Istan Negara, or National Palace, is flanked by both cavalry and infantry (below).

At any of the more than forty attractions you can get off the bus and pass some time. Your ticket is good for 24 hours and buses pass every half-hour during the daytime. The Orchid Park pictured above and below is part of an enormous city park that also houses a butterfly park, and the world's largest outdoor aviary--The Kuala Lumpur Bird Park.

Ideally positioned about midway on the route, Lake Titiwangsa (left) makes a great place for a lunch break. Malaysia is a predominately Muslim country, and in addition to visiting the National Mosque at right you can also visit the nearby National Museum of Islamic Art.

The highlight of our time in KL though was the time we spent with Salma and her beautiful family. On this day they took us on a hike that traverses the jungle canopy. It's hard to believe that this amazing spot is just a few minutes by car from downtown KL. The town is actually visible in the photo below.

The suspended walkway is fun for young...
...and old alike.

There is a lot more to be said about this amazing town but for now I'll end with two of our favorite signs from Kuala Lumpur's backstreets.