THE NIFTIEST THING ABOUT KUALA LUMPUR, APART FROM ALL THE CHEAP INDIAN RESTAURANTS OF COURSE, IS THE MODERN ISLAMIC STYLE OF THE ARCHITECTURE THERE. The architecture in Kuala Lumpur is unlike any in south-east Asia, and the Islamic influence shines through bright. The Malaysians have seemingly found a way to Islamify soulless skyscrapers and turn them into towering symbols of the Muslim faith. Some people hate skyscrapers, but I love them for their vitality -- and in Kuala Lumpur the skyscrapers are as vital as it gets. The city is home to what was once the tallest building on Earth, actually the two tallest buildings on Earth, before they became eclipsed by the 101 Tower in Taipei -- I am referring of course to the Petronas Twin Towers. From afar they do indeed look towering and impressive and hyper-modern and Islamic. Close up they still look good, but they are not really much of a tourist attraction. To be honest, I was disappointed by my Petronas Twin Tower experiences. The twins let me down, and I suspect they have let down a lot of people, too.
So, why am I so bitter? It's because on one murderously hot April day I decided to walk from hotel (Hotel Malaya) in the heart of Chinatown, to the fabled Twin Towers -- a journey which took something like 1.5 hours or so. It is not easy walking in Kuala Lumpur, pedestrian crossings are rare, and the heat oppressive and relentless. After finally reaching the Towers and collapsing inside the air-conditioned interior, I was informed I couldn't go up to the observation deck because they had been booked out for the day. "Try again tomorrow," one of the Tower staff said. "It is free to go up to the observation deck, but you have to book beforehand. Bookings usually close at 8.30am, so it is best to come early."
I didn't really care that much, because even if I had been allowed up, I wouldn't have been allowed up to the top. The crazy thing is, the observation deck of the Twin Towers is only halfway up the building! Becky from Blazing-A-Trail
pointed out the absurdity of this on her Malaysian blog: "The Petronas Towers (Petronas is a giant oil company in Asia) are 1,483 feet tall, beating out the Chicago's Sears tower by a mere 29 feet... What we thought was the biggest disappointment was that we couldn't go to the top of the towers. I mean, who builds the tallest building in the world and doesn't assume that most people will want to go to a top observation deck? What the hell? We were allowed to go about 1/2 way up to the sky-bridge that connects the two towers. Chris reamins more impressed by the World Trade Center because we could actually go out on the roof. Whatever the case, the building is very tall and gleaming and the architecture is quite impressive."
Nestled between the Twin Towers is Suria KLCC one of Malaysia's premier shopping destinations. If you want to shop then Suria KLCC is the place to go. It has the best mix of shops in Malaysia. From the large department stores like Isetan, Parkson Grand, Marks and Spencer (the only place in town to get Salt and Vinegar chips) to more than 270 smaller specialty stores. Amongst the different shops are designer labels like Tiffany, Hugo Boss, Alfred Dunhill, Bally, and Mont Blanc. To give the place some real flavor there are specialty outlet like British India, Inner Secrets (lingerie), The Sox Shop, Swatch, to name just a few. While on the concourse level check out all the interesting handicraft stalls. On the 3rd floor is Tanjong Golden Village cinemas, which shows all the latest blockbusters.
g e t t i n g + t h e r e
REACHING THE TWIN TOWERS IS EASY. To get there by public transport is a cinch. Just jump on the LRT or Light Rail Transit, there are bus services and every taxi driver in KL knows how to get there. If you're driving you can't miss it. It's the only 88 story building in town.