The First Week in Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur Petronas Towers
Hari Raya

The hustle and bustle of a city with 1.5 million people: cacophony of traffic, the buzzing noise of running air-conditioning units, jackhammers, drills and cranes on building sites. Many people rushing about in different directions on the streets and the distinctively cooler underground tunnels. Young people (this is a young population) feverishly working their fingers on their mobile devices. We notice the Malay men wearing the traditional baju melayu, a songkok on their head. Women wear the colourful baju kurungs and the headscarf’s reminding us this is an Islamic country.After 28 days on an isolated ship sailing the oceans, we need to get used again to a much higher pace of life!

Within a week after arriving in Kuala Lumpur (or KL as the locals call it), we managed to make a selection out of at least 15 different apartments in the Kuala Lumpur City Centre. KLCC is a city inside the city, with many upmarket (mega-) shopping malls carrying all the international brands and connected by underground tunnels and sky bridges, restaurants, offices, hotels, banks, a monorail system and parks. Most buildings are modern high-rises, jutting 30 -50 stories into the sky. Walking in the city is more convenient than driving in it, as traffic is stop and go under the best of circumstances. However, we have to be constantly careful using the pavements as tiles are broken or missing all together, holes everywhere, sewage covers missing, and curb stones can be up to 40 centimetres high (to funnel the water after tropical rainstorms). Sometimes walkways simply abruptly end or are missing all together. There are few pedestrian crossings at major intersection, but the rest of the time somehow you need to try and get to the other site of the road without being hit by a car! Business here is very much linked to oil and gas activities, which is down now and thus many expatriates have left the country, making apartments readily available. Nevertheless, in the city centre new apartment complexes and office blocks are still being built, so much that we had to consider a place to live far enough away from those noisy construction sites. Francien and I choose a two bedroom apartment on the 17th floor with an Olympic size swimming pool and gym facilities. We noticed that there are no 4th, 14th, 24th or 34th floors in the buildings, because for the Chinese number 4 is considered ghastly unlucky as its sound byte is almost identical to that for the word "death". Our apartment complex is located 500 meters from the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, a pair of 452 meters high glass-and-steel-clad skyscrapers in the heart of the city. We hope to move in within a week.

Much to our surprise, when interacting with the friendly local people, early in the conversations they cautiously classify others in terms of the major populations groups e.g. Malay, Chinese, Indian and expatriates! Many newspaper articles are about race issues and the challenge of true multi-cultural nation building. Indeed this is a very multi-cultural city for us to explore.

The end of Ramadan is celebrated here with Hari Raya. It is a long weekend with many people traveling to their families or simply taking a break.