Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Stopover At Malaysia.

My husband I were highly charged with double excitement when we left Bangalore a few weeks ago. First of all we were about to meet our daughter and our doting little grand daughter residing at Sydney. Secondly, thanks to an offer by Malaysian Airlines, we had the opportunity of enjoying a two day break at Kuala Lumpur, en route to Sydney.
We landed at around  seven 'o' clock in the morning at the Kuala Lumpur International airport. A one hour drive in a prepaid cab took us to Hotel Istana. We were welcomed with a cool drink, while the luggage was taken care of. We had to wait for a couple of hours in the grand  lounge  before we were accommodated  in a beautifully furnished room. 
The irritation and fatigue due to the long wait for the room, and disturbed sleep during the night were flushed out by a hot and relaxing shower.
We were very hungry when we walked into 'Taman Sari' ('Garden of flowers' in Malay) for the complimentary breakfast. It was a sprawling dining  hall with a beautiful garden view comprising of a swimming pool.  A great variety of breakfast dishes prepared to please diverse palates of people coming from different cultural backgrounds were  lined up on the counter. Coconut rice parcels were attractively arranged in baskets. Chana Masala, Dal Makni and other hot and spicy curries were  steaming in their pots. I opened an enticing parcel of coconut rice, and quickly learnt that the locals enjoy it garnished with wedges of boiled eggs and fried anchovies!!! Needless to say, I landed up wasting one parcel!

Coconut rice known as  Nesi Lemak in a conical parcel and Mini Camai Rotis

Mini Camai rotis -  hot and crunchy, looked very  inviting. Curries, Pastas, noodles, strawberry yogurt, mango yogurt and many more dishes vied with one another.  A whole row was dedicated for bread varieties. Ten  people could toast their bread at the same time using the huge open bread toaster. Butter and cheese varieties were sumptuous. The colourful  cut fruits and the fresh vegetable salad section was very attractive and there were three or four salad dressings to pick from.  Yummy cakes, croissants and other desserts added the finishing touch, while coffee and tea were served at the table. An interesting pastry was a light bun stuffed  stuffed with sweet potatoes and dusted with powdered sugar .

After the breakfast,  the boy at the desk booked us a cab for sight seeing. The charges were 30 Ringgit per hour, and the deal was that we had to take the cab for a minimum of three hours. The agreement was sealed! We drove amidst a jungle of high-rise buildings of numerous sizes, shapes and designs which seemed to merge seamlessly, hiding the entire skyline of the City Center.  We wound our way through heavy traffic via various 'Jalans'  for about an hour, doing a window sight seeing of the plush Kuala Lumpur City.
We were astounded when suddenly the 400-million-year-old lime stone hill with caves carved out by nature, loomed in front of us.The sight of the flight of 272 steps which disappeared into the cave entrance, the overhanging  stalactites in the rocky archway, and the gigantic golden Murugan Idol at the foot of the hill were breathtaking. Yes! We had reached  The Batu Caves where the Pattumalai Murugan is enshrined.

Batu Caves
The pleasant smile on the face of the gigantic golden idol of Lord Murugan at the foot of the hill seemed to bless all His devotees from far and near.

Gigantic  Golden Murugan

The drizzle which had started when we reached there, soon turned into a heavy downpour compelling  us to leave. Our driver said that it was impossible to do any more sight seeing unless the rain stopped. He suggested that he would drop us at an  eatery  which served Indian food close to our hotel, so that we could walk back easily after having our  lunch there.Though the deal was for three hours, he honestly charged us for only one hour. His gesture touched us and we booked his cab for the next day too and  of course the same conditions applied!
There was a row of eateries where they served vegetarian as well as non vegetarian food all along the street. The tables and chairs occupied three fourths of the space of the adjoining foot path.The hot and sugary tea served in tall glasses was a great relief after the cold Parota and dal meal. Regretting the rain which had spoiled our sight seeing, we rested for some time in our room. 
The sky had cleared all of a sudden and we decided to take a walk nearby, kick started by the hot coffee we prepared by ourselves in our room. Jalan Raja Chulan is one of the arterial roads which connects a network of numerous other Jalans,  crisscrossing the entire City Center. Far down the road, we entered a sky walk which lead us to busy shopping centers and malls without having to worry about the traffic.

The Sky walk

A view of the world's tallest twin towers- The Petronas -clicked from the sky walk.
We exited the sky walk by an elevator and walked into the Convention Hall which also housed the KLCC Aquaria. Land and aquatic creatures were exhibited in huge glass cases furnished with the favourable  environment for the inhabitants. The deadly 'smile' of the Ray fish which glided  over our head, inside a glass tunnel gave us real spooks! Oh ! We did miss our grand children!

Ray Fish in the aquarium
Back at the Taman Sari a beautiful  buffet dinner with lots of desserts and an awesome chocolate fountain welcomed us.
Chocolate fountain

 As we felt that we could not do full justice to a buffet meal which had only  few 'really' vegetarian options, we decided to have a small a la carte meal.The banquet manager was concerned as he had realized that we were hard core vegetarians. He arranged for a simple but delicious meal specially prepared for us. Saffron Pulav with nuts and raisins, a spicy mixed vegetable curry (they use a lot of red chillies), Cucumber Raita, fried Papads, sweet pickles and curds were more than what we wanted. 
After a good nights sleep and a good breakfast in the morning, we set out for the real sight seeing. Our taxi driver who promptly took over  the role of a guide as well, said that we would first visit the  Istana Negara, the royal Palace of the King.

The Royal Insignia
The palace is surrounded by a vast area of lush green gardens and beautiful water bodies. According to our 'guide', the King resides in one wing of the Palace and the rest of the space houses a museum. The high gates of the palace and the supporting pillars are decorated with spirals of gilded Hibiscus flowers. Incidentally Hibiscus is Malaysia's National flower. The royal insignia shines brightly  beside the gate.

The Palace gate
After a photo session in front of the palace we set out towards the Thean Hou Buddhist Temple. It was a beautiful drive on a hilly road bordered by tall trees, delicate ferns and green grass studded with tiny flowers. 
The Thean Hou Temple

One of the Goddesses

The awesome temple stands on top of a hill overlooking the city.The ornamental carvings and the decorative architecture of the temple, glitters with a pronounced red and golden hue. A wooden stair case leads us to the sanctum  where in the three Mother Goddesses are gorgeously enshrined.
On our way  to the National Mosque (Masjid Negara ) we passed by the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station ( Stesen Keretapi), which has an impressive blend of eastern and western architecture. I do not know why, but I was reminded of the Palace Office buildings at Mysore. 
Our next stop was at the National Mosque ( Masjid Negara ). The mosque is located inside a vast garden. The courtyard is paved with stones creating  star motifs everywhere. Palm trees sway their plumes from star shaped grass beds all around. The roof of the Mosque resembles a blue umbrella. Crystal clear fountains, pillars and the floorings of marble and granite add to the glitter.

The National Mosque

We removed our foot wear  near the entrance. Volunteers were ready to help visitors to put on the prescribed dress before entering the Mosque. My husband was already wearing a pant and a full sleeved shirt. I was  helped to wear a purple colour hijab  (a piece of dress  to cover the head down to the neck) and a jilbab (a gown which flowed from neck down and touched the feet) over my saree.

The Prayer Hall
The spacious  prayer hall dazzles in the light of the gorgeous chandeliers. The blue sun light which pours  through the blue and gold stained glass window panels lends a mesmerizing look to the hall.
We passed via  the National Museum and drove through a lush green park and reached the Taman Burung -  which boasted of being the world's largest Free - Flight Walk - In Aviary.

Taman Burung 

 The whole park with tall trees, dense bushes and running water bodies is cocooned inside a huge net. Winding ramp ways  lead us to different levels of the park enabling us to view multitudes of big and small  tropical birds. There are fixed timings for the visitors to interact with the birds. I liked the way in which the corn cobs and fruit pieces are stuck to the dry wood of a tree for the smaller birds to feed.

Blue Mynah
It was exciting to watch Mynahs with  peacock blue backs,  Golden Orioles and Bulbuls at such close quarters.

A blue grey bird with a crest
The park was milling with people but the sounds we heard were only that of the birds. This was heaven indeed!

Is this a white Pheasant?

After all one need not be Salim Ali to enjoy the most beautiful, colourful and musical  creations of God!
Golden Pheasant
We had walked quite a lot and the pangs in the stomach  reminded us that it was hunger time ! Dib's had called up to give us the address of 'Annalakshmi', only the previous evening. Our driver cum guide had a slightly tough time locating this place in spite of the address, because it was in a residential area called Brickfields.

The ethnic South Indian decor of the restaurant, the benevolent Abhaya Hastam of Goddess Annalakshmi in bronze and the kind and friendly staff  gave us a warm welcome.The aroma of the buffet lunch spread provoked  our taste buds and in no time we found ourselves lining up in front of the counter.

Carrot and Tofu Porial, and Greens Koottu 
It was the usual South Indian fare with Rice, Broad beans Sambar, Vengaya Kuzhambu, Greens Koottu, Carrot and Tofu Porial, Cauliflower and Potato Curry, Jeera Rasam, Vadai, Thair Pachchadi, Sweet Potato and Sago Payasam, Appalam, chutney,  pickles and Vattals. 

Vengaya Kuzhambu
There was also a course of Vegetable Pulav and Paneer Matar prepared in South Indian style. Poories or Chapaties were also served  on request. Finally there was South Indian filter coffee to wash down the delicious meal. 

Paneer Matar And Cauliflower and Potato Curry

We ended our sight seeing after a hearty and delicious meal at 'Annalakshmi' and started towards Hotel Istana. Our driver pointed out another land mark as we passed by. The eerie looking dilapidated building was a jail   built by the British in 1895.  We were immensely pleased that we were able to do so much of sight seeing in such a short span of time. Thanks to our kind driver cum guide.
We wanted to retire to bed soon since we had a hectic day. And we had to check in early in the  morning for the  Sydney flight. We rested, showered and packed our bags before dinner. The friendly and considerate banquet manager once again put together a simple vegetarian meal for us. Since we had to leave at 4. A.M. the next morning we requested the front desk  to prepare our bill so that we could finish all payment beforehand.The area general manager and the other 'Hosts' of Istana met us at the lobby and chatted up as if they were  our long lost friends ! They refused to charge us for the dinner though we were entitled for only two breakfasts according to the package! They made us cancel the taxi which we had already booked and arranged for one of the hotel cabs to drop us at the air port the next morning! One of the 'Hosts' even offered to pack some breakfast for us before we left for the Air port! We were thoroughly puzzled and quite overwhelmed by their kind gesture! We racked our brains on why a commercial establishment would go so far as to ensure our needs were met, and not charge us either - and came up with a dozen theories which didn't ring true either!  The Ringitt we had carefully put away for any emergency and for the taxi charge towards  the airport journey, is still tucked away in my husband's wallet!

A friendly Chef
 Anyway three cheers  to Hotel Istana and Malaysian hospitality!

1 Post your Comments:

Anonymous said...

It was a very nice read.