We depart Melaka at 8.30am for our drive to Kuala Lumpur.
Arriving at KL we visit the new National Palace, the new King, Kedah Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah, only having been installed in the last few days. The Palace is a huge white and yellow monstrosity, complete with 22 golden domes, which light up in a display of colours by night. The new palace cost RM935.5 million (SGD $382 million) and was purpose-built for Malaysia’s king. The king is chosen from among the country’s nine royal households, in a unique rotating monarchy system, every five years. It is nearly 10 times larger than the old palace, and built on 98ha of prime land in KL, which had been gazetted for the purpose since 1976. It was designed with traditional Malay as well as Middle Eastern architecture. Much of the interior is handcrafted with etchings of holy scripture from the Quran and reflects the King’s position as the keeper of the Islamic Faith for Malaysia. The palace faces in the direction of Mecca. Tourists are welcome to visit the palace, from the outside only.
Next stop is the National Museum. Chan tells us an interesting story about the land on which the museum was built being cursed by the fire goods. The building caught fire twice (once during WWII and the other during the grand opening of the airconditioning being installed), until the shamen worked out that no-one had bothered to offer the fire gods any offerings to appease him! Hence, two ways to outsmart the fire god were considered, first was to provide two large ponds of water outside the building. The second was to confuse him by placing the entrance to the museum at the back of the building. Seems to have worked, as there have been no further fires in the building to this point in time. The museum housed four (4) galleries, detailing different areas of Malaysia’s history, which were fairly interesting.
The National Monument is next on the list. This monument commemorates three sets of dates in Malay history 1) World War I, 2) World War II and 3) the defeat of the communists in 1960, and was designed by Felix de Waldon, who was also responsible for the Iwa Jima Monument in Washington DC. It features a large pond of water, and the roof is studded with tiles from all the squadrons who fought alongside the Malays, all set in stunning gardens. We also stop along the way to take photos of various buildings before heading to a nearby hotel for lunch. The restaurant was Kopitam and it was a 12RMB (about $4 AUD) set lunch, of orange juice, salad (pretty much just lettuce leaves with dressing all over it), a small dinner roll with mushroom soup, fish and chips and a little tart for dessert.
But what a schemozzle of an afternoon! We check into the Hotel Istana. We get to our room, it’s still being cleaned. No worries, we’ll go have a cocktail in the Songket Lounge. We return to our room, and 10 minutes later, someone tries to open the door! They’ve allocated someone else the same room. That sorted we head out for some sightseeing.
We manage to locate the KL Hop On Hop Off bus, get on board and head towards the Lake Gardens. It starts pouring on the bus, so you can’t take photos and the rain starts to play havoc with the traffic. It’s still raining by the time we get to the Lake Gardens and it’s starting to get dark and we wonder whether we can really be bothered waiting for another bus after this to pick us up – we can’t. The stops on the HOHO are all out of sequence and some of the stops appear to be missed out, and the commentary doesn’t really match the sites at all locations. We end up sitting on the bus for about 3 hours seeing nothing much of KL except traffic (for anyone thinking of jumping on a HOHO, don’t do it on a Friday or when it’s wet or when it’s peak hour!). Finally we make it to Petronas Towers to find out you can’t just go up there, you need to buy a ticket first. But ticket sales for today are closed. It’s getting dark now anyway and I’m starting to panic about finding our way back to the hotel. We finally make it back, bothered and with our clothes plastered to us. We get to our room, and –voila – the key doesn’t work now. They’ve reactivated it, so back downstairs to reception to get it reactivated.
Bottle of wine ordered and half consumed, we decide to brave the streets for dinner and find a lovely little Italian place called Cicci. Great bruschetta, divine bread with olive oil, lovely fresh simple salad and gorgeous pizza topped off with a glass of sparkling later and the night ends better.