Kuala Lumpur 3: Masjid Jamek, KL Bird Park and Sayonara

Our last day of big-city urbanism for a while saw us cruising around on KL’s great public transit system, a system which puts Vancouver’s piddly little Skytrain to shame. KL, a city slightly smaller than Vancouver in terms of population, has six different public transit systems, including a monorail and an LTR, as well as buses. We’d intended to visit the Petronas Twin Towers and, as we transferred from the monorail to the LRT, we noticed a beautiful mosque right outside the gates, the Masjid Jamek. Of course, I wanted to check it out and Ty graciously obliged me.

Although Ty was wearing shorts, because they covered his knees he was good to go, while I, in long pants, had to wear the full-on black floor length robe about twice too big for me and headscarf – incognito in KL. Neither of us was allowed to enter the mosque or its pavilions but we could walk around the outside, from where we took pictures. Formerly the National Mosque, until the Masjid Negara was opened in 1965, this place is located at the confluence of the Klang and Gombal Rivers.

Two star shaped fountains, possibly formerly used for ablutions, adorn the gardens. The building itself is of “Moorish” design; in fact, although I haven’t seen the Alhambra in Spain, from the pictures of it I’ve seen, this building has a similar kind of design and coloration. After wandering around the mosque, we hopped on the LRT and exited at the Petronas Towers, which we decided not to enter – the charge to go up the elevator is RM 50 each, a bit steep, I thought …

From there, we hopped a cab to the KL Bird Park, billed as the world’s largest free-fly walk-in aviary. We had a crappy lunch at the Hornbill Restaurant inside while enjoying watching the many ibis creep along the ledge next to the dining tables, begging for food.

Both of us had very mixed feelings about the aviary; on the one hand, it’s large and some of the birds are able to “free-fly”, it has a fairly successful captive-breeding program, and endangered species have a place to live.

On the other hand, it’s a zoo, and has all the problems associated with those institutions, including psychically damaged individuals, birds mindlessly pacing back and forth incessantly, and small old-style metal cages for some species, such as owls and eagles, which in the wild would have enormous habitats. And neither of us were sure how well the birds were cared for. I did enjoy seeing the beautiful peacocks, of which there were lots, with their bizarre cyring-baby screeches, the emus, which we fed some greens, the startlingly bright red ibis, the guinea hens with their crazy head gear, and some of the smaller beautifully-coloured songbirds.

Over all, I’d say that KL was great for a few days and we’ve eaten better here than we have since we left Vancouver, dining at the best Malay restaurant (Bijan), the second best restaurant period (El Cerdo), the best Italian (Piza) [all of these accolades according to Time Out Magazine], and a wonderful Vietnamese place, all of which were literally just around the corner from the Nest. We also checked out the night scene at the Pavillion shopping area, with its installation of “Buddy Bears”, painted fibreglass bears reminiscent of those that once graced Vancouver’s streets, and heard a bit of a Christmas Carol Concert at Box Ten. However, this morning I was definitely ready to go and was glad to wave bye-bye to the Nest and KL, as we chugged off to the KL International Airport.

Unfortunately for us, after a taxi trip of one hour, when we went to check in for our flight to Koh Samui, the ticket agent told us that we were in the wrong airport … shite! And the right airport was another hour away by yet another cab – and here in KL it isn’t possible to just grab a cab out front, you have to buy a coupon from a desk that’s inside the airport security zone. Running to the bank machine to get more Malaysian Ringgit, running through security and up to the taxi counter, buying the coupon, finding the correct cab station, climbing into the cab – then holding my breath as our driver screamed back down along the same freeway we’d just travelled there on at 140 km in the morning traffic, to arrive at the Suban airport (who knew that KL had another airport?) in time to catch our flight – priceless! Airport Gong Show Redux …

After a short flight of two hours, and a taxi ride down the east coast of Koh Samui island, we arrived at the Promtsuk Buri, a small resort on Lamai Beach, our bungalow away from home for Christmas. Today, as a result of the aftermath of a typhoon blowing through the Philipines, the surf was up at Lamai and we had a great swim in the turquoise waves. We’re both really glad to be back on the ocean after missing it for the last 5 days.

See more pictures here.