Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Temples, Food, and Christmas Spirits

Kuala Lumpur – food, temples, and shopping … shopping … shopping. ‘Tis the season to shop here in Malaysia; however, neither of us is a shopper, unless we’re talking about electronica (Ty) and vintage clothes (Lisa), but luckily, given that there’s zero room in the ol’ luggage, I’ve not found any vintage shops here yet. It’s the Christmas season in KL, and surprisingly, for a muslim town, there’s plenty of Christmas cheer, including santas, elves, trees, and stockings, to go around, even if we’re not buying much.

We got here two days ago, multitudes of bags in tow, and are ensconced at the Nest Guesthouse in Bukit Bintang, the so-called “golden triangle” of KL, the shopping and food epicentre – who knew? Unbelievably, for two people who love food as we do, this is exactly the right place to stay in KL; there are fabulous restaurants, bars, and street vendors everywhere in this area, and a huge variety of food to be had at about one third the cost of what we’d pay in Vancouver. Fine dining, ethnic, fusion, steam boat street food, dim sum, pizza, Vietnamese, Thai – whatever we fancy, it’s here.

The Nest is a small three story place just recently opened and our room is quite tiny, with a window opening into the interior of the building, a window we’ve not yet opened. It boasts a pantry for breakfast, a psuedo living room w couches, TV, and computers, and a tiny balcony for die-hard smokers. Our first night we wandered through the neighbourhood, had dinner at a fantastic Vietnamese restaurant, walked through Jalan Alor, a street-food-vendor mecca, and around Jalan Bukit Bintang, the streets of which were full of people, noise, music from a live band, hookers and their customers, and mega foot massage parlours. KL is a foot fetishist’s dream. We had a drink in a couple of places and watched the action before staggering back to the Nest and to bed.

Our first full day was spent walking from our place, through Chinatown’s Petaling Street, to a Chinese Temple, in which the faithful were burning paper money for the gods, and the Sri Mariamman Hindu Temple, in which priests were placing offerings at various shrines to the accompaniment of flute and drum music.

Both temples were lively and luscious sense-surround experiences, after which we had lunch at the Reggae Bar nearby and wandered back through the crowds. Later that night we headed out to the nearby restaurant strip and stumbled into El Cerdo, a Spanish restaurant, for great tapas and paella, which, unbeknowst to us until after, is rated the second best restaurant in KL. We thoroughly enjoyed it; the food and service was fantastic. I took quite a few pictures of the Christmas decorations and great colours of the bars and restaurants here, complete with Santa-hatted wait-staff.

Today the weather was crap but we headed out in a cab to the Thean Hou Chinese Temple on Robson Hill, the largest Chinese temple in Malaysia (no public transit goes near here). This place is enormous and is built on several levels. Unfortunately, it was absolutely pissing and the temple is currently under renovation, so the visitation experience was less than optimum, given the scafolding etc everywhere. After investigating the parts of the temple still open to the public, we headed down the back stairs to the turtle and tortoise pond out back. This area, with two pools, a small waterfall and decorative shrubs, is home to many, many turtles, both large and tiny. Apparently, some people believe tortoises represent longevity, so when a child is born, the family buys a little tortoise and donates it to the temple to wish the child a long life. In addition, in the grounds outside the temple are animal sculptures representing the signs of the Zodiac, as well as a large Goddess of Compassion and a scholar statue. (Since the weather was so bad, my pictures are less good than I’d like … ah well).

Nightime saw us down the road once again at Bijan for dinner, a restaurant that specialises in Malay food and is also one of KL’s best – we’ve sure been eating well here in KL – getting spoiled!

See more pictures here.

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