Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

 In Honeymoon Planning
You may recognize the gleaming steel structure that dominates the skyline of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  They are the Petronas Towers and were featured in the 1999 film “Entrapment” featuring Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta Jones.  In the film the pair pull an amazing New Year’s Eve heist from the banking database located on the upper floors of the towers.  During filming, the Towers were the tallest buildings in the world.  At 452 metres high, the 88-story megolith contains one million square feet of floor space.  Completed in 1998 at a cost of 1.2 billion U.S. dollars, the bottom half is  home to the Suria KLCC- the largest shopping mall in Asia.  This six-story shopper’s paradise has 270 specialty shops, an art gallery, concert hall and underground parking lot.
At the 41st and 42nd floors, the towers are connected by a steel bridge that weighs in at 750 tons.  The bridge is the highest accessible point to the general public.  The bridge has been open to the public since 2000 and tickets are free.  The catch is that they only give out 800 a day so you need to get there early.  The elevator up is one of the fastest on the planet.  Guests are allowed ten minutes on the bridge to take pictures.
The Towers’ primary resident is national oil company Petronas.  The other offices above the bridge are home to Malaysia’s national banking system.  The towers are the largest banking center in Asia.
The drive into Kuala Lumpur was fascinating.  We drove from the island of Penang for about four hours through dense rainforest.  We saw nothing but green for miles and all of a sudden the magnificent towers we’d seen in “Entrapment” rose up out of the jungle.  You can see them for miles.  The city itself is very modern.  This is the most contemporary Muslim society in Asia – similiar to Dubai in many respects.  There were plenty of high-end retail shops and spectacular restaurants with a diverse fusion of cuisine.  Our favorite meal was at the Kuala Menora Lumpur.  This is the fifth largest tower in the world and is a short drive from Petronas.  At the top of the tower is a revolving restaurant with an amazing selection of regional favorites.   The view is one of the most spectacular on earth.  You can see the stunning city limits fade into the dense rainforest miles away.  We celebrated a truly glorious sunset over a bottle of berry-infused champagne.  The restaurant takes about a half hour to fully rotate.  Looking out and seeing the Petronas Towers outside our table window was priceless!
KL is the legislative capital of Malaysia.  This metropolis of 7.2 million residents sits just north of the equator and basks in an extremely warm climate.  Monsoon season is September through April and brings plenty of rainfall.  Our trip was in February of 2004 and the temperature was usually in the low 80’s.  We found the people to be quite friendly.  They spoke many languages and almost all were fluent in English.  We spent an entire two days exploring the Towers and the shopping mall.  Our other excursions were into the rainforests to see Templar Falls.  On the way to the Falls we were fortunate enough to witness the final hours of the Batu Caves piercing festival.  This is one of the most painful looking self-inflicted piercing rituals there is.  We couldn’t bear to take pictures, but they have a documentary of these antics on the National Geographic channel.  Templar Falls however, was a nice retreat from the city.  A stop at the famous Blue Mosque showed us the pinnacle of Muslim artistic design, with the tallest minarets ever built.
KL is one of the least expensive modern mega cities you’ll find.  The currency is the Ringit and trades at roughly 3:1 against our dollar.  The time is 12 hours ahead of Ocean City. We reached KL via a 10-hour flight from Moscow to Bangkok.  From there we drove  about  12 hours south into KL with a few stops along the way. The most direct flights from BWI to KL would get you there in about 22 hours.  Don’t even think of smuggling in drugs into Malaysia.  Soldiers boarded our bus at the Thailand/Malaysia border and checked all of our bags.  The penalty for drug possession is death and they make you sign a waiver that you aware of this fact.
Out of all the Muslim cities we’ve visited, this was by far the safest. The weather was perfect and the hospitality was generous. Seeing some of the most unique modern architecture in the world made this an amazing expedition for Cassandra and I.   Ma’ Alsalam!
– The Rox

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