Monday, January 10, 2005:
We both got up a little before 6am. Crystal went to the gym and ran, a little faster than usual since she got confused with the math on the miles to kilometer conversion. Justin uploaded pictures from the day before. We ate breakfast at the restaurant in the hotel, then went for a walk around the park east of the hotel. It's vantage point allowed us to get a number of good pictures of the Twin Towers, the hotel, and the flora and fauna. The walkway was padded, like a track. It also had the nicest looking water fountain we'd ever seen, but we were too afraid of the water to drink out of it. We went back into the hotel and arranged for a day tour around Kuala Lumpur.
While on our tour the driver gave us a lesson on Malaysian history during the time between stops on the tour. As best as we can remember, it goes something like this. Back in the 1300s, current-day Malaysia was split roughly 50-50 between the Thais and the Indonesians – the Thais controlled the Northern Half. Around 1400, there were two Indian brothers (princes?) that got into a dispute, and the vanquished one went to what is now Malaysia. Once there he got on good terms with the Thais and Indonesians by having his sons hook up with Thai and Indonesian princesses. He converted to Islam sometime along the way and became the Sultan of Melaka – Melaka being a city in Malaysia south of Kuala Lumpur (English spelling is Malacca).
The Portuguese came to visit the Sultan sometime after his rise to power, and were slaughtered after not showing the proper deference and respect to the Sultan. Two escaped, however, and made their way back to Portugal and told the King of all the riches in Melaka. The Portuguese came back and conquered Melaka, and stayed there, relatively peacefully (well, except for making everyone slaves) for decades. Then in the 1600s the Dutch came in, got the help of the locals by promising to free them, and vanquished the Portuguese. The Dutch, however, did not keep their promise, and everyone stayed slaves.
Somehow or another, the British showed up, and were peacefully co-existing with the Dutch for many years – British up north, Dutch in the south, Thais and Indonesians pushed back towards present day borders. When the Dutch became engulfed in a war back “home” with the French, the British took over, “temporarily” from the Dutch – the Dutch were never welcomed back. Under British rule, all the slaves were freed, and everyone seemed pretty content. Then in World War II, the Japanese came in, took control of the country, and did unspeakable horrors to all of the Chinese in Malaysia.
After World War II, the Japanese left, and the British once again took control. In 1957 Malaysia peacefully gained its independence from the British. All but two of the 15 states from the pre-War Malaysia became part of the country of Malaysia. The other two states became separate British protectorates. One Brunei, was valued because of its oil. The other, Singapore, was a concession made by the British to the Chinese. The Chinese did not want the Malays to have control of Malaysia, so the British cut a deal to make Singapore separate, and all the rich Chinese went to Singapore .
(An interesting aside is that the tour guide told us that the Malaysian flag was designed to look like the American flag because they were very grateful that we bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, at which point the Japanese vacated Malaysia. However, when the Malaysian government sent troops to Afghanistan, rather than putting the Malaysian flag on the uniforms, the put another logo on the uniforms so their troops would not be mistaken for American troops.)
Nowadays, there are 13 states in Malaysia, 9 run by Sultans (relatives going back to the first Sultan from the 1500s), and 4 run by government appointed officials (the States where there were no surviving relatives of the Sultan). Kuala Lumpur is rather centrally located, and serves as the center of the country economically as well.
Okay, so now back to the city tour we went on. First we drove through the Golden Triangle, which is where our hotel is located. Then we went onto Chinatown , which is a little West of our hotel. Then we went to the Palace of the current King – every 5 years one of the 9 Sultans is made King, and then goes back to being a Sultan thereafter. We had our picture made with one of the “guard horses” to the Palace. The Palace also had a very nice, long driveway, lined with Royal Palms. It's kind of like our driveway, only about a billion times more impressive.
After that we went to the Thean Hou Temple and the Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah Mosque (“Blue Mosque”). The Temple and Mosque are both extraordinary in their own rights. The Temple was built by the Chinese many, many years ago, and is way up on a hill. From the Temple you get a great view of Kuala Lumpur. The Mosque was unbelievable – extremely ornate and enormous in size. It was so big that we couldn't get a good picture – the camera could not zoom out far enough.
After the Temple and Mosque we came back into KL proper and went by some of the old British buildings from when Britain was in power. After that we went by a large park that had a big lake in the middle of it. Apparently such parks are common because when mining the ground for tin, when the mining is over the ground is filled back in but is unsuitable for large buildings for many years after. We also passed the opera house - they (admittedly) ripped off the design from Sydney. Then we went to a tin factory – some of the best tin in the world comes from Malaysia – 97% pure, and no lead added. We bought a flask there with some engraving on it. From there we went to a Batik factory – it's a way of dyeing fine fabric. Crystal got a nice silk scarf that can be tied in about a half dozen different ways for different occasions. Fortunately it came with instructions, so it may actually get some use.
Back at the hotel we went to lunch by the pool. The pool is on the third flow, and overlooks a park to the Northeast of the Hotel. It's one of those infinity pools, so all of a sudden the water stops and all you see is tree tops. From there we walked next door to the 6 story mall that is at the base of the Petronas Towers. Everything there was way out of price range, and not at all Malaysian – it was all Zegna, Boss, Cartier, Tiffany, etc. Good to see that we Americans have had our rampant commercialism infect the rest of the world.
We came back to the hotel room briefly, then went over to Seri Angkasa, the rotating restaurant near the top of the Menara KL telecommunications tower. The tower is 421m tall, so we have to figure we were somewhere in the 300-350m high range. Absolutely fantastic views of Kuala Lumpur and surrounding areas. The food there was…did we mention the view was great? After staring up at the Petronas Towers for a couple days, it was a little odd to be looking at them eye to eye. The Menara KL Tower is a little shorter, but it is up on a hill so stands about the same height if not higher. Justin had a New Zealand Sirloin Steak, Crystal had fish with a curry sauce. Justin also had two Singapore Slings, and they must have been strong because by the end of the second one he had forgotten he wasn't supposed to eat the ice. Luckily no problems. We got back at around 9pm, and were asleep by 9:15pm.
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