Tuesday, May 10, 2011



To really understand Malaysia, you need to plan more than just a stopover in the nation's capital - Kuala Lumpur.However, if you happen to find yourself there for 24 hours due to unforeseen circumstances (or cancelled flights), rest assured - there's plenty to see and do. To get your bearings, head to Bukit Bintang (Golden Triangle). Although this is undoubtedly the tourist precinct in KL, it's not all bad news. This is also the city's shopping and nightlife precinct, with open-air food stalls and a few makeshift bars open late each night. You'll find plenty to keep you entertained, from world class cuisine to relaxing massages, and everything in between.

The streets are alive with ancestral pride, but the standard traffic jam nightmare is no more. As luck would have it, the sixteen hours I spend in transit happen to be during Chinese New Year. It's a special time of year, that's all about family and friends, so as long as everybody is present - there is no need for a car. I spy besotted Grandparents doting on their spoiled grandchildren, while husband and wife share a smile. Alongside longing glances, they giggle like teenagers.

I duck under the many Chinese lanterns that hang spectacularly from tall trees amidst the hustle and bustle of big city living. It is then and there that the smell of fried noodles and tropical fruit is too much to bear. It stirs my stomach and I look for somewhere to eat at once. Luckily for me, this is Malaysia. A country where eating isn't so much a pastime, but more of a national obsession.


You'd be well within your right to eat every meal in Bukit Bintang, as this part of the city showcases the depth of Malaysia's love affair with food. Every cuisine is represented, from Mexican and Iraqi restaurants, to Thai and Pakistani street stalls. If you do choose to leave the area, and want to try some fantastic Indian food, make sure you head south and check out Little India.

Finding nirvana through nourishment is asking a lot of any restaurant, but Sangeetha Vegetarian Restaurant (Palace Hotel, Little India) will do just that.

In every respect, my first visit to this restaurant resulted in the best meal I'd ever had in my life, and probably ever will. I've decided this time around, I'll order the same thing - Gobi Manchurian (deep fried cauliflower) with Masala Dosa (potato pancake) to start. Although I've ordered the exact same meal before, complete with naan and chutney, the taste still blows me away.


Living in Asia for an extended period of time tends to spoil you. You get used to cheap massages and health spas, before long they just become part of the scenery. Bukit Bintang is home to hundreds of health and wellness centres, as well as a few that are a little off-centre. 

The 'fishy foot spa' is a truly out of this world experience. The initial onset of intense tickles may put some off, but it's not so bad - as long as you don't think about it too much. Their ferocious appetite puts me in mind of piranha - not carp!

The moment I put my feet in the tank, schools of fish attack both legs, swarming and feasting upon whatever is placed in their domain. The fish clean away all the dead skin cells, improving blood circulation along the way.

These fish are known as 'doctor fish' in Japan, although their medical license is somewhat dubious. They have been on the spa circuit for a few years and are really starting to reel in the cash :P

For those who don't want to come up close and personal with feeding fish, but still want something a little different - why not try the special 'fire-cup' massage? Also known as 'cupping,' you can try this traditional form of Chinese medicine for under $20. It dates back thousands of years and involves suction of the skin, in order to suck out all the bad properties while replenishing the good, much like the way leeches were used in the middle ages.

The process is no doubt painful, with each fitted cup bringing with it a feeling akin to clothes peg on nipple. After 20 minutes of waiting and wondering, all amidst incessant laughter from a mob of masseuses, the suction cups are finally removed and the sense of relief is overwhelming. My back plays host to a swarm of painful red lumps, and it's a few days before the swelling goes down completely. 


It's the collective belief of many frequent travelers, that one of the best ways to understand a country is to understand the people. Having just escaped from one of Malaysia's more monolithic malls, the kind KL is famous for, I first spotted Jamil 'the catman' Ismail. The bustling cityscape of Bukit Bintang seemed an odd place to chill out with a large number of cats and one lone monkey, so I decided to investigate.

It turns out that Jamil has spent the last fifteen years saving cats from the city streets, and for nearly a decade has been doing it full-time. An impressive feat anywhere, made all the more impressive by Malaysia's lack of animal rights.

"Not just Malaysia, all of Asia is a cruel place for animals," says Jamil. "There is no law protecting them, they have no rights." In a complete contrast, it is the cats who call the shots in Jamil's home. For the last ten years, he has shared his home with feline friends, who at last count outnumber him 104 to 1. They have the biggest room in the house, and Jamil assures me, 'there is not a mouse in sight.'

While taking pictures of the cats, a small monkey appears out of nowhere and grabs at my camera. This little primate pest is shooed away lovingly by Jamil as he recounts how he came to adopt her.
"An Arabic couple left her as a baby in a hotel room, they got bored," he says with disgust. "The hotel owner happened to know me and asked if I could help out."

Surprisingly all animals get along very well, with the monkeys helping the cats rid themselves of fleas. While admiring this little monkey's striped blue shirt and pyjama pants, a passerby stops to ask how much the monkey will cost him. Jamil's look of utter contempt is less than subtle, but soon changes to a sheepish grin as he replies sarcastically, "Three million dollars. US dollars. Cash only, no checks and no negotiation."

1 comment:

  1. Thank you very much for wonderfull story about me and what i do. my god bless you.

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