It was pretty obvious that we couldn’t stand for long on the hop-on hop-off tour of Kuala Lumpur, especially given the speed it completes its circuit at, so we didn’t really have much choice as to whether we wanted off at the next stop – we really had to, if we were to avoid chronic neck and back problems later on. So, when we were told at the next stop, the Royal Palace, that we’d be breaking for 15 minutes to allow everyone sufficient time to take a tourist picture of themselves with a guard, it was Manna from Heaven for us. We hopped off, waited until everyone hopped back on, and then stayed put, determined to hijack the next bus as it emptied out. In actual fact, I’ve met the King before at an event I was at – although ‘met’ is something of an ambitious term, ‘briefly stood near’ being much more appropriate – and so it’s always nice to see where people live, and his ‘gaff’ is by no means a moderate affair, it would be safe to say. The guards in Malaysia though, which can be somewhat disappointing if you’ve grown up used to the guards in England that refuse to so much as cough when they’ve got a flu, actually move quite a lot. Whenever they fancy, in fact. So much so in fact, that as we stood there watching them and they walked all over the joint, it was more like they were the tourists and us the guards. But, you know, variety is the spice of life and all that so we couldn’t complain. Besides, it was nice to stand up straight and not be crouched into the bus, if only for a short while.
To be fair, we waited much longer than we’d actually planned to for the bus, so when it did arrive, we absolutely legged it on, racing straight to the seats at the front and taking a pew before anyone else had even the faintest chance. It would be really no exaggeration to say that, although it was a tourist bus, it went at the pace of a stunned duckling, meandering along the highway so slow I feared my internship might have finished by the time we reached the next stop. The traffic wasn’t bad, but it didn’t matter anyway, as we slowly rolled along, before finally turning into Little India and beginning what can only be described as a grand circuit of KL Sentral. Now, I don’t drive, but KL Sentral, the capital’s main transport interchange hub does seem to have something of a repetitively circular layout to it, forcing visitors to circle the whole building once or twice to get where they want – and, of course, if you happen to miss your intended stopping point, then a third or even fourth lap becomes necessary. The bus though, for whatever reason, actually spent the guts of 20 minutes circling and circling, to the point that I thought I might get travel-sick from so much circling of a building and speed ramps every 100 or so meters. We circled enough times anyway that we all knew the different entrances and exits of KL Sentral by the time we finally departed for the open road again.
Back on the road again, it wasn’t long before our next stop, the National Museum. We haven’t actually been to the National Museum but by all means it looks like the kind of place that an afternoon would be well spent at. Moving on, we then took in the sights of the parliament building, before shuffling along towards the Bird Park and the Lake Gardens. We had intended to get off at the Lake Gardens but since I’d no idea where exactly we were, we ended up getting off at the Bird Park. In the end, that suited just fine to be honest as the Bird Park provided something of a welcome break from the bus, offered an opportunity to buy some expensive bottled water and take in the toilet facilities on offer. After a short respite and with strong resolve to complete our tour, we walked along to the next stop, just by the Islamic Arts Complex we were at before, before re-boarding the tour and continuing. From there, the journey went on and on, continuing its unusual routing which often seemed to double-back on itself and bring you back to nearly the exact same place again, but always without actually driving on the same road. A word to the wise, from the less-wise; the tour is actually VERY long if you happen not to get off much for a while. So long in fact, that on our visit, they took ‘5 minute breaks’, which were more like 15 minutes to allow people to take some photographs, which in all fairness also provided the staff with a well-earned opportunity to make a few phone calls or have a smoke. But the journey can actually become quite tiring purely because of all this stopping and starting and as we made our way up towards Chow Kit and my favourite, the old Tune Hotel, I began to wonder how quick the route really would be back into town.
That’s not to say we didn’t see new things that we really needed to see before leaving KL for good. For starters, we were taken along to an area not altogether very far from either our house or the Lake Gardens (although the actual journey would suggest differently) that was very much unspoilt and scenic, with its architecture seemingly rooted in old British colonial style. Likewise, the area beyond Chow Kit and back towards KLCC (near where I work) was a new one on me and one that was all the better for seeing properly. But as we arrived at another major tourist sight and I struggled to take a picture out the windows, only to find out we were stopping for the ‘5 minute’ break, it became something of a struggle in itself for us to all keep the enthusiasm going. Even fast-forwarding back into town, in which we live, the journey to the stop closest to our house was a good hour coming along. We enjoyed the tour immensely, and having recommended it to others, I know it’s definitely the best way to see the city and take in everything. For sure however, it’s not exactly ‘at your own pace’ and we were all delighted to see once again our street ‘Tengkat Tong Shin’ for a stretch of the legs and most importantly, a trip to SK Corner for some naan and vegetables.
And with New Years just a few days away, it was time to get ready for our trip to Langkawi…