So this post comes to you from an unspecified number of thousands of feet in the air (or more likely the free hotel wifi in KL!)
It's been a while between posts mostly due to Tom doing shorter than expected teaching hours meaning I have less time to myself, this is not a bad thing! When I left you last, I was going to meet Tom to go to the Eye Bar for cocktails, after a surprising amount of time roaming the iSquare shopping mall trying to find a lift to the thirty something floor, we finally made it, only to find we weren't impressed... It was Friday night so it was very busy and there we're no free tables, the view wasn't particularly great either so we saw no reason to stay. We swiftly turned around and left. Instead we headed to the Peninsula Hotel (VERY posh) and the renowned Felix Bar - renowned by the men for the fact that the urinals are facing a plate glass wall on the 30th floor overlooking the harbour! Are have to say though, we weren't very impressed with this place either. The bar was very small and very un-fancy yet VERY overpriced. Tom assures me the urinal experience was nothing special either... We had to try it though, having already put it off for several years!
As I mentioned in my text ai didn't travel well on the plane so didn't get to finish this post. I'm going to skip a few days in HK now, we didn't do much due to Tom's teaching, mostly trying out new bars in the evening and going for gorgeous food, most notably of which I will cover: we've finally tried authentic Peking duck! We got the hotel to book us a table at a restaurant that specialises in it. It was fab, nothing like the shredded crispy duck back home, but very tasty, we really enjoyed it.
We arrived at our hotel in KL early yesterday evening, and after a quick visit to our swanky room over looking the park and the Petronas Towers, we headed up to check out the roof top bar and pool. What a let down... Hilariously funny.... But not the fancy, nice relaxing bar we were expecting. It's all indoors, amazingly overheated, and super tacky! It's like being in a resort. There's a DJ at one end playing offensively loud (and rubbish) music and they float tacky neon lights in the pool. Really nasty! We didn't stay long, instead we headed out. As we stepped out of the hotel there was a buggy-train type thing for hotel guests offering a ride round the park to the towers, so we hopped on. We arrived at the towers just in time to catch the 8pm fountain show, the typical fountain/lights to music thing but I have to say it's the best we've seen by far. Afterwards we headed to Changat Bukit Bintang (known for drinks) and Jalan Alor (known for street food). What an experience?! we covered Jalan Alor first it's madness, the streets are lined with open restaurants and food carts, with tables across the path and into the road, so you have no option but to walk down the road - which is still being driven along! Watch your toes! it's so bustling: large paper lanterns are strung across the street all the way down, there are people trying to sell you touristy tat (even while you're sitting in the restaurants)' it really is something, even after experiencing the HK night markets. We found a busy looking place to eat and had a fantastic meal of the speciality chilli fried chicken, a clay pot dish of belly pork and salt cod, a set of satay skewers, rice and two beers all for.... £14!!! Brilliant! From there we headed to Changat Bukit Bintang which the guide book described as another must... TOTALLY not what I was expecting! The street is lined with bar after bar, on top of bar after bar. All of them were playing really loud music and all of them are touting for you business... Again a very resort feel about it. It was good, not really my kind of thing... Think I might be getting old! ;0)
We had an early start today: needed to be across the city by 8.30 to start our walking tour so we called it a pretty early night after dinner and one post dinner drink.
So today we had booked the Eat, Pray, Love walking tour. It was fab! Covered the old part of KL which the city has planned to modernise, so the tour guide was telling us how it's not likely to exist in a few years. In fact even now it's quite an odd blend of really old Chinese/Indian influence and new modern buildings. The tour consisted of five food stops, two temples and with lots of interesting information about the history of KL, how it developed in the 1800s and when they got their independence it was really interesting. It started with a breakfast of roti - super thin pancake style pockets - one stuffed with cheese and onion the other with a sweet jam type filling. These are served with a mild lentil curry and a slightly spicy fish curry. We got to watch them being made and that was very interesting, apparently the chefs or 'masters' train for years and years to be able to do it well and this guy was supposedly one of the best in town. This was accompanies by a drink (I forget the name) of black tea with condensed milk, VERY sweet a quite odd, but not bad. We headed next to a Bhuddist/Taoist temple which was very typical of all the small temples we visit in HK, but going with a guide (of Chinese-Buddhist heritage) was great because we learned a lot about the temples and how to receive blessings there, how to respect the temple and how to pray. Something that made us laugh was that as there are twelve zodiac signs (year of the snakes, horse, rat etc.) each year eight are in good luck and four are in bad luck. 2014 is a bad luck year for both me (rooster) AND Tom (horse)! We were shown which deity we should be praying to to reverse this!
Carrying on we walked through Chinatown where we tried two types of street food, the first: odd green fluffy pancake type things stuffed with peanuts (really tasty and apparently made by the only remaining guy who makes them) and the second, ducks feet stuffed with it's liver and wrapped together with it's tendons and barbecued in a sticky barbecuey sauce. Tried it - as expected, liver yummy, rest not so much!
From there went to the market, which even by the standards we experience in HK took us to a new level. Stalls lined with raw meat and fish all rested on huge cages of live chickens - ready to be slaughtered to order.... Thankfully we didn't see that, not sure how we would've handled it.
Next we stopped for a snack of various noodles dishes at a Chinese stall, all very nice but nothing too different to what we've already tried: em definitely had the best chopstick skills of the group though!
Next was the Hindu temple and this was a great experience! After checking our shoes and socks at the door, we were showed how to enter respectfully and how to respect the temple by only visiting in a clockwise direction. We then experienced one of the eleven (and sometimes thirteen) daily prayer ceremonies. Again, this was when being there with a guide was really useful as he explained anyone of any religion can observe (or take part in if they want) the ceremony. As KL is so multicultural, they encourage this in order to maintain religious harmony. It was a great new experience: the two priests lead a procession of devotees around the temple and the various gods to pray and then offer their blessing at the end (the white/red dots on the forehead). All the while there is really loud live drum and trumpet music being played seemingly at random but still with a melody (of sorts).
Continuing on, touring through all the old streets and dilapidated buildings and what remains of the traditional family businesses we finished off at a South Indian restaurant which still serves the food on banana leaves. We were taught how to eat the meal (rice with curry sauce, vegetable pickled and curried pieces of mutton and chicken) using only our fingers of the right hand (the left being reserved for other 'unclean' tasks!) Not something I'd do again - give me a knife and fork or chopsticks any day!
The tour over we finished off the afternoon by strolling around the remaining China Town/Merdeka Square area before heading back to the hotel. We're currently enjoying cocktails in the much nicer lounge bar we found before we head out again for dinner/drinks. All in all it's been a very good first full day so far!