A tale of two cities, Kuala Lumpur

(See part 1, Singapore) My first impression of Kuala Lumpur on arriving from Singapore was that it was the poor relation, formed mostly from the same DNA but with some very noticeable sequence differences. A bit like in the nineties when Manchester United, the “glamorous” team vied with Manchester City, the fanatically supported, but underachieving neighbours to be (well in their minds at least!) the “true kings of football”. After spending a few days in KL and learning a little bit more about the place I can see they are a closer genetic match, its just that they both started from different places. In this case, nurture over nature gave Singapore the head start, a small strategically placed island is an easier canvas to work than a large geographically, climatically and culturally diverse country.

Malaysia is a more conservative place (with a small c), probably as culturally integrated as any country can be, its ambitious, the economy and infrastructure have grown year on year and there is a sense of optimism around the place. In KL especially, this growth is shooting up everywhere in a fusion of free enterprise and Islamic conservatism making for a proliferation of striking structures that to my reckoning lack much of the sense of real warmth and connection with the human spirit found in truly great architecture.

I don’t think KL will ever catch up with its glamorous neighbour, in financial terms (GDP per capita) it may surpass Singapore in years to come simply based on resources available. But it will take some time and an incredible effort if it is to begin to out dazzle its sparkling neighbour. The flagship high rise projects to be seen everywhere are undermined by the many pockets of deprivation, smelly sewers and overstretched infrastructure that are still to be found at street level. It’s a much bigger task to do this than to chuck up another tower or mall especially during a time of fast rising population (projected to rise by 50% at 2020).

Sadly for KL, Singapore (like Manchester United) has a world wide fan base, everybody’s heard of it and even in the flat times, its place in regional history provides a candle to keep a light in the window. KL will always be the upstart, (like Manchester City) it’s spent lavishly, bringing in lots of individuals, each with immense talent and flair but then it just extracted the talent with little of the flair. No doubt KL will stay in the the top half of the Asian city league and grind out trophy wins from time to time but I’m not so sure it will achieve the “loved” status it craves. S

Advertisements

The Pregnant Maiden

image

image

image

The favourite bathing pool of a celestial princess named Mambang Sari was said to be Tasik Dayang Bunting (Lake of the Pregnant Maiden). A prince, Mat Teja, fell madly in love with her and tricked her into marrying him. 

Sadly, their child died from a mysterious illness at the age of seven days. Distraught, the grieving Mambang Sari left the child’s body in the lake and returned to her heavenly abode. Today, some believe that barren women who bathe in this lake will be endowed with a child.

We are staying on Pulau Dayang Bunting, Pregnant Maiden Island, where the lake can be found. It’s also said that the name comes from the shape of the jungle-covered mountain formations that resemble a pregnant maiden lying on her back.

image

image

We’re being thoroughly spoiled. We booked a chalet for a week just metres from the lapping waves with Shade and his wife. They’re providing us with three delicious meals a day, motorbikes, canoes and trips around the island and to the ‘mainland’, Langkawi island. We have our own beach, mangrove swamps and even water buffalo. We spend a lot of time lying on our hammock and at dinner time enjoy interesting conversation with Shade and any other guests (none at the moment).

image

image

The highlight was waking up just before dawn yesterday, opening the door to our verandah to see what was causing the wonderful dawn chorus and finding  a small herd of buffalo slowly ambling through the shallow waves beyond. We sat in silence watching them and were then treated to the most glorious sunrise.

image