Friday morning in KL and this is the view down to Bintang Walk from the third floor of Lot 10, an upmarket shopping centre that is virtually next door to our hotel. We can't resist the Birkenstocks for around AUS $90 but we tire quickly in the face of so many other big brand stores.
The streets are lively with shoppers, students and workers but it is not too crowded, nor is it too noisy even with the monorail overhead.
We admire the food court in the LG floor of Lot 10. The Chinese corporate type who owns the block has ensured that Malaysian street hawker food is featured, hutong style in the food court. We didn't try the Frog Claypot on this occasion.
We walked on down Bintang Walk to the newer end of town, past the Farenheit shopping centre and to the super glitzy Pavillion shopping area. To stimulate thinking about world peace (!!) an exhibition of painted bears representing each country of the world was attracting a ton of attention at the entrance to the Pavillion.
Once inside the Pavillion it was hard to ignore that Chinese New Year is being celebrated on Monday - heralding the year of the dragon. Much of KL is festooned with red, pink and gold decorations at the moment in readiness for the celebration.
The Pavillion has more high end designer shops per millimetre than I have seen anywhere. But even in this setting Topshop and Topman have found their place.
We're obviously hopeless shoppers because we fairly quickly tired of all this too.
Luckily for us the Pavillion has a food court too, including lots of Japanese inspired eateries. It was fascinating to watch this young woman making fresh soba noodles.
We'd booked ourselves into a Food Tour Malaysia Off the Beaten Track Tour on Friday evening. As newbies to KL we were quite challenged by the prospect of making our way by train to Petaling Jaya a satellite township on the SW outskirts of KL to meet Darren Teoh, the tour leader, at the Taman Paramount train station. So much so that we arrived at Taman Paramount with an hour to spare and quite relieved to have made it and be out of the crowded peak hour trains.
So we had to have a bit of a walk around the nearby streets, intrigued by our up close glimpses into life in the suburbs in Malaysia.
I didn't know it at this stage that I'd be eating later at the Restoran Lucky Seafood! in the background of the photo below. Nor did I know that darkness was rapidly approaching and a huge tropical downpour was almost upon us!
The thunder and lightning raged and the rain was so heavy that all we could do was wait it out under the cover of an awning by the roadside. It hadn't cleared by the time we were due to meet Darren at the train station so we both got DRENCHED making our way back. It was a good ice breaker though as the other couple who'd signed up for the tour were also soaked so we could compare stories and look a wet bedraggled lot together. (The new Birkies were also soaked unfortunately!)
The Restoran Lucky Seafood was right into the swing of celebrations for Chinese New Year. Darren ordered us a special Yee Sang dish that Chinese people try to eat at this time of the year as it is very auspicious for ensuring prosperity. We had to use our chopsticks to mix and toss all the components of the dish (ginger, toasted sesame seeds, horseradish, raw fish, various rice cracker things, plum sauce, grated carrot) mounding it as high as possible to ensure the highest level of prosperity for all.
The green juice served with it was fresh lemon with salted plum (surprisingly delicious). While starting to get to know each other a little and hearing a bit about Darren's background (and all about Malaysian food of course) I found Yee Sang a most beautiful, fresh and energising dish - a perfect meal starter.
A little drier by now the 6 of us squeezed into Darren's Nissan Levina for the drive back into KL city, via Little India in Brickfields.
This was my favourite food of the night. Indian food served on banana leaves and no cutlery, everything eaten with the right hand.
Darren's father is Chinese and his mother is Indian, making him very representative of modern Malaysia. He's completed his MBA in Lucerne in Switzerland and friend Sophie, along for the ride tonight has just returned to KL after a few years in Melbourne completing her Arts Communication degree at Swinburne.
Eating this delicious food with our fingers really loosens the conversation. Darren is prepared to talk (intelligently) about anything to do with Malaysian politics and society. He very cleverly makes us all feel relaxed, like we're in the company of friends.
We love this food! That milky looking drink served with our curries and breads is actually chai tea - a perfect combination.
The Hindu temple down the street looks like the grandfather of the merest facsimile that was built at Mawson in Canberra in the late nineties.
We'd talked so much it was already around 11.00pm by the time we arrived at the next eating place in the Kampung Baru district of KL just to the NW of the newly developed KLCC/Petronis Twin Tower district.
According to Darren we sampled the best satay pork and beef with chili/peanut sauce in KL at the little roadside eatery he selected for us in this district.
Close to midnight by now it was quite a thrill then to be driven around and right below the Petronis Twin Tower and KLCC, gorgeously lit for the admiration of the throngs of people and cars still lining the roads this late at night. It is definitely a beautiful and elegant building.
We end up in Jalan Alor, which Rob and I had found on our first night. The food outlets there obviously meet with Darren's approval.
We managed to squeeze in some bar-b-que chicken wings (sticky with soy sauce but so smoky and tender too) served with a type of bok choy with fermented bean curd and our first Tiger beer of the evening (or should I say early morning).
The young couple with us were from Melbourne. They were here to take advantage of Malaysia's extremely good reputation for high tech and high quality dental work at a third of the price it costs in Australia. Chris had just had a wisdom tooth removed this morning. He also gave me a blow by blow account of having his teeth laser whitened and his wife Tina horrified me with her accounts of having all her teeth capped in porcelain (for cosmetic reasons). Her smile was perfect but OMG what a process to go through. They were a lovely open talkative couple, well travelled and good company for the night.
Once again preparations for Chinese New Year result in random acts of noise, firecrackers and lion dancing in the streets, even by young children like these.