At the end of each trip we take, Mr. M & I play a question game with each other… what would you most recommend to a friend? What was the yummiest thing you ate? What one thing did you find most surprising?
But my favorite question, both to ask and answer, is:
What was the coolest thing that you never thought you’d see?
A bunch of places show up as blips on my radar… and I expect they’ll never amount to anything more. Either because they’re so far off the beaten path that they seem beyond reach… or because they’re too random (Carhenge in Nebraska, anyone?) to actually build a trip around.
When Mr. M & I went on a cross-country road trip, The Coolest Thing I Never Thought I’d See turned out to be Roswell, New Mexico. You know- home to the alleged UFO crash of 1947 and the adopted Earth home base of extraterrestrials everywhere.
Sure, I knew Roswell existed beforehand. But planning a trip around their UFO Museum & Research Center? I’m vegetarian, not crazy.
Traveling to Malaysia, I remember being distractedly excited by the prospect of getting to trek through Borneo. But when we arrived in Kuala Lumpur, I unexpectedly found my answer to The Coolest Thing I Never Thought I’d See.
Day #10,673: At 1,483 feet, the Petronas Towers were the tallest buildings in the world from 1998 – 2004. I remember seeing pictures of them when they surpassed Chicago’s Sears Tower and hadn’t given much thought to the matter til Mr. M & I actually stepped foot in Kuala Lumpur.
I totally didn’t appreciate how strikingly impressive the Petronas Towers would be in person.
I seriously could not drag myself away and somehow ended up with 200+ pictures of the same buildings. They’re absolutely entrancing.
As I later learned, the Empire State Building (which held the title of World’s Tallest Building for an impressive 67 YEARS, from 1931 to 1998!) is only 30 feet shorter than Petronas. Maybe because the top 230 feet of the Empire State Building is radio antenna- rather than architectural building- or maybe because it’s hard to stand out when you’re packed into skyscraper-filled Manhattan.
Whatever the reason, the Empire State Building isn’t as immediately impressive (sorry, New York). Iconic, absolutely! But not stand-there-with-your-mouth-hanging-open impressive. And stand there with my mouth hanging open I did.
The Petronas Towers were designed by an Argentinian architect with an eye to Islamic art and Malaysian Muslim traditions.
The geometric shape of each tower was based on the Islamic eight-pointed star, rub el hizb. And each tower has 88 floors, perhaps in deference to the number 8 being considered lucky in some Asian cultures.
It really is a marriage of past and present: Malaysian heritage showcased in the most modern means possible.
In the Slightly Terrifying category, the skybridge isn’t fully anchored to the buildings, but is instead designed to slide in and out when the buildings sway during windy conditions. Like I said, Slightly Terrifying.
When our extended loitering started to border on Creeper, Mr. M & I decided to explore Suria KLCC, the massive shopping center that sits directly underneath the towers.
Like the buildings above it, the shopping center is HUGE- it’s even home to the Malaysian Philharmonic!
Although choosing to eat at a food court while traveling within the U.S. should rightly be ridiculed (can Hot Dog on a Stick be considered a foray into American culture?), shopping centers in Southeast Asia house delicious and surprisingly authentic eats. We stopped in at Madam Kwan’s (Level 4, Suria KLCC) for Malaysian cuisine. After some scrumptious nasi lemak, we saw a gargantuan shave ice concoction emerge from the kitchen, promptly ordered “one of those,” and had our first taste of what is now Mr. M’s Favorite Dessert on the Planet- cendol!
As it turned out, Petronas weren’t the only towers in town. Menara KL (aka the Kuala Lumpur Tower, which is confusing because I wrongly think of Petronas as “The KL Tower”) is the highest observation point within the city and offers 360 degree views of everything below.
Mr. M is pointing out that beyond mere Observation Deck, Menara KL is also home to a public restroom 905 feet off the ground.
Let me explain.
My husband travels the world marking his territory. Literally. He has made it his personal travel mission to use the facilities in the world’s tallest/nicest/whatever-est bathrooms. Since this is the extent of the man’s eccentricities (and mine scroll on for pages), I feel I must enthusiastically support his baffling, but Very Serious Pee Mission and awkwardly take pictures documenting him posing with restroom signs at the top of the Eiffel Tower, at the top of the Seattle Space Needle, on top of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, etc. What and why, people. What. and. why.
Mr. M was happy because he got to pee 905 feet off the ground.
I was happy because I got to see my beloved Petronas Towers, looking like ghostly spires in the night sky.
I love the idea of Bucket Lists. For those of us OCD types who feel lost without a well-structured To Do list, defining those things that we’d like to accomplish in the course of our lifetime seems like good planning.
But no matter how much planning you do, sometimes the spaces that you don’t script hold the brightest flashes of inspiration.
Play the question game with me! What’s your Coolest Thing You Never Thought You’d See? And did!
To explore my previous day’s adventure having a panic attack on a sky bridge in Langkawi, click here!
To explore my next day’s adventure navigating a monkey gauntlet and marveling at Hindu cave temples, click here!
Details of the Day:
Getting to Kuala Lumpur: The KL airport is a whopping 37 miles outside city limits. While the drive only takes about an hour outside rush hour, it’s important to factor travel time into your plans. You can also take the light rail Aerocity commuter or express trains (they’re labeled ERL on many maps) to KL Sentral station (then transfer to the Terminal Putra train to KL City Centre).
Visiting the Petronas Towers: Although Mr. M & I didn’t make the trip, visitors are allowed to ascend to the Skybridge! (We arrived too late to tempt fate and defy gravity. Shucks.) Tickets are sold to the first 1000 visitors each day, starting at 8:30am each morning- except Mondays, when the towers are closed to visitors.
The Observatory at Menara KL is open until 10pm, so it’s a great place to continue your sightseeing after other attractions have closed.