We hadn't realised when we left Laos that by crossing the border by land we were only entitled to 14 days stay in Thailand - fly in and you get 30 days without having to apply for a visa. The easiest solution was to fly to nearby Kuala Lumpur courtesy of the extremely cheap budget airline, Air Asia. We decided to take the opportunity to see the city and stay for one night in the city.
We hadn't realised that we were arriving on the last day of the Chinese New Year. The festivities last a fortnight and climax with lion dances. We took the bus into town transfering to the monorail and walked into the hotel. I suspect that many of the guests take taxis since the pedestrian entrance was not immediately obvious. Drums were being set up and strange poles. Soon a large troupe of drummers arrived dressed in yellow.
Their enthusiasm and precision was amazing. Between pounding they danced leapt on and off their drums in unison and made a great sound. Most of them were quite young.
Indeed the youngest was so small that he had great difficulty in carrying his drum off at the end of the performance.
In front of the drummers a second team of young men had set up stands on which a dragon and lion fought.
Each have two athletic men inside who leap from stilt to stilt turning, weaving and bobbing.
The ears wiggle, the mouths open and the whole body of the lion shakes when he is scared.
Eventually after much high level sparring the dragon eat the leaves and we retired to the hotel's Chinese restaurant for dim songs, Chinese appetisers.
Unsurprisingly the restaurant was packed with Chinese families celebrating the new year. Our quite modest repaste was in sharp contrast to some of the meals. The year of the dragon is supposed to bring wealth amongst other things so envelopes were being passed out by some of the well heeled clients to their guests and the restaurant staff. We could have gone for the "Immense wealth set menu" which featured sliced abalone, birds nest soup, suckling pig, fried egg white with seafood, steamed grouper, sea-cucumber with scallops, noodles,sweetened walnut puree with sesame dressing, and seasonal drinks. Albeit a banquet for ten people. Other set meals on the same theme of wealth were available for lesser prices.
Kuala Lumpur itself has obviously seen massive recent modern development. The most famous example of this being the Petronas towers which are quite a striking tubular design.
Alongside the modern apartment buildings, offices and hotels you can still see the remnants of an older city. In this city the streets are not cleaned and there are few pavements. Houses are low level buildings or shacks. These areas surprise because they are in the middle of such obvious wealth and also because they are quite small. Unlike China where similar tenement areas are more hidden but also cover much larger areas. We walked through the Chinese area but the shop houses are less obvious and frequent than in Malacca or Penang. The most obvious influence on the streets is Indian. There are many Indian shops and temples.
One of the most interesting features of Kuala Lumpur is that there is an almost equal balance of mosques, buddhist and hindu temples. The Hindus seem to have the most fun.
However, aside from the temples it is the coming of the new rather than the historic that marks this city.