musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

Posts tagged ‘Coliseum cafe’

The Comfort of Kuala Lumpur

I don’t travel much anymore. Really, I’ve pretty much lost the urge for adventure and seeing famous sights. And when I do travel somewhere, domestically or overseas, my goal is simply to relax.

Thus, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia has become one of my very favorite cities to visit. It’s only a 2-hour flight from my home in Bangkok to get there, and upon arrival the customs and visa process is refreshingly easy and efficient. Going from the airport into the heart of KL is also painless thanks of the handy KLIA train link. Once again, fast and efficient.

When I’m in KL I pretty much stick to the same routine: eating and shopping. The culinary treats could be local Malaysian dishes or excellent Indian, Burmese or Vietnamese food. Fancy a good steak? There is The Ship or the venerable Coliseum. Plenty of sumptuous choices for any appetite.

As for the shopping I only have two targets: books and CDs. Since the demise of the Rock Corner chain last year the best place to find new CDs is the Victoria Music outlet in the Amcorp Mall in Petaling Jaya. For secondhand CDs, Amcorp Mall is also the best hunting grounds. There is a great little shop on the basement level of the mall, and on weekends there are several dealers who ply their trade at the mall’s indoor flea market. More on those goodies in a later post.

For books, the weekend flea market at Amcorp Mall also has a decent assortment of dealers, but the best buys are actually new books at one of the BookXcess branches. I think they now have 6 branches in the greater KL area, but I  usually peruse the shelves at the large outlet in the Amcorp Mall and I’m also fond of the newer location at Fahrenheit in Bukit Bintang. At BookXcess they sell “remainders” at dirt cheap prices and the selection is very good. If you want newer new books, you can try the huge Kinokuniya branch in KLCC.

Getting around Kuala Lumpur and suburbs such as Petaling Jaya is also a breeze thanks to the various electric train links, subway and monorail, all conveniently accessed by a single ticket. I wish Bangkok would get it together and offer their multiple train links on a similar single ticket. Sigh. Maybe in my lifetime it will happen.

I also love just walking around KL and admiring the modern architecture and the mosques and temples, plus bursts of colorful graffiti and crumbling older buildings, most of which I think may not be around much longer. The last few years has seen a construction boom all around KL. I almost feel dizzy looking around at the sea of construction cranes and building skeletons reaching towards the skies. What’s fueling all this construction I wonder?

I’ve also grown to like the people in KL. They are not as overtly “smiley” as the locals in Thailand or Myanmar, but I find them to be very honest and helpful. It’s an interesting mix of cultures, nationalities, and religions. Sure, you can’t ignore the predominant Muslim influence in the country, but there is also a strong Hindu and Buddhist presence too. Take the native Malays, Indians, those with Chinese heritage, and immigrants from Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and other Asian countries, and you have a diverse and dynamic cultural mix. Not to mention lots of great restaurants. I’m already looking forward to my next visit!

 

Stumbling around Kuala Lumpur

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When I wasn’t book shopping or rummaging through the CD stores in Kuala Lumpur earlier this month, I was content to just stroll around town and soak up the local atmosphere. I stayed in a colorful area between Central Market and Masjid Jamek, conveniently close to the subway/train line and the Chinatown and Little India districts, plus there is noticeable Burmese presence on one street (more about that in a future post).

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From either the Pasar Seni or Masjid Jamek LRT stations, I could take a train to nearly any part of town my heart desired. At nearby KL Sentral, there is also a link to the monorail, KL Kommuter trains, and the KLIA Airport Express. Very handy system they have. Once I arrived at my station of choice, I’d either head straight to a mall for more shopping or eating, or just walk around the neighborhood to kill time. There is not much in the way of historical sites to see in the city, but I do like looking at the modern architecture, street graffiti, mosques, Hindu temples, and shops.

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The only thing that bothered me this time was all the Christmas decorations I saw, littering the local malls, restaurants, and department stores. And what is it with store employees gleefully wearing Santa Claus caps? Urrgghh! Yeah, I’m a seasonal Grinch, and proud of it. When I moved to Thailand 16 years ago, I thought I would be able to escape the Xmas idiocy, but no such luck. But even in a predominately Muslim country like Malaysia, the Christmas decorations are just out of control. Jingle Hell once again.

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I was also disappointed that one of my favorite restaurants, Yut Kee (in Dang Wangi) was closed for some sort of multi-day break during the time I was in town. But there are plenty of good dining options in KL, so it wasn’t like I was going to go without eating for four days.  I found another nearby kopitiam for breakfast, dined a few times at a Burmese restaurant, went to the funky The Ship in Bukit Bintang, and of course made a pilgrimage to the mighty Coliseum (more about that legendary restaurant in a later post also) for a sizzling steak with fried tofu on the side. Really. Weird combination, but along with a couple of Tiger beers it made my night.

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Eating KL

One of the great joys in visiting Kuala Lumpur for me is the food. I’m an unabashed foodie, so I delight in sampling the myriad choices of sumptuous cuisine available throughout the greater KL area. Of course there any many places for authentic Malay food, but there is also an abundance of wonderful Indian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern restaurants. If my carnivore side kicks in and I feel like a big juicy steak, which inevitably happens when I’m in town, there is always the famous Coliseum Café or the venerable Ship in Bukit Bintang. 

 

KL doesn’t have the everywhere-you-turn abundance of street food that’s so easily found in Bangkok, but there are parts of the inner city where there are street stalls serving up delectable dishes. The traditional local coffee shops, or kopitiams, are also great places to grab breakfast, or any meal, and some good strong coffee. These joints are usually very laid back and very inexpensive, but also very busy.

 

I made sure to make several trips to Yut Kee in Dang Wangi for some good hearty breakfasts, and another morning I went to my favorite local Burmese restaurant, Gandawin, for a big bowl of monhinga and a few cups of sweet hot tea. I also stopped by Gandawin one evening for dinner, and the place was packed with expat Burmese workers; eating, drinking, and watching music videos on the big TV screens. Surrounded by all that and speaking Burmese to my waitress — not to mention the betel nut stand out front — I felt like I was back in Mandalay!

 

 

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