I was sitting in the middle of this ballroom yesterday night. It was done up in red right from the luxurious drapes to the woman dressed in red silk dresses. Yes, it was a pre-Valentine bash thrown by a cosmetics company that launched its new age miracle cream. Cyrus Sahukar, who was hosting the show, described the place rather aptly -- he called it a giant tomato.
But be it a giant tomato or not, they played the most mushy soundtracks from Roxette, Savage Garden, Seal... You might cringe at the thought of it, but paired with red wine and cheese croquettes, it was a heady combination alright. It was the moment when I thought of all my loves -- past and present. And how futile they always turn out to be.
And however much I might snigger at the concept of Valentine's Day, it feels sad and pretty left out to watch couples linking up hands and revelling in each other's company. Wonder what that feels like.
Before I fall into the blues, let me talk about a trip that I went on to Malaysia. It was magic all the way.
In seven days, it felt like I had lived a lifetime of happiness. However it was a sponsored trip by the tourism board of Malaysia, so I was stuck with other journalists who were a shame to be with. There were six of us altogether -- three girls and three men.
Two paunchy middle-aged men were only interested in drinking and making us wait, without fail, in the hotel lobby every morning and evening. The third man was someone who was so well-travelled that he couldn't stop talking about Italy and Mauritius, that too with a fake accent. His grammar might have been occasionally screwed up, but hey he had an accent! Now among the girls, there was this madam who was flaunting her wealth besides the unwholesome sight of an ample paunch and the crack of her butt (thanks to a low-rise jeans and a short top). "I own three luxury cars in Delhi -- a Baleno, an Accent and a Corolla," she told our first tour guide. This guy was loaded with ready wit. He insisted, "We'll take you to one of our luxury car showrooms and you can take home another one." The fifth of us, this girl with a travel magazine, was the only one I got along with.
Now that I've let out my co-traveller woes to my heart's content, I must confess that the place itself was perfectly cosmopolitan. There were no lecherous men on the streets or anywhere, the people were very well-behaved, the public loos were spick n' span, the buses were swanky, the cabs were all air conditioned and ran by meter. Add to that a tropical breezy weather san humidity and you had the perfect place on earth. I was totally won over by the ample opportunity to do cheap shopping. So in the first two days, I exhausted my budget and ended up buying a huge travellers' bag to stuff everything in!
If we start at the beginning, the Kuala Lumpur International Airport is fantastic. There are aerotrains that go right into the main terminal. Now on the way from the airport to the Hotel Nikko, which was quite a long drive (a one-hour one) flanked by zillions of palm oil trees, I was a bit taken aback by the sight of fields of dead palms standing out among the lush greenery. The guide pointed out that they kill their palms when the trees are around 30 years old by pouring kerosene oil down them. "To do away with the less productive ones," he said. Sounded morbid, even though it makes sense to them I guess.
The miles of unhindered greenery gave way soon to skyscrapers and beautiful Islamic buildings, Moorish edifices and old Raj style buildings. The next day we visited the king's palace which is also called the istana.
The palace grounds
We were of course not allowed in. So all we could do was click pictures from outside, of royal guards on horseback (who change every two hours) and a colourful outer garden (changes every three months). The king here changes too! Every five years. The present king is Tunku Nizan Zainal and he happens to be the youngest king so far at 44. But he's a shy one. Apparently he doesn't meet anyone and even appointments do not work with him.
Our next few stops were the ASEAN Garden and a war memorial in the same compound.
Check out the bronze soldiers in the War Memorial -- they symbolize victory, bravery and courtesy
What I loved especially was the Moorish style architecture of the National Railway building:
Opposite it was the massive KTM Berhad, the railway administration building, designed by E C Norman, a Brit architect:
The National Mosque itself was unconventional. None of the usual domes that you associate with a mosque. It has a Javanese design with the main hall topped off by an open umbrella roof in a beautiful turquoise blue:
I think each building looked stunning, be it the National Library, the National Museum or be it the 'Sexy lady of Kuala Lumpur' which is actually the building of the Haj Foundation.
Where we went for lunch in the city centre actually was the icing on the cake. It was the Menara Kuala Lumpur (KL Tower) with a revolving restaurant. From atop the tower it was a lovely bird's eye view of the city.
These two old ladies admiring the view of the city while lunching at KL Towers were rather endearing:
Some miscellaneous pix from within the buffet area of KL Towers
This lobster shed its shell in the aquarium here apparently in the 1990s:
This cake is apparently three years old:
The buffet was very sumptuous as well.
The dessert counter:
Only I got excited by the sight of this jar stuffed with what looked like fried papads. I greedily piled a few on my plate, when I was warned that I might not like them. By that time, I had even popped one into my mouth. I can't tell you the incredible reaction it had on me. The papads were fried in fish oil. Not that I am a fish hater. I am a Bengali after all. But stinking fishes are the limit. I must say, that otherwise, the fishes were cooked very well in lemongrass oil and had a lovely flavour.
The evening was spent shopping in an arcade opposite our hotel and then soaking my feet in hot water. They were as sore as hell.
Part 2 of the trip follows in the next post. Kind of running short on time.