Wednesday, December 1, 2010

More than just a stopover...

(The following article was published on Lonely Planet's website on the 22nd of November, 2010. Click here to check it out)

To really understand Malaysia, you'll need to plan more than just a stopover in the nation's capital - Kuala Lumpur. If you happen to find yourself there for 24 hours due to unforeseen circumstances (or cancelled flights), rest assured - there's plenty to see and do. To get your bearings, head to Bukit Bintang (Golden Triangle). Although this is undoubtedly the tourist precinct in KL, it's not all bad news. This is also the city's shopping and nightlife precinct, with open-air food stalls and a few makeshift bars open late each night. You'll find plenty to keep you entertained, from world class cuisine to relaxing massages, and everything in between.

For those sick and tired of regular massages, why not try the special 'fire-cup' technique? Also known as 'cupping,' you can try this traditional form of Chinese medicine for under $20. It dates back thousands of years and involves suction of the skin, in order to suck out all the bad properties while replenishing the good, much like the way leeches were used in the middle ages. The process is no doubt painful, with each fitted cup bringing with it a feeling akin to clothes peg on nipple. After 20 minutes of waiting and wondering, all amidst incessant laughter from a mob of masseuses, the suction cups are finally removed and the sense of relief is overwhelming.

You'd be well within your right to eat every meal in Bukit Bintang, as this part of the city showcases the depth of Malaysia's obsession and love affair with food. Every cuisine is represented, from Mexican and Iraqi restaurants, to Thai and Pakistani street stalls. If you do choose to leave the area, and want to try some fantastic Indian food, make sure you head south and check out Brickfields, or as it's known to locals - Little India.

I have eaten Indian food all over the world, including in India, but Sangeetha Vegetarian Restaurant (Palace Hotel, Brickfields) still stands out. On my last visit to the Malaysian capital, I stumbled into this restaurant by pure chance and foolishly forgot to get a business card. I thought about the place often, but without even a name to go by, my chances of finding nirvana through nourishment again, were lowered drastically. I only knew that it was in Brickfields, near a bazaar and at the base of a hotel.

After being dropped off by the marketplace, my wild goose chase is thankfully short, and I have found my happy place in under an hour. In every respect, my first visit here resulted in the best meal I'd ever had in my life, and probably ever will. I decided this time around, I'll order the same thing - Gobi Manchurian with Masala Dosa to start. Although I've ordered the exact same meal before, complete with naan and chutney, the taste still blows me away.

Kuala Lumpur is big and bustling, there's no doubt about it. Look past the honking and the horns, and you'll find it's also something else, and while it may seem slightly western - it is undeniably Asian.

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