Saturday, August 10, 2013

Le Tour de KL on Hari Raya

I've come to realise that as an urban dweller, I know very little about the nearest biggest city - Kuala Lumpur. When visitors ask for recommendations of places to visit, it's pretty sad that I myself have not been to most of the tourist spots in KL. In light of this shortcoming, we have endeavored to bring ourselves to self-enlightenment. Last year, we explored Batu Caves and Thean Hou Temple. This year, we were a little more kiasu - trying to pack in as many attractions as possible in a day but alas, the body wasn't willing!

Taman Tasik Perdana (Lake Garden) - The longest zebra crossing I've ever seen!

Our initial plan was to visit Sekinchan to see, smell and touch the paddy plants - unfortunately, a last minute prudent impulse to check the paddy planting season revealed that July to August was the clean up and resting period. So Plan B came into action - our main aim, to visit Tugu Negara (National Monument).

A pre-slumber espresso did its harm in keeping me awake half the night and caused a late rising. However, still being the Hari Raya long weekend, the roads were clear and we reached Lake Garden mid-morning (despite being mislead by Waze to "keep left" and thus taking the wrong road - Jalan Duta - instead of Jalan Parliamen). There were a fair number of young families and joggers / bicyclists around but the park was not packed.

We took a walk down a paved road, not knowing where we were heading as I couldn't identify any attractions as stated on the map I had saved from the website.

Lake Garden - bridge over the canal to the artificial lake
Lake Garden - Never realised how close the park is to KL Sentral vicinity
Somehow or another we came to a road sign indicating that we could walk to Muzium Negara (National Museum) from the park. We were surprised and delighted! No need to double back, get into car, drive over and get lost trying to find the museum's car park entrance (again!).

National Museum
Lake Garden - Sign post directing which way to Muzium Negara
So we decided to try out the route to Muzium Negara and looked to our right and saw this!

Muzium Negara
Lake Garden - underpass to Muzium Negara
Pretty scary for two girls, I would say! But we saw a mother and son emerging from the underpass and decided to wing it and take the underpass. True enough, it led directly to the museum's back entrance. The underpass crossed perpendicularly underneath the highway - Jalan Damansara.

muzium  negara
Muzium Negara - A creepy sight to behold after the underpass - mannequin directing traffic!
Entrance to Muzium Negara costed us RM2 for adults holding MyKad. The visitors were a mix of foreigners, tourists and locals (some evidently after their Hari Raya open house events). Although the museum looked large from outside, there were four halls/galleries within the main building - Prehistory (A), The Malay Kingdoms (B), Colonial Era (C) and Malaysia Today (D). Unfortunately, Gallery D (Malaysia Today) was still under construction as at the time of this post.

beautiful floor
Muzium Negara - Gallery A & B on the ground floor, Gallery C on the 1st floor
Basically what we saw in the galleries where what we had learned in our primary and secondary school History classes. In Prehistory, we saw the remains of prehistoric humans and early homo sapiens with burial rituals and the Perak Man. There were exhibits for the different eras - Paleolithic, Hoabinth, Neolithic, Metal Age. It was quite impressive that in one exhibit, the curators catalogued almost every seashell in it (and there were probably hundreds!) - perhaps this is the museum-greenhorn in me showing! It's pretty interesting how paleontologists can differentiate between a normal rock and a prehistoric tool made by man.

In the Malay Kingdoms, the story of the sultanates origins were told with examples of the currency used (oh how I remembered the "pokok pitis" in our Sejarah book), clothing, wares, jewelry and weapons from the days. The intricacies of the carvings on the hilt, blade and sheath of the various types of keris were interesting. One take back I personally had was the 7 waves (ombak) on a particular keris, which otherwise I would have thought was a chipped off the original artefact. Another lesson learned: my Bahasa - English vocabulary translation is really rusty (e.g. sabit is not a sickle, it's a scythe! hahaha).

Some of the exhibits which I found interesting/amusing are as below:

muzium negara
Muzium Negara - Kepala perahu in the Malay Kingdoms
Muzium Negara
Muzium Negara - Wooden clogs - means the wearer has to grip the clog with her toes!
Muzium Negara - Exhibit 5 is "Kamcheng", a Nyonya pottery ware, not 'camaraderie' as the common Chinese term used today
Muzium Negara
Muzium Negara - Bronze belanga during the Islamisation era - is that a cartwheel or somersault etched into this artefact? haha curious indeed!
The Colonial Era had some replica facade of A Famosa and a few other famous historical structures. Again I saw a model of the tin mining ship-thingy which was used in Kinta Valley, Perak. There were old photos, mannequins portraying the Pangkor Treaty and old paper currency used. Funny: somehow, there were typo errors in the printed text display!

light from sun
Muzium Negara - window light
Upon completing our visit to the three galleries, we went outside to look around and found some old cannons, one with an interesting carving, as below.

muzium negara
Muzium Negara - Dragon biting the cannon
After the museum, we had to walk back to Lake Garden. We took the other road on the opposite site of the lake back and found one of the entrance to the Deer Park. We were quite tired walking under the midday sun (and no lunch yet), so we decided to skip this.

Deer Park
Lake Garden - the stairs! No way we're climbing up
We managed to find the "Boathouse" that we had seen on the signposts. And thank goodness, there was a tuckshop selling cold canned drinks and other snacks. We took a breather there and watched a few couples having their pre-wedding photoshoot nearby as well as a bunch of young girls in cosplay costumes.

Lake Garden - Boathouse
Lake Garden - near the Boathouse
Finally reaching our car, we headed off to Jalan Petaling for lunch. Suddenly, we realised we had forgotten to walk over to Tugu Negara (National Monument)! With some sighs, we decided to either try again later or postpone it to the next trip out.

In Jalan Petaling, we had lunch at Old China Cafe, which had a rustic warm ambiance, dim but homey feel to the refurbished old shoplot. Food was so-so but priced on the higher range probably due to its popularity among the tourists and local yuppies. N said that the cafe was recommended on Trip Advisor. Dining space was limited, only the ground floor, and the first floor was the restrooms (as we enquired for tables upstairs and was somewhat amusingly informed).

Old China Cafe near Jalan Petaling
jalan petaling
Old China Cafe - I ordered Nasi Lemak (RM10.90 + 10% svc tax)
After lunch, we walked around Jalan Petaling awhile before deciding to head back to Tugu Negara. Parking was a little distressing at Tugu Negara (and again we missed the same fork in the road earlier due to Waze), as tour buses were parked along the narrow road. Two-lanes had become one lane to service incoming and outgoing traffic. The consolation is that we managed to park at the ISIS parking lot and the weather was great! Not too hot and a little windy with just right natural lighting.

As I'm running out of wordcount in my head and time on my hands, to cut the long story short here's some of the better photos I took. A photo conveys a thousand words, as they say.

National Monument KL
Tugu Negara - outer courtyard
Tugu Negara - elevated pavilion separating the two courtyards housing the two monuments
soldiers fallen
Tugu Negara - the famous monument we see on our banknotes (inner courtyard)
fallen soldiers courtyard
Tugu Negara - inner courtyard
Tugu Negara - a different perspective
Tugu Negara - another fountain in the inner courtyard

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