Kuala Lumpur: Taking a break from Island living to holiday in the big city.

Kuala Lumpur: Taking a break from Island living to holiday in the big city.

Imagine living a dream life… where the only traffic is the hermit crabs on the beach and you fall asleep to the sound of the waves, with a happy heart and skin tinged slightly red from the sun. Imagine living a simple, island life every day. Where there is no rushing, no stress and each day is much like the one before, moments and days and months all blending into a treasure chest of memories filled with sun and fun and laughing.

Now imagine sand in your bed… every night, no matter how hard you try to keep the sea shore out of your sheets. Imagine the sting of a cold water shower on your skin warm from slumber- every morning, the cold droplets trickling over your body while you hurriedly try to get clean. Imagine that same cold shower after a day spent out on a dive boat in rain stinging your eyes and skin and soaking into your chilled body to, what feels like the depths of your soul.

Imagine needing to make a 3 hour trip to the mainland to stock up on supplies like shampoo, toothpaste and soap because the items on the island is 25-50% more expensive. Imagine not being able to go to the shop and purchasing ingredients for your favourite meal because most of the shops cater for tourists on holiday and not people who live there.  Or even having to travel by boat to either the mainland or the neighbouring island to see a doctor because the island you are living on only has a clinic with limited supplies.

Living the dream on an island comes with many compromises – on some islands none but the most upmarket hotels has hot water. On some islands most places only has brackish water in the bathrooms as freshwater is not readily available on the island. There are many every day, mundane things city dwellers enjoy without a second thought and sometimes it is taken for granted – until you find yourself living without it for a period of time.

Whenever I think of Kuala Lumpur I think of the Patronas Twin Towers, sky scrapers that touch the sky and some luxury living. I don’t particularly like big cities, in fact, I would rather live in remote and secluded places where I can spend lazy, quiet days out in nature. Kuala Lumpur, though, has managed to burrow into a soft spot in my heart, and here are a few reasons why.

Appreciating the luxury of big city living.

One of the most noticeable things for me is how everything in Kuala Lumpur just works. It is a beautiful, clean city with modern conveniences that is easy to get around in. Public transport work like a dream and everything you might want is at your fingertips- or the end of a taxi ride.

Growing up in Johannesburg, South Africa I seldom went into the city centre- South Africa has a pretty high crime rate and the city centre isn’t the best place for a lady to go exploring by herself. So when I arrived in Kuala Lumpur it was a pleasant experience to be able to walk around the city, taking in the big city feel, all by myself.

What struck me the most was the luxury around me. Everything just looked and felt expensive. From the trains and huge malls to the manicured gardens in the apartment complexes. I stayed a few days with a friend in her apartment with a view of the gardens and the pool. The gardens were always impeccably maintained and the infinity pool (there is always an infinity pool) always clear and welcoming- especially on a humid afternoon!

At the time I was living on a small island in Thailand where supplies had to be brought in from the mainland, limiting your options to the most basic. I was also very familiar with sea sand in my bed and hand-washed clothes – unless you were willing to pay someone extra to machine wash them… and even then the machine part wasn’t guaranteed.

For me everything from visiting the grocery store with its endless isles of choices to making a home cooked meal involving peas, machine washing my laundry to sleeping in a sand-free bed felt like a luxurious experience!

Thunderstorms in the city

I had just finished a touristy high season in Thailand and took a well-deserved break to Kuala Lumpur. During high season every day is warm, bright and sunny. It is lovely to be out and about with salt water and wind in your hair and skin slowly turning tan in the sun. This is perfect for when you are on holiday… when you live there, however, sometimes you just want some rainy and stormy weather so that you can put on a hoody and watch a movie, curled up under a blanket on the couch.

This beautiful, big city did not fail to please. One afternoon I was alone at home when the sky started to turn grey and then dark. Clouds packed in on top of each other as if they too, wish to cuddle on a couch. And then it came… a spectacular lightning show flashing in the distance. Looking out over Menara Telecoms and the rest of the city I was filled with excitement by this spectacular display of light and the anticipation of the storm to come.

With thunder echoing off the walls and through the city I experienced my first big city thunderstorm, made a cup of tea and curled up on the couch.

The Patronas Twin Towers and Rooftop bars

The Patronas Twin Towers is one of the most iconic landmarks in Kuala Lumpur. Standing 452m tall the towers are the tallest Twin Towers in the world. With their unique 8-pointed star shape, 32 000 windows the Towers should definitely be on anyone’s must-visit list when going to Kuala Lumpur.

The towers are quite impressive to see during the day, with sunlight glinting off it. They literally shine, though, at night. Sparkly, glitzy, glamorous, mesmerising… I can go on and on to describe these two towers at night. There are many hotels, restaurants and bars in the area. A highlight is the many rooftop bars. These swanky places are tastefully designed and offer a variety of beverages, all with amazing views of the Patronas Towers. And yes, some of them even have infinity pools. 

Kuala Lumpur had pleasantly surprised me with its beautiful scenery, how immaculate, clean and well-maintained everything was, and the luxury that hid around every corner. I loved being able to move freely through the city, taking in the sights and sounds, and yes… spending lazy afternoons in an infinity pool looking out over the skyline.

*A version of this article first appeared at www.zafigo.com

Juanita Pienaar

Juanita Pienaar is a citizen of the world, recently settled back down in her home country, South Africa, after spending time traveling and living in Asia and Africa. She has a passionate love affair with the ocean and loves to share that passion by teaching scuba diving. She is a yoga teacher and fully believe in finding the balance in life. She has recently discovered the joy and freedom of wearing yoga pants ‘out-and-about’. Juanita loses herself in the written and spoken word.

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