How to Upstage a Shrimp and Other Stories: My KL Experience (part 1)


About 8 months after resigning from the Oil Company I used to work for, I learned that some of my friends (who remained there) accepted an offer to temporarily transfer to KL and support the newly acquired petroleum retail business in Malaysia.

And with this transfer, came  the perfect opportunity for us to visit KL without spending as much as we normally do when we travel out of the country (we could save on food and hotel). Schedules were aligned, flights were booked, and plans were made.

If there’s something different about this trip, it is the absence of concrete plans – unless you count an email exchange about an arrival dinner and late night pool party at the MARC Residence where we will stay.

We always have an amazing-race-see-taste-smell-feel-all-you-can type of itineraries. Not this time.

We arrived at about seven in the evening, and then lined up for a taxi that would take us to Damas Suites for dinner. More than the rolling hills planted with palm trees, Kuala Lumpur’s wide highway impressed me. It made me realize that distance between the airport and city center would not matter if you have highways as good as KL’s (I also remember how it will be for us if the airport is in Clark).

And what’s the use of good highways if you don’t have speeding vehicles? I silently prayed as the driver reached 140.


Tessa graciously cooked dinner for us. I should say her buttered shrimp was the highlight of our dinner… until Joie cried and upstaged both the shrimp and watermelon. 🙂

She was overjoyed seeing us all together again, eating as a group –something we haven’t done for some time. It was heart rending…seeing the shrimp relegated to a second-place finish. IMG_8540

The following day Tessa and Ian had to work, so the four of us briefly dropped by their office building and proceeded to Batu Caves, a popular Hindu shrine dedicated to Lord Murugan.  As a Catholic, I didn’t know what to make of the experience.  A little part of me felt guilty going there and taking pictures while devotees piously climb the 272 concrete steps going up the caves. Although we were respectful (we didn’t litter, we were not noisy, etc)  I felt like we were intruding a private place. I entertained a few questions: How would I feel when a Hindu gets inside the church and start taking pictures while I am praying inside? Does tourism transform everything spiritual into something trivial?

Batu Caves2

Batu Caves

I didn’t have much time to answer those questions while I was there. It was humid and we were perspiring. We went down the steps, carefully avoiding the macaque monkeys (they were not really intrusive, unless maybe if you’re carrying food), bought a bottle of cold water each at a stall near the statue, then took the train going to KL Sentral station.

Looking back, what I saw there was, maybe, a showcase of religious tolerance in Malaysia. I can only assume. I would like to write more about this topic in another post.

Twin Towers

We spent the afternoon walking and getting lost. What started as a wish to have pictures  in front of the Petronas building ended as a walkathon. We easily found the building, of course. What we were not ready for was finding MARC Residence (coming from Suria KLCC). Ian told us it’s a short walk.

We had a map, and Erick was our guide – perfect combination! It took us two hours and many detours, including one at the Malaysia Tourist Centre.  (note: It’s really nice when you’re the one writing because you can always come clean. haha. Make your own blog Erick! And your own version)

Ok, let’s just say and believe that Joie insisted: “that white building over there is MARC residence!”

Ian was right. It’s a short walk. This we discovered when we returned to Suria to take photos at the park until darkness set in at round 7 p.m.

                  (photo credit: Glenn Montano)



We walked some more going to Jalan Bukit Bintang and Jalan Alor. I felt very happy upon seeing the huge crowd (I always gets energized by a huge crowd. It reminds me of a festival). In Jalan Alor, street-side restaurants abound.

A number of tables were setup in the sidewalk; a passing car had to navigate ever so slowly in a sea of people walking deliberately as they choose where to eat. We settled for a restaurant in the far end of the street. I was both hungry and full when we got there. Hungry from all the walking; full from all the food I was seeing and smelling along the way. And just like that, I tasted the best seafood soup in my life. The clear, ginger-y soup (with a hint of lemon grass) with  shellfish was heavenly.

street scene

In terms of ambiance, restaurants in this strip are like two-step upgrades of our karinderyas in the Philippines. But you don’t visit Jalan Alor for ‘ambiance’. You go there to taste heaven. At least, that’s what I thought it was. But you see, even heaven is relative.  🙂

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