June 25, 2019

Chocolate Museum at Kota Damansara: An Interactive Experience

If you are a chocolate connoisseur or love chocolates, the Chocolate museum at Kota Damansara in Malaysia is sure to leave you with a sweet experience. The museum offers a detailed understanding about chocolates, its history and making. Apart from the interesting facts about chocolates, the museum also has state of the art equipment and numerous interactive displays making the visit to this museum quite an amusing and informative one.  

Chocolate museum at Kota Damansara is owned by DR Group, whose founder Dato’ Dahlan Rashid is widely referred as the ‘Chocolate King of Malaysia’. Apart from importing worldwide brands such as Lindt, Hershey, M&M etc., the company under the brand name Fidani manufactures its own chocolate products such as Farell, Danson and Millton.

Though it has a huge display of chocolates for sale, what attracts both children and curious elders alike are the interactive sessions that the place offers. With life size replica of Malaysian cocoa trees, artistic chocolate sculpture collection, giant reading books with information and stories about chocolate, chocolate train model and miniature Petronas towers made from chocolate, the museum has a plethora of attractions to keep visitors engaged.

The museum also displays the journey of cocoa and chocolates, industrial manufacturing and health benefits of chocolates. Apart from these, the chocolate making session is a pretty interesting one as it helps one indulge in the detailed process of how chocolates are made.

Visitors can enjoy some of the freshly crafted chocolates with various designs at the Chocolate galleria. They also have a display of various brands of chocolates from world over for the visitors to purchase.

Location: Selangor Science Park, Kota Damansara
Timings: The museum is opem from 10 AM to 5 PM
Entry Charges: 10 RM

P.S.: I was hosted by Malaysia Tourism board during my visit to the chocolate museum, but opinions are my own.

June 20, 2019

Istana Negara: The National Palace of Malaysia

The yellow domed structure looks beautiful even from a distance. The fluttering flags, strolling horses and guards in their uniform further accentuate the elegance of the Istana Negara, the National Palace. Istana Negara is the official residence of the King of Malaysia who is the head of the state. The king is referred as Yang DiPertuan Agong in Malaysia.

Sprawling over 97 hectares, this palace has 22 domes and was built in 2011. The complex has three portions- royal component, administration component and formal component.  The old palace was built in 1928 and was replaced by this new one. The old palace was converted into the royal museum in 2013 and is known as old Istana Negara.

While visitors aren’t allowed to enter the premises of Istana Negara, one can stroll outside the gates and have a view of the beautiful structure. Guard of change is a ceremonial process that happens twice a day outside the palace. Decked in Malay attire, the guards can be seen marching and also parading on horses. This is a way to display their old traditions and customs to the visitors. The timings for the same are 10 AM and 3 PM, and is a wonderful ceremony one can experience in Kuala Lumpur.

P.S.: I was hosted by Malaysia Tourism board during my visit to Istana Negara.

June 18, 2019

KL Tower: Rising above the Skyline of Kuala Lumpur

View from the balcony of my hotel room was absolutely encapsulating. The cityscape was adorned with tall skyscrapers strewn across. The city sparkles at night as colourful lights further accentuate the charm of the structures. Amidst the beautiful buildings in various shapes, what stand tall are two iconic buildings of Kuala Lumpur- Petronas Towers and KL Tower. While Petronas towers gleam like twin silver cones against the dark backdrop, KL Tower gets lit up in multiple colours, making it as captivating as the more popular Petronas. 

Standing 421 meters tall, Menara Kuala Lumpur which translates to Kuala Lumpur Tower or KL Tower as it is popularly referred, is the world's 7th tallest communication tower. Completed in 1995, this cloud kisser is one of the major attractions in Malaysia. Situated on Pineapple hill, the tower is amidst one of the oldest forest reserves in the country, despite being in the middle of the city.

Visitors can take the elevator which takes them to the Observation deck which is 276 meters tall to enjoy the views. There are fixed binoculars to give a closer view of the cityscape, buildings and distant hills. The Sky deck which is further higher at 300 meters above ground level offers an uninterrupted 360 degree view of Kuala Lumpur’s skyline. On clear days, one can have a view of Batu caves from the deck. This is undoubtedly the best place to enjoy panoramic views of the city. Sky box is a glass enclosure which offers a unique experience to visitors with more views of the city.

Malaysia has a nice blend of cultural mix and the tower is known for its various cultural activities, which are held through the year. There are more activities such as adventure sports, walk through a tropical rain forest and a visit to a mini zoo that one can experience at KL Tower premises.

There are gift shops selling souvenirs on the ground floor and at the observatory desk. The tower also has three restaurants for the visitors to enjoy a meal with amazing views.

KL Tower is undoubtedly a must visit destination in Kuala Lumpur with magnificent panoramic views of the skyline of the city.

Travel Tips:
  • The tower is open from 9 AM to 10 PM every day.
  • Bags and backpacks are not allowed in the sky deck area.
  • Charges for the Observation deck are RM 30 for Malaysians and RM 49 for foreigners. For the Sky deck, charges are RM 71 for Malaysians and RM 99 for foreigners.
  • The closest rail station to KL Tower is Bukit Nanas mono rail station.

P.S.: I was hosted by Malaysia Tourism board on my visit to KL Tower, but opinions are my own.

June 13, 2019

Batu Caves: The Colourful Temple Cave

From a distance, it seems like people are walking over a rainbow. The colourful steps next to the tall Murugan statue lead to the popular Batu caves. The first time I visited Batu Caves in 2012, the steps weren’t colourful, but the recent art work has caught the attention of photographers as well as travellers. Batu caves are huge limestone hills with a few caves and a couple of shrines inside them. Dating to more than 400 million years, these caves leave every visitor spellbound after the steep climb.

The massive statue of Lord Muruga, who is also referred as Subrahmanya can be seen from a distance as you approach Batu caves. The gold coated 140 feet high statue at the base of the caves is the tallest Muruga statue in the world. This popular tourist attraction near Kuala Lumpur is swarmed by numerous fluttering pigeons that are fed by the visitors.

A steep flight of 272 colourful steps leads to the entrance of the caves. Gasping for breath after that climb, one would find themselves transported to the neolithic age. The insides of this natural wonder are a treat for every geologist and as well as visitors. The sunlight seeping through the holes in the ceiling, the water dripping down from the tip of the stalactites and the pungent smell would take you back to the pages of your geography textbook from school. The view from the entrance of the cave looks surreal with darkness engulfing the area and a beam of sunlight piercing down a huge opening, which is indeed a jaw dropping frame. The inside of the cave is as big as a football ground with natural lighting except for the ones near the shrines.  

The place looks divine with minimal sound and devotees lost in prayers. The crowd is always a mix of local Tamil Malays who come to pay obeisance, Indian tourists and western backpackers. The caves are also known for the notorious macaques who are quick to snatch away a food packet from visitors.

A fleet of steps further leads to a few more shrines. However this place isn’t as dark as the first landing area as it is open to the sky with light percolating through. Wet floors, hazy lights, craggy walls and over grown flora makes the place absolutely surreal. While the pilgrims head to the shrines, the travellers are mostly seen taking photographs and gawking at the natural formation in oblivion.

This shrine is thronged by pilgrims during the annual Thaipusam festival which is held during January- February every year. Devotees smeared in ash, clad in yellow, carrying decorated carriers (Kaavadi) and with body piercing head to this temple, making the festival a huge celebration. 

Other than the main cave there are also a few more caves which are to the left of the steps. However, due to various reasons, these caves have remained shut and aren’t accessible anymore.

Batu caves might seem like a tall climb initially, but the climb is a pretty moderate one and isn't a tough ask as it might seem to be. It should not take more than 15-20 minutes to reach the top. The climb is definitely worth it as the frames atop are absolutely gorgeous with wonderful natural formations.

How to reach Batu Caves:

Located in Gombak in Selangor, Batus Caves is 16 Kms away from Kuala Lumpur. The easiest option to reach Batu Caves from Kuala Lumpur is to take a train from KL Sentral. One can also hire a taxi from Kuala Lumpur to reach the caves.

Tips for Travellers:
  • The temple is open on all days from 6 AM to 9 PM.
  • Though the caves are known for its geological formations, it is more popular as a temple and it is recommended to dress modestly.
  • Do not carry any edible item or food packets in your hand while climbing the steps and inside the caves. The monkeys are sure to snatch them away.

P.S.: I was hosted by Tourism Malaysia during my visit to Batu Caves.

June 11, 2019

My Experience with Malindo Air- Review

Malindo Air is an airline owned by Lion Air group of Indonesia with hubs in Kuala Lumpur and Penang. Operations started six years ago in 2013 and presently the airline connects more than 55 destinations across the world. The name Malindo is a combination of the first few letters of Malaysia and Indonesia. This also signifies the cordial relationship these two Asian countries share apart from the similarities in their culture.  

I recently travelled with Malindo Air from Chennai to Kuala Lumpur and back, and the experience was a pleasant one. Malindo Air offers online check- in to make sure their travellers can avoid standing in long queues at the airport. While economy class flyers are allowed a check in baggage of upto 25 Kgs per per ticket, the business class flyers are allowed up to 40 Kgs. Like every other airline, Malindo allows one cabin baggage and a laptop bag per person.

While I would have loved to explore the business class, economy class was definitely a good experience. The seat was comfortable with a fairly good leg room and sufficient space for the cabin baggage. The hostess’ were quite amiable and were ready to always help.

Dinner had limited options and one could choose either the vegetarian or the non vegetarian one. While they served rice and tofu for vegetarians, for the meat lovers it was rice and chicken. I had rice and chicken, and it was a satiating meal. Alcohol is not served on Malindo Air; however, they do offer aerated non- alcoholic drinks.

Malindo Air offers numerous in-flight entertainment options with English, Hindi and Indian regional language movies. This is apart from various television series, songs and games. Ear phones and cosy blankets are provided by the airline.

Both my flights were well on time and I was quite satisfied with the services and experience provided by Malindo Air. I would definitely suggest Malindo Air if one intends to travel from India to Malaysia. 

Malindo Air is also starting flights from Varanasi to Kuala Lumpur from July 2019 onward.

P.S.: I flew from Chennai to Kuala Lumpur and back, courtesy Malindo Air and Tourism Malaysia.

June 6, 2019

Jamek Mosque, Kuala Lumpur

Located by the confluence of Gombak and Klang rivers, Jamek mosque is one of the oldest and prominent mosques in Kuala Lumpur. Known for its blend of Indo- Sarcenic and Moorish architecture, Jamek mosque was built in 1909 CE. With three domes and two main minarets, the mosque is a delight to watch at night when it is lit up. The mosque is situated close to the Merdeka Square.

June 4, 2019

Experiencing Iftar in Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia is one of the finest examples of multi ethnic, multi lingual and multi cultural countries in the world. The country has a lovely mix of more than 60% Muslims, a little less than 20% Buddhists, less than 10% Christians and about 7% of Hindus. Though Bahasa Melayu is the national and official language, Cantonese, Mandarin and Tamil are widely spoken by the respective ethnic groups. The ethnic groups include Malay Muslims, indigenous non- Malay people, aboriginal groups known as Orang Asli, Chinese and Indians. Despite the different ethnicity and cultures, Malaysians live harmoniously celebrating each others culture and festivals.

I was witness to one such one such experience during my visit to Malaysia when I had the opportunity to take part in Iftar held in Kuala Lumpur. Iftar is the evening meal that Muslims have during Ramadan to break their daily fast after the evening prayer. Iftar is referred as Berbuka Pausa in the local language.

Iftaar was held at the Merdeka square (Independence square) in Kuala Lumpur, where people sat in long rows next to each other to break their daily fast. It was delightful to see people from all ethnics and beliefs sitting together to have the meal. From locals to foreign travellers to children, the square was brimming with people neatly lined up as the evening prayers floated in the background. Bandung drink (condensed milk mixed with rose syrup), a popular drink during Iftar was served all across. Soon, everyone broke their fast delving into both Malaysian and Indian dishes. It was first time for me and was very much a pleasing experience joining the people of Kuala Lumpur for Iftar. What I loved the most was the fact that the focus was so much on culture and not religion as many non Muslims took part in this evening gathering. We later strolled around to explore the night market which sold myriad items ranging from fabrics to sweets.

Iftar parties are also held at various hotels and restaurants across the city with a wide spread of Malaysian cuisine. When in Kuala Lumpur, Iftar at Merdeka square during Ramadan period is a much recommended experience for travellers.

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