Today we learn that the place I knew 25 years ago has transformed itself into a world-class, vibrant and architecturally beautiful city that’s as graceful as any I’ve been in, Elephants are beautiful, gentle, intelligent and graceful creatures and have fun with us as we wash and splash them in a stream and we get an answer from the hospital regarding rabies.
We check into Hotel Melia and we’re a bit disappointed that it has no rooftop pool in the sunshine. It does have a pool but its a poor excuse so we resolve to look for another one for the next nights and make our way out to explore.
We’re quite well situated here and C knows approximately where the Helipad Lounge Bar is. This is the single most important objective with the exception of the Elephant Sanctuary whilst we stay here.
As the light begins to fade we’re walking the streets and I have to say that I’m mesmerised. I did some work here nearly thirty years ago and it’s changed so much. The level of investment has created a city of huge architectural importance and as we wander around I’m lost in these building and the lighting associated with them.
There is the twin interconnected Petronas Towers majestic by day and astonishing by night but there are so many others. I’m a little bit overwhelmed as we wander about. We’re in just about the best part of town to appreciate all this. Each time I turn there’s another magnificent building and as the night sky cloaks them they’re even better. Some are illuminated with up-lights that create shadows and almost sinister shapes with colours that change every few seconds or minutes. Others have internal lights left on deliberately to create glowing batons that are symmetrical all the way or deliberately and pleasingly asymmetrical and at odds with the surrounding columns but all in balance.
I really like what KL has become and look forward to exploring it.
We make our way to the Bukit Bintan which is a street we’ve been recommended for eating out. We stop for a swift beer on the path outside a cafe. The beer is alright but when I go into pay the bill, I’m delighted we didn’t eat here. We walk further along the street and are entertained by street bands working their socks off with every type of instrument known to us and all of them worthy of being there. We’re on our way back when we notice a middle eastern restaurant that has a pleasing menu and venture inside. Madfoon Palace is very busy both inside and out so it’s certainly promising. They don’t serve alcohol, but nobody does on this street, it’s not a dry country or city but there are Islamic areas that just don’t sell it and we’re not disappointed, we can get that later if we’re still interested.
The meal is served by waiters from the middle east and the chef is from Syria whilst many of their colleagues have been driven out of neighbouring countries through war and they’re trying to set up a new life here in KL. They’re hard-working people and serve us the nicest middle eastern meal that is guaranteed milk free and absolutely divine, I’m so glad we stopped and took the risk of not knowing what the meals would be, it’s got to be worth the gamble.
THE ELEPHANT SANCTUARY
In the morning we’ve had a promise from Feisel, our taxi driver from yesterday that he would come and pick us up for an agreed day price to take us to the Elephant Sanctuary, he doesn’t turn up!
We’re discussing what to do next when one of the bell boy’s hears our predicament and offers to call one of his friends. Well it can’t be worse so we agree and ten minutes later we have a proper metered taxi at our disposal for the day and the driver looks like he knows what he’s doing – the day is saved and we’re grateful to the front of house staff at the Melia who went well beyond their call of duty.
The trip is expected to take about two hours so it’s a bonus when we’re there in 90 minutes. It’s in a largely unspoilt area of jungle and streams all ideal for these wonderful jungle creatures and the streams add to their joy for washing and taking care of their leathery but fragile skin.
The conservation centre relies on donations and whilst we all have to register, any money that is generated is purely voluntary. You fill in a few forms that essentially commit you to behaving yourself whilst on their premises then the entrance fee is solely up to your decision, you give what you think fit and nothing is said if you give nothing. Whilst this seems a little naive commercially it seems to work as there are good quality building, a lecture theatre and the paths are all concrete and easy to negotiate.
We’re assigned a ranger called Tom and he looks after us throughout our stay. It’s all a little bit amateur but that’s endearing and also reassuring that this whole thing isn’t set up to exploit. We’re shown a film that illustrates why this kind of facility is so necessary then taken into an area that consists of a walking area for the elephants and also an area where they can be inspected and, if necessary, dealt with by the vets. There’s also a cart selling food that we buy to feed them with. We acquire bananas but they eat all kinds of soft fruits and a lot of it. Apparently, they’re quite inefficient and only remove 50% of the nutrients of the food that they eat which is not so good for them but there are numerous insects, bugs and other animals that benefit from it by eating their poo.
The ranger takes us to an area the other side of the compound and issues us with some very sharp knives which we’re encouraged to use to cut up various soft fruits into manageable bits so that a huge animal with a relatively small mouth and extremely versatile trunk can eat it. We produce three full baskets which would keep one animal happy for a half day.
Some of the elephants have been orphaned and a couple have had accidents that have resulted in the loss of the lower part of one of their limbs. We’re shown prosthetics that they wear and in the wild, we’re told that it would be 50 50 as to whether they would have survived. If they couldn’t feed themselves then they would be likely to die as the herd can only defend them and look after those interests, he tells us that it would be unlikely that they would be able to feed them.
The ranger is explaining things as we walk with him and whilst his English is adequate to explain all of the things he’s familiar with, if we ask supplementary questions then he struggles a bit but we’re more than happy with what we get, he’s alright.
From here we’re guided to the stream where he asks us to wait and about 20 minutes later the elephants march majestically around the river bend and begin the process of being bathed. They certainly appear to enjoy this process in a big way and it’s a delight to watch.
Emma’s arranged for us to wash and splash one of the baby elephants a little later in the day and this is without doubt one of the best things I’ve ever done. He loved it and we ended up ecstatic but drenched.
We’re back with Mohamed our taxi driver and he’s asking about our day. He knows the answer of course but he’s still looking after us and asks if we need drinks before we go back pointing in the direction of the cafe to ensure we stay hydrated. Again, the prices in the cafe are very reasonable and yet again I compare it to some of the rip-off outfits we have in the UK who capitalise on a captive market.
As we drive back to the new hotel/apartment the heavens open and we’re treated to an electric storm that rocks the car and floods the roads with torrents of water. The lightning is forking through the curtain of rain lighting up the buildings and trees that surround us. It’s exciting and fascinating and Mohamed is rock solid with the car.
CLINIC AND HOSPITAL
That night we wander around the centre again and I’m still mesmerised by the buildings. We walk back to the Irish Pub where we order some food and whilst it’s taking quite a while to appear C is feeling poorly. She’s been up and down all day although she didn’t complain. I’d felt worried most of the day as she took to lying on a wooden bench in the shade so the rabies worry just wouldn’t leave my head. The food eventually arrives and that acts as a trigger. She’s certainly looking pale now and suddenly announces that she’s going to go to the clinic to get checked out and the sick feeling in my stomach returns. She’d already said she didn’t want me to go with her when we returned from the Elephant Sanctuary but she’d looked OK then and certainly wasn’t struggling as she is now. The circumstances are now changed and I insist that at least one of us should go with her. Her lack of protest at the suggestion of being accompanied is testament to how ill she’s feeling so Emma is chosen and off they go. I remain to sort out the bill and feel a bit inadequate.
As they leave some Elvis impersonator is presented on stage in the pub and he’s awful. It clears three tables in no time and I have already decided to return to the hotel when the waitress returns to ask about the food. I clear the bill and leave along with the others and make my way back to the hotel.
It’d been a good day but it isn’t now!
Back at the hotel I lay on the bed fully clothed just in case I need to go to wherever is necessary when a text arrives, “At hospital, had blood test, waiting for results”.
I answer, “See you soon”, I know it’s inadequate but it’s a bit difficult knowing what to say when there’s still nothing definitive and I hope my words will come to fruition.
I’m still on the bed when they arrive back at the hotel with the result, “All clear”.
Her illness through the day was a suspected virus and I’m relieved but the thoughts that had been flooding my mind whilst I lay on the bed take several days to recede.
The upside is that the cloud of worry that had been nagging over us regarding whether the dog was rabid is now officially put to bed and we do likewise, sleep is easier now.
A NEW DAWN A NEW DAY
I’m awake early and go downstairs for coffee, I’m mentally OK now and looking forward to not doing much today, preferably around the pool with my laptop to get rid of some of the thoughts still in my head. I write a lot of stuff and some of it is OK whilst the other 80% is more therapeutic and not for sharing.
It is a good day but gets better. Late afternoon we’ve all had a good rest and C has perked up too. She’d got the Helipad Lounge arranged and we arrive fully relaxed at about 1800 looking forward to a cocktail or two and the sunset.
THE HELI LOUNGE
We walk through the city centre and I’m still astonished at the buildings. The Heli Lounge sits at the rather uninspiring address of
34 Menara KH,
Jalan Sultan Ismail,
But believe me, C got it right big time.
We’re transported to the bar area in a high-speed lift and encouraged to purchase our first drink. The cocktails and beer are reasonably priced and we give our order and walk around the themed bar area. No sooner are we served than we’re encouraged to ascend the last few flights of stairs and emerge atop of the world, well it seems that way. The only thing between us and falling off is a tape fastened to various temporary cones (this is a real helipad after all) and the lethal drop to the streets is there if you want it but there are security men watching everyone for either intoxication or any unexpected moves.
We spend the best part of two hours here watching the sun disappear and the buildings all around morph into beautiful standard lamps festooned with coloured lights that accent their shape or even create new shapes. We order some snacks and are immediately rewarded with a reserved table on the ‘best’ side of the pad. It’s warm, it’s beautiful, there is very little wind and the lights are coming on all around us and I’m with two beautifully attired and elegant ladies; it’s sublime.
There’s no more to be said except, thanks, it was a really, really great day.
We bumble around town a little bit after but if you’ll pardon the pun, this is the high point.
More to come…
Enjoy the snaps. Love…G..x
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