Recently I taught a seminar in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia). Since neither of us had been there before I brought my favorite traveling buddy (also known as my wife, Debbie). She’s always game for a new adventure, especially if it involves travel.
Here are some pictures from our journey you might find fun. First, let’s start with the plane ride because, honestly, it was traumatic. Now I understand why they use a transporter in Star Trek. Much better way to travel!
Minneapolis to Tokyo (6500 miles)
Leg 1: Minneapolis to Tokyo. This image shows the usual flight path. We flew about 600 miles out of our way and actually flew over the Arctic Circle and Russia. The pilot we spoke with said we can now put pins for Russia and the Artic Circle on our “where we’ve been map”.
Total miles: about 6500. Flying time: 12.5 hours. Plane: NWA Boeing 747.
Tokyo to Singapore (3324 miles)
Leg 2: Tokyo to Singapore. This shows both the route to Singapore and the massive amount of water between Singapore and the USA. Much nicer flight on a newer Airbus 330. The movie screens are in the seat backs so we could pick our own movies – yeah!
Total miles: 3324. Flying time: about 7 hours. Plane NWA Airbus 330.
Singapore to Kuala Lumpur (185 miles)
Leg 3: Singapore to Kuala Lumpur. Singapore is on the peninsula that Western Malaysia occupies. It’s very close to KL (which is what the locals call Kuala Lumpur) but it’s a different country. My college history professor would call it a “city-state”.
The plane was old but very colorful inside. And the flight attendants had the most interesting uniforms. (Picture at right).
The uniform design is called Sarong Kebaya and depicts floral images and patterns native to Malaysia. Quite different from the corporate looking NWA uniforms.
Flying time was about 40 minutes in a Boeing 737. Distance was 185 miles. Our driver from the hotel told us he could have driven us from Singapore to KL faster than the plane ride. The way he drove, I believed him.
The drive from KL International Airport to the hotel was uneventful. Uh, uneventful once we grew accustomed to our driver’s “style” of driving. I think he watched too many chase scenes in American and European movies. He certainly put the Mercedes limo through it’s paces.
We stayed at the Prince Hotel and Residences in KL. It’s a 27 story 5 star hotel with all the trimmings. Here (left) is a photo Debbie took as we were walking back one afternoon.
Below is the hotel entrance as we walked in.
The Prince Hotel is the only Japanese-owned hotel in KL, I was told. It was beautiful inside and out. Located in what they call the “Golden Triangle”, aka, the financial district of KL. The Prince Hotel caters to business people, conference-goers and tourists who enjoy luxury and service.
Our room was on the 21st floor. Here is a view from our room at night. (photo at left). The picture looks straight down the Klang Valley where the city of KL is situated. The Klang Valley “is the heartland of Malaysia’s industry and commerce” according to Wikipedia.
One thing that amazed me was the abundance of hotel staff. Everywhere we went we were greeted by hotel employees. Even if an employee was working or talking, they would always stop what they were doing, make eye contact and greet us. The consistency they demonstrated in this was impressive.
The food was also very good with a mix of Western and Asian foods. For breakfast, the buffet offered steam rice, soup, chicken sausage, eggs, vegetables, pancakes and a variety of things I could not pronounce (but they looked spicy.)
Malaysia is a Muslim country with a mix of people from all parts of the world. English is the primary language and the currency is the Ringat although many stores accept US dollars. It is actually a federation of 13 states with a government similar to that of the U.K. (Makes sense since they were a British colony until 1957. )
Since they drive on the left side of the road we opted to not rent a car. In big cities Debbie and I prefer to walk anyway. When our feet fail there are always taxis and buses.
Here is a view of a road near the hotel. It leads to a shopping area with a lot of locally made clothing and crafts.
Traffic here is like in any big city. You risk your life crossing the street. But the taxis and buses are plentiful so getting around is easy.
Touring the City
These next few pictures are from our various tours around the city. First is a shot of a busy intersection in the city’s shopping district.
It reminds me of London and New York with all the cars and people and shops. I had to close my eyes to prevent sensory overload.
Next are two photos of Chinatown in KL. And I thought “China Towns” were unique to the USA. Silly me.
“Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown, which is based in Petaling Street, is also known as ‘Chee Cheong Kai’, which means ‘Starch Factory Street’;, homage to its roots as a tapioca producing suburb. Today, it is Kuala Lumpur’s own Chinatown where you can find all things Chinese from herbs to dry goods and toys to clothes. The entire street is closed to traffic during the afternoons as traders set up stalls to peddle various merchandise, food and electronics.”
One thing I love about big cities are the sounds and smells. They are a symphony for the senses and every big city has it’s own unique score.
Something we found a little more relaxing and peaceful was the National Palace.
“The Istana Negara is the official residence of His Majesty Seri Paduka Baginda Yang di-Pertuan Agong and Her Majesty Seri Paduka Baginda Raja Permaisuri Agong. It was built in 1928 and was originally the residence of a millionaire, Mr. Chan Wing. During the Japanese Occupation from 1942-1945, it was used as the Japanese Officers’ mess. After the surrender of the Japanese, the building was bought by the Selangor State Government and after being renovated, it became the palace of His Majesty the Sultan of Selangor until 1957.”
Here is a picture of the palace. It’s looking through the gates that are located several hundred yards from the palace. While we there they had a “changing of the guards” ceremony which was fun to see but a little anti-climactic. It took about 10 seconds because they only have a few guards. But it was better than watching them stand there completely motionless. (Which reminded me of some fast food employees I’ve seen but that’s a different story for a different time.)
Next we stopped by the Istana Budaya Kuala Lumpur (also known as the Cultural Palace of Kuala Lumpur). This is a national theatre and, according to Kuala Lumpur City Guide, is “one of the ten most sophisticated and state of the art theatres in the world” . (Who knew?)
However, I was not happy to see they are currently showing the American musical “Mama Mia” . I travel 19,000 miles and I still can’t get away from that silly show!
The Other Twin Towers
No first-timer’s trip to Kuala Lumpur would be satisfactory without visiting the tallest twin towers in the world.
Designed by Cesar Pelli, these are called the Petronas Twin Towers and they measure 1482.6 feet from the street to the top of the spires.
These towers are the heart of a financial, office and shopping district called Kuala Lumpur City Centre or KLCC for short. They are surrounded on one side by a mall filled with pools and fountains. On the other side is a large shopping and dining complex, the KL Convention Center and a large park with paths, flowers and plenty of green space. Not as large as NYC’s Central Park or London’s Hyde Park but it was a nice, just the same.
Here is a shot of Debbie in front of the twin towers by one of the fountains. She is looking for a good place to take another picture. That would be picture number 62,392 I believe (but I could be mistaken).
And, below is a picture of the towers themselves.
The thing you see connecting the towers is a skyway bridge. It’s open to the public for free. Alas, you have to arrive early in the morning (way before we did) to get a ticket that enables you to go up there. “Maybe next time” said the disappointed tourists…
Movie trivia quiz: These towers were the setting for which big budget movie that starred both Sean Connery and Katherine Zeta Jones?
If you answered: “Entrapment” then you’re correct. (Bonus points if you remember how much moolah they stole in the movie.)
People who have traveled with me for more than 2 hours know one of my highest priorities is food. So, after we snapped pix of the towers, I whined until Debbie agreed we could find a place for lunch. That place turned out to be the Dome Cafe, a local bistro with several locations in KL.
The Dome Cafe is modeled after an English pub, which makes it a first-rate choice in my book. The decor was fun, service was good but the food didn’t exactly bring me back to merry old England. That’s okay because I didn’t really expect it to.
After that we stopped at the Marks & Spencer store in the mall but we were disappointed. It was only a tiny (tiny, tiny, tiny) version of the real M&S stores they have in London and elsewhere. I guess I’ll have to bring Debbie to London to see the real deal.
Lest you think this was all fun and games, I did actually work. I have a new client who asked me to teach a 2-day seminar. It was called “Mastering Customer Retention and Loyalty: A strategic and tactical approach on how to deliver Amazing Service every time”. (That’s a mouthful isn’t it? You can see why it took 2 days.)
Here are some photos of the sessions.
The people attending were mostly from Malaysia and Dubai. Companies represented were in finance, insurance and telecommunications.
The seminar was geared to mid-level management people. It gave them tools they could use to start changing their culture and to motivate their teams to deliver better customer service.
Some key topics discussed were what values are needed to create a culture of service in your company, how to obtain and use feedback from your customers better and how to engage management, employees and customers in an ongoing process of discovering and delivering what customers want in a way that is sustainable for the organization.
It was a fun seminar and a great getaway for Debbie and me. We met some wonderful people, learned a lot about other cultures and gained a new appreciation for our world (and our place in it).
Though I dislike long plane rides, I do enjoy experiencing other countries and their people. There is no better way to break down the walls that separate nations than getting to know people one at a time.
Thanks for taking time reading about our journey. Before I sign off, I encourage you to consider traveling to some far away place (if you haven’t already). Find a reason to justify the time and expense and just go. You’ll be glad you did.
Thanks for reading!