My feet tingled. It felt as if a swarm of tipsy champagne bubbles were bouncing off them. It was a pleasant, relaxing sensation, but there was no bubbly around. There were some bubbles though, coursing through the large tank in which my feet were plonked. Some of them came from a contraption in one corner of the tank; others seemed to be whipped up by the schools of little silver-grey ‘doctor fish’ that were nibbling at my feet.
I was in a ‘cute fish spa’ in Kuala Lumpur’s Central Market and was luxuriating in the attention that my tired feet were getting. So much so that I forked out another 5 Malaysian Ringgits for one more 10-minute session with the fish. Second ‘fish spa’ session done, my feet emerged pink and almost glowing — with not a sliver of dead skin left — ready to face another day of tramping around Kuala Lumpur.
Kuala Lumpur or KL, like many other cities, is perhaps best explored on foot. Though you could end up doing less and seeing fewer sights, you generally tend to pick up some interesting insights when you wander around on foot.
My wife and I, however, worked out a hybrid option. A half-day coach tour on our first morning helped us find our bearings and ‘do’ the major sights. And then we set off on our own, mostly by foot but occasionally by taxi or on KL’s complicated monorail/metro system. It also helped that our hotel, the efficient Swiss Garden, is pretty central with places like the main bus station and Berjaya Times Square a few minutes walk away.
Now there’s quite a bit to do in KL; lots of history and culture. The National Monument, the National Mosque, the King’s Palace or Istana Negara, the Islamic Arts Museum and more modern sights like the Petronas Towers and the KL Tower.
But if KL were to have an unofficially official pastime, mall hopping and eating out would probably be declared joint winners. And our hotel was bang in the middle of mall and eatery central — Bukit Bintang.
Some money and much time was spent at destinations such as Berjaya Times Square, BB Plaza, Imbi Plaza, Pavilion KL, Low Yat Plaza and Suriya KLCC. Every one of these is a temple to the art of retailing; great places to really understand what Paco Underhill talks about in books such as The Call of the Mall – How We Shop. Though in all fairness I must admit that some of the malls were great fun to be in and a couple even had some fabulous bargains.
The real bargains in KL though are, arguably, on food — especially food at the smaller restaurants and from the busy stalls that jostle for space along Jalan Alor and the streets of Chinatown. If you believe the signboards along Jalan Alor, the stalls there offer cuisine from across Asia, but Malay and Chinese cooking tends to dominate. Every evening we were in KL, Jalan Alor was packed, with diners spilling on to the road and a thousand different cooking aromas wafting through the muggy night air.
My own culinary expeditions were limited to a scrumptious dim-sum platter on our first night in KL. On Day 2, my stomach expressed serious reservations about food from the street stalls and from then on it was KFC, McDonald’s and Subway for me. Boring, I know, but my undependable tummy seemed to have no complaints.
My wife, though, had a culinary blast. Each meal was different, as she steadily worked her way down a rather long list of Malay treats that a friend had given her. I of course watched.
So to make up for missing out on those culinary adventures, I decided to treat myself to another session with the doctor fish. Bliss. A pretty good way to end a nice little holiday.