Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur

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When people from other countries mention KL, one of the first things that come to mind is the Petronas Twin Towers. An iconic image of modern Malaysia, they were the tallest buildings in the world from 1998 to 2004 at 452 metres, with 88 floors and a Skybridge. Locals call it the twin ‘jagung’ or corn cobs.

Being a Malaysian who travels to KL quite often, I have grown used to seeing the towers from a distance – so the effect is somewhat diminished. It’s like if you live in Rome and you see the same old ancient buildings day after day, you wouldn’t be as awed as you would be if you were a visitor from another country.

The other day, I was in the city again and had a chance to see it up close again. I was reminded of why they are such a popular tourist attraction, because the Twin Towers are a marvel and engineering feat on its own. With the tropical sun setting behind it, the view was quite majestic in the evening.

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Base of the towers facing the main road of Jalan Ampang. There is also a shopping mall called Suria KLCC at the base of the towers, and they also house theMalaysian Philharmonic Orchestra Halls. the Kuala Lumpur International Convention Centre (in a separate building), and a green park with dancing water fountains.

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Access to the Skybridge is limited to a certain number of visitors each day, and the entry price is expensive.  I haven’t been up there despite having lived here all my life lol.

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Pedestrians waiting to cross the road to Avenue K, a shopping centre opposite KLCC. They have a huge H&M here.

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The Petronas Twin Towers are definitely a must-see if you’re visiting KL. If you’re a local, go there for a refresher. Take a moment to just look at these amazing buildings and feel proud to be a Malaysian. 🙂

 

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Building Homes in an Orang Asli Village @Batang Kali, Malaysia

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About half an hour from the scenic town of Batang Kali lies an Orang Asli village of about 200 families, scattered across the mountainous region of the Titiwangsa range. The place, called Hulu Tamu, is located deep within the hills overlooking lush green tropical jungles. Thank God for roads, as I was sent here for an assignment some time back.

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A group of volunteers from an NGO dubbed ‘Epic Homes’ traveled into the interior to build houses for families in need. They completed it in just three days, thanks to an ingenious engineering plan laid out by voluntary architects and experts. Led by *the very good looking* John-Son Oei, some 30-odd staff from companies, students and a mix of people from different backgrounds came together in the spirit of togetherness to build a new home for an Orang Asli family.

The way it was designed was so that it could be built easily by people like you and me. It was hot and sunny even in the evening, and the nearby jungle invited loads of mozzies. I didn’t mind though, their work was very interesting. I didn’t join in so I sat at a shed nearby while waiting for the interview.

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The Orang Asli are the natives of Malaysia, and are divided into 18 tribes. They lived in the interior, even with the arrival of Malays from Indonesia who formed the Malay Sultanate (ancestors of the modern Malay), and later on Portuguese, Dutch and British colonists. Their way of life is still unchanged in many ways.

 

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Villagers do odd jobs such as gathering forest goods, from bamboo shoots to trapping small wild animals. Regular kapcai bikes are their mode of transport to and from the nearest big town, where they would peddle their wares. Pet dogs roam the place freely and are completely unafraid of strangers. Chickens run around here and there, as do the children who are barefeet, shy when you talk to them but so easy with their smiles.

Their homes are simple; made of wooden planks and rush, on stilts. The neighbours from the next house sit on their porch as they watch the volunteers go about their work.

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The communal shed offers some protection from the glaring heat. It’s just a makeshift tent, with logs for seats and a small campfire. I sit and talk to the villager whom the volunteers are building for. Her name is Rinie, and she speaks Malay with a paku accent. Amirul, her five-year old boy, hovers near me curiously, shying away  when I try to talk to him.

I am touched by how friendly these people are, even though they live in such simple surroundings. They do not have the luxuries of air-conditioning, or proper lighting, hot showers or cable TV; things we all take for granted in our day to day life. A visit here really puts you in place.

2013-07-07 17.56-tileThe old house…

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….and the new one! 🙂   It’s a sad reality, but many original peoples in Malaysia still live in dilapidated conditions, with no proper housing and amenities. Epic Homes aims to build new homes for all the Orang Asli families, with that acting as an entry point to address more serious issues of poverty and education for the community.

I left the place feeling touched by the plight of these humble villagers. Especially their children. It’s true what they say about young children being untainted by all the problems we grownups are constantly bothered about. They had such open smiles as I got into my car, and they chased after it waving goodbye when I drove off. These are kids who love running barefoot around the place, who know the jungle better than either you or me, and are probably smarter than most city kids out there – they just lack a chance to have a proper education.

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One thing city folks don’t have that  the Orang Asli do – the ability to live off the land, and to appreciate the beauty of mother nature everyday. 🙂