Sunday 8 July 2001 – Kuala Lumpur
Discovered that my sandals were about to crack through the soles so I spent the morning in the malls of Bukit Bintang searching for a new pair. Had earlier negotiated a late, 3.00pm checkout at the Swiss Inn hotel – the staff there have been really helpful. I also left my unposted postcards with them to post on Monday.
Walked over to the Islamic Arts Museum near the old KL main railway station and the National Mosque. It’s he finest and most impressive museum I’ve yet seen in SE Asia. It was a work of stunning modern architecture with a distinct Islamic flavour without being oppressive. It contained an interesting exhibition of Islamic domestic architecture around the world. The permanent collection featured beautiful scale models of the great mosques of the world, with informative descriptions in lucid, grammatical English as well as Malay.
There were also fine examples of decorative arts from the Muslim world, everything from calligraphy (Korans, texts) to Damascus swords, textiles and ceramics, plus an entire room from a palace in Syria. There was also a fine shop and a Lebanese restaurant and a water-garden courtyard. Kevin had said the museum was interested in presenting a performance of Messian’s Quartet for the End of Time. Apparently the museum is owned and managed by Lebanese, who are a deal more cosmopolitan than the bumiputras.
Back at the Swiss Inn, after a wash I checked out, had lunch, checked email then wandered through the market again until it was time to head to the shiny, newly-opened KL Sentral train station (just a couple of stops away on the LRT) to catch the overnight express to Hat Yai. Berths in the second class sleeper carriage were cramped, with nowhere outside the bed to store one’s luggage, but OK. There were a variety of passengers. Near me were an English family with three teenagers, 2 Japanese girls, 1 Malay chap and an Arabic-speaking family as well as one American, Chris, who I was to get to know well over the next few days. The train was late getting away – it was due to depart at 7.50pm, and actually left at 8.30. When it did finally leave, however, it started moving so smoothly that I hardly felt it begin.