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Entering Kuala Lumpur, we were impressed by the well chosen large-scale architecture — in addition to the Petronas Towers, there are lots of other distinctive skyscrapers, not the same old boring boxes. We were also surprised at the diversity of the populace — we arrived knowing very little about this country. Malaysia is over 50% Malay, 35% percent Chinese, 10% Indian, 5% tribal people, and a small percentage of people from other nationalities. There is religious diversity as well, although it’s a Muslim state. Since Malaysia was a crown colony, and since some of the inhabitants do not speak another common language, residents of KL generally know English. This led us to the conclusion that KL would make a great destination for English-speaking travel-phobes.

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We took the spotless metro to the Dang Wangy Station, which disembarks right next to an actual chunk of rain forest, right in the middle of the city. We climbed a steep hill into the humid forest. After trekking for a little while, we emerged hot and sticky at the base of KL tower, the tallest in Southeast Asia. We looked up to the bottom of the platform area at the top, which was inscribed with some Iranian patterns.

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Inside, the building had that sort of tatty air that skyscrapers outfitted for tourism often do. Flowers encased in lucite and tired shawls were on offer in the gift shops. But once at the top, the view was grand. We could see the sail-shaped Telekom Building, inspired by a bamboo shoot. And the Royal Palace. And there was, of course, an excellent view of the Petronas Towers. From up high you can see that the city is actually fairly scattered with a lot of green between, and is kind of hazy. I read somewhere that the haze blows across the water when there’s slashing and burning in Indonesia.

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Like the KL tower, the Petronas Towers are built with an Islamic motif. The towers are actually modified and extruded eight-pointed stars. This geometry is used frequently in Islamic art and ornament.

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There are other interesting Islam-inspired skyscrapers in town too, including this one, with its extruded geometry, Moorish-looking windows and geometric scrim over them. And at lower left is a building that looks to have aspects of Islamic and colonial influence.

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We also enjoyed ourselves in the art deco Central Market, although it was quite touristy.

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