Malaysia : Garden City of Lights
We arrived at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) on a sunny and humid Wednesday morning rife with excitement knowing that in few hours, we will be touring Malaysia's capital and its historic landmarks that reflect its rich past.
Kuala Lumpur, dubbed as the "Garden City of Lights," has magnificent and modern architecture that stands side-by-side with sentinels of the past - old structures that were influenced by Chinese, Malay, Indian and European architecture elements.
We were lucky that on our ride on the modern aerotrain, an automated shuttle train between the main terminal building and satellite building of KLIA, we shared the coach with the Philippine Azkals team that flew to Kuala Lumpur for a goodwill match with Malaysia's national football team.
Kuala Lumpur was the first stop of the tour that Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corporation (PMFTC Inc.) president Chris Nelson awarded to the winners of this year's Bright Leaf Agriculture Journalism Awards - Mach Alberto Fabe of Business Mirror for Agriculture Story of the Year, Richard Balonglong of Philippine Daily Inquirer for Agriculture Photo of the Year, and Mauricio Victa of Philippine Star for Tobacco Photo of the Year. We were to explore next Genting Highlands and Malacca City.
From KLIA, we proceeded to Istana Negara or the King's Palace on Jalan Duta, Kuala Lumpur. The new palace was built at a cost of RM800-million and is the official residence of 84-year-old King Abdul Halim who is the oldest constitutional monarch of Malaysia.
Malaysia, by the way, changes its king every five years. Its nine sultans take turn on the throne. We learned from our guide Hanafee that the current king is the 14th king to assume the throne but was also the king in the '70s. The process is quite complicated that if the king dies, his son cannot take over the throne. Instead, the sultan next in line will automatically become the king while the former king's son shall wait for 45 years before he can assume the throne.
We also visited the Petronas Twin Towers, once the world's tallest buildings at a height of 452 meters with 88 floors made largely of reinforced concrete. It features a sky bridge at the 41st and 42nd levels. Its steel and glass facade resembles motifs found in Islamic architecture. We arrived outside the towers at around dusk, which made the view even more amazing as its lights changed into different colors.
For chocolate lovers, not far from Petronas Twin Towers is Beryl's Chocolate Kingdom where more than 100 varieties of chocolates are found. Among its finest selections and bestsellers are varieties such as the tiramisu, durian chocolate and chili chocolate.
According to the Malaysian Cocoa Board, Malaysia is currently the fifth largest cocoa processor in the world. Its products such as cocoa butter, cocoa powder and chocolate are exported to over 80 countries. Malaysian cocoa butter has a high melting point, which is beneficial for chocolate products in warm countries.
Half a day wasn't enough for a city tour so the next morning we were off to the National Museum or Muzium Negara, the first museum to use a modern interpretation and integration of Malay architecture; the National Mosque or Masjid Negara which is unique for its non-conventional Middle Eastern mosque design of a 16-edge roof resembling an unopened umbrella; and the 164-year-old Moghul architecture-inspired Sultan Abdul Samad Building topped by a copper dome and a 41-m high clock tower which housed several important government department during the British administration.
Facing the Sultan Abdul Samad Building is Dataran Merdeka or Merdeka Square where a 100-m flag pole stands right on the same spot where the Malaysian flag was hoisted on August 31, 1957 signifying its independence from British rule.
Just as the sun was heating up, the group headed next to Genting Highlands. …