Heritage tour in KL
If you're visiting Kuala Lumpur, I recommend this half-day walking / eating tour:
I went on it with my wife just after Christmas. She's not especially interested in old things (well, apart from me!), but enjoyed it too.
I found it by Googling for what to do in KL. It came up as the #1 recommendation on TripAdvisor: http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g298570-d2460668-r141829161-Malaysia_Heritage_Walk-Kuala_Lumpur_Wilayah_Persekutuan.html
Our guide Erina took us on a gentle walk around the old centre of KL, explaining the history of the place as we went. We stopped at several different food stalls along the way to try out local food. You should definitely start the tour feeling a little bit hungry, as by the end you'll be full.
Allow plenty of time too. It's shown as lasting four hours, but we finally left around five hours after starting. Don't worry about the 'walking' either - it's at a very gentle pace with regular stops to sit down.
I was interested to compare ideas about heritage protection in KL and Hong Kong. KL still has more of its old shop-houses remaining than we have here, but there's less interest in preserving them. During our walk we saw two different sites that had been destroyed by fire last year. Maybe we only get interested in presering them when they've nearly all gone?
The walk itself threw up some contradictions too. Erina says a common local response to describing what she does is disbelief that anyone would:
- a) want to walk around outside in the hot / rainy weather, and
- b) be interested in the 'ugly' local scenes, when they could visit the smart national monuments like Merdeka Square
Yet there is clearly plenty of interest from visitors. We nearly missed the tour, as when we turned up without booking, the tour was already full. Luckily, enough extra guests turned up and they had two guides available, so they could run two groups. (NB call ahead to check there is space / reserve a place.)
Another contradiction is the problem of the tourist destroying the sight they'd came to see. We ended up the tour in the area described as 'Chinatown'. Its success in attracting tourists means it is now a busy street market aimed at tourists, with most of the stalls run by non-Chinese immigrant workers. Without Erina we'd have struggled to find the glimpses of Chinese life that still remain.
All in all a very enjoyable tour with an excellent guide. Highly recommended if you're visiting KL.
PS If you find any good gwulo-type things to see & do in the region, please let us know in the comments below.
PPS Erina says that the place she really wants to run a heritage tour for is Taiping. I hadn't heard of it before, but it certainly sounds worth a visit: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carolyn-odonnell/taiping-a-heavenly-peacef_b_3975177.html. Next time we're in Malaysia I'll check to see if they've started running that tour yet.