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Kuala Lumpur: The View from Petronas Towers


Kuala Lumpur's old railroad station was for many years an easily recognizable icon of the city. Perhaps that role belongs to the soaring twin Petronas Towers, even though they are no longer the world's tallest buildings, or even Kuala Lumpur's. Their reign lasted from 1998 to 2004.

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While it's only number 20 in the world now, it's one of the most distinct and recognizable of the tall buildings—especially to anyone who remembers the Sean Connery-Catherine Zeta Jones movie 'Entrapment,' which included a wild chase underneath the sky bridge connecting the two towers.


Merdeka 118, the new tower that has displaced Petronas as tallest in Malaysia and is second-tallest in the world, has an observatory that isn't open yet, so my usual quest for someplace tall to look down from defaulted to Petronas.


The approach to the towers is along a long park and fountain, ending up at a giant badminton shuttlecock just outside the doors. Badminton, a sign proclaims, is the national sport of Malaysia (fact unchecked!) and the building owners, the state-owned oil company, are sponsoring next year's world championships.


Once inside, I found myself in a waiting area for a guided group to form. The air temperature outside was close to 90° but the waiting area was inexplicably air-conditioned to 60º in the waiting area. Fortunately the wait for the group to fill was short, and we were whisked to the Skybridge for our first views.


The view from between the towers also included some close views of the towers themselves, as well as the surrounding areas, but we were only there for a few minutes; the staff is adept at moving groups, each identified by colored stickers, from place to place, avoiding over-crowding... or lingering.


It's immediately clear that while there are many skyscrapers and other large buildings, and that they take all kinds of interesting shapes, a great deal of the area near the cluster in what is officially called 'Kuala Lumpur City Center' is still low-rise and not especially new.


But that may change: More construction is evident in many parts of the city, and not just in this area; Merdeka 118 is located at the edge of Chinatown, an area of mainly two- and three-story buildings. That's it, by the way, the tall spike in the next picture.


After our interval on the Skybridge, we were elevatored up to the main observatory, on the 86th floor of the 88-story buildings.


At that level, there are good views of Petronas itself, both looking down and looking straight across to the tip of the other tower.


From there, another look at how the clusters of towers give way to more open spaces, low-rise buildings and different views.


There are also views to the river and parkland along it, and other green spaces.


Inside, there are exhibits including a 3-D map that makes the layout of the city and its 'downtown' cores easier to understand, and a tall white model of the towers themselves.



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The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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