We have come to the very end of our big adventure. On Monday we will arrive home, and start to get back into “normal” life in Australia. To say we have mixed feelings about this would be an understatement – we are really excited to be back home, in familiar territory, and in our own house. We have had a great adventure and have seen so many places and done so many things this year. Honestly, if we could, we would keep going. There is so much more of the world we want to see. But for now, we will head home and enjoy that very much. We are all sure that another family gap year could feature at some point in the future.
Our final two weeks has been spent in the vibrant and bustling city of Kuala Lumpur. Amazingly, this has been our first proper city stay this year (aside from a very short jaunt in London). Almost all of our time has been spent in small towns and country villages, often close enough to be able to take a day trip into a nearby city, but not making the city the focus. We are definitely not city people, but we have really enjoyed being amongst the busyness for a little while. There are so many things to do in KL, and in two weeks we didn’t get to do all the things we wanted to. We’ve enjoyed the great variety of food and people, and discovered that KL puts on a pretty good Christmas show – decorations and lights are everywhere you look.
Here’s a bit of a recap of the things we’ve done in KL!
One of the first things we did was visit KLCC (Kuala Lumpur City Centre) Park, which features a huge playground and a splash pool, set amongst some beautifully cultivated gardens. Elena and Kilian enjoyed exploring the play equipment and cooling off in the pool afterwards – Malaysia is really hot! There were a few security guards roaming around the park who Pete and I thought were hilarious – we called them the fun police, as we seemed to be constantly whistled at and told off whenever we did anything, like sitting on the swings (children only!) or when Elena stepped up on the bottom of the fence.
Movies – Paddington
We took advantage of Malaysia’s super cheap movie scene and had some respite from the heat in one of the cool malls. We saw Paddington Bear, and we actually all quite enjoyed it. The mall we went to was called Berjaya Times Square, and it had some fun piano steps in one part – you walk up and down them and they make piano noises. These, and some fun squishy coloured tiles occupied Elena and Kilian for ages! PS – for all of us it cost about $9!
Botanic Gardens & Planetarium
We headed out to the Botanic Gardens and nearby Planetarium. The planetarium was free, and it was a pretty good activity with some interesting displays. Elena has no concept of the earth as a part of space, but she found the astronauts interesting – this may have been the first time she has even heard of them. The Botanic Gardens were very pretty and we had fun exploring a set of bamboo treehouses, as well as a huge playground that was there.
Okay, this was one of our two favourite places in KL. Petrosains is a huge science discovery centre with so many different elements and themes – space, dinosaurs (although this was closed for renos when we went), technology, oil mining (Petronas is a huge petrol company), physics, speed and heaps more. As science goes, it was really detailed, but the most impressive part was how interactive it was. There were just so many things to touch and play with – put it this way, we spent four hours there! A 3 year old and a 1 year happily played there for four hours, even skipping lunch.
Kidzania is a kid size city with proper shops, businesses and industries that children can work and play in. It was one of the coolest kids places I have ever been. The level of detail was incredible and there were just so many different things to do. It was just me and Elena visiting – Kidzania is aimed at 4-14 year olds, and while there are some things for younger toddlers to do, we didn’t think that there would be enough to keep Kilian occupied, and we wanted to Elena to be free to stay as long as she liked.
Walking into Kidzania was completely overwhelming. It was like walking into a really busy shopping centre, but designed to look like outside, with painted sky ceiling, and landmarks like a fountain and a city hall. The idea is that kids get the opportunity to work for a day, in a bunch of different professions. When they arrive they get given the local currency – 50 kidzo to spend. Some activities, such as the police station and the vitamin research centre, pay a wage (the average was about 8 kidzos), and others, like the beauty salon required payment. All the activities were guided, and in most, the parents were not allowed in. The city had a road a road running through it where the fire engine, ambulance and free city bus would regularly pass.
Elena loved earning her kidzos, and was really chuffed whenever she came out with a handful of money. She got to work in Mcdonald’s and make her own Happy Meal, do some window washing, paint a wall, make some Vitagen (a yoghurt drink) in the milk factory, prepare a tour itinerary in a tourism office, work in the recycling centre and collect recycling from other shops, be a nurse looking after babies in the hospital nursery, be a cashier, and a shopper in a supermarket, do some sewing in the embroidery centre, be a paramedic and rescue someone in the ambulance and play games in the disco lounge. We arrived at 10am, and left at 7pm! It was crazy. And we didn’t even tap into half of what was there. Elena’s favourite activities were the simple ones, like the shopping and the wall painting. She enjoyed the others but they were mostly above her head (she was a bit sneakily passing for age 4 so she could do the activities). She did lose her confidence at a couple of points during the day and didn’t want to do any of the activities where I wasn’t allowed in, but she finished strong and even as they were closing their doors she was asking to do more activities. At the end of the day she was able to go and spend her kidzos at the department store – after working hard all day she is now the proud owner of a face mask (the ones that protect your face from fumes and stuff, ha ha ha).
I can’t wait for them to bring a Kidzania to Australia, especially as Elena will be a bit older then and more able to get into the activities. It was such a cool place!
We visited the aquarium in KLCC. It was quite nice with a lot of variety of sea creatures. We especially liked seeing baby seahorse and they had a great tunnel with sharks and sea turtles.
There is a big lake in KLCC which puts on a colourful fountain show throughout the night. We tried a few times to make it, being stopped by a thunderstorm one night, and too tired kids at other times, but we finally managed to see the show. It was quite nicely lit up and had a beautiful view of the impressive Petronas Twin Towers and a giant Christmas tree!
Church – KL Baptist Church
We went to KL Baptist church on the middle Sunday we were in KL. We were warmly welcomed and it was encouraging to see so many other believers gathered there. We loved their use of tambourines and ribbons during the singing!
Shopping Malls & Christmas displays
There are just so many shopping malls in KL. You can’t walk for five minutes before you encounter one. We enjoyed wandering through a few, and we especially enjoyed all the lavish Christmas displays set up. Our favourite was in Suria KLCC – a log cabin amongst a forest of Christmas trees.
We’ve loved exploring the different foods here in Malaysia. There are three distinct cultures present – Malay, Chinese, and Indian, and the various cuisines are well represented. Although the food here wasn’t as renowned as in Penang, we loved the variety that was on offer. In particular, we really got into Nasi Kandar – a bit of an Indian style mixed plate, typically with rice, a curry, veggies, and often the famous ayam goreng (fried chicken). Elena and Kilian totally loved naan bread. It was probably their main food group while we were in KL. We also enjoyed eating dim sum, especially in Jalan Alor, a street filled with mostly Chinese food stalls.
We had a couple of bouts of sickness in the couple of weeks in KL – Pete, Elena and Kilian all came down with a lingering cold. And Elena was a bit homesick – I think because we mentioned maybe just a few times that we were going home soon, and she started to really withdraw. She was content to stay home every single day (which we are not content with!) and didn’t really want to venture out at all. We did coax her out and she did enjoy our last couple of weeks. But this little homebody will be glad to be home. I have to note, though, that Elena has loved the travelling! She has enjoyed every place we’ve been, and both Elena and Kilian have loved all the attention they have had from Pete and I this year.
We fly home tonight – on to the next adventure!
Thanks for reading our stories this year!
Love Megan, Pete, Elena and Kilian