"Selamat Datang" is what Malaysians say to welcome their visitors. It's like "Mabuhay" for us Filipinos. There's just something about Selamat Datang. Everytime I hear it I really feel the sincerity of the greeting.
Last June 29, I flew to Kuala Lumpur upon the invitation of Tourism Malaysia. I was part of a group invited to witness the opening of Floria 2012, Malaysia's biggest garden show, and Magic of the Night, a spectacular fluvial parade held in Putrajaya.
I flew to KL on Malaysia Airlines (MH). The last time I took this airline was way back in 2007 when I went to Langkawi. The aircraft then was an A330. The inflight service was good but I was a bit surprised when I found out that there were no individual PTVs. Five years forward my whole flying experience with MH changed totally, for the better of course. This time the aircraft was a brand new B737-800. A very powerful bird with a spacious cabin. Check in was quick and easy. The flight departed on schedule. The leather seats had a wide pitch providing full comfort. The meal service was good. I liked that it came with a bar of chocolate. However, what truly amazed me was the inflight entertainment. Each seat was provided with an individual PTV. The entertainment menu was varied, catering to all sorts of passengers - young and old, Asian or westerner alike. During the four hour flight, I chose to watch the Wrath of the Titans, a movie that I missed when it was shown rcently in the cinemas. I almost forgot to mention that upon boarding the aircraft a lovely flight attendant wearing a traditional Malay dress greeted me Selamat Datang and from this time on I knew that this trip would be an experience in a "Truly Asia" fashion.
The flight landed in Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) on time. KLIA is a huge airport with an incredible architecture. Efficiency at its finest. Luggage came out quickly and immigration was hassle free. I was met by my tour guide at the arrival area and brought to my hotel to freshen up before we started the tour.
I was billeted at the Shangri-La Putrajaya which had an atrium that fit into my travel theme. This Shangri-La is small and tucked away in a quiet corner of Putrajaya. It has a wide lawn packed with interesting plants. If you want a five star hotel with a relaxed atmosphere, this is the hotel for you. More on this hotel in an upcoming post.
First stop of the tour was Taman Botani Putrajaya. This botanical garden is huge with more than 700 species of plants. Its area is around 230 acres and divided into 5 themes - the Explorer's Trail, Palm Hill, Sun Gardens, Floral Gardens and Lakeside. In touring the gardens, you can choose to walk, bike or ride a trolley. My tour guide chose the trolley ride. It's 230 acres and I didn't have the whole afternoon so the trolley ride was a wise decision.
The plant below is called, take a deep breath, Johannesteijsmannia perakensis. Yes, you can read that again. It is a kind of palm native to the state of Perak in peninsular Malaysia. It is one of the most beautiful palms I have ever seen. Taman Botani Putrajaya adopted it as its official symbol. I hope they come up with a mascot soon because this plant is really adorable.
A big cycad fan that I am, this Macrozamia species totally floored me. I can't get enough of its perfect symmetrical form. I have four species of Macrozamia in my collection (M. johnsonii, M. communis, M. cardiacensis and M. ridleyi) but all of them, except for the johnsonii, are still babies.
Front lawn of Taman Botani Putrajaya.
A very curious looking palm seen from the canopy walk.
Huge specimen of Dioon mejiae, a cycad that occurs in Honduras and Nicaragua.
I am not really a Bonsai person but this one gets my vote.
Below is a slide show of the different themed gardens I saw during the trolley ride. Some of the photos are a bit crappy because of motion. This is the price that I have to pay for being too lazy to walk or bike.
A lovely vine covering a trellis.
Community planting of Agaves.
Look at all those exposed roots!!! Pandanus species.
Taman Botani's version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In this place, the plants are the stars.
A palm species playing host to different epyphytic fern species. What a sight to behold.
After a hectic tour of the gardens, my stomach started to complain. There's a seafood restaurant located in the garden with a commanding view of the Prime Minister's Office but I decided to eat elsewhere. I ended up in Penang Village Restaurant which turned out to be an excellent choice. Glorious Malay food from the state of Penang. The sweet and sour soft shelled crab was to die for but I fought death so I could still eat the dessert. Drooling is legal while looking at the picture below.
Mind you this is just day one. I'll tell you more about the next four days in my future posts.
Welcome to Malaysia.