Travels around Malaysia – Part 10: Putrajaya and Kuala Gandah

This is the tenth in a series of blogs that describes our continued travels on the Malaysia Peninsular and the Malaysian portion of Borneo.

The Prime Minister and The Elephant

Putra Mosque pink dome No this subtitle does not suggest a sordid and sensational tale that you may find in some tabloids.  So for the pure of mind you can read on in safety and for the rest, sorry to disappoint but read on anyway you might enjoy it.

A flight back to Kuala Lumpur (KL) and 40 mins in a car took us to Putrajaya. Overcrowding and congestion in Kuala Lumpur led to a vision to create Malaysia’s first Intelligent Garden City, as envisioned by Ebenezer Howard’s Garden Cities of Tomorrow published in 1902.  This purpose built city serves as the Federal Administration Centre of Malaysia following its unveiling in 1999 and the transfer of function from KL, which remains the national capital.

We based ourselves at the Shangri-La for the next couple of days.  With its commanding views over the city and its impeccable service, it’s about as perfect as a hotel gets in my opinion.

Obi Wan The city is the home to some magnificent architecture and perhaps the most visually appealing is the Masid (Mosque) Putra.  Situated beside the Perdana Putra which houses the Malaysian Prime Minister’s office and the huge man-made Putrajaya Lake, from certain points on the shore it appears to be floating on the water.  Its impressive dimensions can house 15,000 worshipers and its design is a hybrid of some of the most impressive aspects of Mosques around the world.  The basement wall of the mosque resembles that of the King Hassan Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco, the 116m Minaret in the shape of an eight point star stands tall to the left of the archway.  Look up though and the roof is breathtaking.  Eight small domes in the rooftop twinkle like a star filled night sky when light catches the inlays and the whole structure is topped off at 250 feet by an intricately decorated pink dome.  I stood and admired it until my neck ached.

It’s worth mentioning that the ladies are normally asked to wear the provided head to toe robes, which Linda did in line with the religion’s beliefs.  I couldn’t help thinking though that I’d married Obi-Wan Kenobi and that any smart remarks about her attire would get my head lopped off with her light sabre.

The Palace of Justice (judicial building and courts), Perdana Putra (Prime Minister’s Dept), plus others all provide impressive structures to walk around and admire, or you can take a 45 minute cruise on the Lake which will take in many of these.  Note: you need to book these cruises at least 72 hours in advance, you can’t just turn up and ride.  Instead we decided to take a stroll around the Taman Botani, at 92 hectares these are the biggest Botanical Gardens in Malaysia.  Our late afternoon trip took us on a gentle stroll around a selection of 700 species of both local, Asia Pacific and African regional plants. To get the best out of the visit you do need to climb up some reasonably steep inclines but that does reward you with further views of Putrajaya.  Also find yourself a high vantage point after dark, like the Shangri-La’s lounge, as the city and its bridges are lit up in a delightfully colourful display.

Steve and python Next day we drove a couple of hours to Kuala Gandah to visit the National Elephant Conservation Centre (NECC) but on the way dropped in for a brief visit to Deerland nearby in Bukit Rengit.  Deerland has four different types of deer that you can admire and feed, including the local Sambar and Mouse deer.  The highlight though was getting to handle the magnificent python (at least half a mile long – honest!), and seeing his albino companion.  You can feel the enormous power these snakes have as they gently pulsate around your neck and in your grasp.  The smile in the photo catches me wondering how long it took Harry Potter to learn Parseltongue (snake language) in case I have to talk this thing out of making me lunch.

On to the NECC which not only provides a home to orphaned elephants but serves as the base for the relocation team, who relocate endangered elephants to other suitable habits.  A presentation shows how they train the resident elephants to help them relocate the wild elephants, attempting to make it a much less stressful operation for the wild elephants.  Demonstrations by the elephants and their handlers, feeding and observing them provided an enjoyable couple of hours but the main reason for coming was to bathe with the elephants as well.  Sadly recent heavy rains meant that the river was too high and running too fast for us to be allowed in with them, so we just had to stand and watch.  Now the eagle eyed amongst you may notice a Mahout in the video gently prod something away and then you’ll know why I wasn’t that sad not to have made it into the river with them after all.

Next stop Malacca.

Watch a video about Kuala Gandah National Elephant Conservation Centre

For holidays to Asia, Silver Travel Advisor recommends Selective Asia.

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Steve Aldridge

Award-winning travel writer

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