Unlike most travelers who prefer everything set and arranged for them by someone else (a travel agent, a tour guide), I prefer preparing for a trip myself. In fact, the most memorable trips for me are the ones that I anxiously organized myself; the ones where I handpicked the dates, the itinerary; slaved over infos on hotels, or city districts as to where I’m spending the night, etc.
I am a wanderlust, guilelessly enamored by “the process” of getting there, more than being there itself.
Such was the case with this new city called Putrajaya. Hmmm… sounds like Puduraya (KL’s main bus terminal). What makes Putrajaya unique is the fact that it is a “planned city” – now Malaysia ’s administrative capital, which means that this specially-constructed city houses most of the government offices: finance, immigration, justice, trade and industry, education, etc. This was set up to decongest Kuala Lumpur .
From Bukit Bintang in KL, I took the KLIA Express, the express train (top speed: 176 km/hour) that goes straight to the international airport (unlike the more commercial trains, this has only 4-5 stops), much like Shanghai’s Maglev Train (the first commercial high-speed magnetic-levitation line in the world, that runs 430 km/hour from Pudong to Puxi); much like the Virgin Intercity trains from London to Scotland; the TGV of France and the AVE of Spain. ( Japan ’s Bullet Train runs 260 km/hour.)
(Side note: I learned upon my return that taking the local aircon buses is almost as easy and absolutely cheaper. But distance has to be considered: the international airport is some 75 kms away from KL’s city center.)
Upon arrival in Putrajaya, the station beckons like a detached and standoffish welcoming party: huge, modern, and almost deserted. It was almost eerie. Taking the escalator to the groundlevel, there waited a well-planned bus service that can take you where you wanna go around the area.
A Bridge Too Far
What struck me about Putrajaya is the amazing Seri Wawasan Bridge that signals your arrival at the central area. Putrajaya is cradled by a river. It has 7 major bridges to cross, Seri Wawasan Bridge being the most beautiful. Now here is a hearsay that I am prone to believe. My taxi driver “educated” me that not a few years back, Billionaire Bill Gates wanted to share his “loot” in Asia , thus he just had to pick a country to invest in. Despite great reps on language-accessibility and the business/educational acumen of Pinoys, Gates was wary of the alarming rep the Philippines has on “corruption”. (I don’t quite understand why it has become a Filipino politician’s inherent perception that they are entitled to enrich themselves through these million-dollar infrastructure projects.) And If I were a billionaire throwing my money elsewhere, I would make sure that THAT money won’t end in the slimy hands and grimy pockets of a “few good men”. Thus he set his sight elsewhere, investing millions behind 2 new “planned” cities: Putrajaya and Cyberjaya.
Putrajaya is about 80% finished; Cyberjaya, which becomes the center of the cyber commerce, is still in its toddler’s stage, with just 30% completed. Had Gates invested in the Philippines, his hard-earned millions would have ended in overpriced street lamps, mediocre construction materials and middling highways. Hello, Cebu Convention Center ! Hello, Macapagal Highway ! (The world’s most expensive highway.) Sad case, but oh so true!
Being a very new city , there are but a few literatures available about Putrajaya. In fact, most travel guides that I’ve read only has Putra and Cyber as footnotes. It was a visit I HAD to do. There’s no shopping to be had (at least not in central Putrajaya), although the Alamanda Mall stands in the suburban vicinity. There are empty condo units all over the surrounding vicinity – much like London ’s council houses or a much-improved BLISS settlement area! It’s a go-see and walk-about experience – and the whole expanse is amazing! The main street is laid with bricks, and everything is wide, tall, spacious, clean; geometrically planned. Along the main avenue, you can sit by the bench and watch the river… or from the distant block, the King’s resting palace looming large with gracious copulas.
To think that Putrajaya wasn’t even in my original itinerary!
Spent a lot texting friends while there. It’s just that there are a lot of “dead-time” when you are traveling alone – while you’re waiting for your bus or train, or having a meal by your lonesome. The cellphone becomes a steady and comforting companion. And not quite cheap too. LOL. I Have since learned to "control" myself.
During my last Halong Bay visit, I met a very smart Malaysian lady (an accountant) who travels a lot – and reads a lot too. I asked her about the Bill Gates connection. Though she wouldn’t deny Gates’ money on the construction of the 2 new cities, she does not believe that Putra is the billionaire’s brainchild at all.