The boys are back in town...

Trip Start Mar 13, 2010
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Trip End Feb 13, 2011


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Flag of Malaysia  , Wilayah Persekutuan,
Thursday, August 26, 2010

Yes, yes. I know we're not 'boys'. But 'The boy and girl are back in town' wouldn't have made such a good title now, would it?

Anyway, I digress...

So, after 5 days down at Melaka, we hit KL (again) to finish off the sights we hadn't had the time to see previously. But the first thing we did after checking-in to our trusty hostel was something that was probably as blasphemous a thing any traveller could possibly do; we went to the cinema. In fairness, it was only because they were showing an Avatar 3D special (featuring a whole extra 9, yes 9, minutes of footage) for a ridiculously low price. And the less said about the film the better, I think. Avatar aside, it was a nice change to be back in the city after the best part of a week in Melaka. The pace in KL is quicker, it feels a bit more manic, and there is a lot more to do - especially after 9/10pm.

The following day we went for a 'trek' in the city rainforest. It was a bit of a weird experience, as you walk through a quite big rainforest situated right in the middle of the city. Every now and then, whilst looking at the monkeys and various wildlife in the canopy, you would catch a glance of the KL tower or the Petronas Twin Towers. Although the sight of these didn't take too much away from the overall feeling of rainforest-ness; after about 50 meters you couldn't hear the traffic, only the sounds of animals moving through the vegetation and the constant hum of insects in the background. Also, it definitely felt like a rainforest. Outside it was hot, but not the most humid day we'd had. However, as soon as the forest canopy swallowed us up the humidity became almost unbearable - I was just glad we'd had enough sense to take plenty of water!
 
Walking across the entire breadth of the forest took around an hour which, with conditions taken into account, was probably just about as long as I could have lasted. As we reached the other side, we came out next to the Rainforest Information Centre and, whilst it didn't look particularly exciting, we decided that as we were there we would have a look inside anyway. What we didn't expect was that there would be a monkey using the water fountain by the centre's entrance. And what we expected even less was that it was a) tame and friendly, and b) that it would launch itself from the fountain straight onto Annie's head and try to steal anything it could lay its grubby little mitts on! Cue much prising monkey hands (and feet) off necklaces, sun glasses and cameras. And also the chasing around of monkey to get back receipt-left-in-top-pocket! After the amused looking centre's staff stopped laughing and we managed to put the monkey back onto the fountain, it turned out that it had been raised at the centre since it was a baby. They could've at least put up a warning sign! At least it wasn't just us who were made to look stupid; just after we'd gone into the centre we heard a shriek from the doors, and turned just in time to see the monkey running after a group of Japanese girls. Quality entertainment...at least when it's not happening to you!

We decided that for the next few days, we were going to attempt a little more cultural tourism - if for no other reason than to make up for the number of cinema visits we'd gone on recently. So the next few days were taken up visiting the Tun Abdul Razak memorial in KL's Lake Garden area, the Batu Caves - a natural limestone cave area which for many years has been an important spiritual area for the Hindu population - and the Sri Mahamariamman Temple.

The Tun Abdul Razak memorial was worth visiting, but more for the picturesque landscaped gardens surrounding it and the mouse-deer park nearby than for its actual content. The memorial is a tribute to modern day Malaysia's second, and most revered, Prime Minister, Tun Abdul Razak bin Dato' Hussein. The memorial used to be the official residence for the Prime Minister, and now houses a mass of personal memorabilia related to Tun Abdul Razak. Unfortunately, the majority of the articles explaining the collection held there are in Malay. However, the above mentioned mouse-deer park was only another 100 meters or so further along the road, and was well worth a look. For those who don't know, the mouse-deer is (strangely enough) a really small type of deer - around the size of a large rat to a small dog - and there were several different types within the park. The park was very nice to wonder around whilst marvelling at just how small a deer can be.

We couldn't help but feel a little disappointed with the memorial, and it was a feeling that continued when we visited the Batu Caves the next day. The journey to Batu took about 1 hour on the bus from near our hostel in Chinatown and ended, in typical Malaysian bus fashion, with the driver stopping in the middle of the road and shouting "Batu Caves, get off!" at us whilst directing (by directing, read 'waving arm in the general direction of') us towards the other side of a motorway intersection. Fortunately, the massive - 42.7 meter high, to be exact - golden statue of Lord Murugan gave us a decent indication of which way to go. Upon our arrival, we discovered a bizarre/exciting bit of news; that they were filming a challenge for the new season of 'Asia's Biggest Loser' at the caves - for those unaware of the show, it's a weight-loss contest where teams of people have to lose the most weight until one Person eventually wins loads of money (http://www.biggestloserasia.com/). But, before getting excited about this, there was the more pressing task of getting ourselves to the caves proper. And there were only 272 steps and over 100 meters between us and our goal. I've got to admit, the climb to the top was actually pretty difficult; especially considering the heat and humidity was at its peak when we were climbing. But the view from the top of the steps was pretty sensational - even if we did only get a minute to admire it before being ushered out of the way by the TV crew, who wanted to get a shot of 'people climbing to the top of the stairs and walking into the caves'.

Unperturbed by the intrusion of the TV crew, we decided to head into the caves to take a look at the Hindu shrines and cave formations. The formations were pretty amazing; the light coming through the openings in the roof of the caves gave the entire place an other-worldly quality - as did the Hindu figures mounted along the sides of the main walkway through the caves. The main shrine area was unfortunately closed to the public, but there were plenty of other smaller shrines dotted around inside the complex of caves that make-up the entire site. As we walked to the back of the caves, there were loads of (yes, you guessed it) monkeys running around, stealing bags from tourists, and generally causing as much trouble as possible. Having learnt from our Rainforest walk but a couple of days previous, we gave the monkeys a wide berth and made sure we were on our toes to avoid any 'jumpers' from the walls, or stair banisters. However, despite all of the monkeys, caverns and shrines, we couldn't help feeling a little disappointed at the level of commercialism in evidence. With large floodlight structures mounted in the caves, litter dropped everywhere, and souvenir stalls set-up inside the cave areas, it didn't really have the feel of respect that you usually get in places of religious importance. Forgive me for getting a bit serious, but it just made me feel a little sad.

As if to compound that feeling (although it was also quite fun to watch), as we returned to the top of the steps leading back down to earth, the challenge that Asia's Biggest Loser were filming there had just begun. It basically involved the two teams having to do a relay race up the aforementioned 272 steps whilst carrying weights. It was pretty surreal watching it all being filmed - especially as Annie watches it on TV, albeit the US and Australian versions - and to add to the feeling everyone was absolutely silent apart from those taking part in the race. Personally, and call me a cynic because of it, my favourite part of the whole filming process was when - after the race was over - a member of the production crew shouted to one of the celebrating victors, "Say well done to the other team". Now that's being gracious in victory!

And finally, despite being next door to our hostel, we'd managed to save going to see the Sri Mahamariamman Temple for our final day in Kuala Lumpur. It was a really relaxed way to finish our sight-seeing of KL as the mood was really laid back and inviting. The Sri Mahamariamman Temple is another Hindu place of worship - filled with beautifully decorated shrines to various Hindu deities - and is the oldest functioning Hindu temple in Malaysia. Apparently, although you can't really tell from the ground, it's built to resemble the human body lying on its back. The tower (gopuram), that you can see in our photos, is meant to represent the feet. By strange coincident it's from this temple that, during the holy day of Thaipusam, people gather at before proceeding to walk to the Batu Caves. The interior of the temple was amazingly decorated and housed several shrines surrounding the main shrine at the centre of the temple. The people worshipping inside were really welcoming, letting us know that it was ok to take pictures and even offering us food.

In summation, I've got to say that we both really enjoyed our time in KL and would advise anyone thinking about visiting to stop thinking and book your tickets! All that remains to be said is that it's going to be interesting to see if the Cameron Highlands and Penang will match the capital in terms of excitement, unpredictability and fun.
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