Heat. Warmth. These are the words that went over and over again in my mind before going on this trip. I was only all too happy to be heading to a country that was going to be in the middle of summer while the cold Japanese winter was just cresting the horizon and it was already too cold for me. Heat and humidity are also the first things that hit you when you get to Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur is a large and rather loud city and even in the dark the heat is already sticking your shirt to your back. There were palms everywhere, tropical drinks on every corner and a mix of people and cultures that I hadn't seen since moving to Japan. This was made very apparent when Amy and I got to our hotel room, that had no windows mind you, where the back cover had been ripped off a holy Bible and a Qiblat locater was in the far corner of the ceiling. A Qiblat locater is a way for Muslims to always know in which direction Mecca is for daily prayer.
Our first order of business when we woke up was to learn the lay
of the land and how to get ourselves around China Town, where our hotel was. China Town actually turned out to be a good base because there was a market there and a big set or restaurants and stores near by as well as being decently close to a train stop. I have to admit, I was weary of walking around the first couple days in Kuala Lumpur. The city itself, while it has shinny new buildings and a lot of big commercial spaces, has a lot of older buildings that lead me to be cautious for whatever reason and I remember those first fews days as a eye shifting type of tourist that constantly felt the need to hold on to my money belt. By day 3 I was way over that.
After reserving a bus ticket to Singapore Amy and I headed out to the icon of Malaysia, The Petronas Towers. They are colossal, shinny and full of shopping and restaurants. We had our first lunch at a rather busy and popular Asian chain restaurant where we had our first cups of teh tarik, pulled tea. We had many upon many glasses of teh tarik on this
trip. After lunch we began what would end up being a fruitless search for a children's book in Malay and finally wondered around the back gardens and park of Petronas. The Towers are really an incredible feat of engineering in such an earthquake pron country. The shopping mall on the inside, while it is nice, is rather a tourist beacon that is better left alone unless you have something you're looking for.
We ended up going on a little walking tour and started figuring out all the walking signs and how to move around the city without getting too lost or confused. Sadly the tourist map we had wasn't much help, but we were able to Merdeka Square and back to our hotel all on our own before having dinner at this amazing open air restaurant with one-pot grilled chicken and spicy rice dish. Fantastic.
Day 2 of Kuala Lumpur had us getting a taxi to the Batu Caves. Now everybody who ends up in Kuala Lumpur usually ends up going to the Batu Caves as part of their trip. It's a pretty typical and popular tourist stopping point after you've exhausted all the shopping and modern city
feelings of Kuala Lumpur. But I'm pretty sure that none of them got to learn about the magical powers of the number 9.
Getting a taxi in Kuala Lumpur isn't something hard or strenuous, but getting a bus is. After a rather difficult and confusing search for the bus that was going to the Batu Caves, Amy and I just decided that we should get a taxi there and split the cost. We hop into a taxi and get a flat rate out to the caves and strike up conversation with our taxi driver. We talk about our trip and a little about America when he comments about his daughter having 2 homes in the US. I made the innocent comment about him being rather wealthy and I opened a flood gate of information and philosophy. That he was, supposedly the 9th richest man, and that numbers did not come from the Arabs, but from our hands. Our taxi driver, who's name was Manicom, (Money Comes) was very animated and passionate about numbers and their place in out lives, so passionate that he started shoving papers and magazines at us while he was driving. He was a very interesting
man, but at the end of the ride we were both ready to get out and leave the preaching of numbers for another day when we had both had more to drink.
The Batu caves are a rather large tourist draw, and it's painfully obvious that the government knows it. There seem to be plans to expand the complex and add in more amenities for tourists and their bus drivers. The Caves are beautiful and if you observe close enough, you can see that there are true believers that still come to the caves to worship and make offerings in the form or chickens and flowers. You can observe the priests showing performing prayers and listen to all the roosters proclaiming their pride while feeding monkeys that seem to be roaming around the cave. The center of the cave opens up to the heavens and shines over the central temple.
The way back from Batu was way easier and cheaper then a taxi. We took the bus. It was really interesting how these city buses run with a driver and a money collector who just rides around all day collecting the fares. Riding the buses wasn't very challenging
and it was a great way to see the city and the surrounding area in a different perspective. You really get to see where the city begins and where a lot of the population actually lives. There were many apartment blocks and smaller houses rolling up into the city and all it's shops and nightlife. As nice as Kuala Lumpur is, I have to say that I'm glad that we didn't spend more time there. To me, a big city is a big city and I was ready to head down to Singapore.
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