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Published: November 18th 2008
One of the most surprising things about Kuala Lumpur, apart from using British plug sockets, how developed it is, and how old most of the tourists are (40+), is the increbile amount of rubbish everywhere. Street cornbers are piled with the stuff, and tourist attractions fare no better. Jenga-like stacks of plastic bottles are everywhere you look.
Before leaving the capital we decided to visit the caves of Batu just outside of town. They are the site of the annual self-mutilation ceremonies that many of you have probably read about, or seen in pictures of hoards of people whipping their own backs to get over their sins. That's in February, so all we got to see were some monkeys and a massive golden statue.
The caves were large and small at the same time. The roof was supposedly something like 100 metres above us, though I don't believe it. But there was only one short chamber, followed by a second, open-roofed section with an Indian temple and several hundred empty water bottles littered around. The floor had been concreted and all possible passageways off into the world of speleology sealed. Only one section of dark caves was accessable, but
the cost of 35RN was enough to turn us off the idea, especially when the value of the pound drops by the day.
The caves were accesible by walking up 272 steps. Dom however felt that this would be the perfect opportunity for a workout and ran up them, leaving laura to get attacked by monkeys on the way up.
Our savings have dropped by something like 5-10% since last time I checked the exchange rate a couple of months ago. That's good news for our jobs in Japan, which now have a wage which translates as more than 20k each after tax, but means our travel budget is becoming tighter and tighter by the day.
Another thing which keeps falling is the rain. It is definately wet season in peninsular Malaysia. If it isn't cake-spoilingly hot it is flooded. In the end we left KL to see if the weather was any better elsewhere.
You sucessfully navigate your way to the bus stop, get on the right bus and get off at more or less the right stop. You have a hot tip for a cheap place to stay in town, just a
short walk from the famous chinatown district. You follow the directions impeccably, and after only a little confusion you find the hostel. It's nice. The staff are informative, welcoming and overly friendly. The heavy bags drop off your back into your spacious, clean room with large double bed, high ceiling and powerfull fan. You open the door to your own personal balcony overlooking the street. The sun does a happy dance on your face as you count the number of budget eateries on your road - Indian, Chinese, non-descript. Fantastic so far, but the litmus test is the bathroom and shower. It's communal because you paid just over 2 pounds for your room. No problem. The toilet is clean, smells fine and has toilet paper. The shower is powerful, and there is even provision for washing your own clothes in there.
Everything is great. You try the bed, and suddenly the sensation of opening the fridge and taking a huge gulp of cold, refreshing milk, only to end up with a mouth full of sour, milky lumps shatters your dreams.
The bed sinks in the middle and is full of holes. It's a double, but unless
a belt is worn to bed and used as an anchor to the wall, it may just as well be a single. Then things start biting and the tears well up. Well, at least this place is on the coast.
A walk to the seafront brings misery and pain. A stern signs advises no swimming or fishing, and to beware of crocodiles. The 'beach' is a mudbank created by the sewerage of the city and the rubbish in the river which flows through town and out to sea.
Not quite as expected.
However, comic relief comes from the sight of thousands of mudskippers flopping about on the mud. What curious creatures.
Melaka is apparently an UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was difficult to really grasp why at first. In fact I'm still not sure if we understand it. Friday to Sunday features a glorious night-market in chinatown, the variety of chinese snacks there enough to satisfy even my hunger. On our way through we came accross a strange man doing stretching exercises in the middle of the street. A sign proclaimed he was the current world record holder for sticking his finger in the most coconuts
in a given time period. Malaysians love their world records, and have their own annual publication for them which is not associated with yeasty Irish alcohol in any way.
So this guy was apparently trying to sell some kind of tonic for rheumatism, and his exagerated show was drawn out to about an hour for the puncturing of one coconut. He didn't even use his finger. He punched it twice and then stuck his finger in the hole. Completely dissapointed, we bought more snacks.
At the end of the second day we found some of the things in the town that were worth preserving. There is a 500 year old Dutch fort at the foot a hill, on top of which sits a large roofless building, and nearby a replica of the Sultinate palace stands impressively and is filled with perios costumes and information.
A lot of the stuff around, however, was somewhat inapropriate for European tourists. The Maritime museum featured a preserved trading vessle and dioramas of Dutch sailors. We've both seen that kind of thing a thousand times before, but the local children and asian tourists had their pictures taken with virtually everything, including replicas
of old maps.
A 30-minutes bus ride from town is a selection of attractions including a zoo, reptile and buttery park, aquarium, ostrich farm, 'recreational forest' and an crocodile farm. The latter was not very good. At 5RM to get in you can't really complain, but crocodiles don't really do anything at all. Having said that, we did see one or two move almost 6 inches.
Due to the town's extraordinary one-way system and Laura's inabilty to cope with the heat it took us until 4pm to get to this town. This left us with about 2 hrs to fill before a. everything closed. and b. until the last bus back. This in turn lead to us rushing around the zoo like crazy people. That was until Dom wandered off (he says he was looking for laura) but he wandered off! This lead to Laura being furious, waiting by the blumin tapir until he decided it would be a good idea to look for laura in the last placce he saw her. Obvioulsy this lead to lots of storming off, shouting and fisitycuffs (well almost). But at least it amused the other families at the zoo.
as good as we had hoped, but we got to catch up with Amy (laura's friend from Uni) who teaches nearby which was great for Laura (girly catch up!!) possibly not so great for Dom (girly catch up!)? We also learned a little bit about the Dutch which we didn't know. We also ate some great stuff (Well Dom ate some great stuff and Laura bravely picked at it!). The Chinese really have their fingers on the pulse of culinary delights (says Dom).
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