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Published: November 20th 2011
As we board our bus early on the morning of the 18th to get to Kuala Lumpur, we were once again the only people on the bus! This time we were on a full sized coach bus, so we reclined our seats and enjoyed the peacefulness of the ride. Partway along the 4.5 hour ride, we pick up another passenger, but it's still a great bus ride and a major step up from what we had become used to.
Arriving in KL around lunchtime, we took a shuttle bus from the make-shift bus station on on the outskirts of town, to the real bus station, that was being renovated at the time. Our hotel, Moon Lodge is 1/2 a block from the Puduraya Station. We pay 40RM for a private room with fan and shared bath. The owners of this place were great! So friendly and helpful!
We start out the afternoon doing the Lonely Planet walking tour of Little India and Chinatown. Since there is so much ethnic diversity in Malaysia, almost every city has a Little India and a Chinatown. Although somewhat similar to Penang, KL is just filled with people, sounds and sights that do not
compare to anywhere else in country. We absolutely loved KL, and Malaysia in general, because for the first time in a long time, we were in a place where diversity was embraced. This was the closest to feeling back home that we experienced anywhere! With their mix of ethnic Malays, Chinese, Indians and other Asians, there was a great mix of languages, religions, foods and traditions. It was so refreshing and made every street different from the one before it.
Merdaka Sqaure features grand, colonial buildings with great charm that differed greatly from the traditional architecture of the rest of Asia. We find a mosque to visit, Masjid Jamek, but neither of us are in appropriate attire, so we aren't allowed in. We continue our walk to the KL Tower, similar to the Yangsan Tower in Korea and then on to the impressive Petronas Twin Towers. We take a slew of photos but do not go up the towers, because there are supposed to be free trips to the top every morning, so we decide to come back.
Back at the hotel, we sat on the rooftop patio and watched the afternoon storm roll, through, something that would
become an awesome afternoon tradition in KL!! We also find out today that Mike has been accepted to the University of Melbourne for Teacher's College, however the tuition has increased to over 22K$ so there are some decisions to make.
We walk around the Petaling St market, with lots of clothes, DVD, scarves and bags. We eat dinner at a great food court near the market - thai chicken fried rice- and celebrate Mike's acceptance.
Right across the street from our hotel is a small mosque so we went to bed that night expecting an early-morning wake-up call for morning prayer, but we managed to sleep through it. However, this makes us wake up late and by the time we hoofed it over to the Petronas towers, they are have already given out the 400 free tickets to visit the top 😞 We decide that we have been up enough towers in our travels and will not pay for the ride up.
We spend the rest of the morning visiting Batu Caves, a famous hindu temple in the mountain cave on the outskirts of town. We take a city bus on the 45 minute journey to the
cave. This place is coool! You walk up 272 steps to get into the cave with an enormous hindi goddess statue at the top. The place also features many monkeys that are ruthless and steal food and drinks right out of the visitors hands! There is also a wedding going on there and it's interesting to see their outfits and customs, but disappointing to see how gawking and rude other tourists are being - intruding on their photos and following them around.
The temple itself is not overly impressive, but it is very colourful and the way the sun shone through the holes in the cave created a mystical ambiance. It was certainly worth the trip out there! Before leaving, we have lunch of banana leaf rice with dhal and other sides and masala tosai (a thin shell with potato, corn, peas etc mashed inside it).
Back in KL, we check out the central market, where we start our Christmas shopping at the many shops there with neat souvenirs and gifts . We take a break and taste KLs famous white coffee, but it does not even come close to comparing to Cambodia or Vietnam's coffee. We catch
the afternoon storm again from the rooftop patio at our hotel, do some laundry and then head back to Petaling St market for more shopping and dinner at the food court. I think we could stay here for a long time and never get sick of the variety of food. Using our best bartering skills, we score two Lacoste shirts for 30RM (less than 4$), 4 Billabong shirts for 50 RM and 3 scarves for 50 RM!
Nov 20, we begin our day with a tour of the Sri Mahamariamman hindu temple near our hotel. As we enter, we almost leave right away because there is very clearly some sort of celebration going on and everyone is dressed in saris. As we debate whether it's rude to stay, a man approaches us and invites us to stay, come closer and take as man pictures as we want! Turns out this is a 60th anniversary celebration for his parents, so all their family is present. There are countless rituals they perform involving chanting, incense, sining and processions.
We figure today must be our lucky day, so we stick around and take in the sights and sounds of the celebration.
At one point, every family member picks up a jar with plants and water in it and pour it over the heads of the couple, as a sign for good luck. The family invites us to take part in this and it honestly seemed like they were as honoured to have us participate and we were honoured that they let us take part in this special ritual.
We are told that lunch is coming up and that we definitely must stay for lunch! We decide that this is one of the coolest experiences and so we stay through more processions, chanting and prayers until finally lunch is served 3 hours later. The entire meal is vegetarian, but one of the best tasting meals we have ever had! There were dishes with dahl, chick peas, vegetable balls, and more! For dessert, we had rose juice which tasted exactly how you might imagine rose juice to taste (weird but interesting) and sweet rice. It still amazes me how open and generous this family was, letting us into their ceremony and special moments. We got a picture with the family afterwards and they could not stop telling us how happy they were
that we stayed. I couldn't help but feel like that is not something that would happen back home.
Leaving that temple on a euphoric high, we endeavour to find a Buddhist temple, but we walk so far and then a man we pass on the street tells us we still have a long ways to go, and it's super hot out, so we turn around and go to the National Mosque (masjid negara). This mosque, from the outside, is not nearly as impressive looking as many of the other, smaller mosques we have visited. Even though we are wearing pants and a long sleeved shirt (did I mention how hot it was outide?!?!?!), I still have to put on a robe with a hood. The mosque is huge on the inside and can fit thousands of people at a time.
We finish the afternoon with some shopping at the Central market to complete many of our Christmas gifts. Although the market itself is great, we would not recommend eating there - the food was bland a little over-priced for the serving size.
That night we visit yet another market, this time in Little India. Most of the
items were geared to children but it was a very authentic market, with very few tables geared to tourists. We don't buy anything and then return to our hotel to get ready for our trip to Singapore.
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