Kuala Lumpur and the colourful Batu Caves

112 days travelling and we’ve been reunited with a decent supermarket – finally!

11th January 2019 (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

We had an early afternoon flight and despite the airport being on the other side of the island, it took less than 30 minutes to get there. It seems there aren’t enough vehicles on the roads to slow your journey down at all – if only the same could be said about back home. My wife’s eyes lit up when she saw the Burger King sign as we walked through the doors and, as I’m sure you can guess by now, we had to make the mandatory pit stop before clearing security – which seems to be incredibly lax around most of Asia. I don’t think we have taken anything out of our bags (liquids, tablets, etc) at the scanners yet and we’ve definitely seen people taking drinks through with them. Sometimes I wonder if they are even looking at the X-ray images, as more often than not everyone seems to be enjoying a good old chin wag.

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We arrived in Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA2) and were greeted with what could only be described as a big shopping mall, which will be great when we have our 12 hour layover here later in February. As my 4G wasn’t working very well (actually not at all), we weren’t able to hail a Grab and instead opted to take the train. The lady behind the ticket counter seemed to be having a bad day (or month by the look on her face) and didn’t seem to want to speak to me. Without being given an option, we ended up buying tickets for the KLIA Ekpress pass instead of the slower, not to mention much cheaper, stopping train. It would have been cheaper (and easier on our feet) to pay for a new prepaid SIM and catch a Grab. Still, the train ride was actually rather pleasant in the end, albeit not particularly budget friendly.

Towering skyscrapers of Kuala Lumpur
Towering skyscrapers of Kuala Lumpur

After navigating the metro system and arriving at what we hoped was the nearest station to our apartment, we quickly found ourselves lost amongst the skyscrapers and much further away than we originally. planned to be from our apartment. Our offline maps were next to no use (our dot would ping all over the place and couldn’t see street names) and the tall buildings disoriented us both. Pounding the streets for a good 20 minutes, with our bags in tow, we eventually found our way, covered in sweat from the humidity and heat of the day. It wasn’t until we arrived in the apartment block that we realised our host had never emailed us the full check in process, but thankfully the mailbox was left unlocked (obviously they were not too worried about security) and it wasn’t long before we had dropped our bags off and both slumped onto the sofa.

I was so happy to be able to eat cereal again
I was so happy to be able to eat cereal again

At least our apartment was nice and cosy and conveniently located just a stone throw away from KLCC Suria, an enormous shopping mall which is home to the Petronas Twin Towers and a place where we found ourselves spending a lot of our time. First on the agenda was to pick up some sports clothes for the wife. She somehow didn’t think she’d need any for travelling when we left the UK, but finally admitted that they might be useful after ripping her one pair of leggings on our Christmas Day hike. We then tucked into some grub in the food court upstairs – I looked longingly at my wife’s burger whilst eating my cold rice and chicken. On the way back we ducked into the M&S food court and I bought myself some muesli – you have no idea how much I’ve been missing being able to have something that doesn’t involve egg for breakfast.

12th January 2019 (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

This morning we caught a Grab to Perdana Botanical Garden for what should have been a nice peaceful morning stroll. Sadly there was a running event on, so we had to share the park with some loud music and continuous announcements – good on everyone who took part, some of them looked absolutely exhausted. It might not have helped that a lot of paths were also closed, but we were pretty underwhelmed with the place. I guess I shouldn’t compare it to Singapore and the other beautiful gardens we’ve seen on our trip. However, it was nice to see all the families out enjoying themselves and watching all the people exercising and it was a good way to spend an hour or so.

Botanical Gardens in Kuala Lumpur
Botanical Gardens in Kuala Lumpur

The main reason we came to this part of town was to visit the Islamic Art Museum, as it was highly recommended to us by a friend. Having grown up in Dubai as a child, I have a soft spot for Islamic architecture, history and their beautiful calligraphy. The building itself is absolutely stunning and it’s well worth venturing out to see both the permanent and temporary exhibits hosted there. It houses an incredible amount of artefacts and the models of significant mosques throughout the world are well put together. The whole place is thoughtfully laid out and is exceptionally maintained. It was definitely well worth visiting and on reflection, it was also nice being dropped off on the other side of the park and walking through it to get to the museum – if only to stretch our legs a bit.

The beautiful Islamic Art Museum in Kuala Lumpur
The beautiful Islamic Art Museum in Kuala Lumpur

That evening we decided to visit the KLCC Aquaria, as we had some free time and it was walking distance from our flat. I am always in two minds about aquariums, on the one hand they are incredibly educational and fascinating, but on the flip side I never know how comfortable the animals are being kept in tanks. Putting that to one side, it was quite an enjoyable experience. Sure it’s more geared towards children and was very busy, but we got to see animals that we hadn’t seen before and learn a lot in the process. They had a hilarious conveyor belt that shuttled people along the shark tunnel. I know it’s to stop people from standing still and blocking it, but it was simultaneously painful yet comically slow. Ducking past the photographers trying to flog us awkward shots of us in front of an awful backdrop, we made our way back to our apartment. That night I had the joys of doing the laundry – the washing machines were tucked away down in the sketchy basement of our building. I’m not sure my wife would be comfortable venturing down there alone at night, although it’s probably perfectly safe.

13th January 2019 (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

The best thing about Grab is that it is not only convenient, taking you door to door, but it is also pretty cheap. It would have saved us money from the airport and it was only slightly more expensive than taking the metro and train to most of our activities. It was no surprise then that we hailed one to take us to Selangor, home to the impressive Batu Caves. I wasn’t too sure what to expect, having only seen a few pictures before I felt like they may have been heavily edited – as with most travel photos these days. To my surprise they were just as vibrant and colourful as in the pictures, and mine really don’t do them any justice (maybe one day I’ll learn how to edit them properly). We had read that the main cave is free to enter, perfect for us, and that there wasn’t much need to enter the paid caves – even better. We set off ready to conquer the 272 steps up to the cave entrance.

The colourful steps outside Batu Caves
The colourful steps outside Batu Caves

Whilst it really didn’t take long to make it to the top, it definitely took a lot out of me. I tried my best to look unfazed when my wife caught up with me, but there was no hiding the sweat pouring off me. At least everyone else was in the same boat. The views back toward the city were absolutely stunning. My wife and I have never been inside a cave with such a high ceiling before and were rather impressed. It was a shame that the floor had been flattened to make way for paving, but it was understandable to be able to accommodate people during religious festivals and make it more accessible. We took a moment to sit there and just absorb everything, whilst warily watching the dozens of monkeys making their rapid descent from the opening at the top to aggressively steal peoples food and water bottles (there’s a good reason I don’t like them).

The view from near the top of the Batu Caves
The view from near the top of the Batu Caves
On the way back down we witnessed men carrying large items up the steps whilst chanting (it sounded as though they were repeating something a man was yelling at the front). I believe this was all related to Thaipusam and we stopped to watch it all unfold before us. It was rather impressive to watch and we felt quite lucky to have witnessed it, as I think it only takes place once a year (do correct me if you know more about what was going on). If you look closely you can see the old man has a dozen or so hooks in his back and there is a woman at the front who was crawling the whole way up on her hands and feet.
We believe this was related to Thaipusam
We believe this was related to Thaipusam

That evening was rather uneventful, I bought some sports shorts for myself as I was tired of constantly getting my other ones covered in dust and sweat whenever we went out hiking. We finally bought my wife an umbrella – we’d both donated our rain jackets back in Nepal as it’s never nice wearing one when it’s hot and humid. I also got some dodgy passport photographs taken, which I desperately hope are acceptable for our Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam visas. I should probably also admit to buying some fudge and Percy pigs (we always go for the vegetarian ones, as they taste so much better) from M&S – what can I say?

We had also planned to go up the Petronas Towers, but hadn’t realised you’d need to book tickets a couple of days in advance. As we’d left it to the day before we left, and with the towers being closed on Mondays, we had to abandon that activity and settle for seeing the views of the towers from the outside. It wasn’t a massive loss, as we wanted to go up at night time and we’d had heavy rain for most of the evenings we had been in Kuala Lumpur.

14th January 2019 (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

Our final day was a bit of an odd one. We had to check out at midday and neither of us could be bothered to lug our bags around town during the hottest part of the day. We decided we’d spend the morning walking around the park just behind the shopping mall and get a few shots of the Petronas Twin Towers whilst it was still cool and relatively quiet. The idea was that we would then head to our airport hotel after checking out and spend some time catching up on some life admin (much to our taxi drivers dismay).

Looking up at the Petronas Twin Towers
Looking up at the Petronas Twin Towers

Before heading to the airport, we dropped to a store called Peter Hoe Evolution + Beyond on the back of a recommendation from a friend. It’s a nice little store selling a variety of homeware, clothes and souvenirs. Sadly we had no space to carry any of it. After this we thought we’d try and track down the elusive Putu Bambu – we must have been looking in all the wrong places and I was desperate given it was one of the few street snacks that I could actually eat. When we finally found a place that served up what they claimed was the “best in town”, they kept telling us it wasn’t ready yet and that they didn’t know how long it would take. We used that time to exchange some left over Indian Rupees into US Dollars (to pay for our Laos visa upon arrival) at a ridiculously good exchange rate. It was pretty much perfect and I had to double check, as I couldn’t work out how they were making any money. Either way, when we returned for the Putu Bambu we were told it would be at least another 30 minutes and decided to abandon our quest.

Peter Hoe Evolution + Beyond in Kuala Lumpur
Peter Hoe Evolution + Beyond in Kuala Lumpur

Once at the airport hotel, we ventured into the enormous shopping mall of a terminal and found ourselves sitting in Nando’s – where else? It was odd, as it felt familiar but different at the same time (same same, but different I guess). Sure the table service was a nice change up, along with the price, but the food didn’t feel like Nando’s. It was also really strange, as they shouted Nando’s repeatedly after each new person walked in. I couldn’t quite understand what they were saying at first, which just made the whole thing that much funnier. Back at the hotel we found ourselves laughing again as there was an incredibly inebriated man shouting in Chinese (profanities maybe?) out in our corridor. It sounded like his friend kept trying to calm him down and would give up before trying again in five minute intervals. Thankfully it all quietened down so we could get an early night ahead of our silly o’clock flight the next morning.

Until next time.

P.S. We basically lived in a supermarket called Isetan – it was amazing. Every day we would hit up their salad bar and sushi selection, eating enormous amounts of food.

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