Kuala Lumpur Part 1: The Sights

Seven other teachers from Satit Kaset IP (plus one of their significant others) and I embarked on a four-day trip to the Malaysian city of Kuala Lumpur over a long weekend in early August. Our group actually ended up being 11 people because two British friends of one teacher met us at the airport after their adventures in Vietnam and Thailand. Eleven people is A LOT, so naturally, we ended up in two different groups – one with four people and the other with seven. I was in the smaller group, and here are the sights that we saw!

1. The Batu Caves: Just 40 minutes by monorail and commuter train from our hotel in the Bukit Bintang neighborhood of KL (which we would recommend — Paradiso Bed & Breakfast), lies the entrance to some immense limestone caves, which are guarded by the grand Lord Murugan.

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Below the hundreds of steps leading up to the caves is a Hindu temple, where people were worshiping the Hindu gods and being blessed by holy men who offered incense and water to practitioners. I had never seen people actually practicing Hinduism. My experience with the religion stops at the limited amount that I know from yoga. I enjoyed the openness of the worshipers; they were not irritated by tourists like me, who were genuinely interested in seeing their rituals and customs.

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While Lord Murugan stands tall in front of the caves and is an incredible sight to see, there are other guards at the caves who were a little more demanding of our attention:

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This mama macaque monkey (see her baby?!) looks sweet, but this photo was taken right before she’d had enough of her coconut and chucked it to the stairway below, missing my face and hitting my friend Casey on her toe! In addition to tossing coconuts, the monkeys grab at any food you may have brought along (our friend Charles had one grab for his Mountain Dew), run wild around your feet, and even flip things over (like benches) in order to chase one another. So while terribly adorable, they wreaked a little havoc and did pose a bit of a threat to our safety!

After checking out the main cavern of the caves, the four of us decided to go on the 45-minute tour of “The Dark Cave“, which required that we bring flashlights and wear hard hats.

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I was super excited to see stalagmites and stalactites, limestone formations that I’d only ever seen on Planet Earth.

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My favorite part was definitely when we all turned off our lights and we were deep enough inside the cave to be completely away from any light source. I could open my eyes and close them, and it didn’t make any difference!

Throughout our walk, we also saw some spiders in their webs, a pure white spider, some tiny millipedes, a cave cricket, several bats (though we could hear thousands), and more cockroaches than I was comfortable with. This photo below is all bat guano and cockroaches (lovely):

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Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and made the tour both fun and enlightening.

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2. The Fireflies near Kuala Selangor: In a small town outside Kuala Selangor, there is a river whose banks are famous for being home to thousands of fireflies. The staff at our hotel arranged for a taxi driver to take us from KL to this town, about 70 kilometers away. The scenery reminded me of Southern California in the spring – green mountains in the distance, lots of palm trees, and of course, traffic. Our taxi driver had a good laugh at Charles and Jamie’s expense when they mistook the Muslim prayer rooms at the gas station for the restrooms. They were wondering why the restrooms lacked toilets…

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We arrived near the riverbank and found the place to buy our tickets for a boat ride. We were among a couple other groups of tourists – both Malaysian and foreign – and the atmosphere was jovial. Everyone was excited while putting on mosquito repellent and awaiting their boats. While the ride was only about 15 minutes, the trip out to Kuala Selangor was well worth seeing thousands of fireflies light up the horizon. I imagined seeing them flying about, but mostly we saw them blinking in unison in large bushes that hovered over the water. The boat driver got us really close to the bushes so we could see the individual insects with their glowing bottoms. I apologize for the lack of firefly photography — everything was coming out blurry, so we figured it’d better to just see them with our eyes!

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3. National Mosque: The next morning, the four of us tourists rode the free bus to the train headquarters, which we were instructed to pass through in order to find the National Mosque and the bird park.

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We actually thought the train station was the mosque because of its cool architecture, but we eventually found the real thing. (The guy at our hotel told me these directions: “Take the free bus on the purple line to the train station and then find your way.”)

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(not the mosque!)

I had visited churches, synagogues, Buddhist temples, and now a Hindu temple at the caves, but I’d never stepped foot inside a mosque. The people were welcoming and provided us ladies a robe so we would be covered from hair to ankle; Charles was already wearing a hat, pants, and a t-shirt, so he was sufficiently covered. (The purple robes reminded me of high school graduation from Amador!)

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The mosque was lovely, and we had a nice time talking to some volunteers inside. As non-Muslims we were not allowed to enter the main prayer room, but we could take photos:

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4. The Bird Park: After the mosque, we carried on down a well landscaped road, passed some museums, and ended up at the magnificent open-air bird park. We were immediately welcomed upon entering by a very large pelican, whose wings (span of nearly 5 feet!) almost hit me and Casey. He or she clearly meant no harm; a flying animal that large just can’t land next to someone peacefully!

Here’s our friend:

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Inside the grounds of the park we saw dozens of different species of birds – peacocks, doves, pigeons, egrets, cranes, emus, ostriches, flamingos, ducks, toucans, and more! We got to see the hornbills being fed fresh papaya by the park staff. It was so much fun walking around in the shade and fresh air, spotting exotic birds everywhere we looked.

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5. The Petronas Towers: The Petronas Towers stand over 1,200 feet high and are the most prominent part of the KL skyline. At night, they are sparkly and beautiful; during the day, they’re still impossible to miss with their spires and bridge connecting them at their 40th floors. We were able to go on a tour to see the bridge and the viewing room on the 86th floor of Tower A. (And the ladies working the desk that day gave us a teacher discount, even though they don’t actually offer a teacher discount!)

Here I am on the bridge between the twins:

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Here  is a view of Tower B from the 86th floor of Tower A:

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Here they are from the ground:

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And here they are at night:

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6. Jalan Alor — street in KL famous for its street food: We four walkers of KL (we must have walked a million miles over the course of those four days!) walked along Jalan Alor on the Saturday night after eating at a food court in the mall below the towers and having drinks at Sky Bar. It was really fun to see and be part of the night life in a new city. There were bright lanterns, lots of food, and live music.

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So, these were just six main attractions that we saw in and near Kuala Lumpur. I’ll be adding two more posts: one about The People, and one about The Food.

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