lucky 24: hello Malaysia
August 22, 2013
Friday May 10, Kuala Lumpur
I have become quickly and unexpectedly infatuated with this city.
I am on a 5 day trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I can’t say Malaysia is a lifelong dream destination, but I had to leave Thailand because my visa lasts only 30 days, so it was a kind of random choice. But I am oh so glad I decided to come.
Malaysia just so happens to be the 24th country I have ever visited, and I just so happen to be 24 years of age… it has been a somewhat arbitrary pipe dream of mine for a while for my age to match the amount of countries I have traveled to. Malaysia is lucky 24.
I woke up early and was out of the hostel before 8 to cover as much ground as possible, and hopefully avoid the oppressive midday heat. I had downloaded the tripadvisor city app on my iPod touch, which can be used without wifi, and it has been immensely helpful in my explorations of the day.
The architecture, cuisine, and ethnic makeup here are such a hodge-podge… a flavorful stew of Chinese, Indian, Arabic, and a pinch of Colonial Europe.
Later I stumbled across China Town, which had similar elements to any China Town—red paper lanterns, tea shops, strange smelling fried food, and no shortage of hustle and bustle. I found a beautiful tranquil Chinese temple to Guan Di, the doorway flanked with bold red columns and sculpted dragons. Chinese people were bowing and praying, leaving offerings at a shrine and lighting incense, which filled the entire building with hazy, aromatic tendrils of smoke.
Just a short walk down the road from this tranquil relic of China, I was transported to India. There was a Hindu temple, Sri Mahamariamman, with an ornate tower at the entrance packed with colorful sculptures of fighting warrior gods and voluptuous goddesses, some with multiple arms and pale blue skin. The interior was filled with vibrant multicolored columns, more statues, and a central shrine with candles, incense, and offerings (similar to the Chinese and Buddhist temples I’ve seen). The Indian women praying in the temple were wearing dresses and saris that were as colorful and ornate as the surrounding architecture.
On my little mobile map, the National Mosque appeared to be fairly close, so I decided to walk there next. May as well make my tour of religions of the day complete. I headed towards the mosque, and eventually came within sight of it, the striking with minaret with modern angular architectural style. It was about a football field away, not far at all… but it took me nearly an hour to reach it. There was a tangled mess of huge busy streets, bridges, pedestrian overpasses and underpasses, a canal, and a train station… so close, but yet so far. After a long frustrating walk in the blazing midday sun I finally made it there. There was a sign in front that said “no non-Muslim tourists between 12pm-3pm.” I got there at 12:02. Figures. Luckily the mosque was located in a sprawling lovely park, near a fantastic museum of Islamic Art, so I was happily occupied for a few hours before I returned.
I had come prepared to visit religious buildings today—long pants, cardigan, and a scarf ready. At the entry of the mosque a woman wrapped my scarf around my head with delicate speed and precision, and gave a thoughtful look at my outfit and decided my bum was not sufficiently modest in skinny jeans, so they gave me a robe to wear over my clothes. I actually quite liked the ensemble. The mosque was peautiful, with pristine polished marble floors reflecting the geometric lattice walls and rows of simple columns.
I met with a friend of a friend for dinner, a lovely Burmese/Australian gal named Chaw. We ended my eventful first day in KL visiting the stunning Petronas Towers, which are entirely worthy of their fame. They are the most beautiful skyscrapers I have ever seen, with their elegant conical shape like enormous minarets.
Saturday May 11 Batu Caves
Chaw and I went on a little day excursion to Batu Caves, a massive cave and Hindu religious site about 20 minutes outside of KL. The natural landscape is striking—a steep, jagged mountain with rock formations jutting out like gnarled teeth. Standing in front of this strange mountain was a massive golden statue of a man, about 6 stories high, guarding a very tall, steep set of colorfully painted steps leading up to the cave temple. And to make the whimsical red-and-white painted striped steps even more circus-like, they were full of monkeys, resting on the handrails, walking along the steps looking for discarded food, hopping from tree to tree beside us. As cute as they were, they were quite nasty, and did not hesitate to snarl and snatch water bottles and bags right out of peoples’ hands. The cave itself was impressive—tucked away high in the cliffs, with imposingly high ceilings and dripping chandeliers of stalactites. Most definitely worth the tiresome trek up all of those steps amidst the aggressive monkeys.
We went to an expensive touristy spot back in KL later in the afternoon, a viewing deck on top of a tower. It was a fantastic view of the city, most notably the Petronas towers, and we could even see the Batu caves in the distance. Another busy day ended with another lovely dinner with my lovely new friend in this lovely new city.
You may have noticed, astute readers, that these entries are from May, and it is now August. This delay is admittedly due to entirely laziness on my part. More blogs about the rest of my travels in Thailand, summer travels in the USA, and future international adventure plans are in the works. Scout’s honor.