January 28th 2010 - January 30th 2010
Although arriving in KL was a bit of a struggle, we settled in pretty quickly. We ended up staying in Chinatown, which was great for cheap deals on food from stalls but not so great for walking down streets with vendors constantly trying to sell their goods to us. Thankfully we have gotten good at just saying a polite 'no thank-you'. They were trying to sell us watches, purses, DVDs... anything you can think of. The food available was interesting. We're big fans of red bean buns - delicious! But a lot of vendors would have this weird meat patty that was fatty but they would dry out and grill and it was really pricey (for the area) and seemed similar to bacon. Very distinctive smell. Tyler was intrigued to try it but never actually got to. They made it in the morning at like 7am and then would continue to sell it all day. Very curious....
We discovered that Malaysian tea is not like tea back home. It was made from a powder and tasted like tea mixed with Milo/Ovaltine. Weird experience. The coffee was very different tasting as well, but still worth the experience.
Malaysian food was not very spicy from our experience but I think they toned it down once they saw that you were a westerner. Nobody believes that we can handle spice. Tyler discovered that the delicious soup 'laksa' has fish in it by default, and he did not enjoy the fishy taste. Lesson learned. All the other soup we had was delicious, and we even became accustomed to having soup for breakfast just like the locals (mmmmm bbq pork was our favourite).
The things we liked about Kuala Lumpur were the Lake Gardens - beautiful area to have lunch/breakfast. The National Mosque was fun to visit as well, they make you wear a light purple robe so that you are dressed modestly (even Tyler had to wear one). We also walked through a protected forest area to get to the KL Tower, very pretty walk. But once we got to the tower we saw that it cost double the price in our outdated book and decided we'd rather spend our money elsewhere. You get a nice view from the top of the forest area anyway. And the highlight of the sights we saw in KL was the Batu Caves - a place of Hindu worship. We went on a a day that was also part of a festival for the local Hindus, and there were a lot of parades that made our bus slow but were amusing to watch. You have to climb a few hundred stairs (but there were kids and old people doing it so it wasn't that difficult) in your barefeet and then walk around the cool cave at the top. There are different areas to get 'blessed' or give offerings, and it's a nice atmosphere. There were also tons of monkeys by the side of the stairs on one side, they got lots of offerings that day and would abandon half a banana to get some new piece of fruit (very wasteful monkeys). All in all the Batu Caves were amazing. And we sampled some delicious Indian desserts after in the market.
Also of note is the fact that a random monkey climbed me while we were walking back from the KL Tower and the forest reserve. He just came out of nowhere and grabbed onto my little purse strap (over the shoulder kind) and used it to climb up into my arms. Funny monkey. He then proceeded to do a bunch of different poses and was resistant when I kept trying to put him back on the ground, he'd just climb up me again. Eventually a guard finished laughing at the situation and said a Malaysian command and the monkey jumped off me. And I checked my wallet afterwards and the monkey didn't rob me.... I had my suspicions but he was just being friendly.
The bad part about KL was that it was very tricky to navigate walking through with a map. Going to the Lake Gardens was tricky and involved crossing multiple highways (which weren't really labelled on the map) and walking around in a few circles. But we eventually made it. Definitely a good test though. When taking the bus back from the Batu Caves we actually hit a car! It wasn't serious, the driver inspected and there wasn't really any damage but I have to say that's the first time I've ever witnessed it happening. We also almost got run over by a school bus that was having a bit of a breakdown and decided to park on the sidewalk. The door was jammed and the kids were trapped inside while the driver kept trying to pry the doors open with his hands. The kids had windows open and were pretty relaxed about it so maybe it happens all the time....
And the big disappointment for our time in KL was when we went to see the fireflies in a nearby village that was mentioned in our Lonely Planet guide. We asked about when the last bus back from the village was (because it had to be after dark) and the lady told us 11:30pm which was great news. So we took the 2 and a half hour bus to the village. Got there around 5:30pm and asked a taxi driver how much it would cost to get to the fireflies. He negotiated with us a bit and then was saying that he would drive us back to KL (at a very high price) because the last bus left at 6:30pm (before sunset even happens). We didn't believe him so we asked around but everyone told us the same thing, we would have to take a very expensive taxi ride back to KL if we wanted to see the fireflies. It was a huge disappointment and I was angry at Lonely Planet and the bus lady for giving me false information. If we had known about that then we wouldn't have booked our hostel in KL for the night and we could have stayed in the village nearby instead. But in the end it would have cost too much money to go to the fireflies and either pay accomodation in two places or an expensive cab back to the city, so we just took the last local bus back to KL. We were very disappointed but the highlights of our time there outweigh the bad. We're a little more weary now about things and that's probably a good thing. We'll be more careful in the future.
But this last disappointment led to us being tired of being in a big city so we decided to move on to the Cameron Highlands to enjoy nature and hiking. :)