We got a great bargain with Air Asia (76MYR or $25.00, all in for the two of us) & took a 1-hour flight vs 6-hour bus ride from Georgetown to Kuala Lumpur, or ‘KL’ as referred to by the locals.
Needless to say this federal capital is a huge metropolis & from what we have read is very much in competition with Singapore (our opinion, Singapore wins hands down!). Regardless it does have magnificent skyscrapers & is home to the well known 88-story Petronas Towers & KT Menara Tower, both landmarks in the ‘Golden Triangle’ or central business district. Being part of a former British colony, many colonial buildings are scattered throughout, with many lending themes from both British and North American architecture. Navigating throughout the city is quite easy with the bus, train, & monorail. There were also courtesy hop-on-hop-off buses which provided us with a good sense of direction upon arrival.
We headed north by train to the famous limestone Batu Caves. Hindu priests have used these caves as temples since their discovery in 1878. Crowds of Hindus visit the caves in the early morning hours in January/February each year for the spectacular Thaipusam festival, when devout Hindus skewer portable shrines to their skin with 108 lances. They start at the Sri Mahamariamman Temple, an elaborate Hindu temple within China Town & drag the shrines all the way to the Batu Caves, quite the distance! Gives credence to the saying “purification through suffering”. Bob had seen a YouTube clip of this ceremony prior to our trip & it is quite the thing to see, check it out if you get a chance.
To reach the caves we climbed over 300-stairs to be rewarded by a large number of beautiful & fascinating statues of Hindu gods. Hundreds of monkeys (long-tailed macaques) make this place their home but unfortunately it is quite dirty with discarded rubbish on the steps & bat droppings in the cave. We also took in the sights of the iconic Central Markets, or Pasar Seni, & the narrow streets of Chinatown Market area in old KL.
Did I mention how HOT & HUMID the weather is here, if not believe me when I say one needs to be indoors between 2:00 & 4:00 each day or risk heat stroke, which I think happened to me, putting me out of the game for a couple of days!!! Just when I started feeling better I woke up one morning looking like Quasimodo, face & eyes swollen to the point of slits, neck nodes, headache & a big red lump on my right cheek, not a pretty sight! Looking up the symptoms on the Internet & comparing them to mine Bob thought for sure I was a good Dengue Fever candidate, just waiting for the body rash to start. A visit to a MD ruled that out & also provided the necessary steroid (the one thing I didn’t pack) to deal with the severe allergic reaction, to what we still aren’t quite sure, but perhaps a bite of some sort. This put sightseeing on the back burner unfortunately, but we were in a very nice hotel with the necessary creature comforts, so important when feeling unwell far from home.
But you can’t keep me down for long, so with shades donned😎 (didn’t want to elicit too many stares-yup, that bad) we said goodbye to Malaysia & hopped a flight, to Yangon, Myanmar. First impressions, chaotic traffic with car horns beeping constantly & no scooters in the inner city; very dusty; curious, charming, friendly folks; accommodation expensive, food very inexpensive; all women & most men wear longyi (wrap-around type skirt) & men chew betel leaves stuffed with areca nuts, tobacco & spice, causing them to split a red substance every few minutes! Apparently this is a stimulant & gives a buzz when chewed but it also stains teeth & causes oral cancer.
Our plan is to visit this former capital for a couple of days then head north to Bagan to view the ruins that apparently rival Angkor Wat in Cambodia.