Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Temples, skyscrapers and a whole lot of humidity...

Welcome to Kuala Lumpur! This trip is my first real taste of Asia, and with only a very short amount of time, we are determined to make the most of it...

Our first stop is this amazing city, with its incredible combination of futuristic skyscrapers and jungle landscapes, all contained within the geographical limits. It's only really a stopover, with many cheaper flights coming in and out of KL as a jumping point for the rest of SE Asia, resulting in us having only two days in the city itself (and then another one day on the way home), but it would have been criminal to have flown in and then straight out again without the slightest taste of Malaysia.

Arriving late at night, we dropped our bags at the guesthouse and headed out to experience the city after the sun sets. After a delicious meal from a nearby street vendor, we wandered around to get our bearings, amazed by the bright lights and the sheer scale of the buildings surrounding us. Although not a city person by nature, even I couldn't help but be awed by the size of the Patronas towers, the landmark of Kuala Lumpur, lit like a beacon and illuminating everything around them.

The following morning we started early, determined to visit the Batu caves before the crowds arrived. The cave complex, discovered in the early 20th century, is host to a number of Hindu shrines, brightly painted and surrounded by a cloud of thick incense. The humidity makes the climb up the 200-odd steps to reach the shrines hard work, but the result is definitely worth the trouble. Avoiding the scavenger-like monkeys darting around everywhere, we found a lovely quiet spot to sit and relax. Arriving early was a good decision - as we left the coaches had begun to arrive in droves and the area was filling up fast.

After a quick taxi ride back into town we took a stroll through Chinatown (stopping off for a quick fish pedicure - a bizarre but interesting experience!), with its many shops, restaurants and temples, although eventually we realised we were going round in circles, lost in a maze of deceptively similar streets, and decided we might get a better overview from above. The Menara telecommunications tower, nestled in a jungle reserve in the middle of the city, offers a 360 view from 270m high, and is the perfect position to appreciate the scale and size of the buildings stretching out as far as the eye can see.

Tomorrow it's back on a plane to the main destination of our trip, although I will be sorry to say goodbye to KL - although it's a busy, bustling and developing city, with an excess of skyscrapers, neon lights and noise, it's also aware of its roots, with many busy yet peaceful temples, and kind and patient locals (as demonstrated by the cars - we made the mistake of crossing the road as a car came round the corner a couple of times today, and instead of beeping as they do nearly everywhere else, the cars just slowed down). Strangers in the street have instructed us on how to reach the places we wanted to get to, the taxi drivers have given us good advice (and without a price!), and when my food was taking longer than expected to come in a cafe earlier today, the owner offered me a free snack to tide me over.

Humidity aside, I think this is a place I would be happy to spend a lot longer exploring...

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