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What we did in Kuala Lumpur when not fretting about bikes

Basically, one can spend an inordinate amount of time in malls in K.L. It’s full of them! These vast air conditioned halls of merchandise, each shop the identical twin of the outlets in Europe or the states. We sated our mall thirst in the first couple of days, finding out that each mall hid a vast air-conditioned supermarket in its bowels. We enjoyed drinking super-cooled coconut water straight from the shell and admiring all the weird fruit and veg in their neatly arranged piles. Less heartening was the price of wine and cheese so we opted for a different diet (our livers thanked us).

The Petronas towers loom huge over the city, once the tallest buildings in the world, they have since been dwarfed by Tower 101 in Taipei and the newer buildings in Dubai. However, they are still impressive for their prominence in the city. These edifices also hide a gigantic mall in their underground, not one to miss out on the mall-crazy culture. The bridge connecting the two towers can be visited for a fee and for a restricted 10 minutes. We opted not to as we had hoped to be there for the sunset viewing but all those times were booked out already. Clearly everyone has the same great ideas.

Year of the FIRE ROOSTER

Instead, we hopped across to a Chinese temple, which as it was Chinese New Year, promised to be busy and interesting. We were not disappointed! Everyone was out to celebrate the year of the Fire Rooster, with massive sculptures, music and hundreds of people milling about.

We learned a little more about each other’s zodiacs, Alex is a Pig (fitting) and Simon is an Ox. Apparently it’s one of the best zodiac matches available so that would explain the excellent harmony.  It was a hot day but as usual, oranges were being handed out to refresh everyone on the new year and we got an awesome view of KL from the temple rooftop- a whole vista rising out of the trees.

Temple rooftop











After a couple of hours in the heat we decided it was time to move on and we went to see the memorial for the freedom fighters of 1945. The sculptor was American and it is quite evident by the style of the statue which looks like many other victorious statues celebrating freedom. Nevertheless, the whole is quite impressive.

Alex and Simon at the temple

Memorial for the Freedom fighters of 1945

The statue is set within a set of water pools and beyond a sombre walkway. The water is crossed through discreet steps and the whole area is quiet and calm, a little at odds with the guns on display on the statue! Sculpted water lilies adorn the water and give the feeling that the area is frozen in time. The walkway offers a little respite from the relentless sun.

We had heard about Batu Caves in the North of Kuala Lumpur. This is an important temple for Hindus set within a natural limestone cave with a giant statue of Lord Murugan guarding the entrance. At 43 metres (approximately) tall, it is an impressive statue to pass by. A flight of steps sweeps up sharply from his left and we were lucky enough to witness Thaipusam being celebrated the day we visited. Many Hindus were walking from a great distance to the temple, carrying milk pots on their heads. Some even pierced the skin of their backs with hooks holding bells. They struggled up the steps as it was hot and the load they were carrying was starting to feel heavy. Children and adults alike were getting their heads shaved in preparation. One devotee took it to another level and pierced his tongue in front of us and after wiping a finger across the wound, dabbed others’ heads with the blood.

It was fascinating to watch and we carefully climbed the stairs, careful not to obstruct the faithful who were mid-pilgrimage. Some monkeys tried to trip them up on the steps but they traipsed on, making it to the top of the stairs where they fell to their knees and crawled to the next flight of steps .

Batu Caves visited by everyone

Thaipusam being observed in Batu Caves














We finally reached the cool interior of the cave and all of a sudden it began to rain, a column of water sluicing through the ceiling opening. It was quite refreshing since the humidity was causing a tension in the air and making it hot.

The interior of the cave is filled with small shrines and statues and offering and flowers are left at the cave mouth. It gives spots of bright colour amongst the limestone walls which are welcome especially in the dark rain.

The temple in the rain, inside the caves


Waiting for the rain to cease, we tried to look outside to gauge the severity of the weather, but it was such heavy rain that we could barely see beyond the statue of Lord Murugan! No one was attempting the steep steps, now gushing rainwater, to leave.

Finally it abated and we climbed back down and took an air-conditioned train all the way back to town. It was clean and once again, had warning stickers against Durian fruit, against kissing in public and against littering or smoking.

Sated of our thirst for malls and air conditioned travel, we eagerly awaited our bikes, due to arrive in the coming days. It was Simon’s birthday soon so we hoped they would be kind to us in customs.  KL had enough distractions for people fretting about their bikes but we’d burned through them all by now!

The rules of transport


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