Kuala lumpur – capital city of malaysia – an urban sprawl where ultra modern highrises nestle neatly alongside run down colonial buildings, where traditional chinese medical practitioners share a pavement with sari shops, and every lane or alleyway no matter how narrow or grotty has delicious looking food stalls. Arriving in KL a little after midnight by bus, we didnt see much when we first arrived but instead settled into our clean and comfortable hostel suzies place for a well deserved rest. Its central location in chinatown was perfect for exploring the city- and the next day after some kaya toast (kaya is a thick coconut jam which is spread generously on bread) we headed off to see what the city had to offer.
We followed the general tourist trail and saw all the sites, including the obligatory cricket pitch found in any good ex-british colony, and occasionally took refuge from the heat in the air conditioned museums seeing interesting exhibitions such as one on costume dolls from around the world. Many looked like the toilet roll covers that used to be in my nanas bathroom but apparently these where “priceless” ( im sure yours where as well nana). We rounded off the day by taking the compulsory “selfies” in front of the Patronas towers – the second largest twin towers in the world… they really where quite big.
A short train ride north of KL took us to one of the biggest tourist attractions in the area, the Batu Caves. These limestone caves are sacred to the Hindu people and with a short walk up the 272 extremely steep steps you where lead into the main cave where highly coloured statues and temples could be found. The most impressive statue of them all was a 140ft (48m) tall statue of Murugan – a Hidu deity who guards over the caves… like the Petronas towers, it was also quite big! The other star attraction was the hoards of monkeys you encountered along the steps, including one extremely photogenic baby monkey- which you can see below.
The busy KL streets are full of the smells of food from local markets (these can be good and bad) and amazing food stalls which we obviously had to explore. Some stalls had there own charcoal fires to cook peanutty stay sticks while others had boiling pots of stock to cook various animal based products before your eyes. We sampled various offerings during or time in KL, some where excellent like the curry laksas and the ominously named beef noodles, where others like the chilli fish balls needed an acquired taste. Another great find in the market was or Sumatran travel buddy Britt who decided to join us agin for a few more weeks. To celebrate we went to one of KL’s trendy rooftop bars and danced on the roof in a thunder storm, yes that is as surreal as it sounds.
Leaving the amazing food and hectic humidy of Kuala Lumpur the three of us headed inland to the Cameron Highlands, a tea growing region in the mountains. It is worth going here simply for the change in temperature – it was positivity cold…we got to wear socks and jumpers a welcome novelty from sweating through our t-shirts! Donned with said jumpers we headed off to explore the area and spent or 2-day stay wandering through tea plantations, visiting odd butterfly farms and hiking through mossy forests. In the evenings while we sat watching light drizzle fall from the grey skys, and sipping warm tea without sweating we could of almost imagine we where back in the UK – it was surprisingly nice.
Our next stop was Taman Negara, Malaysias largest national park consisting of some of the oldest rainforest in the world, and some incredible wildlife… we didn’t see much of it (except a semi-wild tapir) but we did see the roadsigns warning drivers to be careful of elephants, that in itself was pretty special. Deciding a bus would be to much of a normal way to get there, we instead opted for a 3 hour boat journey on a long traditional style boat. After severally questioning its river-worty-ness and a few other hairy moments on the water where we almost beached, we made it safely to taman negara to find a small village built on the river complete with water taxies and floating restaurants.
Not fancying another jungle trek quite yet, we opted for some of the easier activities in the jungle including the longest tree top canopy walk in the world. Before we got there we where imagining rickety planks held up with some tired ropes draped through the trees, but to our surprise… thats exactly what it was.. it was certainly one way to wake you up in the morning. To counteract all this excitement we spent the afternoon by taking a boat to a local nomadic indigenous village. Here an elder showed us how to make fire, and we even tried the traditional hunting blowpipe. To the elders surprise all three of us got head shots on our first attempts – that was one dead teddy bear. The indigenous people of this jungle region looked closer in ethnicity to Africa than the traditional oriental image of Malaysia and showed us what an amazing mix of cultures make up this country.
Tired and sweaty we left the rainforest in search of the tropical paradise of the Perhenthian islands via the jungle train, but more about that next time….