As our first port of call, my expectations and excitement were very high as we arrived at the low cost carrier terminal of Kuala Lumpur Airport, with Air Asia. After grabbing our bags we received information from a very friendly Malaysian lady about how to best get into town. The searing heat as we left the building was a shock to the system to say the least, after leaving the freezing conditions in the UK! We boarded a bus which took us to a nearby train station – the train journey was smooth and perfectly air conditioned, we spotted the Petronas Towers in the distance and it hit me that we had finally arrived!
I enjoyed everything about Kuala Lumpur – but my favourite thing about the city was the people. In such a busy, bustling place it is hard to believe just how many locals took time out of their day to talk to us – from people running across the road to help as soon as they spotted our bemused expressions, to people literally walking us to a bus stop when we got lost! The locals’ pride for their city was evident in everyone we met. The people were genuine, helpful and a delight to be around.
Eating out was always a great experience and my particular favourite was enjoying our evening meal in the middle of the street of Jalan Alor. The tables appear to provide an obstacle course for scooters zooming past with every mouthful of chicken rice. The food itself was one of our favourite things about this fascinating city. I love how the different cultures had bought the very best of Malay, Indian and Chinese food. I even attempted to eat with chopsticks on various occasions (but failed miserably).
The Petronas Towers themselves were as breath-taking as expected – especially the view from the skybridge! We reached the top and looked down to what then appeared as a tiny city, little traffic jams weaving around tiny buildings, amongst the haze of the heat. The experience of the Petronas Towers was overwhelming – these towers symbolise the change and prosperity of this every-improving city, as much an icon for the people of KL as a popular tourist attraction.
One day we ventured by train to the Batu Caves, I had read this was top on the agenda for tourists in the city. It was here that I had my first experience with a non-western toilet (and it has certainly not been the last) – enough said! On arrival, the view of the vast cliff of rock was impressive, we entered through the gates and ventured into the first cave we came across, decorated in minute detail with various scenes of horses, humans and biblical-like statues. It was a real adventure, with bright coloured paint covering every inch of the interior. On our way to the main caves, we came across a group of monkeys feasting on some fallen fruit – my first experience with wild monkeys – I took hundreds of photos! The monkeys followed us up the slightly scary steps leading up to the two larger caves, including the dark cave and the ‘temple cave’ one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India, visited by many. We were told that before the steps were built, many Hindu worshippers trying to reach the temple cave fell to their death trying to scramble up the very sheer rock face – this made me realise the huge significance of the cave to Hindu people.
The two caves were very different but equally impressive – the ‘temple cave’ had recently held an important Hindu visit – thousands of worshippers had filled the cave and the size of this event was very clear – they were still clearing up over a week later! The Dark cave was for me, a highlight of the trip. We paid around GBP5 each to have a tour of the cave, our very enthusiastic, knowledgable guide armed us with torches and took us deeper and deeper inside the cliff face. The cave was unbelievably big, with bats circling so high above our heads. We were told to keep our mouths shut when looking up, for a reason which slightly worried me… ‘bat shit’ our guide pointed out several times, in her lovely accent! The suffocating darkness was a little unnerving, especially after our guide had pointed out several rather lage creepy-crawley inhabitants of the cave, including a monsterous looking spider, snakes and a millipede that looked large enough to carry me off into the distance. Interestingly, this cave holds much significance in the cave world as many new species were discovered there. This included a worm, which, when you cut it in half, regenerates into two worms and so on…. I thought that was very cool but no doubt I will have nightmares for years to come. The cave formations date back millions of years – it was a real eye opener and I thoroughly enjoyed learning about it.
Overall my visit to Kuala Lumpur was a great start to my trip. The friendly, helpful people never ceased to surprise me and the list of places to see and do kept us on our feet all day, every day – I was exhausted as I left the city!
Contributor: Ali Bedford – travelling around Asia