I have long heard many good things about Malaysia as a travel destination, so last year I decided to go to Kuala Lumpur. On an interesting side note, this was roughly around the time of the missing Malaysian flight MH370 & several botched takeoffs/landings of Air Asia so air travel was on high alert, but still I was undeterred, & luckily this small gamble paid off.
One of my first target tourist spots was the Batu caves. Luckily, getting from point A to point B in KL was breeze because of how efficient their transport infrastructure is. Busses are on time with several in the fleet dedicated to tourists & are free to ride. The taxis are metered & the rates justifiable but I have only used them a few times since the metro rails were too fast, cheap & uncrowded. So much so that when I went to the Batu caves, I was the sole occupant of the entire cable car! Returning to the topic at hand, the Batu caves are a Hindu religious site, made for the worship of lord Murugan. His statue is the first to greet you below the steps, rising 100 meters tall & painted in gold, the visage is too striking to miss. On the bottom levels of the limestone caves, there are sub caverns filled with Hindu sculptures & artwork. The entrance fee to this exhibit is so small it is almost negligible. When you proceed, some few hundred steps up to go to the main temple, you should be careful of the monkeys living near the area. They have become so familiar with tourist that they show no fear & might sometimes grab & steal food/bags/cameras from unsuspecting vacationer. Picture taking is allowed inside the temple & the priests are very accommodating & so nice, that I would suggest giving small alms as a token of thanks. The sight inside the cave is surreal, and worth the price of the plane ticket to Malaysia itself. The opening in the ceiling of the cave shining down the floor into the temple invokes awe & retrospection. A gift shop is near the area for those requiring a token for their visit. For those planning to visit KL I would suggest to make this the last place to go to as it makes a good climax for any travel adventure.
Another must-not-miss destination is the Petronas Towers. The twin towers are notable for having been the highest structure before being surpassed by the Taipei 101. Inside, it is a very high end mall, mostly catering to foreigners with its expensive luxury goods, but the building also contains an indoor aquarium & a fully functional operatic theater. Don’t forget to get your quintessential selfie photo with the towers as your background before you leave.
The Genting Highlands provided much relief from the heat of the city, being located in a higher elevation in the Titiwangsa mountain. A resort in the same family as Resorts World Singapore or Philippines, it contains several hotels, theme parks, casinos, museums, shopping centers, theaters & a partridge in a pear tree J! Clearly a place not just for gambling but for family oriented activities as well. (Note* Try the deep fried Durian fruit here. It mashes 2 of my most favorite things, durian & deep fried goodness J) Only an hour away from Kuala Lumpur, Genting can easily be reached via a bus ride from KL station. The best part of this excursion is the cable car ride to get to the resort itself. The view of the mountain top is priceless.
Another tourist classic is the KL Tower. One of the highest edifices before being overtaken by the Petronas Twins. Nothing beats seeing the horizon at sunset, except maybe seeing the same view but in 360 degrees while having dinner in a high class revolving restaurant!
I then decided midway through the week to get my shopping done so that I can focus on my sightseeing. So I therefore went to the ‘Central Market’, located at Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock. Inside you get the familiar feeling of déjà vu, as I am uncannily reminded of 168 Shopping mall in Binondo or Greenhills in Mandaluyong. The floors of the Central Market are stall upon stalls selling souvenirs, memorabilia, & handicrafts of both Chinese, Malay & Indian origin.
The rest of my trip was spent on 1 hour short stops to various ethnic communities & historical monuments. I’ve been to other countries China towns & little India’s before, but I wanted to see how Malaysia’s version was influenced by their culture, & also to taste the food J. The towns were the same here as in other countries. Little India sells a lot of silks, trade goods, jewelry & sweets, while China town is littered with various food stalls & restaurants. I got to taste my favorite Gulab Jamun in India town & had my fill on Stewed Garlic Frog in China town.
An overseas visit is not complete without paying your respects to a religious site in order to get closer to the culture of the people, so on this vacation I decided to go to Sri Mahamariamman temple. The reason is because I have been to churches, mosques & Buddhist shrines before, but never to a Hindu temple, so this is my first. Malaysia is a multicultural hotpot, with diverse races & beliefs, so it wasn’t a surprise to find a Hindu temple in China town J. It was an educational experience to compare this site to other places of worship. The statues are eye catching & colorful, & numerous. An outsider would have trouble identifying all of the idols displayed out of the sheer number. I suggest, if you have the time, to visit a religious place different form you own while you are here, since maybe what the world needs is a little open mindedness right now.
My penultimate stop was KL’s National Monument. The town square depicts those who died fighting for their freedom, especially during World War II during the Japanese occupation, a dark past we share with them. When you arrive here early in the morning you will be greeted by dozens of runners since the ambiance is perfect for jogging & if you want to get away from the hustle & bustle of the cityscape.
Finally, as a personal oath I undertook before traveling anywhere abroad, I made a vow to visit at least 1 museum, to broaden my horizon. In Malaysia, the museum I went to was the Islamic Arts Museum. Right off the bat, you will notice that the exhibits are not limited to Malaysian aspects of Islam but of Islam around the world (Though there are numerous dioramas depicting the journey of how Islam came to Malaysia). A particularly interesting exhibit is the small scale replicas of all major mosques in all Muslim countries. Ancient scripture & rare relics of the faith are displayed along with modern Islamic art.
Though my time here was short, my visit to Malaysia left me with serious introspection. How come such a diverse group of people, so different, can work together so well? This is the reason I love to travel so much. The more I see parts of the world, the more my eyes are opened. J