We have now entered Malaysia and with it the most overtly “different” place of our travels since exiting Peru more than two months ago. Conversely, we have spotted more familiar brands in Malaysia (especially familiar to the UK; I’m looking at you, Costa Coffee) than in any of our previous countries. These seemingly incompatible feelings have defined these last five days for me since entering the country, and I appreciate how they’re challenging me to understand our globalized world.
After struggling to find our hotel due to the nightmarish mix of construction (which there is LOTS of) and generally sidewalk-less streets that consume KL, we were happy to ditch our bags and head out for a late Chinese dinner nearby once we finally found it. And with this dinner began my discovery that many places are cash-only…even the 7-11 below our hotel!
Given our bus didn’t arrive until around 9pm that evening and that we still hadn’t blogged about Singapore, we eased into KL the next morning but finally escaped our room for a late lunch at Lot 10’s food court. Lot 10 is a giant shopping mall located in the “Times Square” area of KL, which felt like a mix between its namesake in New York and also the Las Vegas strip. It even had a monorail traveling above the main street!
While eating our noodles Dom suddenly got extremely excited about a discovery he made on google maps and insisted on taking me to this mystery place. En route to said mystery place we had the best surprise of all–running into Adrian, one of Dom’s sister’s friends from university in the UK. Yes, you heard that right, in the middle of Kuala Lumpur–a city of 1.6 million people–we happened to run into somebody that we knew.
After regaining a sense of reality (and after probably making Adrian late to a work meeting), we trudged on through the humidity to Dom’s mystery place. Are you ready for it? I present to you exhibits A, B and C below:
Yup, you saw that correctly. Dom found us an upside down house, conveniently located directly across from the more-visited KL Tower (which we did not visit, because what is a tower after an upside down house?!).
In the evening we ventured out to Little India for more Indian food, which theoretically was delicious but for the tiny fact that everything is *so* spicy. Amanda, you would definitely not be able to eat at any Indian restaurant over here. We also decided to try the public transit despite how inexpensive Grab (their Uber) is. Given we never were on the trains during rush hour, we only had positive experiences and I was once again reminded how far behind US cities are.
We got an early morning the next day to head to the main tourist attraction of KL: the Batu Caves. We did first have a brief wander around a museum/memorial for Malaysia’s third Prime Minister while killing time until the next train to the caves. Fun fact: before he was in politics, Hussein Onn led a battalion in killing two communists…somehow I don’t think that was that helpful in winning the war.
The Batu Caves are a giant limestone hill filled with massive caves and also home to an important Tamil shrine. While the caves and the shrine are beautiful, my favorite part of the caves were the many *many* monkeys swarming the area. Dom warned me that the monkeys would steal phones and food out of my hands, so I went in there guarding my phone and luckily was spared the robbery that some other tourists experienced. I honestly could have watched them scale the limestone cave walls for hours…it’s incredible what different animals are capable of.
After the caves we headed back into the city center to explore the National Mosque of Malaysia. Since arriving in Malaysia we have heard the call to prayer emanating from the many minarets dotting the city. Malaysia is a fascinating country when it comes to race and religion; there are three racial groups that compose the majority of the country’s population – Malays at 69%, Chinese at 23% and Indians at 7%. (I know that doesn’t add up to 100%, but blame rounding errors and Wikipedia.) Malays are the only Islamic group, and as such are the only ones bound to both normal Malaysian law and Islamic law. I can’t fully wrap my head around different people being overtly subjected to different laws in the same country. But it seems to work for the most part here…
Our last night in KL we met up with Adrian (purposefully, this time!) for a delicious Chinese dinner on the famous Jalan Aloor food street. Similar to our evening with Stephanie in Singapore, we peppered Adrian with all of our Malaysia questions thus far. As we still have at least a week more in Malaysia, I imagine we will have many more questions to come!