Kuala Lumpur, Batu Caves and Cameron Highlands

Moving back to the UK from New Zealand is a big move. It is also the perfect excuse for a holiday. So why not a weekend in Aus and then 10 days in Malaysia? The weekend in Australia was catching up with old friends – nothing too exciting barring a surprisingly sunny visit to St Kilda Beach, despite it being July.

St Kilda Beach

So we arrived in Kuala Lumpur around 4pm on the Sunday and hit the direct train to the city centre. The airport and public transport system as a whole is impressive. We left the KL Sentral station and tried walking to our hotel for the next 3 nights – Grid 9. We chose to work with this flash-packer hotel because of their fantastic location for transport links.

We noticed a few comments from some of the Muslim men towards Gemma whilst on our walk. She had shorts on because of the heat and aside from every man and woman staring, some men made sneering comments and explicit remarks. This obviously made Gemma very uncomfortable and I was not happy. During pre-Malaysia research I found out that certain areas such as Kota Bharu in the North) were very traditional Muslim areas and ladies should dress appropriately, but that Kuala Lumpur was a modern city and nobody would bat an eyelid at Western clothing. This research was INCORRECT. We did notice a lot of Oriental ladies wearing similar shorts that didn’t seem to receive the same levels of attention though. Our advice is to cover as much as possible, but with loose fitting clothes!

Undeterred as ever, we eventually found our way to Grid 9 after several dodgy attempts at map reading and direction taking. We got to our room with no windows and blasted the air conditioning on full, we were both dripping with sweat!

After a futile shower each, we decided to check out the nearby markets, most notably Chinatown’s Petaling Street. It is a 2 minute walk from our hotel, I’m a sucker for markets and Gemma loves everything Chinese, so it was an obvious choice.

The stalls sell the usual knock off items and we didn’t buy any goods but I’m sure there are bargains to be found here. Due to it’s notoriety and location there are many foreigners here so it may be wise to look for a market on the outskirts of KL.

Anyone that has looked into visiting Malaysia will have heard of durian. It is the ultimate staple food here and is a fruit that smells like rotting sewage. We can now confirm it has the taste to boot.

Buying durian fruit and a smoothie
Inside the shopping malls they have strict fruit policies!

We found a busy looking restaurant opening out onto a nearby street and sat at one of the many tables and chairs that peppered the pavement. Again, the prices are cheap, but I’m sure a few more minutes walking would have made life cheaper. After an 8 hour flight I was happy to stump up an extra Ringgit or two.

Vegetables, rice, noodles and beer!

Everything is cooked on the street in front of your eyes and it is a nice cultural experience, except the toads. They have a box of live toads jumping all over each other, and now is not the time for me to get on my non-meat eating high horse, but they are kept in close confines with no access to water and as soon as somebody orders the toads legs they get thrown into a red hot wok. It’s not for the faint hearted, and I’m glad we just had veggies!

The following morning we were at the train station before the sun came up waiting for our ride to Batu Caves. This Buddhist temple is nestled in gorgeous caves up a seemingly endless staircase. The minute detail in the architecture contrasts beautifully with the gargantuan gold statue that towers over the hallowed ground.

The tours will have you pay extortionate prices but if you jump on the train the Caves and the temple themselves are free to enter so the only cost is the minimal train fare. A couple of Ringgit each way = bargain. We also went early to avoid the crowds. The only people on the steps when we first arrived were volunteers brushing the leafy debris away to accommodate the days visitors.

We had heard stories of mischievous monkeys stealing bags for food but didn’t see any ourselves, which may have been down to the time that we arrived. The steps were a good exercise but I don’t think many will struggle unless disabled or elderly. There are some people using the steps for running exercise despite signs instructing otherwise, but most people didn’t seem fussed. There are also signs displayed asking you not to wear shorts. We were both in shorts so asked a local before ascending, he said nobody would mind, and they didn’t. I still would recommend wearing full length bottoms, just in case.

Inside looking up
At the top looking down

We had a quick drink at one of the friendly cafes located at the bottom of the steps and headed back to Kuala Lumpur. Whilst on the train I was nearly lynched for sitting in a female only carriage, so I apologised and scarpered quick-time out of there and we found a seat among the normal carriages. The fact that they feel the need to have women only areas is worrying though.

Next up was a nice stroll to Maha Vihara Buddhist Centre, which was built in the 1800’s and was recommended to us by a friend. This was our second place of worship and it was barely 11am!

The centre only takes 30 minutes to look around and read about the history, but we recommend it. Don’t forget to take your shoes off, because we did and felt terrible about it. The people were very polite about it though.

Part of the walk back to the hotel was down a street with heavy Indian influence. Everything from the clothes shops to the food to the music. Smelling lovely curries, listening to bhangra and browsing through the most vivid coloured sarees known to man. Gemma ended up wanting one and after some serious haggling we bought it!

Afterwards we managed to use the monorail system to navigate ourselves to the touristy centre of KL, this is where the PETRONAS Towers are located. If I’m not mistaken the walkway connecting the two towers is the highest of it’s kind in the world.

After some photo opportunities, aimless wandering and getting soaked by the water display outside the towers, we found ourselves in a large shopping centre looking for food. We managed to find a bakery that specialises in pastries. I bought 6 mini vegetable pastries and in the end had to go back for more. Delicious! I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the bakery, but it was downstairs amongst a Chinatown-esque food court. We jumped on the busy monorail back to the hotel, it stops right outside, and got our heads down for a relatively early night.

The next day we had a trip to the Cameron Highlands planned. Time constraints meant we only gave it a single day trip and this means getting up at 6.30 to ensure you get onto your bus. We walked to the bus station, picking up water and supplies on the way. Our tickets were 35 Malaysian Ringgit each with a company called Unititi. There are lots of people trying to flog you tourist tickets at the station, but they will help direct you to the right office if you just ask to get to Cameron Highlands and pretend to them that you already have a tour when you get there.

The bus arrived on time, and you get allocated seat numbers so there’s no jostling to get on or anything. Nevertheless, some people still managed to make finding their seat an arduous process. The seats themselves are very spacious and recline a good way back. An hour and a half into the trip they stop for a toilet break, meaning the 3 hour journey takes 4 hours, but there are some fantastic views on the way.

After arriving we immediately booked our return bus for 5:30pm just to make sure we didn’t miss the last bus. We enquired about doing a tour of the Highlands and managed to join one that began at 1pm. We got onto a mini bus heading for the tea fields just after 1, but didn’t arrive at the BOH plantation until 2 due to traffic. We had half an hour to look around so we had a walk around the grounds and a wander through the tea.

Gemma walking amongst the tea plants

On our way we stopped on a bench to rest and were approached by a gaggle of Malay girls asking for a photo. I assumed they meant for me to take one of them, but it turned out that they just wanted photos with white people!

The temperature here is much better than in KL,  and when it began to rain I could have been in heaven. The air is also of a vastly better quality. After the tea plantation the day went downhill for me. A bee farm was next and there were lots of hives but the main ‘attraction’ was the honey flavoured everything that they were selling. The Arabic family that were on tour with us bought some overpriced honey, and we left. We then went to pick up some more guests. A Chinese man was at his hotel and after a 10 minute wait while he chatted to our driver we set off for a building 300m away to pick up his wife, daughter, baby granddaughter and an unnecessarily huge pram. We were all a bit restless at this point, but okay, let’s just go.

We then spin around and go back towards the hotel, with the Chinaman waiting for us. We drop off granny, pram and baby, leaving the daughter. We then go to pick China man back up and he’s not ready. He’s off somewhere buying cigarettes. I ran out of patience at this point in the charade and asked the driver if we’d be going to see my mother, do my groceries and get my hair cut whilst we were at it. Eventually the bumbling Chinaman emerged and got on the bus, only for us to see him kiss his daughter a little too vigorously. Holy smokes, they’re together! The ‘mum’ was a nanny!

Next stop was the butterfly garden, and despite its lovely name it only has one type of butterfly, a big pretty one that doesn’t fly. They have other animals locked up too that isn’t very nice to see including geese, rhino beetles, frogs and scorpions. Of course when we went to leave we all had to wait ten minutes for the Chinese sugar daddy and his trophy to grace us with their presence.

Our next stop was a strawberry picking garden, which had steep prices but was good fun. We got belly ache from eating too many. The final stop was a rose garden, which we sat out partly because it was nearly 5pm and our coach leaves town at 5.30 and partly because roses are aplenty back home. We switched buses so that the age gappers could carry on their tour and we could make our coach back to KL.

Picking strawberries

Before we left we nipped to the loo and found that much like everywhere in rural Malaysia you must pay to relieve yourself. Paying for the toilet is never easy, especially when it’s a rancid hole with no loo roll. I really felt for Gemma, it’s much easier for us blokes!

3 and a half hours later we were back in KL after some heavy traffic due to it being the last day of a 5 day public holiday. We grabbed some munch and headed back to Grid 9. The Wifi was rapid and after Gemma dropped off for a nap I caught up with my boxing videos on YouTube with no lag whatsoever. Very impressed!

Have you been to Kuala Lumpur? Do you want to go? Leave a comment…

To see all our photos from Malaysia, click here.

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