We spent less than a week in Thailand, and started to wonder at this point, if we should have just spent our entire 6 week vacation exploring all of Thailand. We couldn’t back out then, because all of our plane tickets were bought and paid for, so we woke up bright and early, made our way to the Phuket airport and flew to the LCCT Kuala Lumpur airport. The LCCT airport is about 90 minutes outside of Kuala Lumpur, so we took a shuttle bus into town. From the shuttle bus, it was one stop away on the transit rail to the center of town, where out hostel was. We dropped our stuff off at the Matahari lodge, then went exploring for food. 10 meters away from our hostel was Kasturi walk where we found plenty of food and handy crafts to exlpore.
This is a mangosteen: the only fruit whose name was worth remembering to us. The exterior is thick and will dye your fingers purple, while the iridescent white, multi-lobed interior is reminiscent of a bulb of garlic. Its sweet, tangy, tart, and somewhat stringy flesh boosted our energy, so we bought some daily before we headed out to wander through the humid city. Nothing refreshes a sweat-sodden body like fresh fruit.
This fish spa is a popular way to relax in Asia. Scores of small fish nibble at the patrons’ feet to remove dead skin. It makes your feet softer, improves circulation, and makes for some very entertaining videos of people squirming. The first 10 minutes were the hardest, but once we started to relax, we could even spread our toes and let the fish eat the skin in between. We have plenty of hysterical laughing photos.
The population of Kuala Lumpur is Malay, Chinese, and Indian. We decided that we were going to avoid Chinese food at all costs so we ate Indian food almost exclusively. We went back to this restaurant over and over because it was so delicious, and totally vegetarian.
The next day we went to the Batu Caves to see the Thaipusam festival. The whole square below the staircase up to the caves was packed with people and trash, with loud music drowning out most other sounds. The Hindu festival culminates at the Batu Caves, they are the destination of a pilgrimage that is attended by over one million devotees. The Batu Caves are one of the most important Hindu sites outside of India and they are the focal point of the Thaipusam festival, which is devoted to the Lord Murugan (the Tamil name for the Son of Shiva). It was worth checking out, despite the overwhelming crush of people, because the religious fervor is an interesting spectacle- there were parades of people carrying offerings in bronze vessels on their heads, parades of men carrying platforms on their shoulders laden with figures of gods and bristling with bright green peacock feathers. Each of these platforms had thin metal chains coming down from the top which attached to the men’s backs, shoulders, and chests with large fish hooks that pierced their skin. Some of them had small silver spears that pierced both cheeks to prevent them from talking for the duration of the multi-day festival so that they can focus on God. Many of the participants fast for 48 days prior to the festival and then follow the 15 km long parade route that ends at the Caves. Many of the participants, particularly those with some kind of flesh mortification, looked like they were in some kind of trance, possibly stimulated by the focused religious devotion and the mouthful of leaves they were chewing.
The press of people filling into this relatively small area proved to be too much for us so we left after wandering for only about an hour. And by wandering I mean taking short shuffling steps because that was as fast as we could go in the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd.
After lunch and about an hour of reading and relaxing at the hostel, we went out again to check out the Butterfly garden in a very lush part of town. The area also houses an orchid garden, hibiscus garden, and the world’s largest free-flight aviary. We visited the butterfly garden and then walked up a hill to the aviary. The walk was lovely.
The street was quiet, the road lined with broad-leaved palms and other tropical plants, and the sky darkening for the afternoon’s downpour. As we walked toward the information desk of the aviary, we were greeted by a troop of monkeys that climbed over the gate to gobble up the small bananas that a family was throwing to them. There were a number of tiny babies clinging to their mothers (or trying to walk away only to be reined in by their tails) and larger males with shaggy beards.
It started raining on us on our walk back to the hostel. The feeling of cold rain drops in the thick humid air felt good, so we opted out of waiving down a taxi and continued our walk. Luckily our shoes were able to dry by the morning and we headed to the Kuala Lumpur Bird Park. Birds from all over south-east Asia flew around us. Some were in smaller cages, and some in larger enclosed areas, but the majority were able to fly around the 21 acre park freely.
We spent 4 hours wandering at the bird park, then an hour at the botanical garden. Upon leaving we realized how very hungry we were. The night before we researched all the vegan restaurants in Kuala Lumpur. The best rated and cheapest were always Indian restaurants which didn’t bother us at all. For most of our meals in Kuala Lumpur we ate off of a leaf for a plate. We wanted to use our hands to eat, but the lack of soap in all public (and private) bathrooms made us think twice about that notion. The restaurant offered us spoons without us even having to ask.
The remainder of the time we spent in Kuala Lumpur was dedicated to resting up for the next chapter of the adventure. After a couple weeks of exploring, we needed some down time. We chatted with other people at the hostel, ate plenty of Indian food, finished books and then traded them for new reads at the hostel’s book exchange. We remembered how good it felt to read and spent every spare moment of the rest of our trip with book in hand. 5 days after landing in Kuala Lumpur, we headed back to the airport for our flight to Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia. Stay tuned for more adventures!