Sunday, March 6, 2011

Winter Vacation: Kuala Lumpur

The last stop!

We got ourselves to KLCC, the Petronas Towers where Anis met us after a little searching. She took us home to drop our stuff off and get ready for dinner. We met her boyfriend and went out for some traditional on-banana-leaf Malaysian food which we ate by hand (not with utensils). Dinner in Mayalsia is often a more into-the-night time affair. We weren't even there until almost ten!

After a sumptuous meal, we went home to play with her pet iguana and chat until bedtime.

The next morning, we slept way longer than 8 hours. I woke baffled to blazing sunshine. We got dressed and heaed out for breakfast.. er.. lunch? We went to Old Town coffee which, like most restaurants, was half outside veranda porch. Miriam and I told Anis stories of Shiso life, and Anis and I told Miriam stories of Vanderbilt life. It was a pretty sweet way to start the day.

Since it was late in our trip, Miriam and I were totally ready to kick back and let Anis lead us. I did, however, want to find this one temple I'd read about in the guidebook, so we set off for Thean Hou Temple, which was not as easy to find (or get to) as we thought it would be. It was kinda nice, though, to take a long walk (er.. sometimes hike uphill) with friends through the humid hot.

From Winter Vacation Part IV: Kluang to KL

From Winter Vacation Part IV: Kluang to KL

The temple was cool, though not as massive as Kek Lok Si; there was a turtle sanctuary in back. After exploring a bit, we went back to town to do a little shopping.

Miriam and I had been putting off making purchases for ourselves, but in the Little India of KL, we bought saris and I snagged a complement of jewelry to go with it.

We let Anis and Lee choose where to take us for our last dinner in KL, and they chose (full circle?) a restaurant which claimed to deliver Penang cuisine. We also let them order, so we got one last round of unfamilar foods. Everything was interesting and flavorful!

We went back to her place to pack up and prepare for our last day and then eventual departure. Since our flight was later in the afternoon, we were able to go visit the Batu Caves and Cave Temple in the morning. This was a temple not in Chinese style like the others we'd been visiting, but a Hindu temple instead!

From Winter Vacation Part IV: Kluang to KL

From Winter Vacation Part IV: Kluang to KL

We climbed the steps amid the faithful, some of whom walked up barefoot, others carrying offering items, jars or flowers or fruit, and a few people even had bit stalks of what I think was sugarcane. The task was hard enough without carrying anything! The Batu Caves are most famous for the festival of Thaipusam, in which devotees pierce their body to show gratitude for prayers granted, or to implore the aid of Murugan (the god of this temple). This festival is around February, so we missed out, but we also missed the crowds!

From Winter Vacation Part IV: Kluang to KL

Near the temple entrance, there was a guy who would take your picture with a snake or large iguana for a small fee. I wasn't too big on the idea (not because I'm afraid of snakes, but because on this trip I had started to become more aware of what I did by spending my money where I did.. that is, what I was supporting), but Miriam jumped for it, so we did. Anis manned the camera and we got a few good shots.

From Winter Vacation Part IV: Kluang to KL

The caves themselves were pretty cool, and the mischevious monkeys who lived there liked to try stealing the devotional flowers and things of devotees. I am shy in working temples, less so now in Japanese things with which I have more experience, but I really do not want to do something rude in someone's holy place, and my ignorance makes that a lot more likely in foreign countries!

From Winter Vacation Part IV: Kluang to KL

 But for what little I know, I do like the Hindu gods. I have a little Ganesha statue of my own. Small shrines were to be found here and there in the cave walls, and bright colors everywhere. I love the brightness of Indian traditional dress. Some devotees had shaved heads, painted gold. It was really cool, overall.

From Winter Vacation Part IV: Kluang to KL

Before we descended, a man near the snake table who had greeted us earlier asked if we'd like a little blessing. I was, as I mentioned, shy, but he said it was alright. The  I like it when people want to share stuff like that, and since I am a fan of blessings, I decided to give a little donation and get one. Miriam couldn't have the powders applied to her forehead because of skin allergies!

It was the guy over there in orange.
From Winter Vacation Part IV: Kluang to KL

We climbed back down, bought some Indian snacks and sweets, and headed back to grab our things and head to the airport.

I really enjoyed hanging out with Anis and exploring a few new types of temples. Eating and shopping were of course lovely too. I hope to go see her again sometime soon... she suggested we go to the island side of Malaysia (sounds like she's up for a real rainforesty adventure!), although I kind of liked the easy pace of life just kicking it in KL.

Ah, this.
From Winter Vacation Part IV: Kluang to KL

After another (argh) 7 hour flight, we were back in Tokyo, greeted by a giant poster of Arashi. We retrieved our cold-weather clothes (I really did like the bag-check guy at Haneda ^_^), exchanged our money, and crashed at our Tokyo hotel, bemoaning the freezing wind the whole way. It took basically all of the following day to get back home, but there we were, at the end of a great winter vacation.

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