The capital of any country is always a great way to learn about its history, culture and the people. On the other hand, capital cities also tend to be overpopulated, over polluted, traffic jammed and crime ridden. However, as far as capitals go, Kuala Lumpur, KL (as it’s commonly called) is pretty cool. We stayed in the heart of Chinatown, and walked around the many food hawkers’ stalls, enjoyed fresh tropical chickoo and parisiman (this awesomely sweet orange looking fruit) and I ate chicken and pork!! Don’t freak out, it was mock chicken and mock sweet and sour pork…we found some pretty cool Buddhist vegetarian restaurants. KL is also home to the Petronas Towers, which rise up 452m, and as the world’s tallest building completed in 1998, its floor plan was based on an 8-sided star that is influenced by the arabesque patterns of Islamic art.
We then took a day trip to Batu Caves to see the well known Hindu temple that has been built actually inside the caves.
After KL, we flew north to Kota Bharu and then took a ferry to the Perhentian Islands.
Talk about complete serenity and beauty…we were lucky to take advantage of the low season (no tourists..cheap rooms) and enjoy secluded white sand beaches and clear blue waters. We just relaxed in our beach front bungalow for about $10 a day; Tarak went diving as I was forbidden in the water with my barely healing hand wound. As if to add salt to my poor wound, Tarak went snorkeling and instead of reassuring me that I wasn’t missing anything…he of course saw a huge 5+foot black tipped shark(which was a little freaky considering he was alone snorkeling in the area), blue spotted sting rays and fish like Nemo..and he told me all about them. Anyway, it was much needed R&R after all of our running around, hiking, and jungle trekking. So after 3 days of lounging around, we flew back to Kota Bahru, had another great mock meat meal and headed to the coastal city of Penang. Penang has a lot of character and spunk…to quote Lonely Planet, it was acquired by Captain Francis Light on behalf of the East Indian Company and was renamed Prince of Wales Island. Afterwards, the city of Georgetown was established which not only has an old colonial district but also a traditional Chinatown, tons of great shopping and of course great food. At Tarak’s insistence we trudged out on a bus ride to visit the “Snake Temple”.
It houses several pit vipers (poisonous of course) and tree snakes; however they are supposedly “fixed and slightly doped” by the incense smoke drifting in the temple…yeah right..anyway, we also had a chance to see Penang Hill where we finally saw the Rhinoceros Hornbill and the Kek Lok Si Temple. This is the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia, which was founded in 1890 and is quite impressive with a 3 tiered design…Burmese at the top, Chinese at the bottom and Thai in between.
The next day we left Penang and finished our action packed 3 week Malaysian travels and returned to Singapore to rest for a night before we head out to explore Indonesia.