They weren’t the best laid plans. I’ll be first to admit. But I gave it a try! As luck would have it, I had a little too much luck. Circumstances changed once more, offering me yet more time away.
So I’m back in improvisation mode for a time at least. I’m in Kuala Lumpur, planning the next trip. You’ll find out where as soon as I do!
The first thing that struck me about KL was the same thing that often strikes me when leaving China. Diversity. It really hits home quite how mono-cultural China is once you head out after having been there for a while. China is, what, roughly 98% Han Chinese. Plus a few foreigners dotted around. That’s not to suggest China (At least, Chinese people) are necessarily close minded, it’s just the country has had a recent history of being quite close-bordered! I certainly prefer diversity to its conspicuous absence. Here there is a mixture of Malaysian nationals, Chinese, Bangladeshi, Indian as well as many people from all over the closer SEA and Indo-Chinese countries.
As you might expect from that, the food is absolutely incredible. I’m currently sat in, what can only be described as, a Malaysian greasy-spoon. Except they serve creamy pasta and chicken dishes for next to nothing. Every national dish seems to be represented and carefully prepared. I’m not much of a foodie, but I know this is good stuff!
First port of call, I visited the Batu Caves. As the closest I’ll ever get, orthographically, to the Bat Cave. So I was obviously psyched.
I’ll be as even handed as I can here. It was both spectacular and awful. The Hindu iconography is nice and colourful, although the figures always strike me as a bit nightmarish. Not in a cool Giger-esque sort of way but more like the sort of fever-dream you’d have if you were really into clown/Na’vi crossover fan-fiction. I’m yet to find someone in that cultural niche to confirm, if you know anyone be sure to ask! The large golden statue is stunning in scale and also in contrast to the natural scenery behind. However, once we head up the steps, the problems become clear.
Of course, the monkeys are great. So human looking, with so much character. All the platitudes people usually offer.
But the place was a fucking TIP. And it wasn’t even busy. I don’t know if I just came too early and the place hadn’t had a clean up since the day before. But it was really quite astonishing to me how badly maintained it was, especially considering how many people, volunteers or employees, were around doing other things like selling stuff. It’s kinda sad to watch a monkey trying to eat an empty packet of crips.
Anyway, this aside, the place is well worth a visit. It’s extremely close to the city, only 10 minutes on a train which costs next to nothing. The caves are absolutely vast and, though disappointingly maintained, still hold some power.
Of course, I had to tick off the Petronas Towers, bound to the bullshity-box-ticking culture such that I am. Didn’t go up though. I’ve been up quite a few pretty big skyscrapers now and I tend to find the whole experience to be great but a little overpriced if you’re on a budget. Which I definitely am! I’m disinclined to run out of money so early in my trip, so I’m being particular cautious right now.
My second day was spent mostly near central KL. There’s a huge compound next to the National Mosque which holds large collections of Islamic artifacts and artwork from around the world. I walked up while the morning prayers were happening, though I couldn’t enter the mosque until after 3pm and, even then, only if I wore a hilarious purple dress. Don’t remember those in R.E but whatever.
I really enjoyed the museum. I mentioned that don’t find the Hindu iconography particular interesting, outside the colors. However, the intricate detail and weaving geometries of the Islamic artwork was really appealing to me. The craft and care is astonishing, plus it rings well with the old maths-y teenage ego hidden somewhere in my subconscious.
The first room was a library. (Choice is a little limited though. There’s the Qu’ran. Or you can read the Qu’ran again. If I was Muhammad, which I’m assuredly not, I’d try and get a sequel or two out) But the books are absolutely gorgeous; handwritten and illustrated, the symmetry of the design and textual layout I found way more interesting than I expected. The museum itself was great too, tastefully lain out, plenty of experts around to give you some information but far from overbearing. Detailed information where it was needed (The plans and blueprints for some of the architectural geometrical designs were fascinating) but not too much to get that total info-overload some museums end up inciting.
After this I spent the next few hours wandering around, checking out a few of the smaller sites. Some local bars, markets and had a quick walk through the botanical gardens. Pleasant enough.
I’d like to take this moment to say a big shoutout to Audio Technika. I just got them repaired once more. I’ve had these headphones for years and they go everywhere with me. They’ve had an absolute hammering recently but they still keep on going. I’ve broken the jack three times (Repaired in HK, Xiamen and, now, KL) but the cans still work like new. Feel free to contact me, Audio Technika, I’m open to any incredibly generous sponsorship deals you might to preparing for me as I write this.