“Muddy Confluence.” Aren’t place names funny? That is what Kuala Lumpur means, as it is located at the meeting point of the Klang and Gombok Rivers. The capital city of Malaysia (locally called KL) is the country’s largest and has a population of about 2 million people. Last year, KL was the 10th most-visited city in the world. Like any large city today, it is very cosmopolitan, has many dozens of skyscrapers (including the famous Petronas Twin Towers), three of the 10 largest malls in the world, and very busy traffic during morning and evening rush hours. The outlying areas (we came by bus from Melaka) are covered with extensive, deep palm tree forests. There would be the usual trees, forests, and fields, and the highway would look just like an American interstate, when suddenly there would just be thousands upon thousands of palm trees, stretching as far as the eye could see. The tropics!
Our journey today was to the Batu Caves, about 30 minutes north via subway (just $1.25 US, round trip). The complex is a series of caves and Hindu Tamil temples. There are 272 steps up to the main cave, called Temple Cave or Cathedral Cave, and yep….we climbed them! It was exercise enough for a week! The huge gold statue in the first photo seems to guard over the cave system. He is the Hindu deity Murugan, and the statue (with the 272 steps just to the left of him) is 140 feet high and covered with about 80 gallons of gold paint. It cost about $400,000 and was installed in 2006. So, what is at the top after you have climbed 272 steps??? MORE STEPS! There were about another 100 to climb after we entered the cave at the top!
Look through the pictures of this fabulous temple. Does the word excess come to mind? Well, yeah, us too! But think of the Vatican or any of the great churches and palaces around the world…excess is a symbol of devotion and love. The shrines in Cathedral Cave are depictions of chapters of the life of Lord Murugan.
As you will notice in some of the photos, there is a troop of macaque monkeys that have the run of the place. They scamper up and down the staircase, eat discarded food, occasionally steal sunglasses and caps, and just live their lives on the temple grounds. The macaque in the photo third from the bottom cracked us up and held our fascination for a good 20 minutes. He leaped onto the handrail in front of us with a full unopened bag of nacho chips, easily ripped it open (from past experience, we are sure), secured it with his feet, and proceeded to eat his chips just like a human….slowly, one at a time, and savoring each one. After 10 or so, he began to rub each chip vigorously between his palms before eating, as we would if a chip were too salty. He calmly watched us watching him eat. Of course, he stole the bag from either a vendor or a tourist, then ran to his perch to enjoy his snack. He would occasionally drop one, and the baby macaques who were staring at each bite would run to pick up the chip, look at him warily, and scamper away to eat their prize. It was hysterical to watch.
The last two photos? The interesting subway! When the train arrived, heading to the Batu Caves, everyone got on, only to be told it was the wrong train and to go to the other platform. We got on and sat down. When we looked down into the other cars, they looked very crowded, even though our car had lots of open seats. Curious. Until, that is, a security guard came through and told us we were sitting in a “Ladies Only” coach, and Mike would have to leave! We hadn’t noticed the pink signs all over the inside and outside of the car saying it was only for women, because it never entered our minds that there were such things. So we moved! And as you can see in the photo of prohibitions on the subway, the only one we succeeded at was Berkelakuan Sumbang….Indecent Behavior. I mean, after seeing we couldn’t kiss while on the subway, we HAD to kiss, right?? But….only five times!