A Jungle Hike and Other Highlights of KL

KL is, of course, what the locals call Kuala Lumpur, which is where we have been for the past week. Following the incident of the stolen passport, we flew to Bangkok and stayed there for six nights, then headed on to KL.

The good news is that, after concerns that my temporary passport would not qualify me for a Vietnam visa, I have received my Vietnam visa, so we have the green light to go on with that part of the travel. We are heading next to George Town in the Penang Province of Malaysia, the street food capital of Southeast Asia, which is north of here, then going on to Hong Kong. We debated as to whether we should go to Hong Kong, but have been reassured that we won’t have a problem there. The protests run on a schedule, which we now have, so we know the time, date, and place for all protests through the end of October. And, on the bright side, numbers of tourists are down and there are some great hotel deals!

Our digs in KL

We are staying in a ‘serviced residence’ which is sort of a beach resort without the beach. The place has some lovely amenities including a gym, a library, and a beautiful pool area with a small café. Our apartment has a dishwasher, a washer AND a dryer – this is the first place we have had with a dryer since we left home. Instead of a beach, our 40th-floor corner unit has a panoramic view of the impressive KL skyline.

View out our window at night – twin towers on the right are the Petronas Towers, tallest twin towers in the world

We are a five-minute walk from the Bukit Bintang street which has a row of bars and pubs, followed by a row of massage parlors, and culminates in the entrance to Jalan Alor, one of the most popular areas for nighttime hawker stalls, or street food venues. Given that Malaysia is over 60% Muslim and there is a steep ‘sin tax’ on alcohol here, it is no surprise that most of the customers at the pubs are expats or tourists.

We discovered Jalan Alor, this street of nighttime hawker stalls on our first night in town. Expect a carnival atmosphere and some of the best Asian food you’ve ever eaten, but don’t expect anyone to hand you a napkin

Jungle Hike

After several days of visiting sights in the city, we thought is might be fun to venture out into the countryside. We found a small tour featuring a jungle hike that led to some nice waterfalls where we could take a little swim and then hike back. We found the tour on Airbnb Experiences and it was led by Kovin, a self-professed “Mowgli with a camera.” The trip was described as a walk along the river to the waterfalls with the possibility of seeing various birds and insects and maybe even monkeys or a wild boar -what fun! The trip would have been more accurately described as a walk through the river, as there were at least 8 or 10 stream crossings, some of which took us into water that hit above the knees. The email we received the night before from Kovin said something about shoes getting wet but that didn’t tell the full story. I had brought my regular hiking shoes, as well as some Teva-type sandals I had picked up while in the Cotswolds. John had only his hiking boots which he was understandably reluctant to plunge into the water.

Jungle hike, at the first waterfall

Our small group consisted of John and me, plus a young Chinese woman who writes screenplays for Chinese TV. She was in town to take an English language exam. The four of us set out for the hike, which was not easy, especially for John, having to remove his boots for water crossings and cross the river bed that was sometimes sand, other times rocks. Kind of hard on the feet. Hiking through the jungle was a little like a hike through South Louisiana, only with hills. We got to the first waterfall, which was dramatic and beautiful. We swam a little, enjoyed the waterfall, then took a short hike to the second waterfall, which was smaller. Kovin told us there is a hidden cave behind the second waterfall that requires swimming through the rushing water to get to it. All three of us passed on that opportunity.

Big trees out here
John with his shoes off to get across part of the river that runs under a highway
River we walked along and through!
A leech that tried to ‘hitch hike’ on my foot along the hike – fortunately, he didn’t have time to attach!

I mentioned to Kovin that I was a little disappointed that we hadn’t seen monkeys and he quickly offered to take the three of us to the Batu Caves, a major KL sight with a cave and a temple, which was on our way back. It was not part of the original itinerary and I wondered if Kovin was trying to make up for John’s discomfort on the hike or if he wanted to spend more time with the pretty Chinese girl. Maybe it was some of both. We drove to the caves and, after enjoying a good lunch of South Indian food, served on a banana leaf, we climbed the 272 steps to the top.  There were monkeys everywhere and, of course, many tourists feeding them.

At the Batu Caves – those are 272 steps to get to the top!
Monkeys were everywhere – this one has her baby – so cute!

Other highlights in KL

Throughout the week, we enjoyed so many experiences in KL. The city is such a mix of the new and the old, nature and big city stuff. Here are a few experiences:

One of the Petronas Towers, with a view of the KL Tower, a telecommunications tower
Petronas Tower and Sky Bridge, taken from below – tallest sky bridge in the world
Bridge at the beautiful KL Botanical Gardens
Lily in the pond, also KL Botanical Garden
Shark in the KL Aquarium
Some kind of crab in the Aquarium
You know that thing you see in the movies where scooter riders ride up behind an unsuspecting victim and snatch a bag? That really happens here! A cross-body bag and walking against traffic on the sidewalk helps deter this
The KL Eco Forest is a rain forest, right in KL with a fun canopy walk
A Mosque near the confluence of the Gombak and Klang rivers
Near the center of the old colonial section, Merdeka Square
We came upon the end of a road race on Saturday morning – I can’t imagine how these Muslim women run in the heat with long sleeves, long pants, and head scarves
The Textiles museum had exhibits on how traditional fabric, such as Songket and Batik, are made along with displays of traditional clothing and jewelry throughout Southeast Asia
Rumah Penghulu Abu Seman is an early twentieth century home of one of the village leaders of the Kedah province. By the mid-twentieth century, the house had been overtaken by the jungle and was subsequently saved, restored, and moved to this site in KL. It is now open for tours
This beautiful wood carved boat was used for ceremonial purposes
A display inside the house shows traditional wedding items – the color yellow was considered sacred and could only be worn by commoners on their wedding day. Other items are eggs, for fertility, traditional gifts, and jewelry
Traditional games were often played by the girls, who had to be kept inside the house, lest they be the object of untoward attention from males
The tour guide at the house recommended an excellent restaurant for Malay food where we had lunch after the tour
The KL Bird Park was wonderful – 3000 birds from 200 species, most in a very large, unenclosed space with a netting over it so, no barriers between the birds and the people
Black Swan
So many peacocks roaming about
Instead of breaking out of the zoo, this little guy and his pals broke IN to the Bird Park to eat the birds’ food

4 thoughts on “A Jungle Hike and Other Highlights of KL

  1. I sent this a while back – but now you are headed to Hong Kong – see below!

    Hong Kong (Island)
    Visit the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defense
    Go to see the Aberdeen floating hotels (for an evening meal)
    Visit the Tiger Balm Gardens
    Visit the Peak in the evening for the most impressive views
    Fiona: St Johns Cathedral 4 Garden Road, Central, HK. It was built in 1849 and the oldest surviving Anglican Church in the Far East. I was christened there too – ha! I visited here when I was about 40 when my family had out family reunion. It is deep in the heart of the financial district so all the skyscrapers are around it.
    Matilda International Hospital – just for the view for the south side of the island. We went there because it was near the original site of the old military hospital that i was born in. I always remembered my Mum saying that when she was there she had beautiful views of all the islands on the south side. Also Aberdeen. You can walk to the back of the hospital grounds to see.

    We all had flights late at night when we returned back home, so we checked out of our hotels, dropped off our luggage at the airport and visited Tian Tan Buddha. We used public transportation and also rode the cable car. It may be about 1 hour away, but so worth it.


    1. Fiona, I didn’t know you had Hong Kong roots! How old were you when you moved away? Old enough to have memories? We have been back and forth over whether we should go under the circumstances, but a friend I used to work with at McKinsey lives there and she tells us it’s safe if you stay away from the protests but that things are open. It will be a little harder to get around because the subway system closes now at 8 p.m., but we are not big night life people anyway. Thanks for sending the suggestions and for keeping up with the blog.

      All best,



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