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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: