The journey from the Cameron Highlands to Kuala Lumpur went smoothly, however the bus stops at Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (TBS), which is pretty far south from the centre, so you have to use their transit system to get into town and it’s not the easiest to use as a first-timer due to the mix of Monorail, KTM and Rapid KL. I was staying at Sunshine Bedz (yes, with a ‘z’) in Bukit Bintang so I first took the KTM from Bandar Tasik Selatan (it’s connected to TBS via walkway) to KL Sentral for 2.40 RM (50p) and then change to the Monorail to get to Bukit Bintang for 2.50 RM. It wasn’t the speediest journey and by the time I exited the monorail station and walked round the construction going on in the middle of the road (otherwise I would have simply had to cross the street) I didn’t get to my hostel until 5pm.
I paid 35 RM (£7) per night for an all-female, 6 bed dorm room that was air-conned to the max (I’m not sure Asia has managed to establish a happy medium when it comes to air conditioning) and included breakfast (toast with butter/jam/peanut butter). The toilet and shower facilities were clean and well-equipped (and they worked!) and the staff were really helpful, plus it was so close to a monorail stop and a GO KL stop (their free bus service that has 3 different lines operating round the centre).
After spending some time looking into what there was to do in KL (my pre-trip research only got as far as Vietnam so I have been mainly working off word-of-mouth or figuring it out once I get there) I walked round the corner to the street with food stalls and tried a trio selection of local pork dim sum (which was probably the tastiest dim sum I have ever had) for 4 RM (80p) and then purchased a chicken Shawarma (an Arabic grilled tortilla with meat, veg and sauce) for 10 RM (£2) from a local hole-in-the-wall restaurant; it was quite heavy but the crunchy texture of the grilled tortilla with the tender chicken soaked in sauce was really good.
I then hopped on a GO KL Green Line bus (after waiting 15 minutes despite it having an arrival time of 2 minutes for the duration of my wait – a sign of things to come!) to the Petronas Twin Towers. I couldn’t really see them as I got off the bus as we were directly below them, so I walked through the shopping centre to get out to the park on the other side, where there was a light and water show going on in the fountain in the centre. After being a typical tourist and taking an obligatory photo I walked through the near-empty park to get to Traders Hotel on the other side.
On the 33rd floor of Traders Hotel is Sky Bar; a bar with a pool that offers the best views of the Petronas Towers lit up at night, plus it is free to enter. Obviously the drinks aren’t on the cheap side (40 RM – £8 – upwards) but on Wednesday evenings it is Ladies Night and from 6-11pm you can queue up in a specified line for the free cocktail on offer. You can go up as many times as you like but you can only get one at a time and, as you might imagine, it wasn’t the most dynamic or delicious of cocktails but, well, it was free.
I managed to find a table area along by the window (the booths were 700 RM – £140 – per hour) so I could gaze at the view and was soon asked by a group of German and Dutch (1 guy, 4 girls) if they could sit with me. As is the norm with travelling we quickly got chatting and it didn’t take long for me to gatecrash their evening and jump into their photos. The bar had a good atmosphere and people were very enthusiastically dancing to commercial music from 5 years ago (including my Thai island classic – Waka Waka by Shakira!), plus it wasn’t at all pretentious so I didn’t feel out of place as a dishevelled backpacker in clothes that are no longer ever quite clean even just after being washed.
I had planned on getting up early the next day to head to the Batu Caves as apparently it is better either in the morning or late afternoon so as to avoid the heat, but due to my staying out later than anticipated the night before I didn’t quite manage to get up at the time I wanted. Plus there were then severe delays with the trains (I first took the Monorail to KL Sentral and then changed to KTM to get to the Batu Caves stop) so I didn’t actually reach there until 3pm. Slightly embarrassing, but we all deserve a morning off here and there, right?? On that note, actually, it’s strange how we travellers (God I sound like such a pretentious knob) can be apologetic for taking a rest day or not filling up our time with sightseeing and doing things – if I were in “normal life” at home I would have a whole day a week where I would barely move from the sofa let alone leave the house, plus with travelling the whole point is to get away from the Western mentality of “do do do”, and actually (I’m off on one now) nobody needs to justify themselves or the way they choose to lead their trip to anyone, but I guess it’s embedded in us and there is still that small part inside of us that feels guilty for not “making the most of it”, even though you still are when taking time out to just BE somewhere.
Anyway, where was I? Yes, caves. So I finally arrived (late), walked to the bottom of the steps to take me up to the caves, went to take my first step and the heavens opened. I’m not kidding, water descended on me so directly and powerfully I felt like Eeyore with a rain cloud made just for me. So I did something I haven’t done in my 4 whole months of travelling and it almost felt dirty – I bought an umbrella. Usually a dashing, disposable rain poncho is my protection of choice but the rain was so heavy I didn’t think it would suffice, so I caved (I will be the first to admit it; I copped out) and handed over 15 RM (£3) for a metallic umbrella that broke as soon as I left the caves 2 hours later. Marvellous.
So I’m finally walking up the steps to the caves, smugly holding my shiny new umbrella as others utilise plastic bags as rain hats or hide under shelter for the rain to pass (it didn’t) and get to the temple at the top. After spending 10 minutes walking around (I’m sorry, I’ve just seen A LOT of temples) I walked back down the steps halfway (where the rain had cleared even for me to take in the views of KL) to turn off to the right to find the entrance to the Dark Cave.
You have to pay 35 RM (£7) for a 45 minute tour of the dark caves but it was totally worth it. Wearing a safety helmet as though you are on a construction site and carrying your own personal torch, you are lead inside the dark cave and given some brief history on its formation and discovery before being taken through and around, stopping at various points to be told about (and shown) the creatures living inside the cave. At one point we reached an area that had no light pouring through from either the entrance or a skylight, were told to all turn off our torches so we were stood in absolute darkness (you couldn’t see your hand if you waved it in front of you) with only the sound of bats filling our senses. Our tour guide was really informative and funny, plus it was such a cool experience.
On my way back to the a station I got talking with another female from the tour group – Kerry – and we decided to try to visit Masjid Jamek (mosque) and Merdeka Square, and generally explore the area, but it was lashing it down so hard, the roads and maps actually really not that easy to navigate, and the mosque was under construction, so we grabbed a coffee (I went for a cappuccino that tasted like hot chocolate and Kerry went for a local coffee that also tasted like hot chocolate – when I questioned if they insisted it was coffee but made me another one, which also tasted like hot chocolate) before wandering to Central Market for a browse and then finally making our way to China Town for some food. I had a fish and rice claypot that totally trumped Kerry’s lemon chicken. Winning at food = winning at life.
The following morning I woke up ridiculously early (6:30, which is insane when it’s voluntary and not obligatory) to explore the areas I didn’t get the chance to the day before, catching the GO KL Purple Line bus to Pasar Seni before walking about 20 minutes to reach the edge of the Botanical Gardens, which I spent about 40 minutes walking through (it was a nice morning walk but nothing particularly special) and then towards the KL tower, which you actually get the best views of when you are about 20 minutes away from it, and then back to my hostel to pack and check-out.
I booked my bus from KL to Malacca online with easybook.com (all very different from what I’m used to thus far where I book a bus to the next destination either with my hostel or a tour operator on the street) for 13 RM (dirt cheap at (£2.70) and picked a hostel after doing a search – honestly it can be exhausting having to research, plan, book and move every couple of days. To get the bus I first had to make my way back to TBS via their transit system (again, all very different from what I’m used to where you get picked up from your hostel), this time paying slightly more for a quicker journey via LRT rapid KL from Hang Tuah. I found KL really hard to navigate on foot, with the roads far more confusing and complex than on the maps, and as a big, busy city I found it hard to decipher the feel or its character (despite having lived and worked in London and being a huge fan of it there) – it therefore wasn’t my favourite place in Malaysia and I was looking forward to discovering Malacca.