Monday, January 6, 2014


Connie and I are in Malaysia where it's rained 5 of the 6 days we've been here.  It's been very hot and humid and I miss the cool dry weather we enjoyed in ChiangMai.  We've been exploring the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, which has a population of close to 6 million in the greater metropolitan area and is the largest city in Malaysia.  And we've been doing a fine job finding our way around the city on the public transport system.

On our first day here, we visited the National Museum, a great way to learn about the history of Malaysia which has been occupied by the Portugese, Dutch, and British at various times in its history, as well as by the Japanese during WWII.  It finally achieved independence  from Britain in 1957.  There is a multi-ethnic culture here with Chinese and Indians as the largest minority groups.  The national religion is Islam, and we enjoyed a visit on our second day to the Islamic Arts Museum.

We also went to the Batu Caves on the outskirts of the city.  It was very different from the caves we saw at Halong Bay in northern VietNam.  Here is the entrance.

We climbed about 300 steps to get to the caves, and in the hot humid weather, it was quite a challenge.  My mountain goat muscles hadn't been exercised in a while.

There were several monkeys scampering around the steps.  They're quite aggressive and definitely not intimidated by people.  They're been known to snatch purses and food from visitors.

There are several Hindu shrines within the caves, and there was a religious ceremony taking place in the largest cathedral cave which involved the playing of very discordant music and the cleansing of items of worship.

These two were throwing little pieces of paper into the fire...which may have been the burning bowl ritual where you burn scraps of paper with words written on them representing what you want to eliminate from your life.

When you sit quietly, you can imagine aborigines holding sacred ceremonies in this circular cave that has a circular opening to the heavens.

But the caves are filled now with manmade shrines and images of Hindu gods and godesses.

On the way down, we saw two people on stretchers being carried down the steps and then up again.  I thought at first they were injured, but it was some kind of cleansing ceremony.  Back down at the entrance, there was a kadavi dance in progress, a ceremony for the purpose of asking the Hindu god of wisdom for help in getting through or averting a life calamity.  This dance ceremony involves carrying some kind of burden, in this case a decorated canopy, as well as piercing one's cheeks or tongue, which the man under the canopy had done.  There were other men surrounding him at times and chanting as they danced their way to and up the steps to the cathedral temple.

There were all sorts of vendors around the cave entrance as well as this giant image of the Hindu monkey god Hanuman. 

I don't know who this goddess is.

Connie had one hand painted in a henna design because....well, because she's Connie, always trying new things.

Another highlight of our visit was the Petronas Towers, the tallest twin towers in the world, which are very beautiful at night.

We enjoyed shopping and dining there, especially having dinner by the musical fountain and watching the colorful light show.

We also shopped at some of the colorful local markets.

We took a tour to the seaport of Melaka (known as Malacca by Westerners), where we saw the ruins of a Portuguese fortress...

The hilltop ruins of St. Paul's Church....

And Chinese temples.

There are many different forms of trasportation in southeast Asia, but Melaka has the most colorful I've seen so far.

We met Susie from Santa Cruz on this tour, and she joined us in our meanderings around the city.

When we returned to Kuala Lumpur, the three of us went to Little India and enjoyed a fabulous dinner at an Indian vegetarian restaurant.

I won't say that Malaysia is my favorite place in southeast Asia, but it has a very interesting multi-ethnic culture and history, and it's a country that has experienced steady economic growth in the last decades.  It's also the first Islamic country I've visited.

Connie left for home last night and I miss her already.  Our friendship deepened during these 17 days we spent together, and it is these times I spend with new friends I've made on this journey that will keep the experience vibrant in my memory.

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