Malaysia: food glorious food in Kuala Lumpur

So after leaving Oz I landed in Singapore late on a Sunday night.  My buddy Magnus from KPMG days had kindly offered his spare room for me that night even though I would be promptly moving on the next morning to check out Malaysia for 10 or so days.  As I needed to return to Singas for my flight to Philippines I had decided best to spend time there when Magnus had time off work on a weekend.  So after a couple of beers and a catch-up I got to bed and the next morning was fighting Singapore rush-hour in the sweltering heat to get to the bus station for onward travel.

I boarded the bus and we headed north and within an hour we were over the bridge from Singapore island and into Malaysia.  After a quick passport check I was back on the bus and within 3 hours was in Kuala Lumpur centre.

My time in Malaysia was to be dictated largely by some friendships I’d made in New Zealand a couple of months back.  Whilst in a hostel in Queenstown I had befriended 3 Malaysian girls: Maggie, Shirleen and Samanta;  and on hearing I was coming to their neck of the woods they had asserted to show me the sights.

So after half and hour or so, Shirleen arrived in her van and took me to a crazy mall that is 6 floors for only electrical goods.  I needed to buy a charger for my camera after the other one had been destroyed by the duty-free rum that smashed in my bag 😦 So she navigated us to the one she knew to be best value and after a mini-haggle I had my charger.  Back in Shirleen’s van we traversed Kuala Lumpur to the suburbs to pick up Maggie and Samanta.  That evening we went to Maggie’s parents chicken wing stall;  which was one of several food “stalls”, collectively know in Malaysia as a food court.

I probably need a bit of a time-out here to tell you how awesome Malaysian food is.  Malaysia is approximately comprised 60% Malay people (indigenous), 20% Chinese and 20% Indian.  The four official languages are: Malay, English (a result of British colonial rule and a sensible middle ground for everyone ;)), Mandarin (Chinese) and Tamil (Indian); and therefore you can readily get delicious food from any of these three cultures.   An example would be a cheeky but of Chicken Satay for breakfast, followed by Lamb Kurma and Roti for lunch and Chinese BBQ duck and rice for dinner.  And the whole lot would cost £3 😀

So after a very filling dinner of a Malay dish I forget the name of, and chinese chicken wings I moved onto an intriguing desert called Ice Kacang.  The base ingredient is shaved ice and then a few obvious tasty desert type ingredients such as assorted coloured jelly (red, green, clear – yum!), peanuts and condensed milk; and a couple of not so obvious choices: sweetcorn and red kidney beans.  Anyway the whole lot comes together deliciously and it should be brought to Britain!

That night we planned the next day’s itinerary and after a good night sleep Shirleen was back at my hostel in her van to whisk me away to Chinatown for some breakfast dumplings and chicken rice, followed by a drive down to a cool Chinese temple, and finishing at the highest tower in Kuala Lumpur, the imaginatively named Kuala Lumpur Tower.  As you will read later this is not the tallest building in KL but it’s the highest because it’s base sits on a hill and height is measured from street level.  As the weather was overcast I decided not to pay to get to the top, instead I just walked around the bottom and got my picture taken with an iguana.

KL Tower:

Nervous smile. I was worried he might have my ear off:

So after that action packed morning Shirleen passed me over to Maggie and Samanta whilst she had a work meeting and we spent the afternoon in the absolutely awesome Batu caves. I was coming to find most things are either Malay, Chinese or Indian in Malaysia and in the case of the Batu caves they very much have an Indian flavour.  The Batu caves are a huge cathedral-like cave system which have been converted to one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India.  At the entrance to  the caves towers this gargantuan statue of a Hindu deity: Lord Muruga.   But other than Him there are also hundreds of other smaller brightly coloured and beautifully made Hindu statues which are an absolute feast for the eyes.

After climbing the 250-odd steps behind Lord Muruga you are rewarded by a sight into the 100m high caves which expand 300m back into the mountain.  From the roof and around the entrance the limestone has formed in these huge overhanging stalactites that have the appearance of dripping wax.  Walking though the cave you get to a vertical cave where the opening is at the top of some 50 or 60m high cliffs.  The Hindu imagery, prayer chants and incense burning combined with the natural beauty of the caves resulted in this being one of my favourite spots so far.

Lord Muruga and behind him the stairs to the Batu caves:

It’s massive:

View overlooking KL in the distance from the entrance to the Batu caves:

My favourite Hindu deity, Hanuman, God of courage:

Kamadhenu, bovine-goddess know as the Mother of all Cows:

I didn’t catch the name of this one but after some research I’m not sure it’s a deity as only the baddy deities have moustaches:

At the entrance to the Batu caves:

Cheeky monkey:

At the back of the Batu caves:

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To cap off the cultural experience we returned to the city and headed to a huge Chinese temple where we watched some guys doing Tai Chi at dusk.

Outside the temple:

Inside the temple:

The two guys doing Tai Chi:

After a jam-packed day we headed to a popular eating street for some more delicious food and interesting drinks.

“How would you like your ice tea sir?” “How do you mean?” “Would you like ice?” “Yes please” “Bowl and spoon?” “Hmmm…OK” “And how many eggs sir?” “Eh???”

The next morning I met up with Shirleen and we headed to the Petronas Towers where we would be meeting up with the other two and driving to the federal administration centre 25km outside of KL called Putrajaya.  The girls needed to go to the foreign office located there, to begin  their applications for a trip to Australia next year and so I went along for the ride.

The Petronas twin towers. Up until 2004 they were the world’s tallest buildings and remain the world’s tallest twin buildings (Now it sits in a lowly 6th place overall):

Putrajaya is  a bit of a strange place.  It’s a purpose-built city that was only started in the 1990s but now is home to loads of grand official buildings, settlements and even a large mall.  It appears to be a bit of a bone of contention with some Malaysians as you can see that billions of pounds must have been pumped into the production of these huge buildings and the necessary infrastructure, when the money could have been better channelled to helping the people, some of which are living in poverty.  To me it did seem all a bit unnecessary.

Palace of Justice:

Putra mosque:

Back on the road we headed to a beauty spot east of KL called Gabai falls, which is a series of cascading waterfalls through the forest, and several warm pools where you can take a dip.

One section of the Gabai falls:

Waterslide at the top of the Gabai falls:

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Enjoying Gabai Falls at dusk:

After returning to KL the girls took me for a Chinese feast as it was my final night in KL.  Tonight we were having a special clay pot dish:

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