We got into Kuala Lumpur and checked into our hotel just in time to head out for dinner. One of the biggest/most popular KL food streets, JL Alor, was a short walk from our place so that’s where we headed for dinner. Unlike most of the food streets that we’ve been to that are mostly food stalls, this one had a great combination of stalls and restaurants. Malaysia is known for its great food (the majority of the people here are Malay, Indian, and Chinese so the food is a combination of the three) so we were very excited to sit down for our first meal. We decided on the most crowded restaurant on the street, which was serving a huge selection of seafood and Chinese dishes.
My mom immediately turned to the whole fish section, while Dave and I wanted something Chinese (we haven’t found really any Chinese places in Bangkok, so it’s been a while since we’ve had this type of food). My mom decided on sole and we got several dishes (obviously) including a Chinese chicken dish, fried rice, frog porridge (this is one of the dishes that the food street is known for), a couple of chicken wings, and the star of the meal, a dish they called buttermilk cheese spare ribs. The meal was amazing and that combined with the great and lively atmosphere of the street itself made this one of the top meals of our trip (along with dog in Vietnam, suckling pig in the Philippines and lamb satay/nasi goreng in Indonesia). We also all shared a beer, which somehow the restaurant forgot to charge us for. Even better!
We were all exhausted and fell asleep pretty much as soon as we got home from dinner. We were woken up in the middle of the night by a video call from my dad. He called to tell us about the Malaysia Airlines flight that had been shot down over the Ukraine. We were all very saddened by the news, but more importantly, my mom was scheduled to fly on that airline on her way home in a few days, which clearly she did not want to do anymore. After the first MA incident several months ago, we all agreed that since the airline hadn’t been shut down, it was probably ok for my mom to fly it months later. We figured the chances of lightning striking twice for the same airline were small, but I guess we were wrong. Well, either they have really bad luck or they’re doing something terribly wrong, but obviously, my mom was not going to fly that airline a few days after the second incident. She spent a couple hours in the middle of the night trying to get out of it to no avail and then realized she’d have to deal with it in the morning.
We were all pretty exhausted from being up in the middle of the night but when we woke up around 8, we knew my mom had some more work to do. Dave and I waited for a couple hours and then, after she still hadn’t made much progress, she told us to go out for a few hours so she could take care of everything and then come back to pick her up before our activity in the afternoon. Dave and I were hesitant to leave but my mom said there was nothing we could do to help her or the situation and she didn’t just want us just sitting around and waiting. So, Dave and I headed to the historical district and Chinatown for a couple hours.
First we walked around Chinatown and the main market area. There’s a wet market there that’s supposed to be good so we went to check that out and have lunch nearby. The market itself wasn’t that great and we were very frustrated when no one could tell us the location (this happens to us all the time and we cannot understand how people working a block away from a certain site or market don’t know where it is!), but we had a good local lunch.
In the historical district, we saw several mosques, the Central Market, and some other historical buildings, but most impressive was Merdeka Square (the spot where Malaysia gained their Independence from Britain – there’s a huge field and a very tall flag pole to commemorate the event) and the KL City Gallery. The museum itself was ok, but the best part was the interactive video that they showed on the second floor. There’s a huge model of the whole city with an amazing video talking about KL’s plans to build and grow over the next 10 years. The city is planning to add 300 new buildings and double its population in that time. It was very impressive and after seeing that video we decided we’d definitely need to take my mom back to this area to see it.
After a couple hours, we headed back to the hotel to pick up my mom. Fortunately, she had been able to switch her flight around so she was no longer flying Malaysia Airlines. And, she had just finished up with everything about 20 minutes before we got back. We were all glad she had taken the time that morning to get everything resolved so that she didn’t have to worry about it anymore. Best of all, she wasn’t losing any time with us even with her new itinerary.
In the afternoon, we headed over to Menara KL, which is supposed to have the best views of the city. We had originally planned to go up the famous Petronas Twin Towers to see the view, but after reading that it was double the price and half the height of Menara KL, our decision was easy. We paid $15 each to check out the view. At the top, we were amazed to see how much land there actually was around KL and we could see how they were able to plan such a huge expansion of the city. The city is also completed surrounded by jungle, so that’s cool to see too.
Before dinner, we went to hang out at our hotel pool for an hour of so, which probably has the best view of the Petronas Towers in the city. The pool itself was a little strange because it was indoors, but they had great couches all along the windows so we were able to really appreciate the view.
We had talked about going back to Chinatown for dinner that night, but by the time we were ready to eat, we decided that we hadn’t had quite enough of JL Alor, the food street we had been to the previous night. And, the restaurant we had been to the night before was so good that we did something we’ve only done twice on our two RTWs (Las Cabras in Buenos Aires and lamb satay/nasi goreng in Jakarta): we went back to the same place. This time, we all shared a fish (my mom’s was so good the night before that we all wanted more of it; it was fried and all of the pieces were cut up and served inside the whole fish) and some noodles and then Dave and I got a different Chinese chicken dish, a pair of wings again and the amazing buttermilk cheese ribs. Once again it was an awesome meal and once again they forgot to charge us for a beer. How lucky is that??!
Our plan for our second day in KL was to go to the Batu caves about 15 km outside of the city. First though, we went to check out the Imbi market, a market near our area that’s known to have great breakfast. Once again, we were a block or two away and several people that we asked had no idea where the market was (ARGH!!) but finally we found it (of course there were hundreds of people), walked around and sat down for a great breakfast. Most of the locals were eating noodles and soup, but even though we’ve lived in Asia for a year, we still haven’t gotten used to that and so we opted for some baked goods (also very popular there) instead.
After breakfast we took the train to the Batu caves. Dave and I have been to tons of caves during our trip so we weren’t expecting anything amazing, but we ended up being pleasantly surprised. When we first arrived (it takes about 25 minutes to get there on the train, which drops you off right in front), we immediately saw a huge golden statue standing in front of the 250 stairs leading up to the caves. It was very impressive.
Before heading up, we stopped for a quick lunch at an Indian restaurant nearby. Even though we went to a completely vegetarian restaurant, my mom still opted for the chocolate pancake instead of trying out another Indian dish (I guess she’d had her fill after our lunch at the Tekka Market in Singapore’s Little India). Dave and I got a Thali platter, which is several different vegetarian dishes served with rice and naan bread. They also brought us out about 6 different sauces to go with the platter. Everyone sitting at the table around us was telling us what they all were and which were the best to try. I love when the locals help us with our meals!
After lunch we were ready to climb the stairs to the cave. As soon as we started climbing, we started seeing tons of monkeys running around. We’ve seen lots of monkeys (they especially love to hang out at temples for some reason) but these were the first for my mom. I think she was both scared and excited to see them!
At around stair 200, you can go into the dark cave, which is a separate cave tour before arriving at the main temple cave at the top. We went on the 45 minute tour through the very dark cave (hence the name), stopping along the way to see some rare spiders, huge centipedes, and even a snake (which our guide says he only sees about once every 2 months – we’ve been getting very lucky with animal sightings during my mom’s visit!). The tour was fun, and I think my mom, especially, enjoyed it.
After the dark cave, we headed up the rest of the stairs to see the temple cave. This wasn’t as impressive, but still nice. Then, we went back down (past lots more monkeys) to start heading back to the city. There was one more cave (Cave Villa) that we decided to skip, because it had an extra fee and it was more of a zoo than anything else).
Back in the city, we got off the train in Little India. We walked through that area hoping to find the Saturday market, but instead we found a pickup Cricket game. None of us had ever seen cricket being played before so we all hopped over the park fence (yes, even my mom) to watch. Dave was trying to get an invite to play so he kept chasing after the group’s runaway balls. Unfortunately, all that earned him was a couple of thank you’s rather than a spot on the field. Either way, it was fun to watch!
From Little India, we went back to Chinatown to do the same loop that we’d done the day before, this time with my mom. Lucky for her, we did the test run so we knew exactly what to show her:) We started with the amazing video at the museum (though I’m not sure she was as impressed as we were) then looped back to Merdeka Square, where this time the huge flag was flying at half-mast, presumably for the passengers on the MA flight that had been shot down. On our way to the Central Market, we passed by another very local clothing market. We were just planning to breeze by this until we saw a stall selling winter coats. We’ve seen winter coats being sold in Thailand before and always wonder who in the world was actually buying them. Well, this time Dave and I were for our Mt. Kinnabalu trek a few days later, which is supposed to be freezing. My mom could not stop laughing at Dave and me trying on these huge coats in the 100 degree weather.
We headed over to Chinatown (with our new coats which cost a combined total of $10) to find the same market we’d been at just a day earlier, but this time there were twice the number of stalls and everything was selling for twice the price. I guess that’s what we get for going on a Saturday night. Either way, we browsed through the market and by the time we were done, we were all ready for dinner. We picked a place right off the main market street that had a good menu but even better people watching. We had another great meal (Dave and I had sweet and sour chicken and sizzling beef and my mom had another fish) and then after a very full and long day, we headed home.
We woke up early for our last day in KL and our last day with my mom. We were all starting to get sad about her leaving. Dave and I went for a run in the morning while my mom packed up and then we went to our final KL market, the biggest wet market in the city, the Puda Market. When you first walk down the Puda market street you see tons of stores selling all kinds of pets (fish, hamsters, sugar gliders, etc). As you walk further back, however, you get to the actual market selling everything from meat to seafood to vegetables and more. It always amazes us to see these huge bustling markets and think that this is how people are getting their food every day. They are always so busy and hectic. Then, we saw something we’ve never seen before. A stand selling frogs that they killed in front of us. It was pretty gruesome, but it definitely caught all of our attention.
After the market, we got back on the train and headed to Lake Titiwangsa. We’d read that it’s a huge lake that has some amazing views of the city, so we’d packed a picnic lunch and went to check it out. The lake was definitely huge but the views were not as impressive as we’d been hoping. Either way though, we had a nice picnic lunch and it was a fun way to end our time in KL and with my mom.
We got back to our hotel, Dave took one last dip in the pool and then it was time to say goodbye to my mom. We were very sad to see her go, but we’d had such a great week together and were so impressed with her ability to keep up with us and her willingness to do and try anything and everything. She was a great traveling companion for the week, we really had a blast.
After we put her in a taxi, Dave and I moved to a guesthouse down the street (our life of luxury had officially come to an end) and then we went to one of the fancy nearby malls for a movie (22 Jump Street, which was hysterical) and dinner (fish and chips at a local chain restaurant we had seen throughout the city). It was a nice, relaxing night after a very busy, non-stop week with my mom.
Now, off to Borneo in E. Malaysia for a couple weeks, where we’re starting off by climbing Mt. Kinnabalu, the highest mountain in maritime SE Asia outside of Papua. Wish us luck!