Kuala Lumpur and Northern Malaysia…

After the fatal Air Asia crash between Surybaya and Singapore just a week before, we boarded our pre-booked Air Asia flight from Manila to KL. During the flight we experienced moderate turbulence but at one point it became more severe. The plane dropped steeply and suddenly by about 40 ft and most of the passengers screamed whilst the cabin crew crouched in the aisles, as they didn’t have time to return to their seats. We were relieved when we finally landed in Kuala Lumpur.

We had a few days exploring the sights of Kuala Lumpur. We visited the Batu Caves which is a limestone cave formation containing a Hindu temple and guarded by an enormous golden statue of the deity Murugan which is nearly 43m high. The steps up to the cave are patrolled by a crafty group of Long Tailed Macaques who work as a team to ambush tourists for food. Whilst we were there we also went into the ‘Dark Caves’ where a biologist took us on a tour to see various cave dwelling millipedes, spiders and bats. We visited a number of different Chinese, Hindu and Buddhist temples around KL, including the impressive Thean Hou Temple and explored the areas around Merderka (Independence) Square and China Town, where we had lunch in the traditional Chinese wet market.

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The Petronas Towers are arguably the most iconic buildings in KL and we decided to go up the towers to see the views. We walked across the Sky Bridge between the two towers, which is 170m high and then went up further to the Observation Deck on the 86th floor (360m high) to see the impressive panoramic views across the city.

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For a treat for Kate’s birthday and for Dave’s last couple of days travelling with us, we stayed in a more upmarket hotel with an infinity pool and views of the Petronas Towers. We had a relaxing day for Kate’s birthday and visited the KL Bird Park which has one of the largest free flight aviaries in the world.

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We had originally planned to visit some areas in the North East of Malaysia, but sadly at the time of our visit much of Eastern Malaysia was suffering severe flooding and many of the areas were in a state of emergency. Due to this we headed straight from KL to Penang. We stayed in George Town on Pulau Penang, which was once used as a key trading port by the British. Whilst the majority of Malaysian towns and cities seem to be built up of Chinese, Indian and Malay districts, Penang also has many architectural elements from the colonial era that felt very English. The streets have both English and Malay names so it was confusing to get around. Some streets even have 3 different names!

We spent a day at the Kek Lok Si Temple, which is an active Buddhist temple, perched on a hill with views across George Town and out to the sea. Penang is famous for its ostentatious Clan Houses (such as the Khoo Kongsi) which were built by associations set up to welcome, assist and create a sense of community for Chinese settlers arriving in the 19th Century. A number of clans became very successful and as rivalries grew the buildings became more ornate as you can see below! We also visited the Botanical Gardens, where we saw Black Giant Squirrels and Dusky Leaf Monkeys.

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Penang is one of the best places in Malaysia for street food and we ate out at Hawker Markets nearly every night whilst we were there. The are a multitude of traders who cook delicious food on small mobile stalls and you can order a selection of dishes from different stalls which they then cook and bring over to your table. One night after we had just finished eating an old Malaysian lady tripped over behind us and face planted into our table. Alex just managed to catch her before she hit the ground, but she gave him a dead leg (during the act of falling, not afterwards!)

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From Penang we took a ferry to the Malaysian island of Pulau Langkawi and from there we took another boat to Satun, on the mainland of Thailand…

 

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