It was 7th March and this meant that it was only three weeks before I finished my big trip around the world! I had just left Vietnam and said goodbye to my final tour group. It had been wonderful to travel around with so many different people from varying walks of life, and I consequently felt like I had friends from all around the globe.
Now though, it was time for me to venture on my own for a little bit and I flew from Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi to Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia.
After just over three and a half hours in the air, I touched down in Kuala Lumpur and headed to my hostel. To my surprise, it was really empty and I was the only person in my room. Whilst it was a shame that I didn’t get the chance to make any travel friends to accompany me around the city, it was nice to have the space to myself after so long in shared accommodation.
I spent the rest of the evening Googling and contemplating ideas of what to do during my short time in Kuala Lumpur. My preferred choice for the following day was to take a bus tour around the city, which promised to show all of the highlights.
Booked on TripAdvisor, the tour I chose was a half-day trip that comprised of the key sights in downtown Kuala Lumpur.
I met my tour group in a local hotel and there were around fifteen of us travelling on the bus. I was the only English speaker, and though I tried to bond with the other travellers, they were already in groups and so I embraced the independence as best as I could and soaked it all in.
Our first stop was to a viewpoint of the Petronas Twin Towers. Built in 1996 and at 452 metres high, the towers were the world’s tallest building between 1998 and 2003, when they were overtaken by a skyscraper in Taiwan’s capital, Taipei. At eighty-eight storeys, and costing $1.6 billion to build, the twin towers are extremely impressive and many businesses are based inside of the skyscrapers.
Our next stop was to a chocolate factory. Though this was evidently a bit of a tourist trap, the chocolate did look delicious and I cheekily enjoyed the free samples!
The subsequent stop was to Jadi Batek Art Gallery. Here, we could see artists creating handmade prints and browse the gallery’s selection of wares, including soaps, clothing, statues and art. Again, the intention was for tourists to buy some of the artwork. Nonetheless, it was interesting to witness the ancient batik cloth technique, where artists use wax dye to make uniquely patterned materials.
We continued on our way and drove past the old National Palace, which has since been turned into a museum, before arriving at our next destination, another museum, called the Muzium Negara.
Muzium Negara translates to mean the National Museum, and we wandered around whilst our driver waited in the bus. I bought a ticket for a small fee and observed some of the exhibits in the large building, which ranged from statues representing cultural events such as weddings and festivals; costumes; traditional weapons; musical instruments; arts and crafts and ceramics.
The Muzium Negara gave me more of a sense of Malaysia’s rich historical and cultural heritage, however I could probably have done with a little longer and perhaps a tour guide or audio tour, to really get to grips with the exhibits.
Next up, we visited Tugu Negara. This is Malaysia’s National Monument and serves as a war memorial to commemorate those who died in Malaysia’s struggle for freedom, predominately against the Japanese occupation, as well as in the two World Wars. Situated in Perdana Botanical Garden, the bronze monument was an impressive structure to see and features the inscription ‘To Our Glorious Dead of the First World War (1914-1918), Second World War (1939-1945) and the Emergency (1948-1960).’
The latter war was a guerrilla war and an attempt by the Malayan Communist Party to overthrow the British colonial administration of Malaya (Malaysia’s former name). This was won by the British Commonwealth in 1960, and Malaysia didn’t get independence until three years later, which they now proudly commemorate on 31st August each year.
We then drove past Malaysia’s Central Bank and stopped at our final destination, Independence Square, with views of Kuala Lumpur’s skyline, including City Hall.
Though the day was rainy and a little bit lonely compared to the amount of time I was used to spending with others on my tour groups, it was an insight into Malaysia’s capital city and it was a great way to explore Kuala Lumpur.
I finished the day with a visit to the shopping mall situated near my hostel. Here, I had a Nando’s (obviously crucial to compare different Nando’s restaurants with the ones in the UK) and actually bought myself a suitcase in the sale. My backpack was reaching breaking point after months of being hauled around and filled to the brim, and this way I could fit some souvenirs for family and friends into my luggage and have an easier way of carrying it for the last part of my trip!
Arriving back to my hostel, I discovered I had a roommate now. We were mostly unable to communicate due to a language barrier and she snored like a horse all night, but at least I had some company!
The following day, I had booked myself on another tour, also through the trusty TripAdvisor website. This time I was off to see the Batu Caves, situated in nearby Gombak, which promised to be a real highlight of Malaysia.
I met my tour group at the same nearby hotel as I had the previous day and again found myself going solo as everybody else was in couples or groups and they were not very forthcoming. Though this was a pity, I was determined to enjoy my final full day in Kuala Lumpur.
Leaving the city centre, we drove past some of the foreign embassies and admired the tall buildings as we passed.
Our tour guide told us that Batu translates to mean ‘stone’ and there are nine stone caves in the vicinity we were about to visit. We were only going to the main cave though, and there is a Hindu Temple located at the top. There are 272 steps up to the cave and the temple, but this incline has been made so much more enjoyable as the steps were painted in bright rainbow colours only the year before. I was very excited to see the stunning staircase.
I was also looking forward to viewing another highlight, the large golden statue of Lord Murugan, the Hindu god of war, to whom the caves are dedicated. The Batu Caves are one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside of India. The limestone forming them is said to be around 400 million years old and some of the caves were used as shelters by indigenous groups.
Before long, we arrived at the caves and I’m pretty sure I gasped aloud at the beauty in front of us. Larger than I had imagined, the staircase and the golden statue loomed above and I couldn’t wait to explore.
I absolutely loved exploring the beautiful Batu Caves, with their bright colours and the abundance of monkeys making the steps to the cave feel less exhausting. The ornate Hindu shrines, some of which relate to the story of Lord Murugan’s victory over the demon, Soorapadman, were beautiful, and it was a joy to watch people praying in such lovely surroundings.
On our way back to the city, we stopped off at Royal Selangor Pewter. Here I learnt that pewter (I hadn’t previously heard of it) is a malleable metal alloy made from a mix of tin, antimony and copper. Royal Selangor Pewter is the largest and most renowned manufacturer and retailer of pewter and the Malaysians are evidently very proud of this, with our guide showing us the many trophies they have won. We toured the factory and gained an understanding of pewter and its uses, seeing employees casting, polishing, finishing and hammering the metal. We were even given some lemonade in a pewter cup!
I enjoyed my time in Kuala Lumpur and decided I would love to return and explore other parts of Malaysia if I am lucky enough to do so in the future. However, for now it was time to leave the place of pewter, twin towers and rainbow temples, and hop over to its next-door neighbour.
The following morning, I boarded a flight and headed to the penultimate destination of my nineteen-country trip! Watch this space to find out about my time in the dazzling, spotless Singapore.