National Monument, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The National Monument or Tugu Negara is not as popular as the Petronas Twin Towers yet its symbolism to the Malaysian people is as important.

“To Our Glorious Dead”

According to Wikipedia, it commemorates those who died in Malaysia’s struggle for freedom, principally against the Japanese occupation during  World War II and the Malayan Emergency, which lasted from 1948 until 1960.

Each bronze sculpture represents leadership, suffering, unity, vigilance, strength, courage and sacrifice. Malaysians should also be proud that this is the largest bronze monument grouping in the world.

A dedication to Malaysia’s heroic fighters

The National Monument is located at Lake Gardens, Jalan Tugu off Jalan Parlimen, Kuala Lumpur. Open daily from 9:00 am until 6:00 pm.

The Batu Caves of Kuala Lumpur

The Batu Caves, located at the Gombak District north of Kuala Lumpur, is one of the most visited tourist spots in Malaysia. According to Wikipedia, the limestone hill forming Batu Caves is said to be around 400 years old.

Inside the Batu Cave, Kuala Lumpur

*The cave is one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India, dedicated to Lord Murugan. It is also the focal point of the Hindu festival of Thaipusam in Malaysia. (*Excerpt from Wikipedia)

From the Kuala Lumpur station of KTMB Railway, you can take a 30-minute train ride direct to Batu Caves for only RM1 (US$ .33 cents). The ride back is RM2 (US$ .66 cents).

Train to Batu Caves

A 42.7m high statue of Lord Murugan, the tallest in the world, greets every visitor to the Batu Caves.

Entrance to the Batu Caves

272 steps all the way up! Not really as bad as it looks.

 

Stairs going up the Main Temple

Beware of these mischievous monkeys! They grabbed a few snacks and made some children cry.

 

Wild monkeys guarding the steps to Batu Caves

It’s very cool inside the cave, a respite from the heat outside. It was two weeks before Thaipusam when we visited the cave. Since more than a million devotees visit this popular Hindu shrine during the festival, some temple staff have started to put metal guards inside the cave for crowd control.

 

Metal guards in preparation for Thaipusam

More photos inside the cave.

An old Indian lady sits and waits inside the cave. In exchange for a few ringgit, she would put some white or red powder on the forehead while whispering prayers of peace and blessings.

On the way down, we saw devotees carrying milk pots as offering to Lord Murugan. We were able to catch the Thaipusam Festival in Penang where devotees do more than carry milk pots. More on Thaipusam on my future blog post!

If you have a few hours to kill while in Kuala Lumpur, I would recommend visiting the Batu Caves. The train ride is so cheap, no entrance fee to the caves and you get a glimpse of the Indian culture up close.

Cycling the outskirts of Batu Pahat, Johor

It has been 2 weeks since I last rode a bicycle. Yes, not that long ago but yesterday’s bike ride was special. First, it was the day I test-drived my new bicycle for a long ride and second, I’m cycling in Malaysia!

Test driving my new bicycle on the outskirts of Batu Pahat, Johor

Malaysia roads are wide and well-paved but it was disappointing to know that road-sharing with a cyclist is non-existent. I just can’t wait to get out of Batu Pahat small town and cycle the outskirts.

A rough road leading to rows of palm oil trees

I was happily surprised that just a few minutes of cycling from the town center, we reach a place where we can cycle undisturbed by cars and just enjoy the peaceful natural surroundings.

Discovering the outskirts of Batu Pahat on a bicycle

Mid-way, we saw these kids swimming in a small stream. They were inviting me to join them. ‘Auntie! Mandi*!’ (*Mandi is bath in Malay) What??!! These kids call me Auntie?? Haha. I didn’t bring extra clothes as swimming didn’t even enter my mind yesterday and besides I don’t think the water is that clean.

Kids happily swimming in a small creek

Can’t wait to discover more of Malaysia on a bicycle!

Back (kut teh!) in Malaysia!

I have been to Malaysia countless of times yet the thought of indulging on my favorite local dishes keeps me excited each time. My flight last Wednesday, 15 December was no different. On the plane, though delayed for half an hour, I can’t help to dream of various Malaysian food I have missed for the past 6 months. Bak kut teh, xiao long bao, satay, kuey teow, laksa.. name it! I’ve drooled for it.

Walking at Level 5 View Deck of Kuala Lumpur International Airport

Since I arrived way too early for dinner, I took the time to explore the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). If you’re arriving from the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT), a shuttle bus would take you to KLIA for only RM 2.50 (US $.80). The airport is huge but not as impressive as neighbor Singapore’s Changi International Airport.

Exploring KLIA

Shuttle bus from LCCT to KL Sentral charge RM 8 (US $2.58) while from KLIA, it’s RM 10 (US $3.22).

Bak Kut Teh at Jalan Sultan, KL!

Now the highlight of my first night back in Malaysia.. Bak Kut Teh at Jalan Sultan! The first time I tried BKT was way back in 2002, at the same stall. Never mind the sweaty forehead, nose and upper lip! I just love this piping hot local dish eaten along the busy streets of KL’s Chinatown! Though I have tried excellent BKT at a more comfortable place such as Pao Xiang Restaurant in Pavillion KL Shopping Mall last June 2010, nothing beats the authentic street-side way of how locals enjoy BKT.

Bak Kut Teh is definitely a must-try Malaysia local dish

We ordered the BKT in clay pot which cost RM 9. The serving of meat, mushroom, tofu and various pig organ is a lot. The mix of assorted spices on the soup base is just heavenly. According to the street stall vendor, their specialty is the pig trotter with peanut for RM 7. I’d probably try it the next time I’m back in Kuala Lumpur.  A mental note to also eat at the Kim Lian Kee Hokkien mee which I tried back in 2002 as well.

What else would make Malaysians happily crazy aside from food?

On the way to the Bukit Jalil Bus Terminal to catch a bus back to Batu Pahat, we noticed the National Stadium was well-lit, with hundreds of motorbikes and cars parked outside. Also, loud cheering can be heard that no matter how tired and sleepy I felt that time, I can’t help to suddenly feel energized too!  Well, what else would make Malaysians happily crazy aside from food?

2 - 0 in favor of Malaysia! Woot!

You guessed it right! It’s soccer! The Malaysia – Vietnam AFF Suzuki Match was ongoing so after quickly leaving my heavy backpack at the pay locker, we head to the stadium to catch the last minutes of the game.

The game was won by Malaysia (2-0) so the stadium was full of happy Malaysians! I can’t help to cheer with them too. Good thing it wasn’t a match against the Philippines or else I would really stick out like a sore thumb!

It’s not difficult to love the Malaysian culture, with the great food and awesome people. I’m really glad to be back!