travel

Adjusting and Batu Caves

table of contents

I’ve been in Kuala Lumpur for just under two weeks now, and I’m settling into a pretty comfortable routine. I usually divide my day into three parts: in one part I explore a new part of the city, in another I head to the library to code or read, and in the last I relax. In between I find some food. I switch up the arrangement of the parts each day. Just having a routine is nice, though, and it’s helping me adjust pretty well. In no particular order, here are some thoughts on adapting to various aspects of life in Malaysia.

Language

Getting down the basics of Bahasa Malay has been straightforward. Word order is subject-verb-object like English. It also borrows a lot of words from English (this is where Malay branches apart from Indonesian, which is closely related but borrows from Dutch). The writing system is very phonetic, which is almost jarring coming from English. Most words are pronounced exactly how you’d guess when reading them.

The only problem is that almost everyone here speaks English (and I’m so white), so everyone defaults to English. That’s probably a good thing though, because I’d be lost beyond the basics. My aunt was right, though, when she said that most people would probably be thankful when I put a small effort into using Malay. Usually I just slip in a terima kasih or selamat pagi.

Food

It can’t be overstated how good the food is. And the food stalls and cafés are neverending! Just walking down random streets, I’ll often unintentionally wander into big street markets lined with the most wonderful-smelling food I could imagine. I’m glad I have another couple months in KL, because I’ve barely scratched the surface yet.

Getting around

So far, I’ve used the train to get from the airport to the city center, and to get to Batu Caves (more on that below). Other than that, I’ve just walked everywhere. Getting around on foot is pretty easy, but there are some areas where sidewalks are a little weird. Sometimes they’ll just end, or they’ll merge into the road. For awhile I would get confused and not know how to keep going in the general direction I was trying to go, until I realized that people would just walk on the road. This happens even on bigger roads where traffic is flying by, so it took me a bit to get used to, but now I’m on board. It’s evened out by the fact that drivers often park partially on the sidewalk, and motorcyclists (who are numerous!) often drive on the sidewalks.

I’ve explored just about everywhere within a three kilometer radius of my hostel, so over the next couple weeks I’m going to start using the Go-KL city bus (because it’s free!) to start exploring more of the city.

Weather

The weather has been beautiful. In the morning it’s usually around 70 degrees and clear. From around 11 to 4 it gets very hot, and then it often rains in the late afternoon and evening. As I’m writing this, I’m just getting dried off, because even though an umbrella was the first thing I bought here, I never have the sense to bring my umbrella when I go out in the morning.

Getting connected

Since I don’t have mobile data or a phone plan, I’ve been completely relient on wifi to stay connected. So far it’s proven pretty simple. The wifi at the hostel is good. The library also has wifi, although it’s not quite as reliable. Regardless, I haven’t run into any issues with needing internet and not being able to get it. I have three different mapping applications on my phone, and all three have the ability to download maps for offline use, which is killer.


Batu Caves

This morning I packed up a bag and hopped on the KTM Komuter red line heading north for Batu Caves. The caves are sunken into a giant limestone hill, and they’re marked by the statue of the Hindu Lord Murugan:

It's the tallest statue in Malaysia and the second tallest statue of a Hindu deity in the world.

It's the tallest statue in Malaysia and the second tallest statue of a Hindu deity in the world.

There’s one main cave, two slightly lesser ones, and many smaller caves. They’re filled with various shrines and smaller statues. To get to the main cave you have to climb up a steep flight of stairs (pictured above behind Murugan). Inside the main cave there’s a series of three large caverns, each with a shrine. The second cavern has a small crevice in the roof where light peeps through, and the third has a huge opening through which the sky lights the cave. There’s also water seeping through the openings, dripping on unsuspecting heads at various points throughout the cave. There are also a few hens and pigeons scampering about.

Here are the stairs leading up to the third cavern in the main cave:

Inside the main cave.

Inside the main cave.

Along the walkway outside the caves, there are lots of temples and galleries, lots of pigeons and monkeys, and lots of restaurants. I had lunch at a small Indian café, which seemed to insist on Coca-Cola with every dish, so I had a Coke. Outside there was a blue-and-gold macaw and a sulphur-crested cockatoo perched on a branch. They clearly weren’t wild, but they weren’t exactly pets, and it struck me how colorful and shiny their feathers were.

The full Batu Caves photo album is here.