Saturday, June 11, 2016

A Malaysian Monkey Temple and I Ate a Stingray

Lydia wrote this post and my hilarious yet informative quips will appear in [brackets].

[We had a boat load of Marriott points that covered a large portion of our accommodations on this trip. This time we were at the Renaissance Kuala Lumpur Hotel.]

We started our day in KL’s Chinatown. On the ride there, our Uber driver was quite the conversationalist. He and John were talking about Ramadan, and when John asked how many Muslims are in Malaysia, the cab driver gave us the whole population rundown. He told us how many Filipinos, how many Indonesians, how many Indians, etc., and then told us how many foreigners there are. Um excuse me sir, I think everyone you just listed classifies as a foreigner.

He also informed us that Malaysia has nine royal families who rotate power. I’ve never heard of anything like that before. Each family is the head of a Malaysian state, so the Sultans still have jobs to do even if they aren’t ruling the whole country.

We eventually arrived at KL’s Central Market where, as we were getting out of the car, our cab driver warned us to watch for pickpockets. John and I joked that we don’t really know what we’d do if we caught a pickpocket. Elbow him in the nose? Scream and shout? Luckily the issue never presented itself.

The British originally built the Central Market building in 1888 as a wet market for KL’s citizens. The building was expanded many times, and the present day, Art Deco building was completed in 1937. It is now protected by the Malaysian Heritage Society. As far as markets go, this is a pretty nice one. There weren’t crazy shop owners yelling at us as we walked by, it was clean, and air-conditioned. An all around winner I’d say.

[Britishy people call cotton candy weird things like "candy floss" and "fairy floss" so ice floss makes sense in that context.]

We ate lunch across the street at an Indian restaurant, Restoran Yusoof dan Zakhir. John got lamb and I got honey chicken. John’s was way better.

Walking down the street, we peeked our head into a Chinese herbal medicine shop. So many strange things!

We also walked through the town square and noted the unattractive clock tower.

Around the corner we passed Masjid Jamek, KL’s oldest mosque opened in 1909. It was pretty impressive.

Of course when we passed by a McDonald’s on the next block, we had to check it out. The most interesting thing was the sign on the door stating that Muslims were not welcome during Ramadan. Womp womp.


[The sign doesn't just say Muslims aren't welcome during daylight, it says they can be prosecuted.]

They had some interesting items on the menu as well. John got a Samurai Burger, which was basically a burger smothered, and I mean smothered, in teriyaki sauce. I got a McFlurry, which I believe was date flavored, and it was delicious.

After our snack, we hopped in a car and headed for Batu Caves, one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside of India. The cave became a temple in the late 1800s when it was promoted by an Indian trader. The first thing we noticed upon arriving is the 140ft statue of Murugan, a Hindu deity, standing outside.

We also noticed the monkeys running around. They were everywhere! A man threw some bananas on the ground, and they all came running. It was funny to watch the little ones pick up a banana, and then run and hide before a bigger monkey came after them.

After we’d had enough monkey time, we climbed the 272 steep steps to the cave entrance. Inside, there were ceremonies happening at several Hindu temples. I really liked the music - it was kind of jazzy and upbeat.

[My plan for life success: "no smoking, no exercise".]

[Sri Velayuthar Swamy really rolls off the American tongue.]

I think John and I were a bit apprehensive about going to another cave after the painfully boring one we visited in Cuba, but this one did not disappoint. Monkeys and jazz music – who can complain?

As we were leaving the caves, it started raining. At first, it was just a light rain, so we found an overhang and just chilled for a while. However, the light rain didn’t last long, and before we knew it, it was down pouring, the drains started to overflow, and we got stranded on a step. It wasn’t very fun.

[In the bottom left there's this dead pigeon that is having one last adventure.]

Luckily we had Internet and were able to call an Uber to come rescue us. But even once we were in the car, I was a little afraid of being swept away in a flash flood.

We eventually made it safely to the Pullman Hotel where we’d planned to have Dim Sum for dinner. However, when we arrived, the Ramadan Buffet was set up, and we just couldn’t resist. Oh my gosh, it was by far the best buffet I’ve ever been to. Let’s start with the drinks. I had Rose milk, and John had date cordial. Holy moly!

[From right to left they had date cordial, "air bandung" which is milk flavored with rose syrup, orange cordial, and a bland-as-it-sounds soya bean. The night meal during the month of Ramadan when Muslims break fast is called Iftar. Apparently the rose flavored milk is an Iftar speciality.] 

I had sweet and sour chicken, sushi, and coconut rainbow jelly. For dessert, they had a chocolate fountain! I also got to try dragon fruit for the first time. As we were getting ready to leave, John noticed they had a shaved ice station, so of course I had to get in on that too.

[They were carving what I think was a whole lamb on a spit.]

[They even had a freaking live band. Best buffet ever!]

[My love of weird things was satisfied in a spectacular fashion. This one is "Puyuh goreng jintan or fried quail with cumin seed"].

[To avenge Steve Irwin I ate some "Asam pedas ikan pari or spicy sour stingray stew. Take that wildlife!] 

We broke Ramadan rules and ate before sunset, but it was interesting to watch everyone else. The official sunset time was 7:22, but they all started filling their plates around 6:45. Once they’d gathered a little of everything, they sat at their tables, staring at their food, with their arms crossed. We were already gone by sunset time, but I’m sure they did some sort of cheer before chowing down.

[Lydia with another weird Malaysian ice mess, some rainbow jelly, and a slice of dragon fruit.]

After dinner, it was time to head to the airport. Unfortunately, on our way there, I realized that I’d made a mistake and we were an hour late. Whoopsies. Luckily it was pretty easy to rebook for the following morning. And, lucky for us, there was a hotel inside the airport, so we didn’t have to drive all the way back to the city. Winning!

[My limited understanding is that Islam forbids the charging of interest, so banks take some convoluted measures to adhere to the strict letter of the law but still make money.]

[The airport hotel was strange because it was past immigration. So it was like my first night sleeping in no man's land. It brought to mind Tom Hanks in The Terminal.]

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