To the Batu cave Batman!!

What a sleep!! My hotel was so quiet and peaceful, temperature was perfect, I slept like a baby. I didn’t want the morning to come!! But alas I woke up before my alarm.

I showered in my awesome shower and packed up my things. I checked out and shortly after my taxi driver showed up. Loaded my things up and off we went….into traffic. I had expected traffic and I was right. But it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Took about 25 minutes instead of the 15 without traffic.

But I made it!! The Batu caves in front of me, along with a whole lot of stairs!!

Like a whole bunch. But I was ready. By the way, this place was free. I don’t know how they do that. They take donations, but no demanded prices. I started my climb and encountered my first monkey!! And she had a baby!! Ugh so cute!! Many people were barefoot (as some believed the whole site is sacred) and others just removed them before they entered any of the temples at the top. Lots of people were also stopping multiple times, smart people they are. I stopped once to take a picture of the monkey.

Once you arrive at the top, after a ton of stairs, you are greeted by some stairs that decend into the cave to a wide open area, followed by some more stairs up!!

The place is just a marvel. More than the beauty, the sheer energy required to build and maintain this site is incredible. And they are currently working on it. I can’t tell if they are just completely redoing the temples inside or if they are building new. But regardless, bricks, sand, tools, etc need to be lugged up all those steps.as do the snacks, gifts and beverages available at the top.

I spent some time at the top, enjoying the caves, watching the guys work on the new temple. They have to work barefoot as it’s considered sacred. That would just never fly in the states and yet, I just feel like they were probably safe and used to it. I also watched monkeys interact with each other and humans. Very demanding animal, and yet so smart. And also cute.

At 10am the Dark Cave opened for tourists. It’s about 4/5 of the way up to Batu cave. I was watching all the monkeys enjoy the litter left by tourists and any crumbs they could find inside. One monkey grabbed a sour cream and onion Pringles tin. He carried it up the light pole with him and then chucked it down to the ground. As I passed the monkeys I got a quick selfie, and headed to the Dark Cave.

The Dark Cave wasn’t on any “to do” list I saw, but it was in the side of the “mountain” so I figured why not. What I didn’t know was how educational and interesting this would be, and also a bit creepy.

I paid 35 ringgit (~$9) for a 45 minute tour of this Dark Cave. While waiting I read some of the signage around and found out There is a 4 hour tour, sounded like spelunking, and it was so intense they provide showers at the end so you can get cleaned up before you go back into public!! Sadly this wasn’t an option for me. There were 8 of us in my little group. We were given hard hats and flashlights and a guide to head into the very, very dark cave.

There was a 1 meter wide concrete path leading through the cave.

Our guide was very good, humor, learning and being social – great traits of a good guide. She told is about how the caves came to be, the history of them, the 200,000 bats that live in the (yikes!!), spiders, bugs, etc.

You couldn’t use flashes or point your flashlight on the ceiling, as not to bother the bats (fine with me!!)

It was about a 45 minute tour and after I had to race back down the gazillion steps to my taxi driver. He was right there where he dropped me off and we headed to the airport.

He had a natural gas vehicle (lots of then in KL), and since we were early he stopped at the airport gas station to fill up before he dropped me off. There was a Dunkin Donuts at the gas station – I couldn’t believe it!!

Once at the airport I took my time checking out the pre-check in area. I ventured back to Garretts popcorn (yes, The famous Chicago popcorn) and got a Chicago mix.

I checked my bag and headed through customs. Literally easiest thing ever.

Once through I got some food (chicken curry, it sucked) And realized my plane was boarding and had about a 10 minute walk to my gate. What I didn’t know was that I also had to go through security. So that aded to my time. They instructed me to take off my watch and bracelet and I was shocked. But in my normal I-dont-follow-rules-well attitude I just put them in my pocket. No alarms, as I assumed. They also let me pass with a 50% full water bottle.

I hustled to my gate, just to hear it was delayed 45 minutes. All that rushing for no reason. So I headed back to spend the last bit of money I had. They had a fresh Famous Amos cookie company, and duh, I had to get them. Yummy!!

I got the “hot seat” again, nice final Air Asia flight. Middle seat was open again !! Woohoo!! Quick 1 hour flight to Singapore. Uneventful.

When I got to Singapore, I was just in awe. Like the airport was gorgeous!! Immigration was super easy, 1 minute queue. I got my bag and just left the airport. I grabbed a Grab and headed on my way. It was about a 25 minute ride to my hotel. Once we got here I realized this ride needed cash, and I didn’t have any!! I was in such awe at the airport I didn’t even think of getting cash. My driver was a bit upset, but I had a $20 bill from the states and he accept that and gave me change. I was so lucky.

I’m staying at the Hilton Garden Inn here, its in little India. And it’s no joke, it’s like India!! Smells of curry and flowers.

I ventured out to find food. The sky looked like it was going to open any second.  I found a little food alley and in true Laura fashion managed to find an Italian place. So I had pizza again.

After dinner I headed back to my hotel. Ate some Garretts and relaxed. Gotta figure out what to do tomorrow – they have a universal studios here, it’s only $40 to get in. I may go. Not sure yet. I’m meeting Lam tomorrow for drinks, looking forward to seeing my friend in another country!!

Kuala Lumpur – not koala bears….

Man,

Today has been long and I lost an hour traveling, so it’s even earlier than I’m used to, but I’m just beat!!

My morning started at like 430am, had to get to the airport, which was about a 45 minute drive. The hotel (and pretty much everyone I talked to) said to get to the airport 2 hours early. My first piece of advice, if you ever find yourself leaving Thailand through Krabi, 1.5 hours is more than enough. I spent 20 minutes just waiting to queue in the security line. Once it was finally open it was a breeze. But let me tell you, you can tell the EU and American travelers. They try to take off their clothes and all the crap in their bags. Security just stared. This girl from the EU dumped her water, took everything out of her bag and finally went through. No one else did that. So neither did I. My water bottle was full of water. They could care less. They just want to make sure you don’t have a gun?? I’m actually not even sure what they are looking for.

I flew Air Asia again (by the end of the trip I may have a free flight, unless I can transfer the points to American). Their international planas are nice!! More leg room, newer seats!!

And apparently not many people take the morning flight cuz the middle seat was open, And there were many empty rows. It was a quick 1.5 hour flight to a new country, Malaysia.

I landed and saw Uber ads all over the airport, I was so excited!! Once I opened Uber it said it was no longer available and I had to use Grab. I knew that was coming. Anyway, used Grab got a car assigned. After 22 minutes the car hadn’t moved and the driver wasn’t responding. So I canceled. Called another one, got assigned and after 5 minutes he said he was blocked in. So I canceled him. The third driver was assigned and after a minute said he was blocked in and would go look for the other driver. He never found him. So I gave up on Grab and went to the taxi stand. The guy I got was so nice. We talked about the city, and what I was going to do. He even offered to come tomorrow and take me to the airport for the same price. I then talked him into taking me to the Batu caves before the airport. So he said, ok 150 ringgit (roughly $35). So for $35 he’s going to drive me 30 minutes north to the Batu caves, wait for me, then drive me the 1.25 hours back to the airport. I like taxis here!!

The airport is like an hour out of the city, I honestly feel like that was a poor design decision, until I was entering the city, they literally have no room. I feel like 1 in every 5 apartment/flat buildings was well over 25 stories, usually with a twin tower right next to it.

My hotel is nice. It’s 2 years old, and a 15 minute walk from the towers. I paid $57 for a basic room, but was given an upgrade to the suite!! I was even early for check in by 2 hours and they let me have my room. This room is on orbitz for $144. So I’ll call it a win. I should have waited a day to do laundry though, cuz it has a washer/dryer combo for free in my room!!

I dropped my stuff off and headed out to the towers. The Petronas towers are the office towers for Petronas, an oil and gas company. On my walk over there I passed a ton of food places and a hop on hop off bus. None of the food was Malaysian, so I passed. I inquired about the tour, But wanted to do the towers first.

The towers are pretty cool, tallest twin towers in the world. You get to go to the bridge between the two towers and then up to the 86th floor on one of them. They finished them in 2.5 years. Two general contractors, One from Japan and one from Korea. I enjoyed my time, but would have loved more construction information on it.

They are also 90% done with the core of another tower called the Signature tower. It will be 40 meters taller than the twin towers. That tallest building title won’t hold long for signature tower though,because another building is being built that will be 117 meters taller than that one!! It’s only in the footings stage right noe, But by 2022 it will hold the tallest building in Malaysia title.

After the towers I found the bus stop for the hop on hop off bus. This is usually my favorite way to see the city, it drops you off eight at the places you want to go!! And it was only about $16 for the 24 hour ticket.

They said it was about a 2.5 hour ride. I decided to ride it and then eat after. There were 23 stops. After an hour, we’d only made it to 5 stops. So I gave up at stop 9, walked around for a bit, and found stop 17 and got back on to ride to near my hotel. It took another hour. By this time I was starving….so I decided to eat whatever was closest. Italian!!

I had an Italian pizza for dinner. I couldn’t help it. I was starving, so I ordered the 4 cheese pizza and was in heaven. I ate the whole thing. Since I didn’t eat lunch and had only had a banana for breakfast it seemed reasonable to me.

I grabbed an ice cream and a Gatorade and came back to the hotel. It was by far the hottest day of the trip so far, I know I didn’t drink enough today so I’m sure that had something to do with it as well.

I’m looking forward to the Batu caves to hike up the 330 stairs to the temple on top.

Malaysia is a hodgepodge of people and religions. Many people are Muslim, but I’ve also seen temples and churches. The tour said everyone takes pride in that here, that they all can get along.

I’ll do the caves then head to the airport for my final stop of Singapore!

Bangkok: Day 2

As was so accurately pointed out to me, I did not explain why I am in Bangkok. I have set out on a two week holiday in Southeast Asia. Ill be spending most of my time in Thailand, followed by a few days in Malaysia and ending the trip in Singapore. I decided on SE Asia because originally I had hoped of doing Vietnam with my dad, but that wasn’t going to be a reality this year, so I decided to check out other options and heard great things about Thailand. I added Malaysia and Singapore because of the close proximity to Thailand.

As was so accurately pointed out to me, I did not explain why I am in Bangkok. I have set out on a two week holiday in Southeast Asia. Ill be spending most of my time in Thailand, followed by a few days in Malaysia and ending the trip in Singapore. I decided on SE Asia because originally I had hoped of doing Vietnam with my dad, but that wasn’t going to be a reality this year, so I decided to check out other options and heard great things about Thailand. I added Malaysia and Singapore because of the close proximity to Thailand.

So far Bangkok has not disappointed. Everything is covered in gold. Ok, maybe not everything, but everything important. From the temples to Budha to the palace to roof tiles. The city glistens. It also is very dirty and depressing with the thousands of shanty like houses to run down apartment buildings. And you can’t not see these things. Unlike other big cities that attempt to hide their low income areas, this city does not. And I appreciate that.

I decided to walk from my hotel to the Golden Mount. It was about a 3 mile walk, in 90* heat. Doing this allowed me to see so much more of the city than a vehicle would have. I passed by the hospital, a dozen temples (they really are everywhere), ended up walking down tiny little alley ways where I was not only the only white person, but at some points the only person in the alley.

And then, boom there it was. The Golden peak of the temple. I managed to find a back entrance because of Google maps, and it was super neat to walk through the monk’s quarters. Women are absolutely not allowed to touch the Monk. You cannot even brush up next to them. If a monk wants to hand a woman something they set it down and the woman picks it up. I stay clear of bumping into the Monks I see, don’t want to cause any unnecessary disrepsect.

I made the 344 stair climb to the top of the Golden Mount and had a beautiful 360 degree view of the city. I took my time (as advised by many other travel blogs) and managed to enjoy the climb even in the heat. There are bells and gongs you can ring and beautiful views to stop and take in. I was following these two girls  from China (crazy enough I can somewhat distinguish the Chinese and Japanese from other Asian countries, I just  can’t tell those two apart!) Anyway, all of a sudden I realized they wanted to take a picture with me. So one by one they took a picture with me. I laughed and held up a peace sign. They were so excited.  Once I took in the views, Bangkok has some pretty cool architecture (modern) that puts Salesforce tower in SF to shame (tallest building I’ve worked on). I decided to treat myself to a frozen treat and drink. Sadly they had no water on top!! I couldn’t believe it. So I settled for a lemon lime/cola frozen treat and a Sprite. All for less than $1.50!

After Golden Mount I headed to the see some smaller sites on my way to the Emerald Budha. I saw two more temples. The first one was a temple that held 52 of something. For the life of me I can’t remember the word, essentially they were Golden worshippers all facing Budha.

The second temple was in honor of a famous Thai poet. It was actually a pretty boring temple as far as gaudiness on the inside, but it had stairs to walk up to the rooftop and get another 360 degree view of the city. At that height you were about some of the peaks on the temple and could really see the detail that has been put into making and keeping things colorful.

I realized I should probably stop and eat something so I ventured to where Google highly recommended. Apparently many people had my idea though. I waited about 15 minutes for a seat, and once I ordered I waited about 30 minutes for my food. But I was not complaining at all!! I had a glass of ice water, air conditioning and my Kindle (Heidi, this is seriously like my most used gift ever!!). I ordered crab stir fry and it came with some rice. It was super yummy!! I figured it would be a more expensive meal, and it was even cheaper than dinner!! Ringing up to around $6.50. I had read before I came that they give you a spoon and fork to eat with. And that you should use the fork to put food on the spoon and eat with the spoon. I am a firm believer in spoons being for ice cream, yogurt and cereal….but when in Thailand…

Well fed, rehydrated and slathered with sun screen I continued my now very hot walk to the Emerald Budha. There was little shade on my route, but I did manage to find some under an awning when I was taking a picture of the giant swing. (apparently Thai boys used to ceremoniously swing on this swing and try to reach for a pot of gild, stand remains actual swing is gone).

The Thai tourist industry in Bangkok revolves around getting you on a long boat for a tour. This Thai lady noticed I was a tourist and asked where I was going while waiting to cross the street. I told her and she insisted that it was closed today and that I should take a boat tour. I told her I already had and immediately she walked away. I was sad to hear it was closed, but to my very happy surprise it was not!! The Emerald Budha is at the Grand palace grounds. As I was entering a lady (Cindy) came up and offered me a tour for 1000 baht. Roughly $35, for a one hour tour of the grounds. This didn’t include the 500 baht entrance fee. (everywhere else had been 50 baht, about $1.75). I decided since I didn’t know anything about what I have been seeing and the translations haven’t been good, I would pay Cindy and hope to learn something. She gave me a wrap to put around my waist as this is the most strict temple as far as dress code. Normally my shorts are long enough but not the case here. She wrapped me up and on our way we went. She walked with authority, didn’t care if she walked in front of someone’s picture, if she hit them in the head with her umbrella or talked too loud. I learned a lot about the temple, the palace and the Grand Palace (yes two palaces). I also learned that Clinton and Bush have stayed in the palace and that the current king lives in neither one.

At the end of the tour Cindy tried to get me on a damn long boat again. But she was super respectful of the fact I’d already been on one and encouraged me to save time and money by taking the water taxi back to my hotel. She guided me on how to get there and we parted ways.

I took a tuk tuk to the dock and hopped on a river crossing boat to get to my water taxi. I spent less than $0.10 to cross the river and $0.50 for my 20 minute water taxi back to the bridge near my hotel.

I walked the 10 minutes back to my hotel and was so happy to sit in air conditioning again, I just sat in the lobby for like 20 minutes before I grabbed my taxi to the airport. My taxi driver wanted to take my picture – I must be an odd looking white girl, since I’ve had my picture taken like I’m an attraction today!!

I got to the airport and realized I’d be arriving to my hotel after I’d be comfortable walking around so I had dinner at the airport. My meal was 60 baht ($2) and my water was $0.30, but I also wanted something sweet so I got a blueberry muffin. The muffin was $3!! More than my meal and water. But it was like a blueberry pound cake with the blueberry compote in the middle, good investment I say.

My one hour and 15 minute flight was tight. The rows are so close together. But crazy enough the seats are wider here. They also won’t let you use electronics during take off and landing, super annoying. I didn’t even make it through a 40 minute show. I saw a lightening storm from the sky, that was pretty spectacular.

I landed grabbed my bag and headed to catch my ride to the hotel.  Cute little hotel. Hard bed, which I like, and some much needed rest.