Sunday, June 24, 2012

KL: Chow Kit Market + Kampung Bharu

In the older section of town, Chow Kit, everything is a bit worn and aged and tourists rarely seem to make the trip a few Monorail stops north of KLCC.

Although we are veterans of many a sweltering SE Asian marketplace, the Wet Market on Chow Kit Road is a distinctly claustrophobic, poorly-lit maze of noxious smells set-up under a low-hanging, makeshift system of tarps and pulleys that left us reeling for the feeling of fresh air after just seconds inside.  Catering to the local Malay population for their daily needs, this is not a market for the faint of heart.  Despite the heat and stench, we pushed onwards for some unforgettable sights.

Monsters of the deep in the fish market.  A river of blood and tepid water had to be navigated around in this area.

Headless ungulates!  We hadn't encountered such carnage since Kurban Bayrami (the Sacrifice Feast) in Turkey.

Public restrooms were a much appreciated novelty for these water-guzzlers.

Roti Boom: a delicate, flaky morsel of fried bread cooked in ghee and dipped in daal.  A perfect mid-afternoon snack in the irrepressible heat.

Kampung Bharu, a Malay settlement constructed by the British around the turn of the last century to preserve traditional village life within the city.  Deserted in the afternoon heat, but supposedly lively during the evening respite.  An odd, Colonial anachronism perched on the edge of this ever-growing metropolis.

A proper street-side meltdown before heading back to the cool confines of the Pavilion Mall, escaping the blistering equatorial heat, and catching an overblown Hollywood flick:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

On the Road: Sumatra

Sumatra's internet is limited, and often unattainable, where we have been traveling these last few weeks.  So we wanted to share a few pictures of our travels while we can!  

Beaching it in Pulau Weh.

Jungle Trekking in Bukit Lawang, where we saw around 20 orangutans in the wild.

Our current location: Samosir Island in Lake Toba. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

KL: Batu Caves

A short train ride north from the city center, one departs from reality and enters a fairy tale world of towering, crepuscular limestone cave systems full of glowing Hindu shrines, amazed tourists, barefoot acolytes, and greedy macaques.  The Batu Caves are a distinctively magical place.

The great, golden Lord Murugan guards the steep stairway that leads into the caves.

The caves are the focal point of the Thaipusam Festival, which occurs each year in March and consists of devout Malaysian Hindus making a day-long journey from the city center while experiencing varying degrees of physical self-abasement, including piercing their skin with hooks and needles and dragging ornately designed floats behind them for hours on end.

Shrines painted directly onto the limestone walls.

The walls of the cave are crawling with macaques, slinking shadow-like amongst the foliage as ethereal sunlight bathes the floor of the caves.

Kuala Lumpur rises from the valley floor 13 kilometers to the south.

Beware the brigands! This wizened criminal had just snatched this bag of popcorn from an unsuspecting tourist.

A post-exploration vegetarian snack at a Jain Restaurant just outside the gates.  A relatively small, but influential and ancient Indian religion with around six million followers worldwide, Jains abstain from all animal products and even eschew root vegetables (garlic, onion, potato, etc) from their diet as they believe the cutting of roots effectively kills the plant organism.  Their beliefs are centered around compassion for all living creatures and a renunciation of worldly materials and resources.  They believe in no gods (nontheism), instead finding each individual personally responsible for leading a harmless and pacific existence steeped in asceticism and reverence for nature.

 We thoroughly enjoyed the Roti Poratta and fresh coconut juice.

To get to Batu Caves: From KL Sentral, take the KTM Komuter Train (Sentul-Port Klang) to the end of the line. Takes about 30 minutes and is a pleasant ride.  One can also grab a direct bus from Chinatown.