My first impression of Kuala Lumpur was a concerning one- eating breakfast at a sidewalk cafe and spotting the distinctive bright orange and black camo fatigues of the pervasive and influential Indonesian paramilitary group, Pemuda Pancasila, which I knew of from the incredible, horrifying documentary The Act of Killing. Like Indonesia, Malaysia is an Islamic nation. From what I saw, it’s a fairly open-minded and economically developed one, but clearly one with some concerning influences on national politics.
My next stop, Batu Caves, is revered by Hindus and Buddhists, showed the more religiously tolerant side of the country. The cave itself was only discovered in the 1860s, and didn’t become a shrine until well after that, opening to the public in the 1970s. I’m not entirely sure how it ended up being a Hindu holy place considering its recent history, but it’s obviously an important religious location, with multiple temples and a massive golden statue of Hindu god Murugan.
The caves themselves are impressive, high-ceiling limestone formations, and in addition to the temple cave you can take a “Dark Cave Tour” by flashlight in a neighboring and even larger cave system full of interesting and unique wildlife. In fact, they claim to be the most studied caves in the world, which makes sense considering the presence of the rarest spider in the world, a unique 9 foot climbing snake (nope, didn’t see that guy), and flatworms that are infinitely divisible whose stem cells excite scientists thinking they may yield medicinal breakthroughs.
*Felonious, dickish monkeys
After that I headed back to city center to take in the architecture and explore a bit.
I ended up catching a movie there to kill some time until nightfall (Riddick… kinda terrible). The theater was as good as you’ll find anywhere, pretty cheap ($4.50) and sporting some pretty hardcore caramel corn. The film itself was censored, but in typical MPAA fashion, for nudity, not violence (even the ultra-violent Kick Ass 2 was showing there).
Exiting the theater, I headed straight for the Petronas Towers, infamous in Chicago for stealing the Sears (sorry… Willis… pfft) Tower’s crown as the tallest in the world (since blown away by the Burj Khalifa). This thoroughly unique double-tower is truly one of the most impressive buildings I’ve ever seen, especially completely lit up at night. Again, I’ll let the pictures do the talking: