We left the hotel at 7:15 in order to make the 8 am bus to Kuala Lumpur. This time the girls had also been assigned a room in Sri Emas as well, so we met downstairs in the lobby. Unfortunately, when the ticket window at the bus station opened around 7:30, they informed us that there were no longer four tickets to be had on the early bus and that we would need to catch the 10 am bus instead. This gave us a chance to have a nice leisurely breakfast at a restaurant which abutted the bus yard and then to wander around downtown Jerantut a bit, something that we had not really done very much. Since we were not about to carry our luggage around with us, we took shifts keeping an eye on it while the other three people explored town. Becky got first watch and Zach soon headed off by himself while Ade and I walked to a Buddhist temple that was on a hill overlooking downtown. Ade, being out religious studies representative, was most interested in visiting the local places of worship. I had designed the trip to consist of two roughly equal parts- the first of which I termed “Welcome to the Jungle,” and the second of which I called “Serenity Now.” With our jungle adventures now at an end, it was time to focus more on the spiritual locales of Southeast Asia. The temple clearly had some Chinese influences- it was brightly colored and had Chinese lanterns hanging from the eves of one of its buildings. There was also a statue of Guan-yin, the bodhisattva known as the Goddess of Mercy, in a prominent position overlooking the steps which led up to the temple complex. After leaving the temple, we found ourselves amidst the stalls of the busy Jerantut marketplace, which seemed to be offering up just about anything for sale. Since we were down to less than a dollar’s worth of ringgits by that time, I wasn’t particularly interested in shopping, so I went to relieve Becky on luggage watch so she could wander around the markets with Ade.
We pulled out of Jerantut at 10, heading in the opposite direction of Taman Negara. The bus left a little to be desired in that its suspension seemed to be completely shot. Although it was fine looking on the outside- as it moved along the road the bus chassis bobbed back and forth, back and forth. Every time the bus would turn, stop, or start again, this movement was even more pronounced as we would lurch in a particualar direction. We stopped in Temerloh, a town of 150,000 about halfway to K.L., for about 20 minutes, but by 1 pm we found ourselves at the main bus station in K.L. Our first order of business was to find a money changer, which we did without any difficulty. Once we were back in the money, we were able to afford the $3 cab fare to Chinatown. Wheelers Guest House was in an excellent location in K.L., if not a bit of a strange one. To get into the hostel, one had to squeeze past a food kiosk and climb a set of stairs that looked like they belonged in one of the “Saw” movies. Surprisingly, a few flights up the stairwell it became tastefully decorated in a Chinese theme and soon a set of large aquarium tanks became visible through a doorway. We checked into our sparsely furnished room and then immediately left for the Batu Caves.
If there was one thing that I wanted to see in K.L., it was the Hindu temples which were built within a large cavern just north of town. We had a nice lunch in Chinatown before walking to the K.L. train station and boarding a “Komuter” train to the caves. The 20-minute train ride was quite pleasant-the Komuter line was much nicer than the intercity train that we had been on- with plush seats and robust air conditioning. By 3 pm we found ourselves at the entrance to the Batu Caves. The entrance is not difficult to find as it has a 140 foot tall statue of Lord Murugan, reportedly the largest in the world, standing besides the 272 steps which lead up to the cave mouth. It is unclear exactly how many statues of Murugan were in the running for this designation, but the golden statue is impressive nonetheless. The caves themselves, in additional to the whole area leading up to them from the train station, was inhabited by troops of monkeys. We tried not to seem too threatening to the monkeys as we wandered past them. Some people were feeding them bananas, which certainly got their attention. The centermost part of the caves, the Cathedral Cave, is at the bottom of a cave shaft that extends upwards for over 300 feet. We could see monkeys climbing the sheer sides of the shaft hundreds of feet above us as they inched toward the circle of sunlight. We visited the various temples and shrines that were found in the caves and then spent some time in a temple which was just at the foot of the very long staircase.
On the train ride back to the city, we decided to get off at the main train station in town, K.L. Sentral. We wanted to scope out the station some since we had to return the following afternoon to catch our intercity train back to Singapore. Outside the station, we wandered around until we found ourselves in Little India. The girls wanted to shop for harem pants in the surrounding shops, so Zach and I explored the area together. During this time, we scouted out a restaurant that looked like it served authentic Indian food. Later, when we had led the girls there, we found out how authentic it really was. “Do you have any menus?” we asked our waiter. He indicated that he did not. “Can you tell us what you have to eat?” we asked. Our waiter couldn’t really do that either- he spoke little to no English. He then went on to describe some thing to us in a language we could not identify to which I replied, “Sure- I’ll have that.” Becky asked if he had chapati and beans- he seemed to understand that, while Zach and Ade asked for fried rice. I think I ended up with a kati roll, I’m not quite sure.
It was raining when we finished eating so we dropped another $3 on a taxi ride to our hostel. The rooms did not have windows that opened to the outside, only out to the hallway which formed the shape of a U behind the front desk. Luckily, we had oscillating fans in the rooms to bring some of the cooler air from the hallway into our somewhat stuffy rooms. I flopped down on my bed and went right to sleep.