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Kuala Lumpur June 3, 2013

Posted by samrwor in Travel Log.
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The city from the Batu Caves

This past weekend started off with more adrenaline than anyone could have hoped for. Immediately after taking the final for our first class, 5 other students and myself embarked on a trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Our chosen mode of transportation was an overnight train, which turned out to be a more adventurous choice. Firstly, the train station we needed was at the very northern tip of the city, and it was not easily accessible by the MRT trains. So, for the first time, we decided to test Singapore’s bus system. As a note to all future travelers, buses (while cheap) are very difficult to figure out. Our group ended up getting off the bus about 5 km too early. Three of us were able to snag a taxi, however Mariya and myself found ourselves back on another bus. Naturally, we got off the wrong stop again, and by this time, we had 17 minutes to walk about 1.5 km, clear customs, and board the train. After sprinting with our luggage through the streets of suburban Singapore, we were able to make our 11:30 train with five minutes to spare. Fifteen minutes later, we were crossing the border, out of breath and sweating profusely.

The National Mosque

After a 12 hour train ride (the train broke down for 5 hours), we finally arrived in the city. The first thing I noticed after stepping into the train station was the number of hijabs. Before going to the country, I had done some research about proper attire, and most travel sites suggested that as long as your skirt or shorts reached mid-thigh, you would attract little unwanted attention in this predominantly Muslim country. Upon entering the station, however, it was obvious that we were the only women around with our knees showing.

Inside the National Mosque

Fortunately, no one else seemed to care, and as we ventured around town, we began seeing more and more women wearing knee length shorts and mid-thigh length shorts. Still, I would estimate that approximately 80% of the women that I saw during the day were wearing hijabs with either pants or floor length skirts coupled with long sleeve shirts. The nightlife, however, was an entirely different story. After about 9pm, the ratio seemed to switch, and probably 80% of the women I saw wore clothing that most western women would wear in 90 degree weather. Short shorts, tank tops, and short skirts were everywhere. Oddly enough, I even saw women dressed in outfits that rivaled the worst I’ve seen in the Dirty South. It left me wondering where all these people were hiding during the day.

The Batu Caves

During our days there, we spent time sight seeing, shopping, and wandering around the city center. My two favorite sites were the National Mosque and the Batu Caves. The Mosque was a beautifully designed modern building, with many fountains and open air spaces. The Batu Caves, while a tad touristy, were impressive in size. Inside the main cave was a Hindu Temple, and while climbing the 274 steps to get there, we ran into monkeys for the first time.

Of course, after seeing the sights, we decided to hit the markets. The two main ones we visited were Chinatown and Central Market. Both offered very different environments and goods. In Chinatown, there were tons of knock off items available, from Prada to Ray Bans to Beats headphones. The area was always incredibly crowded, and vendors moved in and out of the crowds heckling their goods and services. My favorite phrase I heard came from a man trying to sell foot massages. In an attempt to get one of my friends attention, he shouted “You are really, really white!”.

Hindu temple at the bottom of the cave

Central Market was a different story. There, the vendors were less aggressive, and the goods were primarily authentic and regional products. This was the place  to find inexpensive yet relatively high quality items, such as pashmina scarves, wood carvings from Borneo, and vibrant clothing stores.

At the end of a relaxing weekend, we all headed home on the overnight train once more. By the time we got to the University, we had about 30 minutes to shower before rushing off to the first class of our next module. Such is life during study abroad; lots of hard work filled with amazing adventures!

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