One of our first real “tourist excursions” in Kuala Lumpur was to Batu Caves. Like I mentioned in my post a few weeks ago, we had been urged to go visit in our first couple of weeks in country because an internationally known Hindu festival was taking place. We ended up deciding not to go during Thaipusam, and personal beliefs aside, we were glad we skipped the crowded festival because we couldn’t imagine visiting this place when there are a million (!) other visitors there with you. With a little extra space to breathe and explore though, it was a really fascinating introduction to Malaysian landscape and culture.
We arrived mid-morning and the sun was already blazing. We meandered in slowly, taking in the bright colors and clusters of people. Tourists and devotees alike were wandering around snapping selfies and checking out the stalls along the open square. Since we weren’t really interested in doing either, we headed straight for the stairs leading up to the caves.
We arrived mid-January and immediately felt at home in the city. I couldn’t get enough of the heat; Tyler surprisingly acclimated. Tyler couldn’t get enough of the food; I found some favorites myself. And both of us were immediately smitten with our two new animal charges. These pups were adorable and just as snuggly as I was anticipating. Our homeowner graciously took us around town in the week before she departed, showing us all her favorite malls, restaurants, and cafés. She also introduced us to an ecological nonprofit where we ended up volunteering weekly, getting our hands dirty in soil and community.
We stayed for a total of three months, a shocking quarter of our year abroad. We felt both at rest and in constant motion. I soaked up the heat radiating off the streets, driveway, houses, like a chameleon sunning myself on a giant rock. But I also took in a lot of the city from behind tinted windows, in a blessed cloud of air conditioning, as we were chaffered in the back of countless Ubers. And as we rode along, I studied the streets we zipped through.
I liked the stained cement walls, the dilapidated fences, the crumbling sidewalks. And I especially liked how the jungle seemed to be fighting back against the encroaching civilization of its land. Green fingers stretching and creeping over any corner of construction they could claim. Kuala Lumpur was a place in which I felt deeply at home, despite the many daily occurrences that reminded me there was so much foreign here.