Last week, I posted about lots of great sights in Kuala Lumpur and how much I enjoyed my visit there. I was a little too excited and too verbose about it. So I left a few great sights to share this week: Thean Hou Temple, Batu Caves, and FRIM.
The Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) was quite possibly my favorite place in KL, and that’s a big title considering how much I liked the rest! I had to go twice, actually. The first time, the canopy walkway was closed (it’s only open from 9.30 to 2.30 and it’s closed on Mondays and Fridays) but I signed up for a ticket for the next day and headed over to the Batu caves, which is actually a short taxi ride away. The canopy walkway is in the Bukit Lagong Forest Reserve. The reserve is for tropical forestry research and was founded in 1929. The canopy walkway (I’d say the main draw) was built in 1992 for studying the forest’s flora and fauna.
You probably want to get a taxi from the commuter train to the main buildings inside of FRIM. It was a long walk from the entrance to the park to the attractions inside—canopy walk, various gardens, and picnic grounds. On my second visit, I went up to the canopy walk. It was a cool jungle hike past massive green leaves and vines hanging down from immensely tall trees. It was really cool. Then the canopy walk itself was also amazing. There are rope walkways between landings attached to the trunks of some of the bigger trees. It was cool to be up in the canopy’s treetops and look out through the branches of the forest. It was a really neat perspective because it’s unnatural for a human to be up so high. To me it was strangely like flying. I loved feeling so light and high. The other visitors clearly loved it too. Then back to a dusty trail, a different way down the hill.
Batu caves is likely the best known sight in Kuala Lumpur. It’s actually in Gombak Selangor, a short komuter train ride away (get off at Batu Caves Komuter station, costing RM 2 for a one-way journey from KL Sentral). Batu caves is built on a 400-year old limestone hill and is named for the nearby Batu River (Sungai Batu). The most famous cave is the temple cave/cathedral cave, which is 272 steps up the hill. The cave is one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside of India (according to Wikipedia). It is dedicated to Lord Murugan, and the 140 foot statue of him shines brightly against the hill. Look out for monkeys! The taxi driver who took me there from FRIM said the monkeys love shiny things so watch out for your camera and any jewelry or sunglasses! The big statue was cool to see and culturally the caves were a very cool, significant sight. There were lots of colorful statues and saris to see. After the walk up the steps, you go through a long cave with statues and displays on either side and then up a few more steps to the cathedral cave, which is open on top. It’s cool to peer up and out at the sky. I usually think of caves being deep inside of a rock, and dark and eerie, but this one was nice and light and full of monkeys.
Tian Hou Temple (天后宫) is back in town. It’s a nice new Chinese temple which actually only opened in 1989. It is dedicated to the Goddess Tian Hou (the Heavenly Mother). Wikipedia says there are elements of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism all present at the temple. Outside, there are some large colorful statues of the animals from the Chinese zodiac. When you enter, you must climb the steps to the 3rd floor, where the temple is located (a large event hall and vendors are on the other floors on the way). The temple itself was architecturally very cool. There were lots of intricate creative details on the pillars, pointed curved roofs, and walls. I almost didn’t even know where to look! I walked up and over the top of the building first, getting up close and personal with some of the roof embellishments, like dragons and pheasants. Then I went back to the front of the main building. I lit some incense outside and watched the smoke. Next I entered the ornate temple. The statue in the center is Tian Hou. On either side, there are two other enormous statues. All of them were beautifully crafted and dressed immaculately. I admired them for a bit then decided I wanted to know my fortune. I took the large cylindrical cup of numbered sticks and shook it until one fell out. Then I went over to a little cabinet of numbered drawers and found the one that matched my number. I took a little slip of paper out and read my fortune.
[I remember having done the same fortune telling technique in Hong Kong as well, at a temple famous for it’s 80? Fortune tellers. There, they told me my life will be “medium.” At the time I thought, they could at least sugar coat it a little—tell me it will be good! Then I thought, wait, what if that is the improved version already and my life won’t even be medium! You never know with those fortune tellers…]
After the main temple hall, I checked out the pleasant grounds- Chinese Medicinal Herbs Garden, a Wishing Well, a Tortoise Pond. The temple seems to be a place for community as well- qi gong, t’ai chi and wushu classes, Buddhist prayer classes, marriage registration and lots of special celebrations for cultural events, like Tian hou’s birthday, Chinese New Year, and Mooncake festival.
KL is such an interesting place- full of different cultures, fun sights, and good food. If you have a chance, definitely check out KL!