Cameron Highlands and Melaka
Trip Start Jul 11, 2006
47Trip End Mar 16, 2007
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I stopped back in KL again, using this stay to check out the giant Batu Caves. These 120m high caves just outside of the city are accessed via a long and precipitous flight of stairs and are impressive in themselves but are made more so by the presence of a huge golden statue of the Hindu deity, Lord Murugan (see photo) next to the steps. The upper caves are in fact a Hindu shrine and are infamous for hosting Malaysia's annual Kavadhi piercing and mutilation ceremony. This ceremony, attended by upwards of a million people over two days in late January, is a form of Hindu pilgrimage on which pilgrims pierce their face and body with metal pins and hooks as a sign of their devotion. Pretty grim stuff but an impressive sight I'm sure. We also managed to get on an hour-long tour of Batu's less-visited Dark Caves. Our affable, talkative and slightly batty (no pun intended) guide took us several hundred metres into huge, dank caverns for a lesson in geology, to see the dwelling place of several hundred thousand bats of various species and for the surreal experience of complete light deprivation.
From KL, I travelled south to Melaka a characterful and colourful town on the main road to Singapore. Melaka has suffered a string of colonial rulers including the Spanish, Dutch and English
I head off to Singapore tomorrow. I have thoroughly enjoyed my Malaysian jaunt. The people are friendly and courteous (and i encountered no scams), the culture is diverse and interesting, the prices are almost silly (Rhys and I went for a slap-up Middle-Eastern at one of the best Lebanese restaurant on my last KL evening and despite stuffing ourselves to bursting point with delicious food, the bill still only came to less than GBP15 for both of us!) and the country is packed with enough sights, sounds and experiences to keep a traveller entertained for many weeks. I would love to visit Malaysian Borneo but fear it will have to be on another sabbatical:>
One thing that continues to puzzle me about Malaysian culture, however, is why English appears to be promoted so forcefully and ubiquitously here. The taxi drivers all listen to English language radio stations, the majority of advertising is in English, most sign posting is in English, the book shops seem to sell only English language products and yet most Malaysians i talked to only had a rudimentary understanding of English. Most odd.