After a fairly rum nights sleep and a 3am dump in some bushes we drove across the 13Km long bridge to Penang Island and up to the city of Georgetown. This was where Captain Francis Light first set foot in 1791 paving the way for British colonisation of Malaya through the East India Company. The city still has many building from that era but they are not particulary noteworthy or well maintained. After visiting Fort Cornwallis, the old clock tower, some churches and the museum, Georgetown was pretty much covered in terms of tourist interest so we left on Tuesday morning for Kuala Lumpur.
We arrived in the city at 7pm and ended up doing a long tour of the city trying to find somewhere suitable to park. We eventually wound up in an industrial estate after getting in contact with a guy called Albert who had read about our trip in Land Rover Monthly and kindly offered to help us out. We arranged to meet up with him on Thursday which gave us Wednesday to explore the city.
In the morning we relocated the Landy to a more suitable location near a huge mosque and headed out on foot to see the sights. A walking tour of the city centre brought us to some mosques, a Hindu temple, China town, central market and of course the Petronas towers. Formerly the highest buildings in the world (until Taiwan built a tower with an extra few metres), the Petronas towers are now the highest twin towers in the world and do make an impressive sight. The free tour up to the connecting bridge isn’t that great though because the bridge is only 170 odd metres off the ground.
Kuala Lumpur turned out to be a nice, clean, modern city but doesn’t have that much to interest a tourist unless they are into shopping. There are a huge number of shopping malls here, overflowing with any consumer item you can name. Luckily though, we had arrived in time for an exciting event - Thaipusam. This Hindu festival commemorates the birthday of the Hindu deity Lord Murugan. Devotees prepare for the celebration by cleansing themselves through prayer and fasting. On the day of the festival, devotees shave their heads undertake a pilgrimage along a set route while engaging in various acts of devotion, notably carrying various types of kavadi (burdens). At its simplest this may entail carrying a pot of milk, but mortification of the flesh by piercing the skin, tongue or cheeks with vel skewers is also common. The most spectacular practice is the vel kavadi, essentially a portable altar up to two meters tall, decorated with peacock feathers and attached to the devotee through 108 vels pierced into the skin on the chest and back. The congested train ride to the Batu caves where the event takes place was a pain but when we got there it was pretty cool. A typical Indian festival, its was dirty, overcrowded and squalid but also a unique and exciting spectacle. The huge crush of people walking up the steps to the cave, with the smog of burning incense and the lunatic vel kavadi carriers, some of whom were in an ecstatic trance was a great experience. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. Afterwards, we headed back into town and met up with Albert who arranged a place for us to stay at his brothers house.
On Friday morning, we met the president of Alberts Land Rover club, Vicash. Since the engine had been giving us trouble in the mornings by refusing to start unless it was given a good coat of start pilot we needed to find a decent mechanic to sort it out once and for all. Vicash recommended a guy and we drove it up there to leave it in his capable hands while we checked out the shopping centres and saw Babel at the cinema (it is nice to be back in civilisation sometimes).
On Saturday, we took the Landy for a test drive but it was clear that further work was needed. The rest of Saturday and Sunday was spent bumming around catching up on some reading. On Monday, the car will be back in the garage for further work so we may be in Kuala Lumpur for some time.
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Dwyer Rooney's excellent blog from our London to Sydney Adventure