24th October 2011
Feeling rather damp we awoke and breakfasted. Whilst the boys watched Rio we packed up the rucksacks and then we were off to pastures new – Step Inn guest house on Jalan Pudu Lama, just across the road a bit from Ribbon Stayzz. Altogether more peaceful, family-orientated and above all, dry! We got the family room with a double bed and bunk above, and another bunk bed meaning that we all had a bed to sleep in, and Tania and I could sleep together for the first time in ages! The only issue to overcome was who would sleep above Mum & Dad, and equitable as ever, we put a rota system in place for the prized sleeping position.
Unpacked and settled in we headed out into the big city intending to tour the Lake Gardens. Changing our minds we went instead to Bukit Nana, a forestry park containing examples of trees and plants, and the odd snake, lizard and scorpion! In the event of rain, the signs advised getting out of the forest as soon as possible as the various creatures were liable to come out of hiding at the first hint of a shower. Yikes! We spent a happy couple of hours exploring the paths and trees before, inevitably, it started to rain. Fortunately we were close to an exit when this happened, and the only wildlife we saw was a troupe of monkeys eating leaves in the canopy above our heads.
From Bukit Nana – so named because Pineapple trees had been planted around the summit in order to fortify the position of the occupying forces – we walked to the Tourist Office and then on to Petronus towers and finally back to the hotel via Jalan Bukit Bintang, a bustling street full of shopping malls and massage parlours, and a few pretty ladies that the boys were amazed to discover were actually men! If they’re shocked now, just wait until Bangkok!! We ate at a little Indian restaurant just around the corner from the hotel which served Roti (not spicy) and vegetable curry (pretty spicy) on banana leaves with a Dahl sauce for the rice. Lovely people, good food, I think that we may be back again!
25th October 2011
A lazy morning, taking our time to get going with the intention of visiting the Petronsains science centre today. We hopped on the metro line to KLCC station and negotiated our way through the shopping centre until we at last arrived at the 4th floor entrance to the centre. Not much of a queue (pleased) but when we asked about entry, we were told that we could get in at 15:30. The centre takes at least 3 hours to complete and it closes at 5pm – it does’t take a maths genius to work out that we wouldn’t have enough time to do the place justice. Instead we pre-purchased some tickets for 10:30 on 27th – something for us all to look forward to!
So, a little stuck for something to do we spent a while exploring the shops and then we exited the KLCC centre into the park behind for some fresh air and some green to run around in. There is a lake in the centre of the park with a striking statue of a whale and a dolphin in glimmering metal, and just a bit further on, we found the water park. A shallow pool with a waterfall wall for the kids to play in. We had not planned on going here, so the kids were allowed to paddle in the water to cool off.
“Ooooops! I accidentally slipped” grinned Luca with pants sopping wet and t-shirt damp from the waist up. It was not long before the other two had stripped to their boxers and the three of them set about having some splashing fun in the water.
Shortly afterwards the heavens opened and the nasty security guards made everyone get out. Seeking sanctuary in the mall we decided that it would be a better idea to get the metro back again rather than brave the torrential rain. Making it back to the guest house without getting too wet we regrouped and then hunted out somewhere to eat.
26th October 2011 – Diwali/Deepvali
The Festival of Light – a five day Hindu festival celebrated by families around the world (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diwali). Judging by the fireworks and noise from the previous few days, tonight was going to be a bit on the noisy side! So we headed for little India in search of some celebrations, hoping for a feast of colour and music, lights and dancing. We arrived at the train station and asked the information desk where we could find some Diwali celebrations, only to be told that it was all over!
Slightly downcast but by no means defeated (we are British after all – well 4/5ths of us anyway) we ploughed on and by chance, and by following the noise of fireworks exploding, we stumbled upon Sri Kamaswamy Temple shrouded in the smoky mist of gunpowder at the end of a street that resembled a war zone. We all instinctively ducked as mortars and firecrackers detonated around us and rockets whizzed into the air. The children were absolutely delighted – Bonfire night come early and with none of the health and safety restrictions of home. Adults and children alike rushing around setting light to the tails of a myriad of different sized incendiary devices, sometimes using one firework to light another. Bedlam! And into this we walked with glee (the kids) and a kind of bewildered shock (me) to join in with the Indian families celebrating their festival.
It wasn’t long before the boys were helping out, and the were soon aiming firework wands at the sky shouting “Avada Kadava!” and “Stupefy!” and lighting rockets to whiz up to the sky. Huge strings of firecrackers were let off behind us and every minute or so a deafening explosion cleaved the air as one of the “big” ones dazzled the onlookers with spectacular flowers of light and showered us with the occasional spark.
We were having great fun until the long arm of the law arrived and told everyone on our corner to stop. They had just told the people up the street to stop, but as soon as they had come down to tell us to stop, the ones up the street started again! As it was late now, we said our goodbyes and thank yous and walked back home, via the food court off Petaling Street for a quick bite, and bed.
27th October 2011
Petrosains, the science centre sponsored by Petronus the petroleum company. We were looking forward to this visit promising hands-on learning experiences about molecules, geology, nano-science, physics, and some dinosaurs. We got moving slightly later than planned, but no matter. We arrived and after queueing for a short while we jumped aboard the oil drop ride that takes you into the centre and informs you via voice over and multi-panel tv screens of our responsibility for the earth and the exciting things to come. The hoards of school children that had chosen today to come to visit bypassed the ride and went straight up and there was an air of bedlam as we exited the ride and started to make our way around the various display rooms of the science centre.
As promised there were lots of things to touch and pull, press and lever, and a great deal of information to take in explaining what the touching and pulling and pressing and levering was supposed to demonstrate and achieve. We had to be fairly firm and pushy to get a go – politely queueing did not get the desired result as kids flew in from all angles to join friends and have a go on the interactive toys. I must confess I was annoyed, not because of the boisterous nature of the children and the queue-jumping, but because not one of them bothered to read about the exhibits.
The first instinct of kids is to have fun, and if pulling this lever or pressing this button has an immediate visual effect then they are contented and will pull and press again. If nothing really happens then they lose interest and move on. If no-one is there to explain the apparatus to them and to challenge them to work out what should happen then they don’t really learn anything. Ah well, the scientist in me took over and I explained to my boys the nature of things, and why this did that, or not as the case may be. Don’t get me wrong, my children were just as keen to satisfy their craving for fun too and so the right balance had to be struck – and it was sometimes frustrating for me, but at least they did show and interest most of the time!
We took our time moving through the rooms and exploring the equipment, dodging the other rampaging kids, occasionally wiping the tears of the little ones when they were pushed off something that they were playing with. The helicopter simulator was unfortunately closed, as was the space exhibit which was disappointing. But the mock up of an oil rig was a hit, as were the various ball-themed experiments, and the apparatus where balls had be pumped from one place to another and then raised up and then conveyored back to where they had started in order to start the cycle again.
And so it was almost 5 hours later that we once more climbed aboard the oil drop for the return journey back to reality and were greeted by torrential rain again. By the time we had descended to ground level and visited a food supermarket the rain had stopped and so we walked back to the guest house via Jalan Bukit Bintang and feasted on our acquisitions, exhausted but fulfilled by our excursion.
28th October 2011
Heading north from KL we decided to visit the Batu Caves today. We first walked to Bank Negara station where we caught a train to Batu Caves. Again this was something that we were excited about and as the train pulled into the station we caught a glimpse of the huge golden statue that stands at the foot of the 277 steps that transport you to the cathedral-like spaces of this holy place. The 200m walk from the train to the foot of the stairs found us already moist from our exertions and the prospect of toiling up 277 steps did not immediately fill one with joy! However, what a magnificent spectacle. Standing at the bottom and looking up to the dizzying heights already filled us with awe and a sense of reverence.
Oh yes and there were monkeys there too! Being a fit, young family we didn’t really toil up the steps and were soon approaching the top, the prize in sight.
A vast cavern greeted us festooned with statues in nooks and crannies. A temple in the middle was holding a ceremony which filled the huge space with music and chanting, and we climbed more steps to arrive in the ante-cave which was open to the skies and created a stunning back-drop to the small temples and statues in this chamber. I love caves, the spaces carved out by nature over millions of years are wonderful and amazing to behold, I generally stand in awe that such structures as these are made with little help from mankind, and yet they rival some of the greatest man-made constructions on earth.
There is a sister cave to this one, but it would have cost us RM154 to go and see it. Whilst we hummed and hawed about going in, the local monkey population came to visit. The little ones were cute and played at fighting with each other much to the amusement of us all. But as with all wild animals, there is no predicting what will happen next, and suddenly Mateo screamed blue murder and ran terrified from one of the monkeys that had pulled at his t-shirt and given him a big fright. Whilst comforting him, Luca also received a tap on his shoulder from one of the larger primates and he too was badly shaken by the experience – “I hate monkeys!”
We descended the steps and grabbed some food at an Indian restaurant which was very tasty and surprisingly for an establishment so close to a major tourist attraction, not expensive at all. Whilst there we decided that Tania and Oskar would go back to the other cave (the Dark Cave) and that I would return to KL with Luca and Mateo and go in search of the Olympic sized swimming pool. Sorted! I will let Tania and Oskar tell of their exploits in their blogs, as for us, we found the pool and had a wonderful time escaping the heat in the sun-warmed open air pool.