4th November 2011
Apologies, we spent a lazy day today blogging and homework, followed by a short walk around our local area before heading home. Some days you just have to!
5th November 2011
Mateo’s cough had not improved over the last couple of weeks, despite the vitamins and syrup we had been plying him with, and Tania was beginning to get a little concerned that it was perhaps turning pneumonic. So rather than the planned day of discovery that had been on the cards today, we ended up making a trip to the north of KL to visit a doctor recommended by Connie, our helpful hostel proprietor. After walking in a big circle we eventually found the hospital and as we were purposefully early, we partook of some lunch before the allotted appointment.
Tania took Mateo up and when the boys and I had finished the last of our Indian lunch, we sat in the reception area playing Uno whilst we waited for the poor little soldier to be poked and prodded. An hour later, Tania appeared and told us she had still not been seen and that we may as well come up. We then sat for another hour – the nurse Tania had first talked with had neglected to tell her that she had to register first which we only did after having waited the first hour wondering why our name wasn’t being called. Eventually we were seen, and Matt was given the all clear vis-a-vis chest infection (phew) and we were free to leave after visiting the pharmacy for his amoxycillin and cough medicine.
The afternoon was still young and Tania and I had things that we wanted to see. We started with a tour of Masjid Jamek, the first brick built mosque in Kuala Lumpur. Constructed in the 1907 this great mosque stands proudly by the river and is where we had been catching the metro from for the past 2 weeks. So we felt a little guilty about not having gone to visit this landmark earlier.
At the entrance we checked we conformed to the dress code; Tania did not and consequently had to wear a very fetching blue robe to cover herself up – no photos of her were allowed, before we crossed the threshold.
There was a large open sided prayer area on each side of the central area, and a long list of instructions on what must be done before entering the mosque to pray; the first two after washing were a) say this prayer and then b) enter the mosque with your right leg. We wandered around the building (we weren’t allowed inside) and I was surprised at how plain it was inside – an equivalent Christian church would have stained glass windows and paintings, crosses and statues; this building was functional, yet not ornate.
Leaving the grounds, and yes Tania did hand back the robe, we continued on past the National Mosque to the Museum of Islamic Art and Architecture. Itself a fabulous building, the exhibition that greets you as you emerge from the lift is a multitude of models of mosques from around asia and the middle east. Not quite built out of matchsticks, these faithful replicas gave us the opportunity to see these grand buildings in a way that is impossible in real life, and a sense of the sheer size of them, in particular the mosque in Mecca which since recent extensions can hold a million people at prayer.
Moving on we arrived at examples of the qu’ran from its early forms in simple style, to intricate and elaborate illuminated versions, and small pocket versions. Like illuminated versions of the bible, the fine detail and intricate design of the decoration was beautiful, rich with gold leaf and pristine calligraphy. In the early days of Islam, the word of Allah was memorised by only a small number of men, and passed down from one to another. When three of these men were martyred, the leaders decided it was time to write the word down.
Continuing our tour around the museum led us to examples of how Islam had influenced art in India, China and Malaysia. There were ceramics and clothing, jewellery and weapons, glass and silver ware. A feast for the eyes, and on the top floor there was a large section dedicated to the Ottoman empire with some fine examples of furniture and chests. (See Tania’s blog for more pictures!)
Having filled our minds and goggled our eyes we set off home again, via the Chinese we had found on Jalan Sultan.
6th November 2011
Our worries had eased over the potential near-death scenario of our youngest son, and his cough was much better. However, the poor little soldier had been up half the night visiting the toilet as the first real episode of diahorrea struck the Pillet-Smith family. Since travelling without a portable loo was not an option, and given that three of us were rather deficit in the sleep department, we decided that perhaps it would be more prudent to dose Mateo up with Smecta (as well as his two other prescribed medicines) and have a nice easy day of rest in the hostel.
Oskar and I worked on some Maths together, starting first with simple equations like y = 2x + 4 we created straight-line graphs before moving onto squares and cubes. And then onto solving equations which he picked up in no time, that’s my boy! Tania worked with Mateo and Luca on French, and was equally proud of the results.
We then set about organising the next few stops on our trip and trawled through blogs and reviews of accommodation before finally settling on those which offered what we need and getting them booked. Job done, we eased our way through the rest of the day, at the end of which, Mateo was in much better spirits and health
7th November 2011
So far, we had managed to miss some of the more important historical architectural gems of Kuala Lumpur, and we decided to redress this over the course of the day. In the centre of KL stands Merdaka Square (Freedom Square), and around it some fabulous buildings from the 19th and 20th centuries, and a cricket pitch!!
And so we headed west to Merdaka Square. The first thing that strikes you as you round the corner and see the square for the first time is the greenery. From shop lined people filled streets with 3-storey buildings hemming you in you emerge into a leafy open space, an oasis in the midst of the bustle of daily life. Rising up from the south end of the square is the world’s tallest flag pole. To the north stands St Marys Church, to the east is the Sultan’s palace (the old administrative building under British rule) and to the west is the cricket club. In the centre is a square of grass and in the centre of that is a concrete wicket. We, the boys that is, could not resist the temptation to have an imaginary game of cricket.
Just behind the flagpole is an old Art Deco fountain, brought from London, and near the fountain is a museum relaying the history of Kuala Lumpur with a scale model of Merdaka Square. It was whilst we were taking in the pole and fountain that we were once again surrounded by happy people wanting to have a photo with the boys. Depending on how they are feeling and how many they have had to pose for already in a day determines if they will oblige, or if they will run away shouting “Not again!!”
As we wandered our way back we happened to pass the Central Market where we had spotted a Fish Doctor concession. Oskar was desperate to have a treatment, as were the other boys, but Tania and I were not convinced any of them would be able to keep their feet in the water as the fish gently kissed their feet and removed any dead skin they could find without immediately collapsing in fits of giggles. The concession would not make any concessions in sharing a session between the boys, so it was only Oskar who in the end lowered his feet gingerly into the water – giggled a few times, and then settled down to his 10 minutes of therapy.
We headed back to the hostel for our last night in Kuala Lumpur, and the inevitable packing, with mixed feelings. Partly glad to be leaving at last, we had been here a long time and the big city was beginning to get a little oppressive, but also sad to be saying goodbye to Step Inn and the wonderful staff and fellow guests that we had had the pleasure to meet.
8th November 2011 – the road to Cameron Highlands
Packed up and ready to go we said goodbye to Connie and the staff at Step Inn, and to Tony, a very well informed long-term guest at the hostel, and then headed around the corner to our local Indian for a last Egg Roti before gathering our rucksacks and walking the short distance to Pudaraya bus terminal to catch the 1pm bus to Taman Rata in the Cameron Highlands.
A journey of two halves, the first of straight motorways, and the second, mountainous roads reminiscent of the Alps, but with tropical plants. The bus driver was not Ben Hur on this occasion and we negotiated the twists and turns and hairpin bends sedately, but Oskar was still sick towards the end of the 4.5 hour journey.
As we climbed higher and higher the valleys and hills behind which we glimpsed through the roadside trees became regimented with tea bushes, sweeping the steep sides; the buildings we passed and the small villages had an old world colonial style recalling the influence of the British, former custodians of Malaysia.
Arriving in Taman Rata we de-bussed and were transported to Daniel’s Guesthouse, or Kangs Travel Lodge. The warm greeting changed to surprise as the children filed past – we had booked dorm beds – and the proprietor was a little concerned that the kids may upset or disturb the other guests – our boys??? Surely not!
As a result we were offered the family room, but only for the second night – and for this, we got a refund of RM30 to boot (bargain!) After the boys introduced themselves without a hint of self-consciousness to the assembled hard-core travellers, they were soon chatting away in the easy relaxed way that they do, and Mateo was entertaining them in his own inimitable style. Dragging them away from their new found friends we had dinner and then headed back in the cool night air to bed. And boy was it cold! Probably relative I know, but after the low 30s in KL, up in the mountains it was in the 10s with a cooler breeze, and so we shivered away the night despite extra blankets and sleeping with all of our clothes on.
No matter, we will survive a little nip in the air for a few days I’m sure.