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Kuala Lumpur (also called KL) is a good base for day tours of western Malaysia. The closest tourist attraction is Batu Caves, a Hindu shrine eight miles (13 kilometers) north of KL.

Batu Caves Hindu shrine
Batu Caves Hindu shrine
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

How do you get to Batu Caves? You can drive a rental car, take a half-day tour from KL or travel there on the KTM Komuter train Batu Caves-Port Klang route.

Thaipusam Hindu festival

In the entrance plaza, vendors sell jasmine flowers, surrounded by pigeons waiting for handouts from visitors.

There were few tourists here on the day we visited. During the January/February Hindu Thaipusam Festival, close to a million devotees make a Batu Caves pilgrimage. Some carry offerings and kavadi (cages) attached to their skin with hooks, in thanks for answers to their prayers.

What's inside Batu Caves?

To reach the Hindu shrine, we had to walk past a 140-foot (43-meter)-high golden statue of the cave's patron deity, Murugan, also known as Lord Subramaniam, and then climb 272 stone steps to the top.

Admission is free. Pilgrims buy tickets and get two bananas and a betel leaf, symbolizing the sweet and sour nature of life.

After their prayers, they bring these offerings home for their altars—unless the bananas are stolen by the dozens of acrobatic long-tailed macaque monkeys, which pester and entertain visitors.

Inside the caves, we watched pilgrims chanting in Sanskrit in front of altars. Brightly coloured statues of Hindu deities mingled with the stalactites above.

Two-day trip to Melaka

The most popular day trip from KL is to Malacca (called Melaka in Malay). We stayed overnight, partly because the city is a two-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur on the North-South Expressway (Lebuhraya) and partly because there is so much to see and do in Malacca.

Dutch Square with Stadthuys, Christ Church and Queen Victoria Fountain in Malacca
Dutch Square with Stadthuys, Christ Church and Queen Victoria Fountain in Malacca
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

The historic center of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can take a Melaka city tour by bus or on two-seater bicycle-propelled trishaws, which feature colorful commentaries from the drivers.

City tour

Located 93 miles (150 kilometers) south of Kuala Lumpur, Melaka was colonized by the Portuguese, Dutch and British. Each country left its mark in the architecture. We visited Dutch Square with its raspberry-colored Christ Church and the Stadthuys, the oldest Dutch building in the Far East, built in 1650.

A short ride away is A Famosa (Porta De Santiago), the sole surviving gateway of a 16th-century Portuguese fortress. The Portuguese ruled Melaka for 130 years.

Antique shop on Jonker Street
Antique shop on Jonker Street
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Cheng Hoon Teng (Green Cloud Temple) is the oldest functioning Chinese temple in Malaysia. The ridges of its tiled roof are decorated with pieces of broken porcelain and glass, so it glitters in the sun. Inside, brass pots of incense burn in front of ancestral tablets displaying the names and photos of ancestors.

Even on a two-day tour of Malacca, you have time for antique shopping on Jonker Street (Jalan Hang Jebat in Malay) and sampling Baba-Nyonya (Straits-born Chinese or Peranakan) food. We enjoyed Nonya ayam pong teh (chicken and potatoes cooked with brown bean sauce, palm sugar and soy sauce).

Malaysian hill resorts

Cameron Highlands and Genting Highlands offer a cool climate, if you want relief from Malaysia's hot weather. A one-day Genting Highlands trip is feasible because it is only a one-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur.

Genting Highlands Awana Golf Course
Genting Highlands Awana Golf Course
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Located at an altitude of 5,600 feet (1,700 meters), the Genting Highlands area is best known for its casino and 18-hole Awana Golf Resort course.

Other things to do include riding the Genting Skyway cable car, shopping and theme parks at First World Plaza, tobogganing at Snow World, rock climbing on the Genting X-pedition Wall, dining, and enjoying live entertainment at the Genting International Showroom.

Resort Hotel Genting Highlands, Theme Park Hotel, First World Hotel and several other hotels offer accommodations if you want to extend your trip for one or two days to enjoy more of Genting's attractions.


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