Day 14 - Kuala Lumpur to Melbourne

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We got up bright and early this morning to do some last minute packing and exchanging of photos and had our last buffet breakfast at the hotel. We made it down stairs to the lobby by 9:00 AM as expected, but there was a problem with our taxi booking. We ended up leaving about half an hour later than planned, but luckily we left plenty of time this time around and the hotel staff said we would be fine.

The taxi driver finally arrived and mysteriously managed to put our 3 suitcases in the boot in such a way that he couldn't shut the boot, but they were secure and unlike the last budget taxi we took, there was no rope holding our bags. Anthony was nervous about our bags falling out, but we arrived at LCCT safely and so did our luggage.

The airport was fairly quiet and we were able to go straight to the check in machine, scan our itinerary and get in queue for the baggage drop. The baggage drop queue only had 2-3 people in front of us so we zoomed through that and went through to the departure lounge to get some food and do a little bit of blogging on the free airport wifi.

Unlike the the massive Changi Airport in Singapore, LCCT was a lot quieter and allowing 3 hours before our flight (as recommended) meant we had plenty of time to kill. It felt like the whole airport was full of Aussies and when we were at our gate it already felt like we were home.

To board our flight, the large crowd of passengers followed an airport assistant across the tarmac. It looked like a massive un-organised crowd, but it worked just fine. Anthony looked back at the mass of people behind us and started singing "Who let the yobs out".

We left KL's 30-40 degree weather and had an 8 hour journey to Melbourne, where we arrived at midnight where the weather was a cool 14 degrees. Anthony was over the moon that he was back in his usual climate and we managed to get through Melbourne airport quite quickly too - there wasn't many people at the airport at midnight.

We got to use the electronic passport gates - which have apparently been there for 2 years, but this was the first time I had ever used them, so that was new.

We all went with Amy through the "something to declare" line so she could get her wooden masks checked and before we knew it we were outside and ready for bed!

The trip was finally over and we all had a great time!
Now due to the dodgy Nando's we said our goodbyes and all needed to get to a toilet - good times :)

Day 13 - Last full day in KL

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Today was our last full day in KL and so we took it easy. It had been a great trip and we had seen and done quite a lot so far, so today we just did some last minute shopping and nothing too exciting.

Sarma had left quite early in the morning to go to work, so the rest of us slept in a little and had some breakfast before heading back to Low Yat to see what advice the salesman from last night had to offer. After managing to get to Low Yat without Sarma's help we just strolled around for a little bit.
We had 2 goals for Low Yat, the first being to find the salesman from last night and the second being to find a shop that would let Anthony test his new USB-to-HDMI adapter. The shop he bought it from couldn't test it because they didn't sell TV's or monitors - which is ironic for the "King of Low Yat".

We found the salesman and I showed him the converter. He took my camera from me and set it to auto and took a shot, then zoomed in on the outside edges of the shot to show me how soft it was - which is what I had been complaining about. Then he showed me the exposure settings and set the camera to manual mode and put the same settings in, but adjusted the aperture to be a lot smaller. This photo obviously came out a lot darker, then he fitted a fancy ring flash and took the shot again - the difference was clear and he explained that this converter may not be too useful for landscapes, but for events I could use an external flash to maximize the light to allow me small apertures.

Soft edges on far edges - need to look closely
The edges are noticeably sharper with a flash
He was obviously trying to sell me a flash, but as I told him that I already have an external flash, he then tried selling them to Anthony and Amy too. He was a friendly guy and did give us some good advice, but was very much hoping it would lead to sales for him. The flashes were quite good too, they were not a brand I had heard of before, but this one tilted in 2 directions, had a power control and remote sensing so you could use it wirelessly. My flash can only tilt on one axis and had no external controls at all, but it was Nikon and cost me about $150 at the time, while after some debate he offered us these flashes for the same price. It was a good deal, but I really didn't need to spend the money and Anthony and Amy weren't ready to either. He wanted us to buy something from him, so we ended up buying some cheap cleaning brushes, thanked him for his advice and left.

We had brought a USB cable and a USB power adapter with us and asked a few shops if we could test Anthony's new adapter, but all of them said that they were not allowed to, until eventually we found a large store where Anthony was able to quickly plug it in to a display model tv and saw that it worked. If Anthony couldn't have tested it with his phone, he was going to bring it back, but all was good.

From Low Yat Plaza we walked down the street to check out The United Buddy Bears World Tour. We had seen these bears a couple of times in passing, but never stopped to check them out until now. The display includes a painted bear that has come from each country in the united nations and is a symbol of international peaceful co-existence. Each country paints there own bear in a style that is symbolic to them, for example Australia's bear was painted in a traditional Aboriginal style, while USA's bear was made to look like the Statue Of Liberty. Some of them were really well done!

The United Buddy Bears around the Pavilion Crystal Fountain
The Australian Buddy Bear
The English and American Buddy Bears
The Irish Buddy Bear
The Cuban Buddy Bear... smoking a Cuban Cigar
As all these bears were on display in front of the "Pavilion" mall, we went inside to find an ATM and grab a snack before going back to the hotel. The mall was decorated in preparation for the Chinese New Year and had a massive dragon hanging from the ceiling. These decorations where all over the city, but these ones where probably the biggest we had seen.

The Chinese New Year decorations at Pavilion
We eventually found an ATM, but it was malfunctioning and being the nerds that we are, we had to take a photo of an ATM with a windows desktop on it.

ATM FAIL!
Sarma is a bit of a coffee-a-holic and had been going on about a place called "The Coffee Bean" - which is just like a starbucks or whatever, so we decided to give it a go for our last day and got some drinks before heading back to the hotel. I got a really nice cold drink that had strawberry, banana and vanilla in it - very tasty!

Drinks at The Coffee Bean
We went back to the hotel to do a bit of blogging and planned to have a swim before meeting up with Sarma for dinner, but ended up running out of time. Sarma had been away from Melbourne for about a year now and when we spoke to him he said one of the things he missed was Nando's. Well there is Nando's in KL, but the reason he avoided it was because the price of the food there was really high compared to the average wage in KL, so from the start of the trip we kept telling him that we would buy him a Nando's meal while we where over. So for our last dinner in KL, we went to Nando's.

Nando's is a little different in KL, the menu is a bit more strange with items such as an "Angry Mango Burger" (which they were sold out of) and instead of a Mild Peri-Peri sauce, they had a Garlic Peri-Peri sauce. I don't like hot stuff and ordered my usual "Lemon and Herb" sauce, but their version of this sauce was a lot more spicy that I'm used to, which I wasn't big on. We all enjoyed our meal, but about an hour later all four of us felt sick!
This was not good for our last night - there's nothing worse that having an upset stomach on a plane where the toilet-to-people ratio is so low, but we survived ok - even Sarma felt sick all day at work.

The other thing we had been talking to Sarma about (randomly) was Monty Python - he had never heard of it before and during our trip, whenever we passed anyone selling dvd's, whether it was a bootleg stand or a proper store, we'd ask them if they had it and we couldn't find it anywhere.
So that night we bought some junk food, went home, setup a laptop and managed to find enough clips of Monty Python and the Holy Grail on YouTube to educate him. Then we made it his holy quest to seek out a proper copy of the movie.

Between breaks and after the movie we all packed our luggage so we were ready to checkout in the morning. This time I spoke to the concierge and booked a taxi to airport for 9:00 AM - that gives us an hour to get to the airport which will mean we will be there the recommended 3 hours before our flight at approx 1:00 PM - unlike the fine cut when we left Singapore.

Day 12 - Batu Caves and The Elephant Santuary

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As we got along so well with Ambi our taxi driver, we booked him again to see the Elephant Sanctuary today. Because we mentioned we wanted to see the Batu Caves at some stage, he said that if we were ready to go a bit earlier (ready to leave by 9:00 AM) that we could stop by there on the way for no extra charge, as long as we made it to the Elephant Sanctuary by 2:00 PM as that's when the elephant show and bath starts. The elephant sanctuary was a few hours from KL.

After speaking to the travel insurance company yesterday, Anthony and Amy managed to book a rabies shot with a local hospital early this morning, so before I woke up, Anthony and Amy had gone to get the injection and made it back to our hotel just in time to grab a quick bite to eat before meeting Ambi downstairs at 9:00 AM for the tour.

We had all stayed up fairly late last night and Anthony and Amy got up really early, so we all ended up sleeping in the taxi at one stage or another.

We arrived at the Batu caves along with many other tourists and Hindu visitors. The Batu caves is one of the most popular Hindu temples outside of India and consists of a variety of shrines at the top of a 272 step climb surrounded by natural linestone caves. At the base of the steps is a large car park with a smaller shrine and a place to wash your feet. Out the front is a 42.7m high golden statue of Lord Muruga whom the temple is dedicated to.

The entrance to the temple with the statue of Lord Muruga
The temple on the ground
During the yearly Thaipusam festival, worshipers carry heavy pots of milk and the like, called "Kavadi" up the 272 steps to the top of the temple as an offering to Lord Muruga. These pots are carried by hanging them from skewers pierced through the bearers torso as they make their way to the top of the temple and back again. We weren't here for this festival, but what a sight that would be.

We got out of our taxi and Ambi told us that we would need to be back by 10:30, which gave us about 45 minutes to an hour to climb up, look around and climb down again. Yesterday my foot felt great, and I was hoping that it had fully healed, but I had a bad feeling that 272 steps would re-aggravate the injury. We stood at the base of the steps to take a photo and started heading up.

The start of the climb
Along the way there were "Macaque Monkeys" leaping around on the look out for tourists food. These monkeys, although surrounded by tourists all day long, were not quite as friendly as the last lot and had been known to be territorial, but we had left all our food in the taxi before we left.

Tourist drinking a can of drink - most likely stolen from a tourist
We arrived at the top and the view was really nice. Not only could you see how far down the steps you had just climbed, but the surrounding environment was left quite raw and natural. The caves were a home for the monkeys and so there were lots of families living amongst the green cave walls.

The cave walls from the top of the Batu Caves
The view down the steps
As this place was also a major tourist attraction, there were touristy souvenir shops at the top of the steps (not exactly sacred buildings), but as you got deeper into the caves there were a number of smaller shrines where Hindu people could pray. There was also a portable toilet, which Anthony was jokingly praying to.

Sarma taking a photo of one of many shrines at the top of the Batu Caves
There was also a little boy who was laughing as he chased a monkey around, the monkey kept running away until it eventually got annoyed and went to attack the boy. The mother quickly grabbed the boy and gave him a bit of a whack to tell him off. The poor kid went from having fun and laughing to being attacked by a monkey and his mum and then crying :(
We also saw some of the monkeys territorial behavior as it looked like one of the monkeys was raping another one and when it escaped and ran off, the attacker and a posse of 2 others started chasing it away and screaming - needless to say, we avoided monkeys here.

We got back to our taxi and made our way to the next stop, the "Deer Land Park" - which is a couple of kilometers from the Elephant Sanctuary. The climb up and down the stairs did make my foot start hurting again, so I rubbed some anti-inflammatory cream in while we were in the taxi. Once again, I fell asleep in the car and I'm pretty sure the others did too.

When we arrived, we bought our tickets and made our way around the park. We were given small baskets of food to feed the deer. The deer were also very gentle taking the food from us, but the ones with bigger horns thought they could ram the smaller deer away so they got more food.

Feeding the deer
After our food had finished, we got to walk into the enclosure and pat them. There was also an Emu in a nearby enclosure, where a park assistant gave me some food to feed it. The emu wasn't quite as gentle and as it took the food from my hand, it briefly got a hold of some of the skin from the palm of my hand too - but it didn't hurt or actually break my skin, so that was ok.

Not so gentle Emu
After this we continued around the track and got to see some more exotic looking birds, the worlds smallest breed of deer, some quail and got to feed some rabbits. There were a bunch of little kids here too and they were having an absolute ball feeding the rabbits.

Worlds smallest breed of deer
Interesting looking birds.. not sure what they were called
Rabbit feeding
When we finished, we had realised that we were a little bit early, so Ambi drove us around to find somewhere to eat. We ended up at this small restaurant which had about 3 main meals on its menu (including, you guessed it, chicken rice) and a couple of desserts including fried banana.

Us at a very small restaurant in the middle of the jungle
We got our meals and one of the staff gave us a couple of branches of Rambutan for free. I have had Rambutan before, but I couldn't remember what they tasted like - but these ones were fresh! They were nice and juicy and once you manage to get them open, we thought they kind of tasted a little bit like a big grape with a large pip in the middle. The guy who gave us the branches showed us how to open them by sticking your thumb in the middle and snapping them apart. Sarma used a different technique where he just bit through the skin with his teeth.

Anthony analyzing the Rambutan and giving me the bird simultaneously
As we were eating lunch, Ambi got talking to some of his taxi friends and they must have warned him that we needed to pre-book as they only let a limited number of guests in per day. So Ambi rushed off to try to get us tickets. He came back and said that we could only get the red passes, which only got you entrance into the park, but no bathing or riding. He asked us for the money for the admission and rushed off again, he came back with the yellow passes (which was the full ticket) and a smile on his face. Even though the ticket people said it was full, Ambi managed to use his taxi driver status to talk him into getting the full tickets for us which was nice of him to do that. We probably should have booked in advance to save this hassle - lucky we had Ambi on our side.

Before getting into the park, they sit everyone in a large cinema where they show you a video of what the Sanctuary actually do. They have an "elephant trans-location team" that are skilled in moving elephants away from problem areas.
In Malaysia, a lot of the elephants native forest land is being taken up with Palm plantations, and so when the elephants run out of forest, they start moving through the plantations and destroy a lot of stock. The Palm plantations can lose quite a lot from this, so rather than hunting them down in-humanely, they call the sanctuary so the team can track them and then with the use of tranquilizer darts, chains, GPS tracking collars, trucks and boats, move them to either the sanctuary or the national state park where they have lots of space to move around and are protected from hunters.

When we got into the park, we randomly bumped into Rosa again! Completely by coincidence, her and her family came with one of the tours. As we got to the main area of the park, the elephants were in a holding area and there was a rail so visitors didn't get too close. It was just close enough for the elephants to reach us with their trunks so the tourists could feed them. They would stick out there trunk and kind of twist out the end so we could easily drop food in for them. It looked like the elephants were enjoying it and the enclosures were a good size.

Elephant waiting for food from tourists
Soon after we got in, the park presented a show where they explained where the elephants had come from (they had come from many different countries including India, China and Indonesia) and distinguishing characteristics of that breed. The elephants and their trainers demonstrated what they could do and then the largest 2 elephants made their way to the crowd so we could all feed them.

Elephant show
Feeding the big elephants
After the show, the elephants dispersed out to some raised wooden platforms where we could line up for a quick ride. I had been on an elephant before, but only using a saddle. This time we were ridding them bare back. Every step they took, we could feel their huge shoulders moving in and out from under us. It felt like we were going to fall off without a saddle, but trainers made sure we held on to the them.

Riding an elephant bare back
Next up was the highlight of the sanctuary, the trainers bring some baby elephants into the river for a bath, and the visitors get to help. Now you may be thinking we get a brush and scrub them down, but thats not quite as fun as how the sanctuary do it. Instead, they get a bunch of tourists to get in the water, and then call a couple up to stand with the elephants for a photo, then the trainer instructs all the other tourists to splash water all over them! The elephants end up spraying a bit of water around and its quite fun for all!

Being guided into the water by pre-soaked Rosa
Before
After
We were warned about this and we all brought a change of clothes, so after the bath we got changed and made our way home. Ambi was surprised how much we knew about the attractions in Malaysia and asked if we had been here before, but we just explained that we had Amy who did heaps of research on the net before we came. When we arrived home, we paid Ambi for his services and gave him a 100 Ringgit tip (about $30 Aussie) - he was really happy! He made sure we had his card and said if we're ever back to give him a call.

Later that night we ventured out to Low Yat Plaza again and Anthony managed to find a piece of electronics he had been searching for for a while now - a USB-to-HDMI adapter for his phone. We only found this at one store, it was an official Samsung branded product and they wanted too much for it, so we went to the shop next door and met an interesting salesman. His colleagues called him the King of Low Yat who could beat any price and get any product. Once we told him what we were after he stormed off and returned 5 minutes later with that same product and ended up getting it for about $30 Australian Dollars, which is more acceptable. To this day we reckon he just knows where the other shops store there goods and just takes it, but who knows! We also found some tripods that are really similar to mine, and so Sarma and Amy bought one of those each.

At another close by store, we also found the side straps for our cameras, which Anthony had also been looking for and we bought 3 of those (one for me too). I had been asking around for prices for wide angle lenses and when I asked this salesman, he managed to slash the other prices I had collected significantly, so I took those home to compare with my usual Aussie shops. I also told the salesman that I was just getting prices because I was unhappy with the converter I bought. He said that I wouldn't have wasted my money and that I should bring it in and he would show me how to use it, so we planned to come back tomorrow.

Day 11 - Pewter factory, Eagles, Monkeys and Fireflies

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Today was a long day! We had planned a day tour from about 2:00 PM to take us out to watch some eagle feeding, see and feed some monkeys and then see the fireflies at night. As this tour started in the afternoon, we also fit in a tour of the Royal Selengor Pewter factory.

After breakfast we took the monorail as close to the Pewter factory as we could and took a taxi for the rest of the way. This tour had been booked over the phone so the 4 of us got our own personal tour guide which was pretty cool considering a bus load of about 20 people all had only one tour guide too.

The pewter factory seemed like it was more museum and shop than work floor from what we could see, but it was really well organised and very modern. Our tour guide took us through the various displays and explained the history behind Royal Selengor.


From here we watched some workers casting pewter money trees, turning, grinding and polishing pewter cylinders, hammering different patterns into them and a quick walk through the factory floor.
We were given a chance to hammer patterns into some pewter to see how soft it is and how difficult it is to get straight.

A demonstration of how soft Pewter is
The next part of our tour was the best part - the "School Of Hard Knocks" where we get to craft our very own pewter bowl. We stepped into the classroom/workshop and put on our aprons. We were each given a pewter disc and used a hammer and some stamps to imprint our names on them.
We were then showed how to hold the pewter disc on the block and belt it in to shape. It was a 2-step process, first with a shallow grove in the block, and then a deeper one. We packed our apron and bowl into a box and got to take them home. It was pretty fun and very loud!

Eager students at The School Of Hard Knocks
Belting our bowls in to shape
The finished product
From here we proceeded to the gift shop where things were really expensive! Small figurines were up in the $100's of Australian Dollars but they had some really nice things for sale.
One of the more interesting things were these small containers (that were over a $100 AUD) but they were actually air tight. They had 2 lids, both of which you could feel suction from taking them off and inside was a sample of tea or coffee beans that had supposedly been there for month and still smelled fresh.

Air-tight pewter container
Some of the pieces had amazing detail, including some large chess sets and models that stood about a 40cm high.

Large pewter artwork
We headed home and because the train takes us to KLCC, we thought we would quickly get some lunch before our next tour started, so we went to the food court. I sat and minded the table while the others got some food and then someone approached me and I thought they were just after the table, but then I realized it was Rosa - a fellow Melbournian! It was pretty amazing to randomly bump into a friend in a foreign city! Rosa was stopping over from the Philippines and only had a couple of days in KL - what a coincidence!

Rosa in KL
From here we headed back to our hotel to meet our taxi driver there. Our taxi driver was pretty friendly, his name was Ambi and he hadn't seen alot of places we were going to either so he enjoyed some of the sightseeing too.

We had already organised a pickup for about 2:00 PM and we got there just in time.
Ambi took us out to a place called Kuala Selangor and our first stop was a small jetty where we boarded a boat and cruised down a river. Up in the sky we could see a few eagles circling around and then the boat slowed down to throw some food in the water. After enough food was thrown out we slowly motored a short distance away to watch the eagles come swooping in for a feed.

Us on the eagle feeding boat
It started off as just one every now and then, but before we knew it there was about 20 eagles all flying around in close vicinity. Amy had her 200mm zoom lens and got some great photos! The eagle feeding was really cool to see! I think we all ended up taking a couple hundred photos just here.

Eagles flying around our boat
Eagle swooping in for the food
This river and jetty was the same place we had to come back to after the sun goes down so we can see the fireflies, so in the mean time Ambi took us to a place where we got to feed some monkeys. Taxi's arent allowed to drive up to this area, so we had to buy some (cheap) tickets and board a train-like carriage to go up the mountain.

Tour up the mountain to feed the monkeys
Ok, so it wasn't a train, it was more like a tractor pulling a few carriages up a hill, but once we got to the top there were a bunch of "Silver Back" Monkeys being fed by tourists. There was a small stand selling food so we bought some, but we had to be careful because as you get a bunch of food, you might feed one monkey one piece and another monkey might steal the rest while your distracted.

Ambi (our taxi driver) and a casual monkey
Using some other more tasty food, the food salesman showed us that if you hold the food above your shoulder, the monkeys will jump up on your back and sit there while they eat. They were pretty tame monkeys, apart from snatching food, they didn't try to hurt anyone... except for Anthony.

Amy had some food and a couple of monkeys had jumped on her back, after a little while they didn't want to get down, so Anthony tried to get them off her. In a panic one of the monkeys bit him on the hand. Luckily he wasn't bleeding, but it did pierce the skin, so I gave him some anti-bacterial gel to clean the wound and we asked Ambi to ask the food salesman if these monkeys generally have rabies, he said that they dont and he has been bitten before and was ok. It looks like these are very touristy, tame monkeys and not crazy wild ones, but rabies is not something to risk.

Monkeys
Mother and baby
From here we got some dinner from a restaurant over looking the river where we got some nice food and really fresh fruit juice while we waited for the sun to go down to see the fireflies.

Dinner by the river
Best apple juice I've ever had - actually tasted like apples
When we finished dinner we headed back to the pier to go see the fireflies. This time there were more people on our boat, but we still all got a seat and good opportunities to see the fireflies.

Pier to go see the fireflies
On our way to see the fireflies
This was possibly the hardest thing to capture a photo of our entire trip. When our boat pulled up towards some trees with fireflies on them, they looked like Christmas trees with little green flashing lights everywhere. It was pretty cool looking, but the lights were dim, the boat was rocking and people insisted on trying to use their flash which seems a little silly.

The best photos I was able to get was just a flashing dotted light trail made by the boat moving past a bunch of them with a long shutter and high ISO - so not the greatest shot, but at least you can see what color they are!

If you look closely, so can see what color light the fireflies give off
When we got back to the hotel, Amy was still nervous about the monkey bite, so she ended up calling the travel insurance to get more information, and early the next morning Anthony had his first rabies shot.

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