Masjid Jamek mosque, Batu Caves and The Mud musical
05.02.2015 - 05.02.2015
After a simple breakfast of toast and jam (the days of lovely Burmese breakfasts were over), we managed to track down Ryan's clothes. They'd ended up in the dorms by mistake and it only took talking to a few staff members to get them back.
We jumped on the monorail to connect to the rapid KL line so that we could visit the Masjid Jamek mosque. At the mosque we were greeted right away by friendly volunteers. My robe was red this time with a hood instead of the hijab. A man from Pakistan studying in Kuala Lumpur explained that this was the oldest brick mosque, built in 1907 and opened in 1909, built at the convergence of two rivers, the Klang and Gombok. As Kuala Lumpur meant muddy confluence so this site was the true heart of the city. People settled had on the banks of the Klang river to live in the early settlement years.
Our volunteer guide also expressed how the gatherings daily, or at least every Friday for men, would help the community grow closer together and serve as a community centre. It had really helped him integrate when he arrived as an international student without knowing anyone. Women were not expected to come to mosque on Friday if they were menstruating or after childbirth so that they could rest.
He explained the function of the high tower, which was to call to prayer. Now loudspeakers and a recording played that role, but it used to be a specific job. The tower was also an indicator of a village as back in the Middle East there was a lot of flat desert. So groups would look for the towers to find their way. The domes, aside from being the current symbol of a mosque, were natural amplifiers which came in quite handy before microphones. Our guide let us go in the prayer area and told us that it was also alright to take pictures. Then he wished us luck on our travels.
Most of the people walking the covered path to the prayer room were foreigners. Another older volunteer explained the room and act of praying. Absolution was necessary before prayer, the washing of the arms from hands to elbows, ears, head (for men), and feet. Cleanliness was very important in Islam. Men and woman had different prayer areas so that the position of prostration wouldn't distract others and each gender would have their privacy. Regardless of status, all men prayed in lines together. They'd give thanks to Allah, the one and only God. The volunteer also emphasized how prayers were short and easy to do five times a day. If he missed one, he felt that he'd failed after having completed them properly for so long. He also emphasized the commonalities between Christianity and Islam like Mary and Jesus, and how they were also respected in his religion. Again it was interesting to speak with people so passionate about their beliefs.
Afterward, we found the area close to Merdeka square and ate some cheap Indian buffet food that was pretty tasty and had vegetarian options. We tried briyani rice and curried vegetables plus a couple local pops.
We continued walking past historic buildings until we arrived at the city gallery and the I heart KL sign. We lined up to pose for a picture. Inside the gallery, there was an explanation of the background of several of the buildings in the area left from British occupation. They also had an exhibit on Chinese New Year celebrations with a decent emphasis on spending time with family. Upstairs there was a city model which was enormous and included buildings that were still only in the planning stages. The city planned to build several new sky scrapers but also remain dedicated to green space. Music, lights and a movie accompanied the model to showcase different areas of the city.
To get in, we paid 5 RM and got redeemable vouchers for the gift shop for the same amount. We browsed and while some of the items were cute, the baked good section was more alluring. I had a chocolate durian roll out of curiosity. Durian was a fruit with an extremely foul smell, so bad that it was banned in several venues because of its pungency. It was spiky on the outside and the fleshy part was a golden yellow. Since it was my second trip to Asia, I figured it was about time I tried some. The smell was enough to keep away an appetite and the taste was a bit off too. Likely my first and last durian experience. Ryan opted for the more pleasant two donuts option.
Outside, we passed the immense 95 metre flagpole where the national flag was first raised after independence, August 31st 1957. Merdeka meant freedom so this was freedom square. There was also a large grassy field, formerly known as the Selangor Club Padang. It was used as the grounds for cricket and rugby during British occupation. The old British sports club across from it was now used for other purposes. We passed the beautiful copper roofed Sultan Abdul Samad building. It had copper domes and a larger clock tower in the middle. It was originally completed in 1897 to serve as the offices of the British colonial government. After independence it was renamed after Sultan Abdul Samad, the sultan of Selangor at the time construction began. It later housed the courts that had since moved to Putrajaya, and now housed the Ministry of Information, Communications and Culture of Malaysia. There was a theatre nearby showing the MUD musical about the history of Kuala Lumpur. We picked up some tickets to the 8pm showing since we still had another place to visit.
Nearby, we visited the St. Mary's Anglican Church. It was a Gothic Revival style church designed by AC Norman (who also designed part of the Sultan Abdul Samad building) and built in 1894. It was quite spacious inside with many pews and chandeliers.
We took a few rapid KL train lines to end up at KL Sentral, from which we could ride the Komuter train. The fare was quite low and we had a bit of a wait ahead of us. I read the Sun newspaper which is far less slanderous in Malaysia than it is in Winnipeg. It was interesting to get the local perspective on events like the killing of the Jordanian pilot. They didn't condone these actions and they declared that they didn't represent their faith. The writer expressed his sympathies for the pilot. There was also an article on how severla people linked to Malaysia had ties to ISIS.
The walkways to the Batu Caves were crowded with development. Tent sold Indian sweets, clothing, toys and to my delight veggie burgers. It was too bad I didn't have an appetite for them. We bypassed the paid cave with a big green statue of Lord Hanuman at the base to visit the better know Batu cave.
The Batu caves were dedicated to Lord Murugan and were one of the most important Hindu shrines outside of India. During the Thaipusam festival a couple days earlier, Hindus came from many countries to celebrate here. The gold statue at the base of the stairs was the tallest statue of Lord Murugan in the world at 130 feet tall. Tall wide staircases climbed into the rock face, 272 steps to go. Signs emphasized that there was to be no exercising on the stairs, aka no running. We wouldn't have an issue. A few monkeys played with garbage on the stairs. The temple was over 115 years old.
Inside the cathedral cave were a few temples dedicated to Lord Hanuman. There were various statues and deities on the roofs. The cave was quite large and high. Sadly the most memorable thing about the visit was the garbage slowly being collected after the Thaipusam festival. A few colourful accessories still remained too. We started back down the stairs.
We walked the market grounds once more with Bollywood soundtracks playing in DVD stands. We tried to buy sweets but weren't able to purchase small quantities so we passed. On the train platform, I noticed there was a standing area and car reserved exclusively for woman which seemed like a great idea for safety at night or other.
Both days so far had been action packed so we went back to our hostel to rest. We went out for a bit to look for souvenirs, finding lots of shops and a neat market Chinatown area like up with countless restaurants and lanterns. I took notice of the Middle Eastern restaurants along the way. We tried some Iraqi food for Sumer restaurant. They had shwarma pitas for Ryan and fattuche salad for me with tasty hummus. We were both sad the Middle East was generally unsafe to visit. The food was so good.
We took the metro down to Masjid Jamek and found the theatre nearby. Since it was early, we sat in the park and ate mangosteen that I'd picked up earlier. They were hard shelled fruits that you cracked open to find white fruit inside. They resembled an orange in formation but a peeled grape in texture. They had a nice sweet flavour. The buildings were all lit up nicely at night too.
In the theatre, the staff gave us books to read on history while we waited at a small table in the fancy lobby. We flipped through many of the photos. Just before eight, they invited us inside. A French family and a Malaysian woman made up the rest of the audience. After an intense multimedia display, the show began.
Meng and Muthiah met with their friend Mamat in town. They sang about their dreams to build this strong town and how nothing would stop them. Meng started working in the tin mines and got himself a bicycle. Muthiah was convinced that a distant family friend could find him work, though it never panned out. His life grew worse and worse. Mamat had a baby with his wife. They invited me and the Malay woman up on stage to crush Styrofoam spices during a festival.
The multimedia show came out again for the fire that burned down the city in 1881 and left the village with charred homes. Ryan was helping put out the fire by carrying up a bucket to the stage. Rain came down for days and months, prompting a flood. It left the people with very little hope for the future. After some debate, they banded together to rebuild their city. The wives and love interests had some influence on the men's decisions. Most of us in the audience went up to dance with the cast on stage. I hoped I didn't butcher the dance steps too much.
Another slideshow demonstrated progress to the Kuala Lumpur of today which led into the finale. We took photos since it was now permitted. We were even able to go up on stage with the large cast and pose, not that there was much of a line with an audience of seven or eight. Still the energy the performers had was incredible even for just a few of us. I hope they get more attention and bigger audiences in the future. The tickets were a similar price to those at the KL tower and this was much more worth it in our minds. Hopefully 'Nothing will stop them now'. We promised to write them a trip advisor review (which we did) and brought a pamphlet to the hostel to leave for others to look at too.