Tokyo, Cherry Blossom, Edo Castle – got off to a slow start – Part 1

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My journey to Tokyo

My time in Tokyo was limited, because I only had 10.5 days in Japan; self-imposed as a result of how I booked my round the world ticket with Star Alliance – later on my travels regrettably, finding out just how easily it can be changed (I’ll get into that during my time in New Zealand). As per my usual modus operandi, I hadn’t put much thought into what I wanted to do and see in Japan, except hopefully to be in time to see the cherry blossoms.  As with a few of my destinations, Japan and Tokyo started off rather slowly, then there were a few interesting challenges, however afterwards it went from strength to strength…Japan turned out to be fantastic!

Booking my accommodation in haste whilst on Gili Air, the night before flying out to Japan; my rationale was to get a place close to Tokyo centre for two nights, in the hope that this would be enough time to suss out the location, if good stay, if not then move.  One thing I didn’t fully appreciate was just how expensive Tokyo and Japan accommodation is, wow!  It seemed even more so because of what I had been paying the previous few months in Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia.  Yes, it is expensive, but compared to places like London, New York etc. it is about the same, but with very few lower end types of accommodation.  It seems that for a reasonable place prices start at around £70 per night – there are cheaper, but honestly, they seemed very low-end and not places I would like to stay.  Another option is to stay in a “pod”, these are a-plenty!  I know you can get them in other cities, but here, oh my, there are loads of pod-hotels and seem more the norm that normal hotels.  Reminiscing about my time in Japan I really should have tried a pod-hotel, even if it was just for one night – some of them are very fancy, and expensive too, more so than some of the places I stayed in.  Reason for not doing so was quite simple, my criteria for choosing accommodation is a simple formula, 1. Private bathroom, 2. Wifi, 3. Location (preferably a central location so it saves me time and cost on transport when site seeing.  I still mildly regret not at least trying a pod hotel for one night.

My first hotel was APA Hotel and Resort Tokyo Bay Makukari.  Arriving at Tokyo Narita (4th April) airport just after 8:00 am, immigration was stereotypical of what I thought it would be like in Japan, swift and efficient, from there a bus to the hotel within 45 minutes after landing.  Airport information was great too, I had no idea how to get to the hotel and would have taken a taxi (airport taxi’s throughout the world in my opinion are a bloody rip-off); with the help of airport information I was on the bus which would stop about 1km from the hotel, at a fraction of the cost of a taxi – I must have got to the hotel just before 10:30, bloody tired!

Not to labour on about it (but I will 😊), I was tired.  I caught the first public ferry (only 25 minutes at most) from Gili Air to Lombok Bangsal at 7:15, leaving my hotel at 6:30. From the ferry I had a 2.5 hour taxi ride to Lombok Mataram airport to catch my flight at 12:15 arriving at Kuala Lumpur at 15:20.  My next flight would be to Bangkok but only at 20:55 so, I had lots of time to kill (at an airport that’s extremely boring), I would arrive at Bangkok at 22:05.  From there catch my flight to Tokyo at 23:50 landing at Narita airport at 8:10am.  It felt like I was constantly busy though not very productive, and I didn’t sleep on any of the flights!  All this rambling just to say I hadn’t slept properly for over 24 hours, so arriving in Tokyo I was out on my feet.  In addition to that, arriving at a hotel so early it is seldom they let you check – there was no way I could muster up enough energy to leave my bags and go see any sites!  Thanks to the hotel I was in my room by 11:30. I got to my tiny room (more about that later), put my head down and crashed!  That about sums up my first day in Tokyo!

Tokyo

Ueno Park, this is a fraction of what the parks and Tokyo would look like durig peak cherry blossom season

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There were still a few trees blossoming in the city – Tokyo

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Tokyo’s oldest temple Kiyomizu Kannon-dō inside Ueno Park

I was out of kilter with time having slept for an entire day, things weren’t helped by the fact I had turned-off my phone’s auto time adjust, meaning I was two hours behind – I did think it was odd going for dinner at 8:30 finding almost everything deserted (it was actually 10:30); I only realised the time difference the next morning when I missed breakfast, getting there at “9:00” when in fact it was 11:00. Having missed my first day sleeping I had now shortened my second day by mistake/error, grrrrrr.  With what felt like lead strapped around my ankles I headed into the city.

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Interesting first dinner in Tokyo, don’t ask me what it’s called….I call it delicious

Now, I totally miscalculated the location of my hotel in relation to the city/tourist centre, an hour on a semi-fast train to get remotely into the city centre.  The area of the hotel was an odd one, lots of formal style commercial buildings everywhere, no sky scrapers, at most 6 storied buildings, but all very big (width and breadth), the hotel was the highest building, in itself a huge hotel.  What struck me was how quiet the area was, even though it seemed surrounded by companies, a university and tucked away small wholesale shops/malls.  The roads were near dead quiet, there was almost no people; it almost felt as it the place was deserted but it couldn’t be.  Deserted of people yet still full of buildings and everywhere was very well maintained, signage on buildings (of well known companies) – the whole of Japan seems to be.  The only thing I can compare it to, is Canary Wharf (London) on the weekends; the difference here was it was even quieter, no high-rises and isn’t the finance/banking centre of Tokyo…..hmmmm….still puzzles me today.  Most things are not new, but they could be as everything from buildings, streets, pavements etc. is extremely well maintained and clean, therefore everything seems to be in good condition.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen such clean pavements, there are signs on the walkways for bicycles, pedestrians and no smoking signs too.  I’ve thought back on the area of the hotel many times since and can’t put my finger on “what” the area is, absolutely safe, as it felt everywhere I went to in Japan.  It’s not an industrial area, it was more like a massive commercial area….except I saw hardly anyone…very strange.

Cherry Blossoms & Ueno Park

I headed to Ueno Park, famous for cherry blossoms.  I’ll keep you out of suspense, I missed peak cherry blossom season by about 1 week to 10 days, such a shame.  Even so, there were still plenty of blossoms to give me a faint idea of what the place must look like during peak season.  It must me other worldly, fantasmal (I know that’s not a real word, but you get the idea), that’s no exaggeration!  Swathes of the city and parks taken over by delicate flowers ranging from white, faint translucent pink, right through to deep blood pink and all the variations in between.  Tree trunks looking like barren stems void of foliage leading up to an impenetrable blanket of dainty flowers.  This parasol of colour, a ceiling of flowers casting shade for everyone wandering below all who are looking skyward to take in this floral spectacle.  I’ve never seen a city with such colour; these elegant and delicate flowers juxtaposed within a concrete jungle.  One of the most densely populated cities in the world, yet you feel as if you are walking through the pages of a Disney story.  It doesn’t take much imagination to think what this place must be like in full blossom, I would love to see it with my own eyes though.

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Ueno Park, what was full of blossoms now filled with fresh light green foliage

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Taken from the porch of Kiyomizu Kannon-dō Temple – Ueno Park

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Ueno Park, something about parks that calms the soul, the floor a blanked of dead blossoms

Yes, I was disappointed to have missed the peak season, but my main downer was my state of mind; a combination of being tired, oversleeping, my hotel location gave me the feeling of being in the middle of nowhere, the weather wasn’t bad i.e. cold, yet a low hanging blanked of grey reminded me of winters in London.  All in all, I just felt a little down.  When this feeling comes about I find the best way to change the paradigm is to change what I have control over and accept what I can’t change.  I wondered around Ueno Park station for a bit for the sake of “site seeing” then thought to hell with this, I’m in one of the greatest cities in the world, there should be no reason to feel like this.  First things first, head back to my hotel (it was late afternoon and it cost me less to when using wifi), eat, do a little searching and find a new hotel is a better location…….and have a normal night’s sleep.

Ueno Park

A small fraction from the latter end of the cherry blossom season – Ueno Park

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Don’t know why but I just like this photo, taken from Ueno Park – Tokyo

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Part of the market area by Ueno Park Station – Tokyo

Moving to a better location in Tokyo

Coincidentally, my next hotel was the same chain of hotels, APA Hotel Kodemmacho Ekimae, still an odd location (I’ll explain a little later), but much better; at least I felt like I was surrounded by people and occupied buildings; an area mixed with residential and office buildings (maybe akin to Dalston in London, however more developed and a millions times more orderly and clean).  Another good thing about the new location was the transport, easy access to three Tokyo metro stations (I’ll get into the metro later too).  I can’t say my head was totally in a right state, without doubt I was feeling more positive – I had booked for 1 night; at this stage I wasn’t liking Tokyo (not liking cities seemed to be becoming a trend)  Both APA hotels had tiny rooms, the smallest hotel rooms I have ever stayed in, even so they are designed exceptionally well, like a compact Japanese car.  The rooms have everything you would expect and more, considering the size – Massive TV, ¾ bed, bath & shower in one (1/2 the size of a normal bath), nice toiletries (better quality and lots of it compared to a normal mid-range hotel), an all singing and dancing toilet (built-in bidet – with temperature setting for the water and toilet seat, various spray setting etc. etc.), bathrobe with slippers, a separate gown/pyjamas with slippers (I saw a few people walking around the hotel wearing the latter), a torch on the side of the bed (I guess this is for is/when the electricity goes off caused by earthquakes or storms – I guess), desk, heated bathroom mirror so it doesn’t steam up etc. etc. basically the rooms are bloody small yet packed with everything you could want or need – I’ve stayed in a lot more expensive hotels that have far less!  Aggravatingly I don’t have the pictures, again, I’m sure I took pictures of the room but I cannot find them….I must have deleted them by mistake ARGH!!!!!

Early check-in at the hotel went smoothly again and I was heading out back into the city centre to see Edo Castle.  Tokyo Metro map is one of the more complicated metro maps I’ve seen, likely the most complicated, made more so by the writing!  It looks like such a mess, with so many stations is can get confusing, thankfully all the metro employees I spoke to were fantastic, with a good standard of English making it even easier.  Like all metros/underground systems you only need to use it once of twice to get the hang-of-it – all the major stations I went to also have signs in Japanese and English.

Edo Castle / Chiyoda Castle

I wondered around town for a bit before heading to the castle, now this was more like Tokyo compared to the day before!  I was feeling better already.  Tokyo Station is up the road from Edo Castle, a wide paved walkway runs perpendicular between the too.  Just like everywhere else the place is spotless, as if the pavements were installed recently, parks are pristine and manicured, very impressive – later during my time in Japan I’d see parks and public spaces making the gardens in and around Edo Castle look less than average!

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Tokyo Station, Spotless clean walkway between the station and Edo Castle behind

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Some of the park area near Edo Castle and the Imperial Palace – Tokyo

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I like the juxtaposition between the city and nature – Tokyo

The first major structure was built by the warrior Edo Shigetsugu some time in the early 14th century.  The Edo clan ended in the 15th Century due to the uprising in the Kantō region, after which Ōta Dōkan who worked for the Uesugi clan built the castle in 1457.  Edo Castle, is also referred to as Chiyoda Castle, as it is now in the Chiyoda suburb of Tokyo, the former area used to be known as Edo.  Ōta Dōkan himself is also known as Ōta Sukenaga; taking the former surname after becoming a Buddhist priest, he was a samurai warrior, military strategist and poet amongst other things.

Edo Castle

Edo Castle dōshin-bansho (guardhouse) is where samurai guardsmen would have been stationed (there were a few guardhouses) as protection for the castle – Tokyo

Edo Castle

Some of the impressive stone walls leading from the guardhouse into the castle grounds – Edo Castle, Tokyo

As with many of these types of structures/areas within history its ownership changed hands a few times.  The Later Hōjō clan took over in 1524 after the Siege of Edo, then the castle was abandoned in 1590 because of the Siege of Odawara. After that Tokugawa Ieyasu made Edo Castle stronghold base after he was offered eight eastern provinces by Toyotomi Hideyoshi.  He later defeated Toyotomi Hideyori, son of Hideyoshi, at the Siege of Osaka in 1615, and emerged as the political leader of Japan. Tokugawa Ieyasu received the title of Sei-i Taishōgun in 1603, and Edo became the center of Tokugawa’s administration (a lot of this paragraph came straight from Wikipedia – it was easier for accuracy purposes).

Edo Castle

What remains of the foundation of the main castle tower – Edo Castle, Tokyo

Edo Castle

The gardens inside the castle grounds – Edo Castle, Tokyo

Edo Castle is surrounded by a moto and part of a much bigger complex including a few huge gardens and Tokyo Imperial Palace (the primary residence of the Emperor of Japan) – visits to the palace are allowed by specific prearranged guided tours….I didn’t go because of the waiting list.  Very little remains of the original Edo Castle and the vast complex of the grounds.  The area used to have waterways, many motes and canals with a circumference of nearly 16km.  Construction started in 1593 and completed in 1636 by Ieyasu’s grandson, Tokugawa Iemitsu; the Tokugawa shognute (clan) rules from 1600 till 1868 when the Meiji Restoration happened; restoration of imperial rule

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Some blossoms in the gardens of Edo Castle – Tokyo

Chiyoda Castle

Edo Castle gardens (yes, similar the one of the other pictures, but I also like this one 🙂 – Tokyo

The area was totally transformed, from pushing out the coastline in some parts to bringing the sea closer to enable boats to dock close by.  With ramparts as high as 20m, 12m high inner walls and 34 massive entrance gates, this was like a town created from almost nothing, however it was a castle/palace complex.  Considering the population of the near vicinity was only 150 000, a small population for such a massive undertaking.  To resolve this people who fell under the ruler either supplied money, resources &/or people to undertake the construction – at its height there were 300 000 construction workers. 

Edo Castle

Gardens of Edo Castle – Tokyo

Edo Castle

The Fujimi Yagura (A Turret of The Edo Castle), 1659 – Tokyo

An interesting story that happened in the castle, made famous to the Western world by Hollywood (embellished to the extent of making it fictional fantasy), is the true story of the forty-seven ronin.  At the beginning of the 18th century within the Great Pine Corridor of the Edo Castle, Asano Takumi-no-kami drew his short sword and attempted to kill Kira Kōzuke-no-suke for insulting him; it is said Kira wasn’t the nicest of people and had been spreading rumour and lies about Asano.  This action resulted in him being sentenced to commit  seppuku, furthermore his samurai warriors were banished.  These ronin plotted revenge for the honour their lord Asano, two year later their plot was put into action and succeeded.  These ronin’s actions were against the law, as with their lord Asano they were sentenced to commit seppuku.

Edo Castle

Edo Castle – Tokyo

Edo Castle

Edo Castle from the outside, massive walls and mote – Tokyo

If I’m honest to myself, and anyone that reads this, Edo Castle is ok, I can imagine the Imperial Palace must be a total different kettle of fish.  As most of the castle is not longer there, what remains is some of the layout, ramparts, foundations, some motes and walls – what remains is impressive though a tad underwhelming.  What remains of the stone construction is impressive, with huge stones at perfect angles and flattened sides.  Of the motes still functioning, they are some of the longest I’ve seen anywhere.  Their retaining walls could have been built yesterday, that’s how well they were made and have been preserved.  Considering their size and length, they are an impressive feat of engineering.  At it’s prime, this place would have been amazing, today, the gardens are more the main attraction, as beautiful as they are, like I said, I was a little underwhelmed.

After walking through Edo Castle grounds, I made my way to the main entrance of the Imperial Palace.  The Stone Bridge (Seimon Ishibashi) leads to the main entrance gate of the palace called Nishinomaru-mon with the Iron Bridge (Seimon Tetsubashi) in the background.  Both bridges used to be wooden arch bridges replaced during the Meiji period with what we see today. 

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Main gate to the Imperial Palace with the Stone Bridge (Seimon Ishibashi) in front – Tokyo

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The Iron Bridge (Seimon Tetsubashi), Edo Castle, Imperial Palace – Tokyo

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Kusunoki Masashige, a 14th-century samurai who fought for Emperor Go-Daigo in the Genkō War – Tokyo

Tokyo had got off to a slow start, that is obvious.  From my state of mind to what I had seen wasn’t spectacular, the up side was my mind was moving into the right space, so I was optimistic for the days to comes.  The next morning started off started with a bang….not a good one – I’ll get into that in my next blog post. 

 

Tokyo

Near Ueno Park Station, a small prelude to what I’d see later on during my time in Tokyo

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Lombok, Indonesia at its best, not enough time

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In retrospect I stayed on Gili Air too long, I wish I had spent more time on Lombok and Indonesia as a whole.  As with Bali, the capital of Lombok, Mataram, isn’t my cup of tea.  The best places on Lombok are those far from the large towns, that’s where you get the real island experience.  My short visit, self-inflicted because I had not explored how easy it would be to change my flights with Star Alliance…you live, you learn!

Lombok is smaller than Bali, not by much but getting around can be a bit of a challenge, though it is reasonably possible; as Lombok it’s as developed in large parts the road system is either good or dirt roads which get “altered” during heavy rain, which can be frequent.  You may have seen the photos from my post on Gili Air, Lombok is a stone’s throw so getting there is easy as pie.  I thought I’d find a place not to far from the ferry port to do some initial exploring and take it from them, bad move, or rather bad choice.  I stayed at Green Asri (in the Senggigi area), booked for 2 nights, left after 1.  Not to be too harsh about the place, the room was nice, clean etc. it was the location that didn’t fit with me; nowhere near any nice beaches that are not overlooked by hotels, there are no restaurants within easy reach unless you have a scooter.  Having just come from Gili Air, here I had an arterial road at the entrance of Asri Green, the only ok view was the gardens of the accommodation.  No, I had to find a better “Lombok” and find it fast!!

Ps. If you do head to Lombok from any of the Gili Islands you will arrive at Bangsal ferry port (though there is another about 5km South, mainly for chartered boats), get ready for some stern taxi negotiations!  The individual’s who’ll first approach you are like agents, they get a cut of the price (the initial prices are ridiculous), so it costs more; they are obviously willing to negotiate so you end up getting a price (compared to the original) that seems you got yourself a deal!  To avoid them just go straight to the taxi drives, still you’ll need to negotiate.  Never pay upfront, only pay upon arriving at your destination, always be firm about this.

Lombok

View from Bukit Merese – Lombok

Kuta Lombok

Ah, much better, not perfect, but worlds apart from Green Asri and surroundings!  Kuta Lombok is being developed along with the road infrastructure, I doubt it’ll be long until the current vibe is diluted, I hope not totally.  A promenade along the main beach was being build and a very large hotel complex about 2km away too.  I found it strange to be riding (hired a scooter as soon as I arrive) on perfectly tarred roads, with hardly any cars at all, just a few scooters mostly being ridden by tourists.  Let’s just say traffic laws are relaxed here, not having caught up with the standards of these new roads; going around traffic circles/roundabouts in the wrong direction or going down the wrong side of the road is ok…for now.

You know your surroundings have changed when most of the scooters have adaptors attached to carry surfboards, with Kuta Town offering a stereotypical surfer village vibe.  The main beach by Kuta Town, is not nice at all, I’d go so far as saying I didn’t see any visitors swimming there; it’s mostly used by the local fishermen to beach their boats.  The sea is dirtier and all in all it’s just not the nicest of beaches, but still to look at.  I don’t know anyone who goes to Kuta Town to swim, surf or do anything on “that” beach…because there are hundreds of amazing beaches along the coast – too many to see and experience if you went to a new one every day…for months!

I stayed at Family Beach Hotel, with a clear view of Kuta beach 50m away, an easy 10-minute walk to Kuta Town; a mixture of authentic bamboo and corrugated iron restaurants along with more “new authentic” restaurants and some more posh’ish restaurants too (not McDonald’s or anything of the sort…woohoo!).  I doubt you won’t find something to match your fancy and wallet.  Though I was there for two nights I was only in the area for one full day, owing to my late arrival on the first because of my delayed and hasty departure from Green Asri.

So my time in Indonesia, especially Lombok, was cut short, this a anxious feeling had been with me the 10 days as I knew my time was coming to an end; had I known how easy it would be to change my round the world ticket with Star Alliance I would have done so, a few times (I learnt that much later when I was in New Zealand).  The impending end seemed to derail me and how I would normally move about, like a rabbit caught in the headlights I froze; instead of keeping moving (which helps keep me motivated) I became stagnant which just added to the queasy feeling in my stomach.  On occasions when I did move it was done so with the wrong reasoning, I would have loved to have stayed at some places much longer, as was the case here in Kuta or at least some of the surrounding areas.  My anxious state of mind made me think I shouldn’t stay in one place for too many days either and move around as much as possible in the last week with my time in Indonesia coming to an end – there were pros and cons to this, but realistically I didn’t do Lombok justice at all.  If I had to do it again, I would have spent more time exploring Bali and Lombok with less time on Gili Air.  Resultant to my actions I had a few interesting moments but could have had a lot more fun and discovery without the monkey on my back.  Having read that back to myself I think I duplicated myself (I don’t proof read what I write too often, maybe I should…writing this with a glass of red wine sitting in a garden in Milan 😊)

Lombok

On Bukit Merese, it extends some distance so even if there are many people you can definitely find a quiet place – Lombok

Can’t change the past, at the time I thought I couldn’t change the present, with no use in crying over my lack of time, I decided to see as much as possible during my two days left on Lombok Island (a massive injustice to Lombok).  A scooter in my opinion is essential here, some of the beaches are a few kilometres way and they are worth going to see.  First on the list was Bukit Merese; a well-known tourist spot especially at sunset.  Easy to get to, mostly on quiet dusty roads, I was happy to have ridden off-road motorbikes before I left to go to the UK, the last kilometre was a bumpy ride (the next day I found out a much easier and smoother route that most people take 😊!).  With a landscape reminiscent of the English Countryside, Bukit Merese was a stark contrast to what I had become accustomed to in Indonesia.

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Sun busy setting from Bukit Merese – Lombok

Indonesia

The other half of Bukit Merese, I didn’t even get to explore the whole of it – Lombok

Bukit Merese, is a large outcrop of land resembling the shape of Italy, the toe and heel helping to create semi-enclosed crescent bays on either side.  My experiences of going off into the land in Indonesia was like hacking through a jungle, not a pleasant experience.  Bukit Merese on the other hand looks more like a flowing grass meadow, as inviting as walking through the Swiss countryside in Spring.  It gets quite busy near sunset with people scattered around to watch the show.  It’s a massive area with almost everywhere offering stunning views of the bays so it doesn’t feel crowded at all.

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There are a few small secluded beaches below Bukit Merese…will need to be explored next time, I hope there is a next time – Lombok

Lombok

View from Bukit Merese, to good not to have more than 1 photo (yes, I know, very similar to the previous one :)) – Lombok

Like a big hill with a flattish top there are many vertical drops down into the sea, Bukit Merese gives a great vantage point to get a lay of the land for kilometres on either side.  As with the few small accessible beaches right below, the coastline is strewn with alcove bays and beaches; some only 100m long, others maybe more than 1km, it would take ages to explore even half of them.  As I strolled around the hilltop taking in the view simultaneously waiting for the sunset show to begin, I felt calm and content, but for the first time in a long while I also felt a little lonely.  I cannot speak for everyone, travelling alone definitely has its advantage, but it can get a little lonely every now and then.  There are times too when it would be nice to share a moment or two with someone, this was one of those occasions…nothing much I could do about it.

Lombok

There are a few small secluded beaches below Bukit Merese…will need to be explored next time, I hope there is a next time – Lombok

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Sun setting, Bukit Merese – Lombok

With a welcomed gentle breeze blowing cooling my skin which was near cooking temperature from only an hour or two in the sun, I found a rock to sit on and watched as the sun dipped further down the horizon until it disappeared.  It’s no wonder why Bukit Merese is a tourist attraction, if I had more time I’d have loved to come back again not even for the sunset, the views are stunning in all directions, along with being a perfect getaway just watch and listen to the sea.  That was it for my first day, well first few hours in Kuta, not a bad place at all, my mind was feeling a little more at ease.

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The fire of red and orange of a sun setting, Bukit Merese – Lombok

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Bukit Merese, sunset – Lombok

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ANother sunset from Bukit Merese – Lombok

Next day, scooter filled with petrol (since Koh Samui I always wear a helmet hahaha 😊) I was going to cruise around for the day, first up was Batu Payung; I saw a picture of it, when I did I thought that’s what I’d like to see.  That’s something I do quite often, see a picture and decide I want to see “that” for myself and work my plans around it or it becomes my only plan and then take things from there.  Instead of accessing Batu Payung from Tanjung Aan beach I rode to the other side, I don’t know the beach’s name (the beach between Batu Payung and Goa Kotak Lombok).  I don’t think too many people go via this route riding through the back of a small village/settlement or use this beach, void of anyone except some locals selling their wares and refreshments.  Compared to others nearby, it has a great beach however access into the sea isn’t; with lots of rocks just below the surface for over 600m (maybe closer to 1km) before the waves start at which point the sea is deep – I was there at low tide, though I don’t think it would be much different at high.

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Batu Payung on the left, Gili Anakanjan in front – Lombok

Lombok

Gili Anakanjan, imagine living there or even spending the day on it – Lombok

I wasn’t there for the sea or to swim, I wanted to see the view from Batu Payung; a solitary rocky obelisk/column sticking up like a bulging finger on the rock bed, worn away at the bottom by time and sea.  Over who knows how many years, what was between it and the mainland is now washed away leaving behind this top-heavy monolith stranded in no-man’s-land.  From the hilltop you get a great view of the blue turquoise waters gently flowing by the rocking motion of the sea between the mainland and the tiny island Gili Anakanjan just a hundred metres out to sea – now that would be an awesome place to stay, even just camping for the night.  It may seem silly to walk a few kilometres (I had to walk along the coast edge leaving my scooter on the beach) just to see one part of a beach with so many beautiful beaches surrounding me.  That’s not how I see it, as much as I say I would like to visit again, realistically it is most likely that I will not.  Part of my traveling adventure is to get rid of the “what if’s” and “I wonder what is around that corner”; where possible, if I see something that interests me, I go and see it.  Similarly, whilst walking, if I spot something out the corner of my eye, even a road that looks different or something inside stirs my curiosity I take the detour to go and see.  This means (not always) that when I leave a place I know I’ve satisfied the itch, I leave a place feeling content.

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Batu Payung, give you better perspective with people standing near by – Lombok

Lombok

The many crescents coast line that you can find throughout Lombok, and Indonesia for that matter – Lombok

Lombok

The bay behind Batu Payung, I think it’s called Pantai Muluq Indah Permai – Lombok

For the remainder of the day I didn’t do what seems like much, I visited Tanjung Aan with an ice cold beer and watch the sea as time passed me by.  With a big storm on its way in I really didn’t get to do much else except taking different route back to my accommodation getting caught in the initial part of the storm, no harm done.  For the remainder of the afternoon it poured down in buckets, leaving little else to do but plan for my departure the following morning and have dinner in Kuta Town – thankfully by early evening the rain had subsided to a mild drizzle.

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Another of Batu Payung and Gili Anakanjan. On the left would be Pantai Muluq Indah Permai (I think that’s its name), to the right would be Tanjung Aan beach – Lombok

Lombok

Tanjung Aan beach – Lombok

Ekas Breaks

The night before leaving Kuta, I had seen a picture of a place called Pink Beach, not being able to find reasonable accommodation (a mixture of expensive &/or taking me too long to get there), I found middle ground in Ekas Breaks.  Why I had not learnt form my experiences before, distance on a map should not be an indication of how long it takes to get there!  Well, the first bit of the journey was pleasant though slow, it was the last few kilometres that a tank would have been a more suitable vehicle than a taxi.

About the only accommodation except for homestays, Ekas Breaks is a great sanctuary. Local beach isn’t much, not great at all but there are plenty of beaches within the neighbourhood….though the “hood” is spread across a large area – distances are short, it’s the roads that add time to the journey. There is a new main road through the area and a few arteries too that are in very good condition, it’s when you inevitably leave these roads to get to any destination that’s when the fun begins.  From the main road to Ekas Breaks, a 4×4 or motorbike is the only sensible means of transport – though scooters can be hired, like I did, an off-road motorbike would be much more appropriate.  On the way to Pink Beach, I’ve been on motocross tracks that were less bumpy 😊!

NB. Recommendation, if it has rained the night before I’d suggest not taking a scooter, not even a taxi unless it was a 4×4…or tractor – no jokes!

Lombok

Ekas Breaks, my accommodation (there’s a pool to my left), great place to stay – Lombok

I was only in the area for two nights, leaving only one full day to explore, not nearly enough time to see the local area not to mention the surrounding areas too!  I hadn’t anticipated the state of the roads, it rained the first night I got there which made the next day’s riding interesting to say the least.  One consolation was that the follow day boiling hot, meaning there was some respite from the mud as it dried up in places, but far from all – in places where the mud had dried, it left deep hard ruts in the “road”; for the remainder of this post I’ll use the word road very loosely.

It was the latter part of the day by the time I got to Ekas Breaks, leaving little to no time to go anywhere except the beach to watch the sun set.  Like I’ve already mentioned it rained the first night so watching the sun set was more like watching dark clouds building up.  As for the beach, well I was disappointed and there was a little voice at the back of my mind saying, “I hope the rest of the area isn’t like this!?”.  It’s not a swimming or sunbathing beach, the closest beach to Ekas Breaks is a fishing beach; though the beach is long and wide it would be the perfect place to see the sun set.  Toing and froing in my writing, the area is well known for its surfing, just not at the beach where we went, no the biggest wave there was a foot high at most.  The surfers spot is about 5km, it must be quite good as everyone except 2 (inclusive) was there to surf – and they raved about it.

Lombok

Ekas Beach, I was there for the sunset but instead watched the storm coming in – Lombok

Lombok

If you’ve been to SE Asia you’ve probably heard the noise of a Tokay Geko, I love it. This one was on my ceiling porch at Ekas Breaks – Lombok

Next morning, I headed off, destination Pink Beach 22km away, what a doddle!  In order to reinforce my sentiments about the roads just to prove I’m not exaggerating, it took me nearly 3 hours to get there!  Now to be fair, part of that time was getting a little lost, but I wouldn’t attribute more than 30 minutes to that!  Yes, it took ages to get there, but honestly I enjoyed every minute; riding through the mud getting all dirty, mistaking the depth of the water before riding through, slipping and sliding nearly falling (going slowly), riding through the bush when the road got to bad or the mud &/or water to thick or deep…I felt like a child.  A little tip, wearing flip flops is the best, my shoes would have been soaked and full of mud had I warn them.

Pink Beach

Riding to Pink Beach was more interesting and enjoyable than visiting the beach, don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful beach; it took me much longer than anticipated to get there, leaving little time to enjoy the place, it was a fun ride though.  Not to repeat myself, but I will, this area and the whole of Lombok has so much more to offer than what I experienced, one of the reasons I regret not spending more time on the island (I can kick myself for spending too much time on Gili Air, grrrrr, stuck between a rock and a hard place because I really liked Gili Air.  Still in retrospect, I should have left earlier and give more time to Lombok) – my little anecdote about Lombok does it no justice at all.

Lombok

Pink Beach in the distance, view from one of the cliffs – Lombok

Lombok

Crystal clear water below, to shallow to jump, Pink Beach around the corner – Lombok

So, I got to the beach, hmmm a little disappointed in not seeing a “pink” beach.  The sand does have a faint pinkish tinge; if you go to the water’s edge even more so.  I had read prior to the time that the colour is best with the rising sun early in the morning, even so I was expecting a little more colour.  Even though it isn’t a bright “pink beach” it doesn’t detract from being a lovely area, quiet’ish beach too (40 people at most, with another 40 odd at the most on the cliff).  I had been meandering about for an hour or so, strolling along the beach and knee deep in the sea when I realised I didn’t have my phone with me, EISH!, I had left it by the scooter, in one of the pouches by your knees – I always put the phone there, it gives easy access when riding to check the map.  In today’s world, unfortunately loosing your phone is worse than having your wallet stolen!  I hurried back to my scooter, parked out in the open, even from a distance I could see the phone sticking out…yes, it was still there!  Maybe I was lucky, maybe not, I like to think the latter.  There were quite a few people within 20m away from my bike, I had walked far out of site, I can’t imagine it would still have been there if I was in many other countries, cities, towns or villages. I was bloody relieved.  Phone in pocket (😊)  I headed to the cliff overlooking Pink Beach.  By the way, it’s called Pink Beach because the white sand mixes with coral fragments, shells and calcium carbonate left behind by foraminifera; tiny marine creatures with red &/or pink shells – it’s the foraminifera that produces the red pigment.

Lombok

There are many little islands/rocky mounds across the bays near Pink Beach. Don’t think the beach on the left has a name – Lombok

I only made it to one of the cliffs, facing the sea the one on the right, the better of the two in my opinion for best views being more elevated.  Though I was loving the views, I couldn’t escape the thought at the back of my mind that I would need to be leaving soon.  Riding back in the dark really wasn’t an option, I enjoyed the ride there but riding back in the dark, on a scooter on those roads with no mobile signal really wouldn’t be a wise move.  If I had more time in Indonesia I wold have moved to this side of the Island for a few days, even skipping extending my stay to explore the area around Ekas Breaks.  The area around Pink Beach is remote, just as I like things, with not much else to do than enjoy the beach, sea and looking across the deep clear sea at the tiny islands within swimming distance.  Of these little islands, they are no more than large rocks protruding from the sea worn away from the mainland over the centuries, I guess.

Indonesia

Pink Beach – Lombok. Ps. My photos are not edited so these are more representative of what you see.  If I added more colour the pink does show up better

Lombok

Pink Beach – Lombok. Ps. My photos are not edited so these are more representative of what you see.  If I added more colour the pink does show up better

I don’t want to waffle along about the area, nor write for the sake of having to say something, I’ll let the pictures do the talking.  Needless to say I left to head back to Ekas Breaks regrettably, making a stop or two on the way back arriving just before nightfall.  I would be leaving early the following morning, heading back to Gili Air to meet up with Julie and Mila for 24 hours, which was great to see them again, that would be the end of my time in Indonesia.  From Gili Air I took a ferry back to Lombok to fly to Kuala Lumpur where I had a 6 hour transit.  From Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok (with a 2 hour stop over) then to my final destination, Tokyo (Kuala Lumpur to Tokyo via Bangkok was part of my Star Alliance round the world ticket).

Japan was my next destination, I was in for what turned out to be a different world, beautifully so.  Along with the wonders of Japan I had a few ups and downs near the start of my visit, I’ll get into them soon – right now (in Crete, Greece) I’m looking for a quiet place to catch up on a mountain of writing to even get close to catching up!

Goodbye Indonesia, what a beautiful country, filled with diversity and variation.  I hope I get to go back someday, soon.

Kuala Lumpur, the Asian powerhouse and Batu Caves

Gallery

Before I begin about my time in Kuala Lumpur (the Batu Caves were a surprise), I cannot skip the journey I of getting there from Vietnam, beginning from An Bang.  Like I had previously mentioned, I thought 15 days in Vietnam would suffice and get me from Hanoi to Ho Chin Minh City/Saigon…I underestimated just how much there is to see and how beautifully diverse the country is.  So, back to my last post, leaving An Bang.  I booked a flight from Da Nang airport which is only 30 minutes’ drive from An Bang to Tan Son Nhat Inter airport (Ho Chin Minh City/Saigon) on day 15 (I only had a 15 visa, which I got upon landing in Hanoi), this gave me a few 2 hours 45 min in Ho Chi Minh before my connecting flight with a different airline.  From there I would catch my flight to Bangkok, spend one night there and catch my early morning flight to Kuala Lumpur, with a different airline.  The reason I had to go back to Bangkok was because that is where my next leg of my round the world ticket flew from (I got through Star Alliance).

Even the best of plans can go awry, well almost!  Somehow, I got the timings wrong about my flight out of Da Nang, getting to the airport more than 5 hours early, nothing wrong with that though. Checking-in and security were fine, that’s when the fun began.  I noticed some of the earlier flights were delayed but my flight seemed fine, by delayed I mean some were delayed by 3 hours with the flight only being 1 hour 20 minutes.  Time ticked by with a slight nervous undercurrent building up…now my flight was delayed, first by 10 minutes then 15, then 1 hour!  I couldn’t take the chance of missing my connecting flight, so I headed to the nearest gate with a VietJet attendant to explain that my predicament.  Luckily the lady spoke quite good English, still I had prepared myself for a long saga with pleading leading into frustration and anger.  She would need to make a few call and check a few things, she had to leave but asked me to stay where I was and she’d get back to me shortly – as if I haven’t heard that one before!

Less than 10 minutes later she returned, she had arranged for me to be put on the next earlier flight (also delayed), arranged for them to find my checked-in luggage which I would take as hand luggage and given me a seat in the front row of the plane so I could bolt out when we landed.  My bag arrived, it had to go through security as I would take it as hand luggage (I’ll get to that shortly), we ran to the flight gate, I was the last person to board!  Only casualty was my Leatherman had to be confiscated as I couldn’t take it on board.  By my calculation I would have 30 minutes from landing to make cut-off for check-in which was at a different terminal to the one we were landing at.  So, we landed, I ran as fast as I could, quite a distance and in the heat and make check-in by 15 minutes.  I must confess that after telling the check-in attendant from Nok Air (flight to Bangkok), she and her colleague laughed retorting with a smile “VietJet…always delayed!”  Yes, their flights were delayed, but the service I got from VietJet was bloody fantastic!  I’d fly with them again anytime…maybe giving myself a little more of a buffer though 😊!  Ps. If I had missed my flight to Bangkok (which was the last flight of the day, that would have meant another night in Vietnam, but my visa would have expired and that could have put a whole new spin on the problem.  Flight to Bangkok went smoothly so was my flight to Kuala Lumpur, and that’s my short story on how I got to Kuala Lumpur.

Kuala Lumpur, like most cities they have a similarity about them with only a dash of colloquialism therefore unlikely to reveal the “real” culture of a country.  Nevertheless, I would spend a few days in the city, enough time for some exploring and planning the next stage of my trip to Indonesia.  For the first 3 days I stayed at The 5 Elements Hotel, less than 100m from China Town – a good location and value for money.  I tried to extend my stay but couldn’t as they were fully booked, not a bad sign.  After that I spent three days at Mov Hotel Kuala, definitely a upgrade room and location, the small rooftop swimming pool was worth a million dollars after a long hot, humid day of walking – obviously more expensive than the first but still good value for money considering its close proximity to the malls and Petronas Towers.

Kuala Lumpur

The ever present KL Tower

Kuala Lumpur

Maybank Tower / Menara Maybank – Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur

The vertical gardens of Le Nouvel KLCC, luxury apartments in Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur

Behind the expensive shopping malls and hotels the city is slightly different! Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur

Enough about hotels!  My initial thoughts on the city was unmistakably of a place experiencing financial growth.  Parts of the city are as swanky as you can get, but you don’t need to look far to find many people struggling.  In amongst luxury stores, malls and hotels you just need to walk a little way, to see where those who are serving people at these posh places live, a different world, yet to be affected by the economic strength.  Even so, you cannot miss the fact that this is a city, and country, on the rise.  Kuala Lumpur is a big city, a population of around 1.7 million, if you include the Greater Kuala Lumpur or Klang Valley that increases it to 7.3 million.  The city has 3 major ethnic groups, Malay (44.7%), Chinese (43.2%) and Indian (10.3%) making for a cosmopolitan environment not just statistically, that includes architecture, food and religion – Islam (46.4%), Buddhism (35.7%) and Hinduism (8.5%) and Christianity (5.8%).  Though Islam is the predominant religion, it seems to be a moderate Islam, with as many bars and nightclubs as I’ve seen in European cities so things like alcohol are readily available and advertised.  I don’t know what I was expecting from Kuala Lumpur, I’ve said many times before that I’m “over” cities, part of travelling in my opinion is best experienced when you are away from metropolises.  Yet, wondering the city streets is never dull, it is a vibrant city and I felt safe no matter where I went.  I’m sure there may be dubious neighbourhoods, all cities have them, but I didn’t experience any.

Kuala Lumpur

Fantastic graffiti/street art mural – Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur

China Town – Kuala Lumpur

Sri Mahamariamman Temple

The narrow elaborately decorated and exceptionally colourful gateway of the Sri Mahamariamman Temple is tucked between a larger part of the temple on a busy road, the last place you’d go looking for a temple.  It stands oddly alone on an otherwise commercial area a stone’s throw from China Town.  You can’t miss it; how could it be with its bright colours covered for door-level to roof top with Hindu figurines.  The temple itself is beyond the gate, which is called a Gopuram, pity I could not go inside as it was closed – I don’t actually know if they allow visitors inside.

Kuala Lumpur

Sri Mahamariamman Temple – Kuala Lumpur

It used to be the private shrine of the Pillai family, founded in the late 19th century by K. Thamboosamy Pillai (a prominent businessman and Tamil community leader), which was opened up to the public in 1920 and is the oldest operating Hindu temple in Malaysia.  What is seen today isn’t part of the original temple, that has been knocked down and rebuilt, what is there today is the third incarnation, with the gopuram being built in 1972.  I’d be seeing more Hindu statues and temples later during my time in Kuala Lumpur, even more elaborate and colourful…wait till I get to the Batu Caves!

Petronas Towers

A new iconic landmark not only of the city but of Malaysia, it marries its past and culture (by design) with its prominent position it plays within the region and globally.  Famous for many reasons not just its use as a backdrop for movies, but also for the innovation in its construction and height. In building it, they made a statement within the region and across the globe that they were a serious player.

Kuala Lumpur

Petronas Towers – Kuala Lumpur

Personally, I think it took many people (Western) by surprise that something like this could be accomplished within the region.  It held the record for the tallest building from 1998 till 2004 and still holds the record for the tallest twin towers.  The top of the roof stands at 378.6m and the top of the antenna/spire stands at 451.9m.  They are impressive buildings, not the smooth mirrored glass structures that seem to be the style of the day.  No, the Petronas Towers are reminiscent of some of the older mosque minarets, here they are made of steel and struct into the ground, like modern obelisks.

Bukit Nanas

I saw Bukit Nanas on the map and a few sites had mentioned it but didn’t think much about it until I got there.  Frankly, I had been walking around and there was a faint drizzle rain coming down, so I thought I would go check it out.  Well, besides it being like walking through a sauna it very cool.  Not just a city garden, Bukit Nanas is 9.3 hectares of virgin rain forest slap bang in the middle of a city!  I couldn’t believe how the climate changed from the pavement into the forest, the humidity was ridiculous!  Bukit Nanas isn’t a sanitised forest in a city, it has monkeys, poisonous spiders, snakes and scorpions, with pathways, raised platforms and rope bridges enabling you to explore the forest at close range.

Kuala Lumpur

Bukit Nanas, the tropical forest in the heart of Kuala Lumpur

I’m used to manicured city gardens, this is a totally different experience and very cool.  Every now and then you remember you’re a in a city.  Skyscrapers sticking out behind the trees, or a sudden opening of the bush reveals a backdrop of glass and concrete, including the KL Tower which is difficult to miss no matter where you are in the city.  You really do feel out of the city, it is only a small forest but if you happen to be in Kuala Lumpur it is a quick and enjoyable visit.  The name Bukit Nanas means “pineapple hill” and covered a larger area, pineapples were grown there as a deterrent against attackers during the Klang War (1867 to 1874).  The original proposition to keep the area a natural forest was in 1906, the area was 17.5 hectares.  Over the years building encroached in to the forest, hence it now being 9.3 hectares.

Kuala Lumpur Tower

Still an attraction in the city, the KL Tower as it is mostly referred to is the 7th tallest freestanding tower in the world at 421m including the antenna, 335m to the roof pod.  I don’t’ know what I was thinking, I couldn’t have been thinking at all, but I didn’t go right up to the tower…meaning I didn’t know you could go up the tower!!!  The views must be excellent, sadly I don’t know.  Perched on top of a hill right next to Bukit Nanas, it is a elegant structure; so thin for such a high structure, you can’t imagine it being stable with the bulge at the top.  Can’t say much else about it, how stupid of me not to find out or at the very least walk to the base!  GRRRR……next time!

Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur Tower, taken from Bukit Nanas

Though I spend 6 days in Kuala Lumpur I didn’t really sea that much, yes, I went to the shopping area with all the glamorous shops and mall, those just aren’t my thing – I’m not going to include pictures of shopping malls!  I got to catch up with some writing and planning, it was also nice just to have a break, taking things easy and stroll around the place – I even had a Nando’s…twice!

Batu Caves 

On the edge of the city, away from everything that’s new and shiny are the Batu Caves.  Not dissimilar to many cities, the outskirts being occupied by a mix of industrial, commercial and pooper inhabitants intertwined into each other you can find the Batu Caves.  Long before arriving there you see the limestone hills, like a little mountain range covered in dense green, a lovely backdrop juxtaposed what I found the poorest area I had seen in the city.  As we got closer the colossal 42.7m golden statue of Lord Rama glimmered in the sun, behind what looked like a conveyor belt of stairs leading half way up into the depth of the mountain.

Kuala Lumpur

Entrance to the Batu Caves – Kuala Lumpur

Batu Caves

The 42.7m high statue of Lord Rama

There was a lot of construction going on everywhere at the Batu Caves, some new and some restoration – always a catch 22, great to see restoration work, selfishly a pity from a visual perspective.  For a temple/place of worship, this place doesn’t have that solemn feel, not at all, it’s closer to an amusement park environment, very much family and tourist orientated.  The Batu Caves are obviously thousands of years old, as a temple complex only since 1890, also founded by K. Thamboosamy Pillai – the same man who founded the Sri Mahamariamman Temple.  Prior to the temple it isn’t certain what or how the Batu Caves were utilised or if they were ever occupied by human.  The earliest known human use was by the Chinese in the 1860; they used the guano as fertiliser for their crops.

Batu Caves

The more I travel the more I love stairs! Kuala Lumpur

Batu Caves

The monkeys at the Batu Caves are sneaky buggers, and adept at opening just about anything!

Within the Batu Caves complex there are three large caves; one about 2/3 up the main stairs, the other at the top of the stairs (the biggest) and another at ground level about 200m from the bottom of the stairs (facing the stairs).  Going up to the biggest cave, called the cathedral or temple cave, there are lots of monkeys lining the stairs; there are many throughout the area, especially in the cave too.  These little buggers are rather cheeky and quite daring!  They won’t hesitate to grab any food or drink you have in your hand, even anything loose or hanging from your bag.  You are warmed not to feed them, I can see why, I even saw two of them opening a can of Pringles that was totally sealed!  I had an empty protein bar package taken, don’t even dare try taking it from them they get very territorial.

The entrance of the main cave leads into a huge hall, higher and longer that it is wide.  The ground has been concreted level, I’d easily say big enough to fit a football pitch inside.  It’s so big and because they’ve raised and levelled the floor it doesn’t feel like you’re in a cave.  The fact that another little temple is being build inside the cave along with permanent shops you could be in some themed park.  The big hall is rather dull, the walls and ceiling the only original part of the cave, the ceiling the only interesting part in my opinion, maybe I’m being too cynical.  The hall has its natural beauty, it is a very open cavernous space (pun intended), there is just something about it that has lost its wow factor; I think a lot has to do with the partial commercialisation of it, seems more is it to come.

Batu Caves

The main cathedral cave of the Batu Caves – Kuala Lumpur

Batu Caves

Stair leading into the second cave from the main Cathedral Cave

Straight ahead on the other side of the cave is another set of stairs leading further up into a second part of the cave, a magical setting.   At about a ¼ the size of the first hall, this second hall isn’t really a cave at all (at least now after hundreds of years of erosion), no, half of the ceiling is missing.  With a gaping hole narrowing towards to top creating a column of light shooting down from the sky.  In stark contrast to a somewhat gloomy interior of the carve, this skylight is brimming with green growing ever denser till the rim.  Here there are even more monkeys, at least more at home in the shrubbery coming down every now and then to pester the visitors for food…or just taking it and running! A few small temple shrines are spread out in the second hall, they blend into the atmosphere of the environment around giving a more intimate feel – still full of people making a little too much noise, but without the roof the sound doesn’t echo as much.

Kuala Lumpur

One of the shrines in the second hall of the cathedral hall, the hope ceiling of the cave visible behind – Kuala Lumpur

Batu Caves

The chimney of green leading up from the cave – Kuala Lumpur

Batu Caves

The ever present Monkeys are never far away – Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur

Heading out of the caves back down the main stairs, at the bottom turning right, you follow path along ground level till you get to the next big cave. Before getting there you pass a big statue of Hanuman to a part of the complex that was closed when I was there, shortly after is the entrance to the other big cave.  At the entrance (I serious hope my interpretation is correct!!) is a statue of Lord Krishna riding a carriage of bronze horses; a representation of Lord Krishna delivering the Gita Upadesha – the front plaque dedicating the monument to the teachings of Gita “Gita Upadesha” – upadesha referring to teaching/instruction of a spiritual nature.  I changed the last two sentences on 14th August thanks to an accurate translation/interpretation from one of my readers.

Kuala Lumpur

A temple at ground level between two of the main caves at Batu Caves – Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur

The large statue of Hanuman at the Batu Caves – Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur

Gita Upadesha statue at the entrance of the cave, Batu Caves – Kuala Lumpur

Like I had said earlier, my knowledge of Hindu mythology is non-existent so my journey through this cave was perplexing to say the least.  The cave itself contrasts to the cathedral caves in that in this one the rock formations were more rounded, giving the cave a gentle feeling like it had been made over thousands of years by flowing water (further into and higher within the cave its resemblance to the cathedral hall was more similar).  Now I’m beating around the bush about the cave because I’m procrastinating addressing how the interior is decorated, Alice in Wonderland comes to mind – I mean no disrespect to Hindus.

Batu Caves

Inside the cave with its decorations

Filled with neon string lights, human and god’ish figurines depicting religious tales/fables, it really is a world apart from the other caves, not what I had expected at all!  Bright colours painted against the walls as are many of the displays I really got the feeling of going down the rabbit hole.  I’m confident, no, I know for certain that I’ve never seen such a psychedelic religious display.  It felt so out of place, here in this cave to have such a contrasting display to its surroundings.  There was no one to ask to explain the display, yes, I know it tells a story, but who represents who and what represent what, I just don’t know.  Taken at face value or sight, if I wasn’t aware of it being a religious depiction I would have thought it was a children’s display or story, even then I would have thought it very peculiar.  I headed further into the cave, still lit up with coloured lights only more restrained.  Though the cave does have an end, there are a few rooms and levels you can explore – quite whitewashed with stairs and handrails.  If nothing, the last cave is interesting just for the sake of seeing it.

Kuala Lumpur

Inside the Gita Upadesha cave, Batu Caves – Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur

Top view up one of the staircases inside the Gita Upadesha cave, Batu Caves – Kuala Lumpur

That was my time in Kuala Lumpur, a city with a few things to see and do that tickled my fancy, yet it is still a city.  I had seen what I wanted to see and used the rest of my time to plan my next stage to Indonesia, other than that I just wondered the streets.  I’m confident Kuala Lumpur has other things to offer, considering what it has there is likely something to interest everyone.  My calling was to head to the islands, next stop would be Bali.