Tag Archives: animals

Batu Caves and Monkey Attacks!


I told myself to allow at least one month before expecting to really start enjoying my new surroundings, and like my previous experiences abroad, I think things are really starting to get better.

Last week I was finally able to be a tourist, something I had been struggling to do while in the midst of starting a new job, finding an apartment, settling into the apartment, etc. But last weekend I was able to escape Cheras for a few hours and headed to the Batu Caves, one of Kuala Lumpur’s main attractions.

The 140-foot tall Lord Murugun statue outside the Batu Caves

Ok, so honestly, I am a bit embarrassed that I cannot tell you more about the caves, because there really weren’t a lot of signs and things to read about while I was there ( I am definitely the type that thrives on reading all the things posted in museums). But from what I understand, the Batu Caves are basically a big shrine to Lord Murugun, one of the Hindu gods. In fact, a 140-foot gold statue of Lord Murugun – the largest in the world – stands at the foot of the 272 to steps that lead up into the cave itself. It is actually quite a stunning sight to see.

Once at the top there are a few shrines where Hindus come to pray and make offerings. While there were mostly tourists everywhere, I did see a few people dressed in saris and religious clothing who came for other purposes. But the main event at the Batu Caves comes in late January/ early February when devotees from all over come for the Thaipusam festival to show penance by walking up the steps carrying things attached to their body by hooks. I will definitely be back for that.

With the big Lord Murugun statue and a few shrines, many criticize the Batu Caves for being underwhelming or just a tourist trap. I, on the other hand, found the trip amazing but mostly because of one, non-religious reason: monkeys! The Batu Caves are ABSOLUTELY SWARMING with them!

As many of you know (especially after reading some of my former posts) I was really looking forward to seeing monkeys here but have been a little disappointed that I have only seen a couple so far. Let’s just say after last weekend, I have had my fill for awhile…

A monkey enjoying the bananas I bought it

After a lovely Indian lunch of tosai and curry, my new friends and I decided to trek up the steps to the top. I had heard about the monkeys (though I hadn’t seen any yet) and bought a bunch of small bananas to give to them when I saw them. I don’t why I thought I’d be so brave, but the minute I saw the first monkey walking across the steps I screamed! Everybody stared, but after not seeing any monkeys at the base of the cave, seeing them on the steps, on the handrails and in the trees nearby was overwhelming! I immediately started shouting at my friends to take my bananas away and started freaking out they would come and attack me, something the nice Indian women outside the restaurant warned me about.

Luckily, Arnaud (my new French friend) was able to give my bananas away without harm, and after I calmed down, the whole experience was incredible! The monkeys, at least the ones at the Batu Caves, are used to tourists and would come right up to people looking for food. At the top of the caves, the show was amazing! The monkeys were everywhere, swinging on rails, pillaging through garbage or playfully chasing each other around the cave. I watched one of them pull at this woman’s long skirt looking for food while another had to be shooed off a woman’s bag! The adrenaline rush of just being that close to them was incredible, and I finally started to remember why it was I came to Malaysia in the first place. I started to feel a sense of contentment…

That moment was short-lived.

A Hindu woman prays to a shrine in the Batu Caves

After what might have been several hours at the top of the caves, I decided to climb back down and go home. As I approached the first set of steps, the steepest and most narrow of the bunch, I saw the monkeys had taken over the staircase, with at least six sitting on both sets of handrails (and one couple having sex on them). It was like looking at a group of bullies waiting to pick on the small kids as they walked home from school. The monkeys had mostly stayed away from me so far, and since I no longer had any food, I thought I’d be safe to walk down.


After just a few steps, one of the monkeys jumped right in front of me, looked me straight in the eyes and started hissing (or whatever it is monkeys do when they are ready to attack). It then ran straight at my legs!

I am telling you, I can’t remember the last time I felt that much terror. I immediately started running back up the steps (hoping to God I wouldn’t fall and break my neck) and this time, I really screamed! Though he chased me a little ways, the monkey left me alone, and I survived the “attack” with no physical harm done. Luckily, this nice English lady who was behind me held my hand on the way back down, because I was shaking so badly. It seemed like it took hours for my heart rate to go back to normal and to regain full motor functions, but the experience is one I will never forget.

Next time, I’m bringing a stick ;).

Apartments and monkeys


For those of you who know me pretty well, you know that making decisions has never been my strong point. Just going to the mall and picking out a simple pair of shoes or a sweater can take hours, so you can imagine my difficulty in trying to find an apartment, especially when practically all of them require a one-year commitment.  To make matters worse, my two-week free stay at Hotel Caliber runs out in three days. The clock is ticking…

So basically my dreams of commuting to Cheras from KLCC every day were squashed the day I got to work when practically everyone told me I was crazy. Not only is KLCC exponentially more expensive to live in than Cheras, but the commute during rush hour could take hours, even though it could be as short as a 20-minute drive. So I have decided to stay in Cheras, but settling on where exactly to live in Cheras has been a whole other issue. The problem is finding a place I am comfortable in that is accessible to both work and shopping without a car, not an easy feat here. I did find a newly-opened “luxury” studio apartment complex that is within an acceptable distance from work. The only problem is, while this place is technically affordable, it is small. Don’t get me wrong, it is beautiful, very clean and would be very easy to maintain. But for the same price and even less (sometimes a lot less), I could get a multi-bedroom, fully furnished apartment elsewhere that is in a much more rundown condition. It’s not that I need a ton of space, but aside from saving money, it would be nice to have a kitchen table and extra space for when I have guests. (Sidenote: the “luxury” apartment has a very lovely bathroom that separates the bedroom from the main room – completely encased in glass walls…)

Technically, I have made a verbal commitment to rent the see-through, “luxury” condo, but one of my real estate agents said he has a cheaper, two-bedroom nearby to show me Tuesday. Plus, a new cab-driver friend I made said he is going to recommend me some condos within walking distance of work that would be even cheaper. Sigh, thank goodness I have friends to stay with after Wednesday… Hopefully by the end of this week I’ll have a home. Fingers crossed.

On a positive note, I am much more comfortable here. I have gotten over the initial feeling of “Oh my goodness, am I really going to be living here for two years?” to a growing excitement of all the cool things I want to do. Seriously, I am learning soooo much every day, I cannot even begin to write it all down right now. Everything from Malaysia’s religion(s) to its politics to its climate and living conditions is so vastly different than what  I have experienced before. This is definitely not an experience I would have gotten staying in the U.S. or western Europe.

For instance,Wednesday I saw my first wild monkeys ever. Let me tell you, it was SOOOO COOL!!! I was such a giddy, little girl, it was ridiculous. My boss was like, “I don’t think I have ever seen someone quite so excited about monkeys before…,” but to someone who has only seen monkeys in zoos, to see them within feet of you with no bars was incredible. There was a mom, her baby (so cute!) and two, what I presume, were males, eating garbage outside the homes surrounding the university where I work. Though no official contact was made (they have been known to snatch stuff from people), the few times they caught me staring at them was enough to make me run away a few times. Very, very cool just the same. 🙂

The other highlight of the week was eating possibly the most delicious Indian food I have ever had. My co-worker Joyce and I went out to check out an apartment in a trendy, expat suburb called Bangsar (though too far away and too expensive) and had dinner in this open, noisy restaurant with no menus and terrible service. However, the delicious chicken tandoori (with three types of curry) and garlic cheese naan that was brought out after finally convincing our server to take our order made the whole experience worth it. It was incredible! And that, plus two chocolate milks, cost less than $4. Amazing.

Work has also been going well. My official title is manager in the corporate affairs office for UCSI Group, which is largely made up of UCSI University. Though I am still not exactly sure what all my responsibilities are,  my job so far has been editing and writing speeches and articles for the university. So far everyone in my office has been really friendly and really helpful, especially when it came to housing recommendations, and we seem to get along well. Hopefully the good vibes will continue. Tomorrow starts week two!

And so the adventure begins…


Part of being out of your comfort zone is being uncomfortable, and part of my reason for coming to Malaysia was to get out of my comfort zone. Let’s just say mission accomplished.

I’m not going to lie, it has been a difficult week, and the culture shock of being in a developing, southeastern Asian country is unlike anything I have ever experienced before.

As much as I love traveling and new adventures, much of the past few days has been spent desperately clinging to anything and everything western, as I cautiously come out of my shell. There is a big difference between jumping into experience a new culture while on vacation and accepting the realization that you will be living in this very (VERY) different country for the next two years.

So soon after arriving in Malaysia, I learned that my office is actually not in the Kuala Lumpur city center (the downtown), but instead in Cheras, one of the city’s suburbs. In fact, UCSI thought it best to put me in Hotel Caliber for my first two weeks, which is in a dirty, all-Chinese district of the city where practically no one speaks English, at least not well. In fact, I am the ONLY non-Asian here, which has made things a bit lonely.

Luckily, I discovered the city center is a $4, 15-minute cab ride away, and vastly different than its surrounding areas. KLCC is actually quite modern. It is dominated by the Petronas Towers, two quite stunning twin towers that were the world’s largest between 1998 and 2004. Attached to it is the ridiculously huge, six-level Suria KLCC shopping mall, which not only has practically every popular American brand, but loads of high-end designer stores and my favorite European shops that I could never find in the U.S. (Zara, Mango, TopShop etc.). In front of that is KLCC Park which features a large, pool/fountain that comes to life in the evenings with a pretty impressive water show. The area also has practically any kind of food you could want ranging from every type of Asian cuisine and lots of American restaurants and fast food places. Interesting side note: as a mostly Muslim country, it is really difficult to find pork products around here. Instead, I have noticed restaurants offer chicken “bacon” and chicken “ham,” products that look like the pork equivalent, but in fact, are not. I find it very amusing :).

So on Day 2, I decided to sneak a peak at the UCSI University campus (my employer) to see if I would like to live in the area. While the university itself looks nice, my reaction to living nearby was a loud, hell no! The surrounding area is mostly residential but absolutely reeks of sewage and is full of open gaps in the sidewalk that reveal the dirty running water below. There are random piles of garbage everywhere, and I found myself holding my breath on a number of occasions. I quickly decided it was worth the money and the time to commute from KLCC.

So the last few days have been spent looking at apartments, and hopefully, I will be moved into one by the end of this week. I found a nice one today that is about a five-minute walk from the Petronas Towers that I like and tomorrow I will see a few more.

Me posing with the birds at KL Bird Park.

Though it has been a difficult week, I have been slowly but steadily pushing myself further out of my cocoon (and KLCC). Today I went on my first tourist excursion and visited the Kuala Lumpur Bird Park which is supposedly the largest, free-flight aviary in the world. Though I have never been much of a bird person, the park was pretty impressive. It is huge and full of  lush green vegetation, waterfalls and ponds. Nearly the whole thing is covered in a large net, which allows many of the birds to fly and trot around with the tourists. The more exotic species are in their own contained areas but are still pretty cool to see. Some of the highlights of my visit were listening to the hornbill birds bark at each other (I swear they sounded like dogs!) and watching the storks and flamingoes feed near the waterfall, some a little too close for comfort… Perhaps the coolest part of my trip was getting my photo taken with some of the birds. For RM8 (about $2.50), you pick two birds to perch on you while one of the park employees takes your picture. I was just a tad squeamish and thought the whole thing would be a quick photo and move on. But my photo lady had other plans. To my (slightly terrified) delight, she took like five photos and kept moving the birds around in different positions and insisted that I pet them. I must say, it was pretty cool and an experience I’m not sure I could have gotten in the U.S.

Tomorrow will be my first day at work, which I am looking forward to. It will be nice to get more settled in and start meeting new people. So for now, onwards and upwards!