HCMC Dining Guide

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Bridge in the Sky and a Cave of Temples

The next morning we got going with a breakfast of roti canai, the omnipresent Indian dish.
We then drove to the western end of the island to the Langkawi cable car, which is hugely popular if the massive crowds were any indication. When we bought our tickets we were told we would have to wait at least two hours unless we bought express tickets...so we did, even though they were significantly more expensive. Anthony and I blew past the enormous line and were quickly seated in a car, on our way to the top of the 2.2km long cable system. It was an overcast day but the views were still impressive, though the steep angle would terrify anyone with a fear of heights.

We were soon at the top station, which sits on a mountain 2,300 feet above sea level and provides much cooler temperatures than at ground level. Another popular sight on the mountain is the sky bridge, though this was unfortunately closed for maintenance. It was impressive to see these engineering works dropped in the middle of lush forest on the steep sides of the mountain. The views were somewhat obscured by clouds, but still great. If it had been a clear day we would've been able to see Thailand. The wind was pretty ferocious up there.

A few hours later we headed to the airport for our flight back to KL. Langkawi completely blew us away. Going in we had no idea what to expect, but the island is basically a giant playground: there are fabulous roads for motorbiking; stunning beaches; the cable car; a go-kart track; you can rent a variety of vehicles: bikes, cars, fishing boats, yachts, catamarans, jetskis, private planes, private helicopters; you can feed sharks, stingrays, eagles, monkeys and crocodiles (though I don't support such activities); go snorkeling; go scuba diving, and the list goes on. I would gladly go again.

That night Anthony and I hit KL's Chinatown, and the following morning we took a train north to the Batu Caves before our flight back to Saigon. Located 13km outside of the city, the caves are a Hindu temple complex (one of the most important outside of India) that attracts millions of pilgrims every year. The main cave is reached by a climb up 272 stairs that rise alongside a 140-foot tall golden statue of Muruga.

view over KL from the top of the steps
Sadly there was a depressing side to the caves - masses of macaque monkeys call the area home, and many of the visitors were treating them terribly: pretending to throw a piece of food and laughing when a monkey was tricked; trying to take stupid pictures and then getting angry when a monkey got aggressive; and just generally being giant dickheads. You aren't even supposed to feed the animals, but almost no one cared about that regulation. Anthony and I were rooting for the monkeys to gang up and start attacking people. (There was also garbage everywhere but that goes for all of Asia.)
Animal abuse aside, the cave complex is quite a sight. The main flight of stairs leads to a huge cave that is home to a few temples, and then another set of stairs leads to an open-air chamber where insane stalactites hang from the walls. It looked like something out of Indiana Jones.

We then headed back into the city and were on our way to the airport. It was time to get back to work in Saigon. I have to say that, outside of Singapore (which doesn't really count because it's so small), Malaysia is the easiest country in the region to visit. Public transportation and infrastructure is generally very good, the people are friendly and genuinely helpful, good English is widely spoken, and you don't get ripped off or scammed (a breath of extremely fresh air compared to Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia). The food is awesome, though a bit unhealthy, and there is a lot to see and do. You won't have the crazy, off-the-wall experiences you stumble upon in Malaysia's less-developed neighbors, but if you want a good trip without putting in a ton of effort, look no further.

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