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Monday, November 19, 2012

November 14 &15, 2012 – What do Mexican Train, My Daughter’s 30th Birthday, Batu Caves, Rubber Trees and Qwirkle Have in Common?

Absolutely nothing other than these were part of our itinerary until we left Port Dickson and "firsts" in one way or another. November 13th, my daughter Jennifer turned 30 years old. We sent her wishes twice since we celebrate the 13th one day ahead of America. She is a beautiful and amazing young lady & I'm just so proud of her and everything she has accomplished in her life.

That night we joined Isabel and Bob (Bicho Vermelho) aboard Taimada for a post dinner game of Mexican Train with Ute and Hans.  It was the first time any of them had played and was a great evening.

Very early Wednesday morning we boarded buses once again, this time the destination was Kuala Lumpur – KL. Frank wasn't keen on taking a one day tour there because we had already spent 4 days in KL a few years ago, but I wanted to go in the event we saw something new that we had missed before, and this was cheap, cheap, cheap – only 120 RM for us both ($40). This tour did in fact include sites we had not made on our previous trip.

The first stop was the former site of a massive rubber tree plantation. Sadly, all that is left are a few trees left standing on the side of the highway. The rest has been built over and turned into condominium complexes, office buildings and other symptoms of progress.  The buses pulled over to the side of the highway, we tumbled out and gathered around one of the rubber trees. Our guide explained the process of extracting the sap which, remarkably turns to white rubber when exposed. We could see trails of white that had seeped out of the tree and many, many scars from previous tapping. I pulled on a piece of sap and watched it stretch all the way out to three feet away without breaking. How simply marvelous! It was crawling with large ants and immediately we all thought of and began humming the song about the ant moving the rubber tree plant.

Our next stop was the famous and mysterious Batu Caves. 
Originally inhabited by indigenous Orang Asli people then later "discovered" by an American Naturalist in 1878 they are now a Hindu temple and shrine guarded by a massive statue of the deity Murugan, and now accessed by climbing 272 steep steps to the main Temple Cave. We noticed locals leaving their shoes at the base then entering barefoot. It is a magnificent natural wonder. Now the caves are inhabited by hundreds of scurrying and thieving little fang-toothed monkeys.
We were told to hang tight to anything we valued because they will swoop down and snatch your belongings before you know what hit you. Ascending the steps we dodged pelting droplets of water streaming down from the top some 100 meters above and sidestepped the large puddles they formed. The steps were very slick with streaming water and yet this did nothing to distract us from the magnificence of the caves. 
We entered trying to be respectful of the Hindu worshippers at the various small shrines and temples set all about among the alcoves and even in the main cavern, wherein microphoned priests attend to the faithful. We are after all intruding on their sacred place of worship.

Leaving there we asked to be dropped at the KLCC Twin Towers to do some touring on our own. We joined friends from s/v Imagine and s/v D'ol Selene for a delicious Thai lunch and a few hours of shopping and browsing before joining up with the tour group again at the KL Tower.

The buses drove us to several more sights including the largest mosque in KL and to a gallery depicting the 50-year plan for KL's future growth, ending the day at China town where we were given a few hours to eat dinner and do some of what I affectionately call "rip-off shopping". Here you can buy ANYTHING knock-off, from top designer watches to shoes, handbags, electronics…you name it.

I managed to buy only an average quality copy of "Revenge, Part One of Season Two", but we enjoyed a delicious Chinese dinner with a large group of fellow cruisers. I thought my daughter and grandson would have a great time shopping here, except that you are expected to haggle, and never pay more than ¼ the asking price. Sometimes that is much too much because they see our white faces coming and the price goes right up. This ended our tour and a very long day. We returned to the marina well after "cruisers midnight" which is 9 PM.

Thursday, November 15th we didn't' do much more than finish a few chores, go for a swim, have a little lunch and then invited Ute and Hans over for a game of Qwirkle that evening. They beat the pants off of us. Frank attributes that to "beginner's luck" and vows revenge the next time we meet. Frank usually wins at this game.

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