Friday, May 11, 2012

MALAYSIAN NUGGETS


The Cathedral Cave
We make a three days visit to Malaysia and find it worth right from the huge International Airport at Kuala Lumpur, a Global city with a recent history of magical development. From this beautiful airport, 100 Sq. Km.,modern landmark of the world, we directly move towards the 400 million old Batu Caves, a distance of  around 80km. via routes well made and also dusty, but with a consistent accompaniment of  a variety of trees and palms throughout.
As we reach the fantastic, lush vegetation covered limestone caves, rising around 150mtrs above the ground, we are thrilled by the naturally drooping huge stalactite formations, contrasting well with the bulging greenery, giving an impression that the whole structure is ethereal. And look, in front is the huge 140ft statue of Lord Subramanya painted with 300 ltrs of gold! But the caves and the golden statue equal each other in richness of their kind and compliment each other to present a unique magnificence. We slowly look around in front of the caves. It is a marketplace bustling with activity of the tourists and the local people. Small restaurants, momento shops, fruit vendors, flower vendors and vendors selling big alluring coconuts full of water. We buy a thirst quencher each, enter a south Indian eatery and after a long time, enjoy nice hot Idlis and Dosa.
Vel  shaped entrance
We then head towards the steep flight of 272 steps to the cave wondering whether we will be able to make them! Surprisingly we climb them with some difficulty without wasting much time and we reach the Vel(spear) shaped mouth of the cave with intricately formed huge stalactites above us and bats, zooming and settled amidst them, noiselessly. Since 1860 Chinese settlers used the caves to excavate guano as fertilizer for their vegetable gardens.
Stalactites flooding With Light
 This is the Cathedral Cave or the Temple cave promoted as a place of worship of Lord Muruga by an Indian trader, K.Thambusamy Pillai; with a100 meters high natural ceiling with several openings throwing floods of sun light into the cave. There are small shrines in several secluded sections with weird and awe inspiring ancient stalactites and stalagmites and each spot is a place to appreciate and spend some time in the giant, bizarre natural wonder! Finally there is another small flight of stairs and we reach the main shrine above which there is a big opening in the ceiling and from an angle it looks as if stalactites are flooding in along with the light!
 We spend some time in the exhilarating, out of the world surroundings there and slowly return to the mouth of the cave, again trying to absorb as much as possible of the fascinating cave. Then we climb down the 272 stairs leisurely, enjoying views from, behind the back of the huge Golden statue and also the pranks of playful macaque monkeys sometimes naughtily snatching peanuts or bananas from the jolly tourists. I too love the big sized, crunchy, roasted Malaysian peanuts offered to us in the flight. As we don’t have time, and being sufficiently informed about Rama and Hanuman as Indians, we do not go to the other smaller caves.
Over the Canopies
Our next destination in the same afternoon is the Genting Highland Resort, 45 km from the caves. We are dropped at Gohtang Jaya, the lower station of the 3.4 Km. Genting Skyway, a mono cable Gondola lift, the longest and the fastest system in south-east Asia, gliding us over the beautiful, virgin Malaysian rain forests to the Resort, pleasantly atop a 6000ft. mountain peak in the Titwangsa Mountains near Kuala Lampur. It is a sublime experience to view the tropical  forests, with a history of more than 130 million years; way older than the equatorial forests of Amazon and Congo! At present they are under the scan of genetic biologists for new medicines to combat diseases like AIDS and cancer.
At the destination we are picked up by our cab again and straight away taken to the colorful First World Hotel. Its early evening and we have to spend some time to get our room in the world’s fourth largest hotel with 6120 rooms. In our package we have access to the Theme Park with a variety of rides and also casinos, but the rides being on a very small scale compared to the West, we don’t get much interested and the casinos, I consider a waste of time in gaudy, adrenalin smelling places.  We spend much of the time just moving around in the illuminated, festive atmosphere full of tourists and also the nice helpful staff of the hotel. Then we have dinner in one of the abounding food outlets in the First World Plaza, the huge ground section of the same hotel. Tired due to the heavy day of activities plus moving around in the huge hotel, we return to our room and fall asleep in a jiffy.

First World Hotel
Next morning, at the First World CafĂ©, we have a hearty breakfast of omelet with cheese and vegetables, chicken slices, bread toasts, water melon and orange pieces with plenty of good black coffee, an excellent stimulant for one to be on the toes for a long time! And we decide to see the Chinese Chin Swee Caves Temple, fifteen minutes drive from our hotel, arranged free of cost by the temple. Our bus meanders through fog, light rain, some sunshine and the beautiful, rich tropical greenery abounding all around till we reach the Temple, situated in the most breathtaking place of Genting Highlands at a height of 4600ft. In Malaysia, forests and trees cover three fourth of the land, almost an area of the size of United Kingdom! The founder of the Genting Group, late Tan Sri Lim, discovered this 28 acre, green rocky slope with streams which was very similar to the Chin Swee Crag back in his province of China and hence was inspired to construct the Temple. Chin Swee is a Chinese deity with supernatural powers capable of summoning rain and thwarting away evil spirits. This beautiful temple complex which has taken 18years to be completed, due to the hazardous, steep terrain is totally the dedicated work of Tan Sri Lim who was the planner, architect and designer of the project. He and his dedicated team dug 80 to 100 ft. holes, employed manual labor and gloriously completed the work without any accidents or casualties.  

Chin Swee Temple
We enter the spic and span lobby of the temple, ride the lift and come to the colorful fascinating temple complex, mainly dominated by the 9-storey pagoda and the 5-storey shrine of Chin Swee, a Buddhist, perfectly in accordance with the principles of Feng Shui. And well, the Chinese organized schemes of color, dominated by Red and Gold are a treat of a totally different kind to the eyes, just like their food to the palate. At the entrance of the huge floor, are the nine dragons painted in different colors indicating different messages of good luck and fortune. Behind the shrine, are massive statues of Buddha and Kuan Yan, goddess of mercy and compassion.Almost the whole area is surrounded by different kind of depictions of human lives and behavior and reincarnations in the Buddhist style with which we are very familiar;
The Pagoda
 but the colors and life in the variety of the statues every where is just appealing to the eyes! On the other side is the 9-storeys Pagoda, mainly decorated with figurines of Buddha and holding 10000 lamps for devotees to dedicate for the blessings of Buddha. The whole complex, perched amidst the sublime, natural, phenomenal panoramas is a treat!Having the satisfaction of visiting a worthy spot, we happily bid good-bye to the highlands by Gondola, again having heaven of a time over the rain forests and after landing end up in a smelly store with a variety of dried fishes; a variety of dry, spiced flowers, ginger, pineapple; several types of cheap candies and things we don’t have any idea about! We buy small quantities of  roses and ginger candy and leave the store before we get accustomed to the odor around! Then we start for Kuala Lampur, the cynosure of all tourists with Petronas Towers!
We reach our hotel at 4 pm, relax for an hour and refresh ourselves, think not of wasting time in the important city, and move out and start walking in the direction of Petronas Towers; visible from, say any place in Kuala Lampur, being the tallest building in the world! Soon we meet a slim and trim man from Chennai, an engineer settler, walking towards Petronas; we start conversing with each other as he tells us about the interesting property ownerships of Indians in Malaysia. He takes us through shortcuts and interesting surroundings, and later through the modern, high rise buildings, to the Towers, a distance of around 5 km. from our hotel. We enquire about the price of going to the top of the Towers next day (quite expensive); but decide against as we have to stand in the long queue at 5 a.m. in the morning to possibly get the tickets.
The gigantic, high strength concrete structure with its 452 meters tall, slender profile has 560,000 sq. meters of column free office space definitely gives one a feeling of unshakeable well being as we move in the spacious, imposing modern corridors towards the shopping mall, Suria KLCC. Our friend informs us that the structure is based on the auspicious eight point star Islamic motif, a characteristic of Muslim architecture. He also further informs us that it also happens to be the star of Laxmi in Hinduism and also a Buddhist symbol signifying the eight paths. I tell him that the good and well meaning things of all religions are mostly the same!
We bid good-bye to the gentleman who has made us comfortable in the place and enter the elegant, vibrant Suria (from the Sanskrit word Surya, meaning sun) KLCC, the premier Malaysian mall at the peak time. We move around the six-storey mall housing shops of the leading brands of the world without any buying interest and finally enter a crowded Chinese restaurant to have dinner! I leisurely feast over steaming Canton soup and shrimps- fried- rice as Poonam enjoys hot, spicy vegetable noodles accompanied by Coke. 


                             
Slowly we come out of the mall into the base of the towers, and leisurely stroll out of them to find that it is dark outside with plenty of moon light. We turn back and are struck by the beauty of the halide lamps (right from 70 watts to 1800 watts) illuminated Twin Towers and the sky bridge between them creating an atmosphere of celestial glow all around! We spend a lot of time in the lawns at their foot relaxing completely, watching the fountains in the huge pools of water. Very happy to have spent a nice evening in the premises of one of the landmarks of the modern world, we return to our hotel and enjoy sound sleep.
The Parliament complex
Next morning, after having a sumptuous breakfast, we are taken for a tour of the sixth most tourist-visited city in the world! We come to the Merdeka square and spend some time in front of the conspicuous, but not huge, Sultan Abdul Samad building constructed 115 yrs back and named after the then Sultan of Selangor. Here, the Malaysian flag was hoisted and the Union Jack lowered for the first time on 31st Aug.1957; this is the venue of the National day parade, the New Year celebrations and other important events. Then we move on to the 3-storey and 17-storey, pretty Malaysian houses of Parliament with artistic arched entrance and exit and lamp-posts displaying the national flower,  blood red Hibiscus with five petals.
 From there we come to the National Monument, a huge complex with gardens and fountains, the main monument being a group of soldiers in bronze, who died in the freedom struggle against Japanese occupation, in the 2nd World War. This 15 meters tall bronze is the world’s tallest of a group. We spend some time around the monument appreciating the sacrifices though it is the hottest part of the day. 
The National Monument Bronze
From here we go to the Petronas Towers and the City center, move around watching the steely towers in the day time and then having our lunch in a nearby restaurant.
The Fabulous Mosque
The last place we visit is the National Mosque of Malaysia, a modern reinforced concrete structure built in 1965, is said to symbolize the aspirations of free Malaysians. With 13 acres of beautiful gardens around, the huge mosque, with a capacity to accommodate 15000 people is an aesthetically designed edifice with a 73 meters minaret and the 16-point star roof shaped like an open umbrella, harmonizing with the tropical climate. The minaret’s cap resembles a folded umbrella! We reach the mosque by paths and stairs through nicely flowered lush trees around. We are allowed to the vast place of worship after a courteous lady offers us purple robes to don and cover our heads.


 The hall, with some people praying inside is well lit, well ventilated and has heavy chandeliers hanging all-round. The sea green and gold color scheme of the wall-to-wall carpets matches with the colors of the brilliant glass ventilation all around giving a pleasantly stunning appearance. The mighty pillars and walls with artistic inlay work and calligraphic Koranic verses in gold on wide black marble strips on the walls definitely intensify the Glory of the Divine in the Peace emanating mosque. We pray for peace and tranquility in the world.
                                                                                                
A View of the Towers n other Buildings
A Pillar in the Temple
Inside The Temple













      Chin Swee Temple       




















Buddha,Chess Players,10 Caves
                                                                                                                                         Raja Ram Atre
                                                                                                                E-mail:rajaram.atre@gmail.com

1 comment:

SIMPLICITY IS WHAT I FOLLOW... said...

I feel like going to this place once..your narration as usual is aweomse..keep writing sir