Tag Archives: Asia

How to do a day trip to Batu Caves from Kuala Lumpur

By Lakshmi:

Who?  If you are visiting Kuala Lumpur and have a half day to spare to visit a Hindu temple ensconced among limestone rock formations.

What? Batu Caves is located about 13 kilometres from Kuala Lumpur.

How? We did a half day excursion with a local tour company.  Many of them including Viator offer half day tours which may combine visits to a pewter factory, a Chinese temple or other local attractions.

The Viator tour costs from $34.66 per person and more details can be found here.


You can also take the train directly from KL central to the caves, which is a very economical option.

Why?  As a Hindu, it is not surprising that during our trip to KL, a visit to Batu Caves was a must do on our list.  We had heard that it was a century old temple dedicated to Lord Murugan and it was unlike any other temple that we might have visited.  That was enough information for us to sign up for an afternoon tour.  After partaking in a heavy, scrumptious lunch, we got in our mini bus enroute to the shrine.

Upon arriving at the ordained spot, we immediately realized that eating a big lunch was a mistake.  Before us stood 272 steep steps that we had to ascend to make our way to the caves that housed the shrine.  Off we trotted, somewhat slowly and sluggishly, wishing we had eaten lighter.  As we made our way to the top, we had playful monkeys on both sides, some seemingly chiding us for not being as quick footed as them!

Once we got to the top, we entered the caves where there were multiple shrines with devotees and priests offering prayers.  After paying obeisance to the Gods, we spent time looking at the limestone formations surrounding us.  It was one of the more surreal moments of prayer at a spot where the transformation of nature over the ages converged with the presence of an omnipresent force.

The Awe of Vietnam

By: Dr. Jim Heisler

Mention Vietnam and the immediate reaction is “why are you going there?”  “Is it safe?”  For many, Vietnam conjures up a controversial war and iconic pictures of death and destruction.  Fast forward 40 years and Vietnam today is a vibrant, emerging country, communist in its government, but highly capitalistic in its economics.  Moreover, it’s a wonderful place to vacation.

My wife and I just came back from an amazing two-week trip to Vietnam.  Walking off the plane in Hanoi, a man who came close to being invited by my government many years ago to “visit” Vietnam at their expense, my first reaction was “Oh my God, I’m in Hanoi!” That reaction was quickly overcome by the sights, sounds, smells and the wonderful, engaging people we met over the next two weeks.

It was fascinating to be in a country experiencing so much cultural and economic transition, from walking past high-end designer storefronts in central Saigon (I mean Ho Chi Minh City) to the poverty of the hill tribes in the northwestern most part of the country.  Memorable highlights of our trip were taking a  ride through Hanoi’s Old Quarter seated in the front of a pedicab being thrown face-to-face into the swarm of thousands of motor scooters going in all directions, trying to  cross the streets amidst the swarm of these motor scooters, a Sunday market at Bac Ha, walks between the Hill Tribe villages near the Chinese border with dazzling views of the terraced rice paddies and distant villages,  buying textiles from the Hmong and Red Dao ladies, enjoying a lunch at the home of a local family (one of the most delicious meals we ate on the trip!),  drinking rice wine with a village elder,  happening on a village festival near Ta Van, the shocking poverty seen in Sin Chai (Black Hmong) village outside Sapa,  the daily produce/meat/fish markets in every city and town,  an overnight cruise on a luxurious junk on Halong Bay and the chance to paddle a kayak around scenic karsts (pointed rock formations that spring from the water) and visiting a fishing village in Halong Bay,  discovering the bas-relief mosaics in the royal tombs in Hue, sightseeing and shopping in Hoi An’s old quarter, taking a cooking class in traditional Vietnamese dishes,  the Cai Rang floating market near Can Tho in the Mekong Delta,  the historic sites in Saigon and the chance to see the war from the Vietnamese  perspective.

Despite the fact that some 70% of the population wasn’t even born during the Vietnam War (The Vietnamese call  it the American War), our tour guides made a point of showing us some of the remnants of that time like a down B52 bomber that remains today in a lagoon within the city of Hanoi, the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” where captured pilots (think John McCain) were imprisoned, a museum dedicated solely to photos and relics of the war, and the tunnels the Viet Cong used to move troops and supplies down into South Vietnam.

As a destination, Vietnam is not that difficult, especially if you do it with tour guides who will customize an itinerary for you and handle all of the logistics.  I highly recommend Ann Tours based in Saigon.  At each of our destinations we had a friendly and informative guide and a driver who shepherded both my wife and I and another couple who accompanied us.   The dollar goes a long way in Vietnam.  So travel there is relatively less expensive than many other destinations.  And the real coup de grass was that I lost 3 pounds.  Who loses weight on a vacation?  It was eating all those vegetables and unprocessed food, coupled with lots of walking.

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