Janiqueel discovers hidden treasures close to home.
Malaysia is a country unlike any other: Full of promise and fragility. Its history, cultural and religious diversity make it a rich, compelling and surprising land.Tariq Ramadan
A global brand with a local presence is the essence of withlocals.com. Its specialty is finding unique places to tour in cities that tourists, like Janiqueel, may have visited, but without having the ‘tourist’ experience. Like a lot of Singaporeans, I’ve been to Kuala Lumpur (KL) scores of times without trying out the typical venues that draw tourists. I’ve never been on the Singapore Flyer either. I’m a bit like the woman who was born and raised in Paris but never took a selfie with the Eiffel Tower in the background. Is there a name for this phenomenon? Should be.
At any rate, when I found myself booked for a couple of days in KL, and after I first heard of WithLocals, I decided to give it a shot. Easily navigated, the private tours in Kuala Lumpur highlights the “Batu Caves, Waterfalls & Hot Springs Private Tour” which sounded like it would be right up my proverbial alley. Common to many of Withlocals tours, the KL excursion featured the following:
- Six reasons to book this tour;
- Photos of and a video introduction to nine local guides to choose from;
- A detailed plan of the half-day tour;
- Pick up to drop off anywhere in KL;
- 100% personalized service;
- Free cancellation within 14 days of the scheduled date.
Based on the good reviews that she has received
and her cute name, I chose Hoopy, “The Professional Guide”. She did not disappoint. Quite the contrary, she picked me up on time and had a meticulously researched plan for our day. She proved to be a delightful and knowledgable companion for our half-day trip.
Our first stop was the famous Batu Caves where a statue of Lord Murugan greeted visitors at the bottom of many, many steps. Of course, if one does not feel up to it, not climbing the steps is an option. Despite a sluggish knee, however, I gave it a go at my own slowish pace and with the strong arm of a strong companion. Panting slightly, we arrived at the magnificent natural amphitheater that is the center of Batu’s centuries-old veneration. Camphor is always alight. It’s aroma and the soft haze it produces lend a magical, otherworldly, feel to the visit. Perhaps the light-headedness from the steps had something to do with the sensations. If you are at all fit, don’t miss the trek up. You will be richly rewarded.
Depicting India’s mythological past, the Ramayana Cave not far from the main cavern is a colorful place to explore more of the subcontinent’s influence on Southeast Asia in general and Malaysia in particular. The short walk there was on the level – a treat after the many steps of Batu.
After enjoying a refreshing chilled coconut drink we boarded our air-conditioned car and had a pleasant drive through the lush outskirts of Kuala Lumpur to Selayang Hot Springs. Honestly, I had never heard of them. Neither had my research colleague JKJ who lived in KL for three years and claims to know a little about everything. Yes, I lost a tiny bit of faith in his expertise. Just a minuscule bit, though. No doubt, he will find a way to restore my faith.
I didn’t expect a hidden hot spring in a secluded jungle glen, so I was not disappointed to find a commercial, highly developed area. That said, the surrounding foliage is attractive as is the burbling brook enticing bathers to hop in or simply douse with water from the many buckets close at hand.
Another short drive astride the Bukit Lagong Recreational Forest took us to the Kanching Rainforest Waterfall. Once again, this was a hidden gem that I had never heard of. I should have. It’s a beautiful spot smack dab in the center of the recreational forest. The falls emanate from a stream which shoots over seven levels culminating in a lovely pool. The water is cool and fresh. Other tourists and their kids were having a dip. So did I. Ahhhh… Bliss after a heady day of energetic discovery.
Here we enjoyed Nasi Lemak and a cool drink before taking our trusty, cool auto to the promised drop off point in the city. Ramesh was a wonderful guide for the day. Like the sights he showed us, Ramesh is a hidden treasure of Kuala Lumpur.
With research help from JKJ