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Taj Mahal & Rabid Monkeys

Short flight or twenty-three hour train ride? Smiling flight attendants or pushy touts? Air conditioned waiting area or platforms filled with hogs and sacs of grain? The choice was obvious. Train.

Mumbai to Agra Train - Bathroom Mumbai to Agra Train - Bathroom Sink Taj Mahal East Gate

Agra Pet Pig Who Happens to Dine On TrashIt was the Indian education we yearned to experience. Sure, utilizing the squat toilet aboard the listing train was like performing brain surgery aboard a rocket ship. But for one long day and an even longer night, Ash and I became just another traveler across the Subcontinent towards Agra. Awoken before dawn with the head scarf of a yapping Indian in my face, a special Valentine’s Day card for Ash, and dang good curry were all part of the journey on rails.

At 9:30pm the following night, the train lumbered into the Agra Train Station and as we watched it chug West, a horrible stench engulfed our nasal passages. Such is traveling India. Desperate to get some sleep and a hot shower, the rickshaw dropped us a short walk from the Taj’s East Gate and the Sheela Hotel. We checked in only to discover our room was outfitted with a bucket that the staff would kindly fill with boiling water to bathe. We gladly handed over an additional $2 for a room with a proper shower!

Taj Mahal At Dawn Taj Mahal At Dawn with Minaret

Taj Mahal & AshWith the crescent moon still draped in white satin, we waited patiently for the gates to the storied Taj Mahal to swing open. Once they did, we were among the first one hundred tourists on the hollowed grounds. It was as if we had a private invitation to an exclusive viewing. And there it was, far across a vast garden and reflecting pool. The beautiful and entrancing Taj Mahal. Considered the greatest example of Mughal architecture in the world, which combines components of Persian, Indian, and Islamic styles, the Taj was completed in 1653. Thousands of craftsmen, artisans, and heavy laborers strained for twenty-three years to construct Emperor Shah Jahan’s temple dedicated to his late third wife who passed giving birth to their 14th child. What a masterpiece.

Taj Mahal Taj Mahal with Us

Taj Mahal - Dirty Diaper... Really?The Taj Mahal is one of those things that everyone learns about in grade school just like the beginning to the Gettysburg Address or Man landing on the Moon. It did not disappoint. In the early morning light, the marble radiated as we found ourselves sitting in awe. After canvassing the monument to love from all four sides and marveling at the symmetrical minarets, we dawned white slips for our slaps and proceeded inside. But not before I nearly stepped in a strategically placed dirty diaper on the steps leading to the entrance. The elegantly simple interior is focused on the central tomb and the walls are dotted with intricate calligraphy. Upon close inspection of the large marble bricks, one must be impressed with the craftsmanship performed so long ago. The Indian government recognizes the need to preserve the icon after having gone to great lengths to erect scaffold to confuse the German Luftwaffe and Japanese Air Force. Aerial bombings are less a worry today when compared to the air pollution that is slowly turning the Taj Mahal a mild yellow color. Here is to hoping that future generations may some day view its beauty.

Red Fort - Taj in Distance Red Fort

With time to kill before our evening train to New Delhi, we hired a rickshaw to the Red Fort that was built in the 16th Century. The immense size of the fort was incalculable as Ash and I explored its crumbing nooks and crannies for two hours. Maybe our minds had enough info crammed into them for one day at the Taj because we spent more time watching the resident monkeys than reading factoids. They were everywhere. Balancing on railings, scaling walls, or gallivanting around green spaces. One furry guy captured our hearts as we intently watched him play with a discarded piece of chewing gum. Cute and cuddly one minute, vicious the next. As Ash was luring a young monkey closer to her camera, his mother didn’t care too much for the human interaction. She jumped on her back with a fierce shriek and Ashley began a squirming waltz. As I moved quickly to release the angry monkey from the clearly terrified blond girl, another monkey took a swipe at my leg, scratching it. The monkeys had fired a warning shot across our bow and we fled to the dusty streets of Agra with the troop of monkeys giving a light chase all the while hissing.

Monkey with Bubble Gum Mama Monkey

- Greg and Ash

Learn From Our Footsteps:

  1. If you are making the journey all the way to Agra, make it count. Spend the night near a gate to the Taj Mahal (we paid $6 including a hot water shower) to ensure you are one of the first to see its majesty at dawn. You will have the place to yourself and watch the hordes of tour buses arrive as you exit.
  2. Be prepared to bargain hard for nearly everything from rickshaw rides to whips. For example,we bought an authentic whip outside the Red Fort for $1 after the tout started at $10.

3…2…1… Action: Slumdog Millionaire Slum, Bollywood Beach & An Indian Railway Experience

Slumdog Millionaire depicted the Dharavi Slum accurately. The video rolled while Ash and I were on the verge of tears, appalled by the living the conditions and bubbling waters of the moat surrounding the slum:

Ash commentates while at Mumbai’s Juhu Beach where the Bollywood stars live:

Bollywood stars love a good beach carnival:

Watch as our Mumbai to Agra (Taj Mahal) train pulls into the Bandra Train Station with hundreds of men in line:

Take a peak inside the cramped restroom and sleeper car of one of India’s long distance trains:

- Greg and Ash

Learn From Our Footsteps:

1) Flying from city to city is certainly doable at reasonable prices for the most part in India. However, part of understanding the Subcontinent is riding with the locals. The 2nd Class Sleeper (AC2) cars are comfortable enough. Just mentally prepare for an odd ride with numerous stops, roaming touts, and noisy nights.
2) Everything you need to know about riding Indian Railways can be found on The Man in Seat Sixty-One website: http://www.seat61.com/India.htm.

3…2…1… Action: Mumbai’s Laundromat, Gawking Men, Filthy Yet Holy Water & Traffic

Taking your washer and dryer for granted? This video of the Dhobi Ghats (open air laundry) will make you very thankful:

Whose that lady? The Indian men can’t take their eyes off Ashley:

The filthy water of Banganga Tank is considered holy as the spring feeding it is thought to come from the River Ganges:

Snarled traffic with rickshaws, bicycles, mosquitoes, and multitudes of honking vehicle types:

- Greg and Ash

Learn From Our Footsteps:

1) India is full of scam artists on the street. Be weary of buying tickets for shows, tours, or transportation from complete strangers. Though your hotel will make a commission on any sale, knowing that you will get what you paid for is worth the extra money.

Mumbai in 100 Observations

â—„ men transporting gas canisters on head ● cats chowing down on cardboard covered in sewage ● trash here, trash there, trash everywhere ● street markets buzzing with activity and flies ● Ambassador taxis ● carrying Imodium in pockets 24/7 ● after returning to America, Greg vows to learn the art of curry, it is that good ● one kilometer long street market with endless rows of fashion vendors selling every imaginable piece of clothing ● friendliest people we have encountered on our RTW adventure ● still repairing sites of November 2008 terrorist rampage – Taj Mahal Hotel, Leopold Cafe, Victoria Terminus, Trident Hotel, Oberoi Hotel ● Greg scolded for taking picture of car’s motor ● sidewalks with women laying on blankets while their filthy children play ● kids will be kids no matter the place or circumstances â–º

Woman Resting at Banganbi Tank Mumbai Children

◄ snarled traffic ● bags made from newspaper ● four grown men on one small scooter ● restricted areas for photography include docks and gas stations ● pungent smell of fish at Sassoon Docks ● women skillfully balancing multiple bowls of fish on their heads ● barbed wire fence from Naval base hanging onto sidewalk ● Nariman Point Business District with goats roaming free ● air surrounding Back Bay full of dust and smog ● pigeons, gross pigeons ● architecturally beautiful new hospital ● straight men holding hands ● vacant beach in Back Bay ● old British buildings in Fort area ● military troops strutting in the streets with rifles ● rich living on left, slum on right, separated by ten foot crumbling wall ● fruit stand delivering goods wrapped in newspaper ● red dirt of the Hanging Gardens ● trash cans nowhere to be found ►

Mumbai Bus Nariman Point Hanging Gardens with View of Urban Beach

◄ security guard requesting ten rupees to take pictures of Victoria Terminus, refused to pay ● belching in public is AOK ● lots of barefoot pedestrians cruising the city streets ● immense poverty is disarming ● Dhobi Ghats (open air laundry) are ordered chaos ● workers at the Dhobi Ghats bust their butts ● the whole city of Mumbai is under construction ● begging children reaching up and touching the food on your plate is irritating one moment and heart wrenching the next ● child touts are persistent and hard to resist ● “where are you from?” “America.” “very nice!” ►

Dhobi Ghat (Open Air Laundry) Dhobi Ghat (Open Air Laundry)- v4

◄ soot covering every building ● Bollywood commercials ● motorcycle transporting glass windshields ● trains spewing black smoke onto clean clothes drying in the sun ● welcoming breeze makes it seem we are inhaling clean air ● delicious and cheap street food ● curry and naan are staple foods going forward ● sunny blue skies with a constant haze ● restaurants in Colaba can be impossible to find ● prefer the previous name of Bombay over Mumbai ● Mumbai drivers are fearless ● local trains with people riding on top are fascinating to watch ►

Newer Ditched Cars Covered in Soot

â—„ slum’s moat reeked of fermenting raw sewage, nearly unbearable ● slum children are oblivious to their plight ● Slumdog Millionaire portrayal of life here seems accurate ● outhouses over the slum moat result in fecal matter and trash rising from the water ● slums = heartbreak ● blue oozing water of the slum moat bubbled and looked corrosive ● sheer level of poverty shocks you to the core â–º

Dharbi Slum Moat Urban Slum in Abandoned Boats

â—„ honking is to drivers as breathing is to humans ● Indian men rock the black mustache…they rock it hard! ● carpet salesmen are skilled at their trade and won’t take ‘no’ for an answer ● Bandra Train Station and its surroundings is mass hysteria ● brush your teeth with tap water at your own risk ● citizens are sweet and genuine ● Ashley’s celebrity status after 50+ photos with young Indian girls near Gateway to India ● public toilets for a fee ● squat toilets with “leakage” surrounding the hole ● seeing 1,500 people on the beach without one swimsuit visible makes you scratch your head ● dancing monkeys on a leash is cruel ● each bite of food or sip of drink makes you wonder when Delhi Belly will strike ● traditional female dress is delightful ● men urinating against truck in broad daylight ● packs of cats running wild, wanting to join them â–º

Juhu Beach - Dancing Monkey Ashley Is A Celebrity with Taj Mahal Hotel Squat Toilet

â—„ counted six dead dogs on side of street in under two minutes of walking ● men staring at Ashley’s chest ● dust filled air makes coughing unavoidable ● no regard to traffic signals ● man walking down middle of street with two cows outside $1,000 per night hotel ● cricket match with Indian men wearing all white ● touts on every corner ● men with digital cameras and mobile printers at tourist sites ● extravagant wedding with bride and groom riding in a horse drawn carriage ● genuinely happy and smiling locals ● homeless man sleeping in gutter midday ● urban slum near water with people inhabiting abandoned boats ● body odor ● white t-shirt is brown after eight hours ● necessary to check bottled water to ensure it wasn’t resealed ● naan is simply the best food to clean a plate of curry chicken and vegetables ● helpful strangers who can’t stop smiling â–º

Taj Mahal Hotel Cattle Crossing Beggar Boy Bandra Train Station

â—„ strange Indian bobble head motion to indicate ‘yes’ to a question ● three lanes of traffic, seven rows of cars, cement trucks, humans, auto rickshaws, bikes, dogs, mopeds, taxis, and motorcycles ● beggar boy coming up to taxi window with sad and dirty face ● our hotel room resembling a prison cell ● My Name is Khan controversy ● raucous men climbing over each other to board train to Agra ● if you visit India, Mumbai is a must â–º

- Greg and Ash

Learn From Our Footsteps:

1) India is a dirty place and after a long day hitting the pavement, a clean and comfortable room is precious. Spend the extra $$$ and stay at a guesthouse with plenty of positive reviews.

Trashed Beauty of Varkala

India is tough to encapsulate in one sentence. We learned this within our first three hours in the Subcontinent..

Ambassador TaxiMy $2.20 wrist watch began hemorrhaging a series of awful beeps. It was 2:30 AM already? Within a half hour we were aboard the first bus to Kuala Lumpur’s distant international airport for a dirt cheap Air Asia flight to Thiruvananthapuram, India. Still half asleep upon arriving in the world’s second most populous nation, we negotiated a ride with fellow backpacker Rob to the cliffside beach town of Varkala on India’s southern tip. The aging white Amabassador taxi dodged pedestrians, dog carcasses, and sacred cows. After one hour of ingesting India’s uniqueness, we disembarked at Varkala in the dual use parking lot / hospital helipad.

Cliff with Trash Cliffside Shops

Floored best describes our first impression. Eighty foot cliffs giving way to the glistening Arabian Sea. A wide beach beckoning with equally appealing restaurants high above. Blue skies coupled with an intoxicating charm along the clifftop footpath fronting quaint guesthouses, bending palms, and welcoming shops. Befuddled was our second impression. How on earth could a place this enchanting be littered with so much trash? The beach, upon closer inspection was strewn with waste. Bar operators, citizens, and shop keepers lazily toss aside rubbish on the cliff’s edge assuming that when it falls, it is no longer their worry. Ash became frustrated by the mess cluttering the otherwise breath taking canvass. I was pissed and wanted to find out how and why this happens. We came to find out, after several conversations and first hand observations, that Indians in general don’t subscribe to the idea of waste baskets.

Fresh Pineapple Why Not Pee On The Beach Gawkers

The day was heating up so we hit the beach where Ash wrote in her journal (an incredible account of our RTW trip) while I was reduced to an eight year old playing in the Indian Ocean surf. Then a friendly Indian woman came by offering squid and fresh pineapple, which of course we inhaled. Squid grilled over an open flame on the beach is tough to beat. While Ash continued to pen her travel accounts, I surveyed the sand and cliffs on a leisurely walk where I witnessed a man in his early 30s drop his drawers and urinate beside a boulder in full view of all beach goers. Zipped up, he meandered on his way as if my jaw hadn’t hit the sandy floor. As I hurried back to the beach blanket to tell my tale, a group of teenage school boys were openly gawking at Ash. Pride overwhelmed me, so I proceeded to document the moment with a photograph.

Varkala Beach View From Cliff Varkala Beach Cliffs

Shopping, She was a Good SalewomanAs the sun disappeared into the sea, we met up with Rob (backpacker extraordinaire) who led us into the shadows of Varkala for a $1.30 dinner. Distinguished guests at the meal included a swarming brood of blood thirsty mosquitoes. After burning more calories swatting the nagging mossies than consumed, a cliffside “illegal” bar drew our attention. Alcohol sales are prohibited in Varkala for Hindu reasons so beer was consumed in solid vessels with the glass bottle hidden near our feet. It felt good to be such renegades. The next morning was spent browsing the multitude of shops sitting high above the crashing tide. T-shirts, wooden elephants, colorful mirrors, and beach wraps were among the purchases. Ash and I gravitated to a young girl who negotiated like a seasoned trinket saleswoman. Her English was impressive as she explained how she goes to school only three months per year. In between urges that she attend school more often, we forked over a king’s ransom for authentic Indian goods.

Varkala is blessed with incredible natural beauty yet sullied by indifferent locals. Many of the peculiar nuances we noticed here became themes of our time in incredible India.

- Greg and Ash

Learn From Our Footsteps:

1) Even the most experienced fliers should allow extra time at unfamiliar airports. At the Thiruvananthapuram Airport, the outside curb to departure gate process took over one hour after a convoluted process. To even gain access to the airport terminal, we had to show our tickets, which we did not have due to our online booking. Once that was straightened out, we patiently waited in line for our boarding passes only to be told our bags had to be screened first. Two separate queues later, we were in yet another line to gain clearance to the waiting area for the flight.
2) When in a new place, being slow to criticize is simple courtesy. Each country, heck even different regions in the same country, have unique quirks. We do our best to embrace the good and understand the bad.

Tea & Strawberries in the Cameron Highlands

Abandoned Van With Vines GrowingWith a minimum five business days to kill in Malaysia as we waited for our India Visa, we were delighted to escape the sweltering heat in Southeast Asia. Our bags stowed below the crowded bus, we headed for the Cameron Highlands. The trek did not start so well as ten minutes outside Kuala Lumpur, the bus driver dealt with a blown tire. One hour stranded on the median and four more climbing green hills, we were nestled 5,000 feet above sea level (highest spot in peninsular Malaysia). The cool temperature hit us with a breath of fresh air. Literally.

Adjacent to KRS Pines Hostel ($6 per night), we watched young girls scrub clothing in the shadows of a crumbling home in the mountain town of Tanah Rata. This scene exemplified the economic reality of the Malaysian tea plantation area in the Cameron Highlands. As tourism increases in the region, the standard of living is modestly increasing, but for most rural citizens their fate is sealed in tea. Ash grew tired of this socio-economic talk, so we negotiated a seat in an 1950s Mercedes taxi and arrived at BOH Tea Plantation. On cue, Nore gathered all five English speaking tourists for a quick tour of the tea production area. Always amazed at the new things we learn each day, Ash and I listened intently as Nore revealed the production process from tea tree to potent potable. Over BOH’s dazzling tea tasting veranda showcasing the rolling hills of pruned tea trees, Ash and I whet our whistles on some dang good tea.

Ash Amidst the Pruned Tea Trees Hills of Pruned Tea Trees Boh Tea Plantation Tea Trees

Ten miles from Tanah Rata, our feet had many steps ahead of them to get back to town. The first half was simply beautiful among the rolling hills of tea trees. From a distance, the evenly beveled green landscape looks magnificently manicured, almost perfect. But once you get right up to the living trees that look more like shrubs, you understand how unique each tea plant can be. Some have a thick trunk while others channeled Medusa’s wild hair. Near the exit of BOH Tea Plantation, we passed the small village where every worker and their family sleeps, attends school, and dines.

Tea Leaf Picker

Ash Hamming It UpSadly, once away from the acres of tea trees, our focus was to avoid becoming road kill for the trucks ravaging the mountain road. We found respite at The Big Red Strawberry Farm. Think of a strawberry product and it is either produced or sold here. Admittedly, I went a bit overboard on the food: strawberry waffles, strawberry muffin, strawberry smoothie, strawberry cheesecake, etc. Ash was not innocent either after she loaded up on heaps of strawberry candy. Even the sidewalks had strawberries etched in them. Oh, and there were the greenhouses upon greenhouses growing the red devils. A unique place to say the least.

Strawberry Waffles with Ice Cream Big Red Strawberry Farm Strawberry Cheesecake

The Cameron Highlands were quite the departure from Malaysia’s bustling capital of Kuala Lumpur. A break from the heat coupled with ample amounts of tea and strawberries hit the spot.

- Greg and Ash

Learn From Our Footsteps:

1) We wanted to hike to BOH Tea Plantation from Tanah Rata through the forest and woke up early to do so. However, after consulting with the hostel operator and others in town, we were strongly advised not to trek without a guide. Be careful when in new territory as it can be easy to get lost amidst poorly marked trails.

3… 2… 1… Action: Penang Island, Malaysia

Situated in the Strait of Malacca, Penang Island offers fish spas, round the clock religious celebrations, temples, and terrible live music.

Watch Ashley squirm at a beachside “spa” as the yam-yam-yam fish feast on her feet:

Now it is my turn with the flesh eating monsters:

Listen and watch a unique wake up call in Malaysia:

Take a peak inside the Kek Lok Si Temple:

Ash and I were not surprisingly the only paying patrons listening to Malaysia’s Elton John and his sick band, Third Dimension:

- Greg and Ash

3… 2… 1… Action: Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur offers a mix of unique religious spectacles and gleaming skyscrapers.  See for yourself in the short videos below.

270+ stairs to reach the Batu Caves entrance, but first we are received by the massive golden Magura Statue:

One of the world’s most iconic skyscrapers, the Petronas Towers do not disappoint. See them in all their majesty in the video below:

Now check out the view from the 41st Floor Sky Bridge:

Nightfall offers a wholly different experience of the Petronas Towers, particularly from the Trader’s Hotel Sky Bar. Complete with overpriced cocktails and rooftop swimming pool:

- Greg and Ash

Learn From Our Footsteps:

1) Typical backpacker threads are not always welcome in swanky locales. Check dress codes online before making the trip to some ritzy venue. Ash has several suitable dresses for such occasions and rocks flip flops. My zip-on pant legs and hiking shoes have passed muster so far.

Domo Arigato Mr. Mom

Being in the Far East cannot diminish the love we share for our Mothers. We are both immensely blessed to have been raised by such caring women. Even at our worst, we know their love is unconditional. Just remember that love goes both ways!

With Sue Dietz and Cathy Miller on our minds, we employed the assistance of school children, stone warriors, elaborate temples, and strange creatures. Below is a compilation of photos from all around Kyoto, Japan that display our thankfulness to them on their special day!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Love,

Greg and Ashley

Ash and Greg Do Battle with Stone Warriors Sue Birthed This Strange Creature?

Greg with School Gals Ash with Japanese School Gals These Kids Were Distracted By Greg's Sweet Hair

Kiyomizu Temple Entrance Kiyomizu Temple Train to Osaka

Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur Creek GraffitiOur blood was boiling as 6:30am came and went. Dawn’s searing heat welcomed us to Singapore’s Depression era Tanjong Pagar Railway Station bound for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. First impressions are not always correct, thank goodness. The rusty, dated international train was not a sauna on rails as its fledgling air conditioner fought bravely. Ash fell into a deep slumber as I passed the seven hour train ride watching the Malaysian countryside race by with occasional stops at rural villages. The modern Kuala Lumpur rail station welcomed us, but where was Customs? Not at the train depot. Entering Malaysia illegally proved unproblematic when two weeks later en route to Thiruvananthapuram, India, the Malaysian Customs Agent kindly backdated our visa stamps. Crisis averted.

Ash Loves Indian NaanAfter settling into our surprisingly cheap hotel, both of us were jolted to attention by a loudspeaker blaring Arabic prayers. Maybe our lodging was heavily discounted due to its location next to the active mosque. On cue each morning before sunrise, the Muslim prayers were broadcast for all to hear and then four more times daily. Coming from America where the media instills fear in every Westerner’s heart when we see Islamic men or women, Ash and I were admittedly nervous during our first stroll through KL’s Masjid Jamek district. Fully veiled women strolled the narrow streets and men sporting traditional Islamic threads laughed together. The scene was similar to a Saturday morning in Chicago’s Lincoln Park, albeit with different dress. But it was one of those moments we yearned for on our adventure around the world. To contest deeply held instincts that are utterly incorrect. We discussed the uncomfortable intuitive feelings that only our eyes had shared minutes earlier over a delicious street bazaar lunch where we fell in love with the Indian delight of naan. Experiences like these have strengthened our relationship, to be certain.

Do You Understand "Just A Little Off The Top?"Anxious to explore Kuala Lumpur with our Salomon TrailRunners firmly strapped to our feet, we hit the winding streets. But not before our first of three visits to the Indian Visa Center… that is a whole other story. In KL’s Bukit Bingtang district on a rainy night we indulged in a sushi train and polished off a respectable 14 dishes of raw fish. While in Masjid Jamek, our infatuation with street markets was born. Aimlessly wandering the Times Square district, we crossed a pedestrian bridge jammed with hurried shoppers. On this bridge is where my first haircut in over five months took place, unexpectedly. My buzzed head had grown much like a Chia Pet… water twice daily and watch it bust out of control. The strange fellow at Speedy Cuts whose command of the English language was similar to Ashley’s miniature yorkshire terrier, Gidget, made quick work of my mop. Scissors blazing, the young barber removed what seemed like pounds of hair. I was free once more! We woke early the next day and quickly made our way to Sid’s Pub via Kuala Lumpur’s tremendous rapid transit system. Why would we be drinking Tiger Beer at 7:30am with sailors from the American aircraft carrier USS Nimitz in port nearby? To watch commercial repeat after repeat for the hit television show “Hunting Down Pedophiles” of course. Instead of Betty White getting form tackled in a Snickers ad, that is what we got during Super Bowl XLIV commercial breaks. The second half was entertaining football until Tracy Porter, hailing from my alma mater of Indiana University, took Peyton Manning’s errant pass for a touchdown.

Sushi Train Superbowl Commercial at Sid's Bukit Bintang Wildlife

Murugan StatueWe had seen the city, but what about the countryside? Our white skin sticking out like a sore thumb, we were aboard the train towards the Batu Caves, just outside KL. A friendly Malay-Indian suggested we follow him and his daughter to the bus stop for a cheap fare to the Hindu shrine before certainly being ripped off by a taxi driver. Not soon after disembarking from the sweltering autobus, the murugan statue came into focus even though we were a 20 minute walk away. The hulking gold painted sculpture dwarfed the 272 step staircase immediately adjacent. Reaching the limestone cave’s entrance is not for the faint of heart. Though religious duty seemingly will overcome a Hindu’s physical limitation as evidenced by the resilient woman whom toiled at least one hour climbing the daunting stairs. The caves themselves were impressive on their own and enjoyable to explore despite reeking of monkey, chicken, and feline urine. However, our most lasting impression were the Hindu services taking place at various temples built amongst the caverns. Our knee pits brimming with sweat (a South East Asia tradition it seems), Ash bought a strange orange drink from a street hawker outside the Batu Caves that was laced with enough pure sugar to raise the dead.

Devoted Hindu Muguran Gold Face

Singapore broke us into South East Asia. But Kuala Lumpur pulled back the curtain on what it is all about. A region of dichotomy: religious culture among Western ideals, upscale dining abutting street stalls, and traditional mosques beneath skyscrapers.

- Greg and Ash

Learn From Our Footsteps:

1) Photography, while in most cases is quite alright, is not always acceptable. People wearing traditional dress in particular don’t necessarily like being caught on film. In those situations, try our tried and true method. I have Ashley move ahead of me by ten paces and then fake pose for a picture while I train the camera lense just beyond her.

2) America is blessed with air conditioning at every turn. Not so much in the rest of the world. There is no silver bullet to staying cool other than getting after it early in the morning (Ash forbids me from wearing my hat outfitted with a misting bottle on the brim). Acceptance is the key. Just know you will bake and seek shade at all costs.

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