Butterfly Buffet in the Skyscraper Jungle

We were both exhausted due to the red-eye flight from Denpasar to Kuala Lumpur, but we decided to hang out in the KL airport until dawn rather than wander the streets looking for a hotel that likely wouldn’t be open at the ungodly hour we arrived. When morning finally came we made a bee-line for a room and crashed until afternoon. Upon waking we explored the couple busy streets of Chinatown where we were staying; it’s always so exciting to be in a new country! We sat down at one restaurant but promptly left and opted for another when we saw they had shark fin soup on the menu. We dropped our month old laundry off to finally be done and headed for Butik Bintang, a cluster of 9 different malls! We scoured Low Yat, a 7-storey mall dedicated completely to electronics, for a red filter to attach to our underwater camera which would enable colours to be captured on our diving photos. I struggled to keep Sean’s morale up in such a crowded and crazy place but we ended up finding the filter easily, only needing to sort through the huge variety of prices it was offered at to find the best one. Then we crossed the street to a second mall, this one sporting a large amusement park and roller coaster, to see the last installment of The Hobbit which we had long been awaiting. We paid only three dollars to see it in a theatre as nice as the ones at home, and even got caramel popcorn for just as cheap. On the walk back to our place in Chinatown we could see loads of skyscrapers, including the famous Petronas Towers lit up against the night sky.

The next morning we walked to Kuala Lumpur’s Botanical Gardens, which were difficult to find without a decent map but Sean proved his talented navigation abilities once again. First we came across the Butterfly Park. Sean had expected to see butterflies in cages so his surprise when we walked through the door into a large enclosed garden full of free flying butterflies was comical. We were both intrigued by the variety of tropical species fluttering all around us and spent a long time just in the first short aisle of plants. There we saw a tiny mantis Sean thought might be a male. Some of the butterflies were so big bodied they hovered at flowers like hummingbirds rather than landing on them. As we kept walking we came to some fish tanks containing an alien-like long necked turtle and an equally odd looking pig-nosed turtle, some strange fish and even Malay Horned Frogs. Both of us had a great time spotting different butterfly species and taking pictures, especially when we discovered a large, well camouflaged mantis munching on one! I only managed to get one picture of that before my camera died, which was quite a disappointment but at least Sean had his.

Next Sean found a small snake up in a tree and I was happy to leave it to him to observe as I’m not a snake fan. I walked around admiring the plants and butterflies for quite a while before finding him still enchanted by this snake; apparently it looked like it too was hunting butterflies and he was waiting for it to successfully snatch one out of the air. While we watched it a butterfly landed on my face, seeming to be eating the salt off it which was plentiful in the heat, and in the short moment Sean spent taking a picture of that the snake that had been just above our heads had somehow completely disappeared! We searched for it perplexed and after some later research Sean declared that it had been a paradise tree snake, capable of flying! So in the short time he took his eyes off the snake it probably flew across the walkway to a neighbouring tree. That sure made me feel more comfortable around them…

From there we walked over to a small pond and right away Sean witnessed a little frog capture a butterfly and fall to the ground with it! We were amused that the Butterfly Park acted as a miniature ecosystem and we were seeing its food chain at work everywhere we looked. On the other side of the pond I had just called to Sean that there was a good photo opportunity with a pretty blue butterfly sitting on a pink flower, when another frog flew at it, snatching it right off the flower. We watched him enjoy his meal on a lily pad before continuing on. There were some really uniquely shaped butterflies, and some that resembled brown or green leaves perfectly. Just before leaving we saw a gecko, another member of this little ecosystem that had been an enjoyable surprise to visit.

On our way out we walked past lots of different live tropical insects in glass tanks, and even more preserved and displayed on the wall, including impossibly iridescent blue butterflies the size of a hand from South America. The live insects included horned beetles, different types of mantis and a tarantula. We were very impressed with the informative displays. After lunch at a café we decided to pass on the bird park because it was so ridiculously expensive and we had had the chance to view lots of exotic bird species in the wild during our Chitwan safaris. We walked through the orchid garden and came to the deer park, which was an incredible disappointment. A dozen or more sambar deer panted frantically in the heat, offered a little shade but only cement to sit on. We hated to see them in such despicable conditions and the mouse deer, tiny nocturnal deer weighing only 5 pounds and resembling a rodent more than an ungulate, were in a similar state. After that we decided to skip the rest of the botanical gardens and head for the communication tower, and Sean got some good pictures of a monitor lizard on the way out.

Kuala Lumpur’s communication tower serves as a good view point over the sprawling city, but unfortunately it too was priced very high and we decided to save our money for something more adventurous. We headed back to Chinatown after seeing it from the bottom, but I regret not walking over to the twin Petronas Towers for a better look at them. As night fell we hit the busy streets of Chinatown for supper, and it really did feel a like we might be in China. Food stalls had sprung up everywhere where there had been nothing earlier, and there was an energetic buzz of people everywhere while the smell of roasting chestnuts and other foods filled the air. First we found a stick stall, where there was everything from bok choy to various seafood to sausages to who knows what all skewered raw. The sticks were colour coded according to price so it was easy to pick what we wanted to try and hand it to the man at the grill. In a few minutes it was delivered to us cooked as we sat at an outdoor table. After our appetizer we went down a sidestreet, where we tried pork slices which turned out to be a delicious version of candied jerky. Then we found pau, a soft, sweet white bun stuffed with pork stew – they became my favourite. We topped off our feast at another stickfood stall, finding little octopuses and even a big frog! They popped our broccoli, fish balls and mussels into a container of boiling water built right into our outdoor table to steam, and delivered the rest to us after frying it. Everything we tried was good if not amazing; as for the frog it was spicy more than anything and had a texture similar to firm fish.