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Malaysia, the fool's story

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

It's quiet, too quiet...our entry into Malaysia was disconcerting. There was something wrong, something missing...the trip from the airport was lacking in some way; the car was fine, the driver was nice, we had our bags but still there was something absent. We finally realised halfway to the hotel, no-one was beeping their horn. Nothing. Just people driving. After 3 months of constant noise in India the sudden calm had an unnerving effect , like the calm before the storm. Lucky for us we had booked 5 star, the Swish Gardens awaited us.

On our arrival the air conditioning hit us like a slap in the face from the angel of Fonzie, it was cool, ayyyyyee! Backpacking realigns the values: the beds were firm, the pillows were soft, the sheets were smooth...and clean; something we'd not had for months. It was expensive but it was worth it. We spent our 5 star week lounging, and we even saw a bit of the city, not much admitedly, we knew we were coming back, how many times we didn't know, but we knew we would return...

We had been planning to do some serious planning in Kuala Lumpur, the conditions were perfect. We had maps, we had books, we had a buffet breakfast, there was nothing on TV...the conditions were perfect. There was only one flaw in the plan, Delaney's. The staff were friendly and the bean-tastic snacks were plentiful, but we digress...and we did. After 2 days they knew our faces, after 3 they knew our order, after 5 they knew the songs we wanted the band to play. Luckily we had one more valid distraction, Thaipusam.

Thaipusam (yet another Hindu festival) is either a show of great devotion or a parade of masochism, depending on your point of view. For the faithful it involves piercing the back, face, cheeks (facial cheeks that is) tongue and anywhere else you fancy with some vicious, and to our unenlightened eyes, frankly unsanitory hooks and spikes and carrying pandals and urns filled with milk for the 13km from Kuala central and up the 272 steps to the shrines held within the Batu Caves. Our main reason for leaving India at the time we did was to see this and film it with our brand new spanky video camera, however, our stupidity prevailed and we hadn't charged the battery so it cut out after 5 minutes of dreary, uneventful footage moments before the gruesome spectacle unfolded. This thing is actually banned in India, not exactly the most health and safety conscious country on the planet, so how it's allowed in Malaysia is a mystery.

We decided that we had had enough of the five star life and the hotel agreed so after dragging us kicking and screaming from the buffet we headed South to the cleanest place on the planet, Singapore. Afetr a rigorous customs check to ensure that we had no illegal substances (like drugs, daggers and chewing gum) we breezed our way into the city, as did the monsoon rain. Seeking refuge from the torrential downpour we dived into the nearest bar (always our favourite kind of refuge) before diving out again when we saw the price of the beer. 2 hours later we had finally found a bar within our budget, a hawker centre (surpisingly bereft of birds of prey, but full of canny locals) so we settled down to enjoy our Tiger and watch the city boys splashing the cash at the more upmarket venues on the street opposite. Though concerned for our cash we did manage to prise our wallets open long enough (and wide enough) to catch some live Jazz @ Southbridge, a bar full of cool, black-clad beatniks clicking fingers and nodding to the music. We even managed to get a song played, dedicated to a 'lovely couple', as we couldn't see one behind us we figured they had made the all too common mistake and thought that we were a pair. We are considering getting some T-Shirts printed to avoid the confusion - we figure "I'm not with stupid" should do the trick.

After 3 enjoyable but costly rain and jazz filled days we headed back up to the peninsular to Melaka (if you speak Greek you may find that funny). Our hotel had a midnight curfew which we almost missed on our first night. After dashing through the streets we arrived with seconds to spare to be greeted by the amused looking owner, Mister Yen. When we explained that we had run back to avoid being locked out he laughed and promptly took us out around the town's seedier bars for an all night drinking, pool and karaoke session. Mr Yen is well known in the area and we were treated with the upmost respect, despite Will's singing and Becca's distinct lack of pool skills. Back at the hotel at 5am for a night cap we found out that this was partly due to the fact that he is a kung-fu master and he regaled us with stories of his training and various arse-kickings he had administered in his younger days. We managed to prise ourselves away some time after dawn broke and spent our first full day sleeping off the effects. When we finally rose, desperate for sustenance, we made our way to the mall for some traditional Malaysian Burger King. After filling our stomachs we headed back into the air conditioning inside and stumbled accross a promotional stand for massage chairs. As we relaxed into our 30 minute free pummelling session we smiled and lied to the staff about our intentions to buy, even checking import costs for the UK and New Zealand. To be honest we were actually seriously considering the possibility but the 8000 Ringit (about £1200) price tag snapped us out of it and we headed off to find a disguise to get another free trial.

A couple of days later it was time for the main attraction in Melaka (as far as we were concerned) Intrudu, a water throwing festival held every year, which involves alot of water...being thrown. We had checked on the Melaka tourist information site for times and they had insisted that last years festival (no mention of this year's) started at high (not dry) noon. We rocked up in swim gear, with a change clothes and everything wrapped in special waterproof bags to find a big, wet, empty square where the event was supposed to take place. After wandering around we were somewhat disappointed to learn that the festival does in fact start at 9am and finish at 12, a big round of applause to the tourist board there. In our experience this is a common problem in Malaysia, they have a big tourist industry but don't bother to tell anyone about it. There is infuriatingly little information in the country about what is going on, where it's going on and even if it's going on. But we did know about one thing which was definitely coming up, Chinese New Year - Gong Xi Fa Cai!!

Where better for Chinese New Year than the capital? Well, apparently nearly everywhere except the capital where people celebrate by closing all the businesses and going to their home provinces, namely Melaka. Foiled again! We did manage to catch a big street festival involving dragon and lion dances followed by speeches (in Bahasa Malayan) by the Prime Minister, the minister for culture and the head of the Chinese community in Malaysia - party time! All the time in the city had made us eager to get somewhere a bit more natural and we soon headed off to the oldest rainforest in the world, Taman Negara.

We decided on an early night on our first day there as we were eager to hit the jungle trail early the next morning. Instead of sleeping we had to spend the night cowering under multiple mosquito nets to avoid the barrage of outsized insect life intent on sharing our blankets. Undeterred we headed out into the forest the next day and after a couple of hours eager to explore and spot the wildlife which is so abundant, but not so apparent. Also not apparent were fellow travellers to make up the minimum numbers for the various tours and activities in the park. We're not sure but Taman Negara may translate as minimum 4 persons. We had to settle for some gruelling self guided treks up a couple of Bukits - that's hills to you folks back home. After reaching the top and resting for a few minutes to avoid the impending heart attacks we looked out from the lookout. You can see for miles from the top of the Bukit, miles and miles of trees, they're everywhere. If you like trees, you'll love Taman Negara - as long as there are at least 3 other people with you. We took the scenic route back to the bus. 60kms on a boat looking at yet more trees, and torrents of other travellers who'd obviously been in hiding or on the tours we had tried and failed to get on.

Now we're back in KL (for the fourth time!) but getting ready to leave for Thailand. Malaysia is nice, it's clean, it's safe, it has a rollercoaster inside a shopping centre and the 'best bar in Asia' amongst many other distractions making it a very easy place to waste time, and because of the high price of beer (especially after India!) a very easy place to waste money, but we're not wasters (stop laughing!) so now we are going to go do something more challenging, more adventurous, more dangerous, we're off to the beach!

permalink written by  BecnWill on February 17, 2008 from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
from the travel blog: The World By Knight
tagged Singapore, KualaLumpur, Melaka, Lion, TamanNegara, ChineseNewYear, Dragon and Thaipusam

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Hooray for Malay!

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

So begins backpacking/busing up the Malay Peninsula to the ultimate destination (and where I start my semester abroad on the 23rd) in Bangkok. Malacca for 2 nights then one in Kuala Lumpur.

Malacca is known as "The Historical City" because of its rich heritage involving being taken over by first the Chinese, then the Portuguese, then the Dutch, then the British...if that is something really even to brag about.

I was able to see the entire city in a 2hour run around in the morning and to the best of what I saw, its a pretty drab city. Lots of small museums and some old buildings, but otherwise the city is fairly dilapidated and impoverished with few Western tourists. A good proportion of population in Malaysia is Muslim, as is evidenced by a number of Mosques and a large Islamic heritage Museum, shown to the right.

I love exchange rates! I was able to stay in a hostel (actually Malay family's spare bedroom) with two Canadians from Banff for $5 each per night, great deal. One surprising thing is that although food and rooms are incredibly discounted in Malaysia, beers and hard alcohol are still expensive, and roughly equal to what you'd expect to pay in the US. In fact it is much harder to find liquor in Malaysia; I speculate this is due to government taxes on the sale of liquor because of the high Muslim population.

We found this out during our (the Canadians and I) Friday night out in Chinatown. A pitcher of beer for $12! Chinatown is the one happening part of the town, and receives the largest share of tourists who come mostly from China. It is very dense with shops and people selling things, and highly decorated with these paper red balls ) for the Chinese new year. Friday night was very crowded on the main promenade (walking street) in Chinatown; Sellers on the each side of the street hocking their cheap toys/sunglasses/hats/food/desserts/etc, Malay teenagers were walking with their girlfriends, families dining in the restaurants, tourists ogling at the sights, and crowds watching various street performers, singers and otherwise.
The picture above is of a me and Ms. Canada with the McDonalds Mandarin, get a picture with him and get a McDonalds token of good luck for the new year. (Mandarins are what the Imperial Chinese ruling-class and their silly dress is their traditional high-class clothes). I would wake up the next afternoon and travel 2 hours north through Kuala Lumpur, where I would have to take the plane the next morning to Bangkok. I stayed on the couch of some friendly Finns (pictures below) and luckily made it to Bangkok (and am loving it) despite a scare of waking up and realizing I had absolutely no money to make it to the airport. But that story next post, all this writing has made me tired, and I'm off to get a $10 2hour massage, and maybe a $1 fruit smoothie as well.

The Chinese use these red paper balls as symbols of luck and fortune, typically meant to be used at the beginning of something such as the opening of a new store or a new year. They are used very liberally though, and can be found in many shops, new and old, and many times hang year-round in Chinese shopping areas. (Malacca)

This is a statue in Malacca of Mr. Universe 2008, who came from this area. It is right out front of what is his weight-training center.

When partying in Malaysia, shoes come off at the door. In many countries in Asia (maybe all, I'm not sure), it is customary to take your shoes off upon entering a residence. Thus, you can usually figure out how big a party is by just looking at how many shoes there are!

This is me posing with some Finns and a Malaysian friend on the balcony of the condo I "couchsurfed" at. I guess its the new cool thing to do, people offer their couches for poor travelers to stay at for a night or two all across the world. Although I actually met them randomly on the street, I have been formally initiated into the couchsurfing society. ( Couchsurfing.com )

And here is a picture of me happy I made it to Bangkok! Although I had a little scare of getting my checking card canceled because of a fraud alert, and only 8 Ringat (2 dollars) in my pocket, I managed to make it to Bangkok, story coming up on the next post!

permalink written by  JohnJack_Crestani on January 18, 2009 from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
from the travel blog: I Meet the SouthEast
tagged CouchSurfing, Malaysia, KualaLumpur, Malacca and JackCrestani

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A New Year Starting in KL

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

After a 12-hour flight we found our hostel hidden in the very centre of the city on Jalan Bukit Bintang, here is a photo [below]; we stayed behind this big advertising board!
Apres un vol de 12 heures, nous sommes arrives a KL et avons file directement a notre hotel en plein centre, sur jalan bukit bintang. voila la photo [a droit], notre chambre etait juste derriere cet enorme panneau publicitaire!!
We spent the first day hanging around the city, taking pictures and trying the local food 'Nasi Lemak, Kopi Obeng and lots of Goreng!' Brilliant! In the morning we visted a craft centre and it gave us much inspiration for any future home! Then in the afternoon, after eating, we walked around the big shopping centres [imagine the first ten floors of just shops!] with rollercoasters and never-ending electronics. An experience that couldn't possibly get any stranger! ...or could it?
Nous avons passe notre premier jour a nous balader dans la ville, a prendre des photos, et a tester la nourriture locale "nasi lemak (p'tit dej), kopi obeng (cafe glace), et beaucoup de goreng (mets frits)" super! Le matin nous avons visite un endroit dedie a l'artisanat qui nous a donne beaucoup d'idee de deco pour une future maison! puis l'apres midi, apres avoir mange, nous avons passe un peu de temps dans les immenses centres commerciaux (jusqu'a 10 etages!!) ou on peut meme trouver des maneges types grand huit! hallucinant.
...It could! In a city so huge and populated a man bumped into me [Brian] and as we turned to each other - it was an old Malay friend from times on Perhentian Island in 2006. Incredible chance! After the introductions [to Lena], we went for a coffee and in the astonishment caught up on the last three to four years! Then we made plans to meet up after New Year, the next day!

Mais encore plus hallucinant, c'est le moment ou dans une ville aussi grande et peuplee que KL, j'ai vu un homme s'approcher de Brian et lui sauter dessus! c'etait un ami malais qu'il avait rencontre lors d'un precedent voyage en 2006! Joe! apres s'etre presente, nous avons bu un cafe ensemble et ils ont rattrape le temps perdu, heureux de se revoir.

We enjoyed New Year 2010 near the Petronas towers, albeit on the wrong side to see 'all' the fireworks! We were just lucky and happy to be there in Kuala Lumpur seeing the New Year in! On New Year's day, as arranged, we met Rini and Adam [Joe's lovely family] and they took us to the Batu Caves, a Hindu temple outside the city. Monkeys, chanting, steps, interesting people, worship and lots of photos followed!

In the evening they took us to 'Genting', simply a very incredible place on top of a mountain [physically questionable] built by a mad chinese man with lots of money! There is everything there, including; one of the world's largest hotels, amusement parks, strange strange 'things' and cloud blowing through the front doors!!!! Quite refreshing too!

Nous avons passe le reveillon du nouvel an autour des tours petronas, mais nous n'etions pas du bon cote pour voir les feux d'artifices! dommage!! mais nous etions contents d'etre la, realisant la chance que nous avions d'etre a KL pour la nouvelle annee! Tel que nous l'avions arrange la veille avec Joe, nous sommes alle avec Rini et Adam ( adorable famille de Joe) voir les grottes de Batu, un celebre lieu hindou dans les alentours de KL. Beaucoup de marches a grimper pour y acceder!!! les singes sur le bord nous donnaient l'occasion de nous arreter pour prendre des photos. ouf! nous avons assiste a des chants religieux et des celebrations dans une atmosphere indescriptible.

Enfin le soir, Joe nous a emmene dans un endroit tres special, Genting, tout en haut d'une montagne, ou on peut trouver des grands hotels, un parc d'attraction etc... un endroit constuit par un riche chinois qui avait de la suite dans les idees! Si haut que les nuages entraient par les portes...

On the final day we walked around Chinatown, the Central Market, the National Mosque and more importantly KL Park. In the park we enjoyed the greenery, the deer park and fortunately the butterfly park too - which was marvellous! Imagine walking into a fantasy world of butterflies! In a rainy spell, we sat and played cards under a pagoda for an hour, the rest was quite welcome and the next day we were leaving the city, heading to a new place and a new country!

Le dernier jour nous sommes alle a chinatown et au marche central, puis a la mosquee nationale. mais ce que nous avons le plus prefere etait le parc de KL ou nous avons vu des animaux et pu nous balader au bord du lac. Le meilleur moment etait lorsque nous avons penetre dans la serre aux papillons. magique!!! un peu plus tard la pluie nous a stoppe dans notre elan alors nous avons joue aux cartes sous une pagode dans le parc. ce repos force etait bienvenue car on avait marche toute la journee. le jour suivant nous partions fin prets pour de nouvelles aventures vers un nouveau pays!

permalink written by  Lenameets50 on January 3, 2010 from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
from the travel blog: Indonesia & Malaysia et al 2010
tagged Malaysia, KualaLumpur, 2010 and NewYear

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This is The End

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

As we entered the last few days of our fabulous trip through Indonesia and Malaysia we returned full circle to the starting point, Kuala Lumpur. After all the adventure we decided not to do that much in KL so we can only tell you that the lift to the skybridge on the Petronas Towers was more than quick, that the rain held off for us to see something and that you need to be there around 8.30am maximum in order to get a ticket. Another detail to note is that Joe [our friend in KL] believes that in Riung we had an encounter of the spiritual kind too and he did his best to explain this through other stories and cultural explanations.

Les derniers jours de notre fantastique periple a travers la Malaisie et l'indonesie se sont termines a Kuala Lumpur. Il y avait une seule chose que nous n'avions pas eu le temps de faire lors de notre arrivee, c'etait de monter sur le pont reliant les tours Petronas. C'est chose faite! Il faut s'y prendre assez tot car les tickets sont gratuits et sont servis aux premiers arrives! Le pont est situe au 41eme etage et il faut 41 secondes d'ascenseur pour l'atteindre, rapide! Autre detail, nous avons de nouveau rencontre Joe et en lui racontant notre aventure a Riung, il a immediatement confirme l'hypothese des esprits! Il a tente de nous expliquer les croyances religieuses en Asie du sud-est et ses propres experiences du genre!

So some reflections upon the trip;

Highlights - The Niah Caves and the birds' nest harvesting in Miri! The small island of Sibuan if you really want a lazy day in paradise! Melaka! Komodo National Park for TWO DAYS with an overnight stay on the boat, not just the dragons! Mount Bromo! And finally for the nature lovers, the Kinabatangan River in Sabah! The people of Sabah and Brunei! Brunei!

Meilleurs souvenirs : les grottes de Niah avec ses nids d'hirondelles, l'ile paradisiaque de Sibuan, Malacca, le parc national de Komodo, le mont Bromo et aussi l'impressionnante nature de Sabah que l'on a pu admirer le long de la riviere kinabatangan. Aussi, mention speciale pour la gentillesse des gens rencontres a Sabah et a Brunei!

Us - well this trip has brought a great deal to the both of us and our appartment in Nice seems very much distant now as we each start a new adventure very soon! Travelling for 9 weeks around Indonesia and Malaysia has given us the time and experiences needed to value those next adventures and make some informed decisions. We have certainly been touched by the kindness of the people, especially in Malaysia and particularly Sabah. This has made us feel comfortable and relaxed, the perfect environment for a bit of reflection. Meanwhile, the journey through Indonesia was like a Christmas stocking filled with travel adventures! The differences we found between people, cities, cultures, religions, islands, foods and of course each of their different landscapes is simply incredible! The two countries were a perfect balance for each other and we thoroughly recommend going!!!

Pour finir, on peut dire que ce voyage de 9 semaines s'est deroule comme nous l'avions prevu et sans reelle difficulte. 9 semaines de decouvertes et d'emerveillement! Des souvenirs qui resteront graves pour longtemps dans nos memoires, aussi grace a ce blog. Il a ete enrichissant de rencontrer des gens de divers horizons, d'experimenter la vie locale avec ses differentes religions et cultures, de tester les specialites et d'apprecier les paysages. Nous voulions varier les plaisirs en passant de l'Indonesie a Singapour puis par la Malaisie et enfin Brunei, afin de tenir le rythme. Ce voyage nous aura apporte sur le plan personnel et nous aura beaucoup appris. Nous sommes maintenant prets pour de nouvelles aventures!!

...this is the end!

permalink written by  Lenameets50 on March 4, 2010 from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
from the travel blog: Indonesia & Malaysia et al 2010
tagged Malaysia, KualaLumpur, TheEnd, Indonesia and Relfections

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