Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Asia - Volume Three: Malaysia
I've officially been home for three weeks now, and sometimes it feels like I never left. Now that's a scary thought.
I'm finally ready to show you Malaysia! This was undoubtedly my favourite trip/place out of the many, my favourite week out of the five. Case in point: MALAYSIA! Fucking A! was the first thing I wrote in my journal about Malaysia. Undoubtedly, it was due largely to our English-speaking tour guide because I was SO HAPPY to finally be LEARNING something about the country that we were currently in. I didn't learn a thing about Hong Kong, Macau or South China because I couldn't understand anything the guides were saying and when my brain isn't stimulated, you can bet your bottom dollar that I'm not having fun. < / nerd talk>
Our first stop in Malaysia was Putrajaya, one of their capital cities (Kuala Lumpur is the 'real' capital, but Putrajaya is seen as the 'up-'n-coming capital' - whatever that means). Putrajaya, along with neighbouring Cyberjaya, is a veritable mini-California complete with one-level, white-washed-stucco-walled houses with red shingle roofs and a Silicon-Valley-to-be. Technological advancements are huge in this area - Malaysia is the first country to utilize Smart Card technology in their citizneship cards...something about only needing one card for everything. It's their proof of citizenship, their credit/debit card, their library card, their only necessary source of identification. I thought that was pretty neat.
Left: You can see the generous slathering of California-like housing across the lake. This lake, actually, deserves a mention because 1. It is man-made and 2. The water is so clean that you can drink out of it because the Malaysian government imported twenty kinds of grass from the Amazon River in Brazil and planted them in the lake to filter all the gunk and toxins out of it.
Right: This was our first stop: a mosque in Putrajaya where all females had to don pink robes with hoods and where males, if they are showing a significant amount of skin (ie: when wearing shorts), also have to wear the pink robes. It was a glorious moment for my brother.
The city of Kuala Lumpur, along with many other parts of Malaysia, is very modern. Everything is very clean and new, there's lots of big, shiny buildings and tons of shopping.
Left: The Petronas Twin Towers.
Middle: The KLCC (Kuala Lumpur City Center), the huge six-level shopping mall beside the Towers. Capitalizing on tourism much?
Right: Lamp posts that I really liked.
Malaysia, on the whole, is pretty bent on being the biggest or best in a number of interesting ways. See attempts at: The World's Tallest Building (the Petronas Twin Towers that were beat out by Taipei 101), The World's Tallest Flag Pole (beat out by however many tall flagpoles that are out there - there's a lot), and the largest golden statue of Muruga, also known as Lord Subramaniam (I think they were successful with this one). Coincidentally, my favourite destinations were: the largest Buddhist temple in KL (or was it the whole country?) and the Batu Caves where the statue of Muruga/Lord Subramaniam is located.
Left: This is the largest golden statue of Muruga/Lord S. Behind him are the 272 steps that lead to the cave which is dedicated to him. Belief has it that if you go up and down all the steps, you are cleansed of your sins. I went up...and down. I'm not sure how cleansed I felt afterwards.
Middle & Right: Inside the cave, looking up. While inside, I got four mosquito bites in the span of twenty minutes. Bastards!
Mmm...colourful Buddhist architecture.
My least favourite destination was the King's Palace (Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy). We weren't allowed in so all we could do was stand at the gate and take photos of said gate (it was really nice) and the poor guards on their horses trying to maintain their composure while the MILLIONS OF TOURISTS annoyed the hell out of them. Poor guards and horsies were so pestered by those silly tourists. I think it would have been great if one of the horses bit them or nudged them with its head. I was feeling vengeful on their behalf that day. Honestly, you should have seen it; they were teeming, teeeeeming.
After a few days in KL we drove through the Malaysian countryside, up a mountain, through some rainforest...
...and arrived at the Genting Highlands! This City of Entertainment is located 2000m above sea level, which provides for a chillier climate and no mosquitoes. We didn't do anything too exciting here, but it was a nice place to relax, have some fun, eat lots of desserts and spend some quality time with the fam. Our hotel was shaped like a castle, there were three amusement parks to go to (one was part of the hotel!), there were games and rides and food and free bowling! and a casino that my brother wasn't allowed into and a craptacular soccer festival AND:
There was Snow World.
Do you kiddies want to come live here in Canada with me? Then you can play in the snow FOR FREE for more than FOUR MONTHS of the year AND you can shovel my driveway. You can do that for free too.
The coolest thing about our stay in the Genting Highlands was this:
The view of the rainforest from my window. I watched the fog slowly creep up the mountainside blanketing green in white. I can't believe I got to see that.
After our brief stint in the Highlands, we drove all the way to Melaka/Malacca City, Malaysia's historic city once occupied by the Dutch. Now, I don't know what the Dutch are like, but I'm wondering what kind of influence they had because Holland Square is alarmingly...pink.
We did drive bys of Bukit Cina ("Chinese Hill" in Malay; it's the largest Chinese graveyard outside of China), the Well of Hang Li Po, a couple of temples and took a nice walking tour of the old city during which I stopped to smile at a man who was selling paintings, only to strike up a conversation that left me with the hugest smile on my face.
Left: Again with the temples.
Right: The church where St. Francis Xavier's first grave was located. His body was later moved to Goa, India.
And that was Malacca. Very historic, old and pretty. Random highlights of Malaysia include: seeing the first snatch-free purse at a leather tannery where my mum almost spent $100 CAD on handbags, the magenta dragonfruits, nutmeg candy, yummy tongkat ali tonic, other delicious Malaysian foodies and desserts, and meeting people with strikingly similar pasts as my parents. More on that later.
Selamat datang = Welcome
Selamat pagi = Good morning
Terima kasi = Thank you
Off to Singapore. More on that later too.