I’m not going to lie, Malaysia is where I hit my cultural sight-seeing wall. This has nothing to do with Malaysia itself, rather after 10 months of constantly checking out amazing historical sights, it started to become very difficult for new experiences to truly register. Add the brutal heat to the equation and I’ll confess that I spent most afternoons hiding from the sun inside a movie theatre for a couple hours.
However, I did appreciate that Malaysia is a very unique country. There seems to be no dominant ethnic majority in the place, there appear to be equal parts ethnic Chinese, Indian and Malay people, which makes the country incredibly multi-cultural. In Kuala Lumpur at least, there is also a huge permanent western population so you can find all of the amenities that can be difficult to locate in the rest of Southeast Asia, but at a price. And don’t get me wrong even though the place is very diverse, the influence of religious conservatism is fairly evident both in the prohibitive pricing of alcohol and in the scrupulous censoring of movies played in the country for sexual content.
When I was in Kuala Lumpur I did have the good fortune to meet up again with my English friend Elana whom I met back in Pai, Thailand. A photo from our dinner out on my first night in the city:
The following morning I went off to the Batu Caves located about 15 kilometres away from the centre of the city via the KL Kommuter Rail. The caves house a Hindu temple which is worth the visit due to the picturesque limestone mountain setting, but the temple itself is not particularly impressive aside from the ambitious entrance. It is a good place to spot monkeys however.
Public transit in Kuala Lumpur is interesting. On the one hand it does reach pretty much every square inch of the city, but the main problem with the Kommuter rail system in particular is that the trains are timed very far apart. Depending on the time of day you are looking at 30 – 50 minutes between trains which does not make it a convenient mode of transport (and notwithstanding the name, the commuter rail system covers huge swaths of KL proper). The monorail was better, but the coverage area was quite limited. Photos from a Kommuter rail station:
The following day I set out on transit to check out the city. This is the area near Chinatown:
The National Textile Museum right next to Chinatown:
The following day was pretty hot so I spent a good chunk of the afternoon in a movie theatre and doing some eating. My main activity for the day was checking out the Petronas Towers, named after the national gas company. The towers themselves mostly have office space but tourists can access the observation area for $20 USD. Expensive, but given that the towers cost $1.6 billion USD to build, a relative bargain. There is also a performance theatre on the ground floor between the two towers, and a mall. I was actually very surprised at how impressive these two towers are in person:
Malaysia is known for two extraordinary beverages, white coffee and teh tarik. The former is fairly self-explanatory, the latter is a black tea sweetened with evaporated milk. It is not as sweet as the Vietnamese varieties, and can be served hot or cold. It’s not exactly cheap, if you go to a place known for a good one you’ll be paying Starbucks prices, but it’s worth a try. I’ll leave you with a picture of a delicious glass of the tea: