Saturday, December 15, 2007

Awesome Kuala Lumpur

Dave and I met up in the capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur (KL). I have been traveling alone for about two months, so it is nice to be traveling with someone again.

Of course, KL is famous for having the world's highest twin towers (Petronas towers) -- there is only one building in the world higher than these towers. Lit up at night, they are astonishingly beautiful:

We stayed in chaotic Chinatown where street stalls are everywhere and you can buy anything from shirts to Chinese donuts to satay (seasoned meat on a stick) dipped in spicy peanut sauce to a sim card for your phone (and actually we did buy each of these things!):
I was able to buy a sim card for the cheap Nokia phone that I bought in the Philippines for about US $2.50. I topped that up with about US $6.00 of talk time and suddenly I had a mobile phone with a local number and plenty of talk and text time in Malaysia.

On our second day we attended a local couchsurfing party put on by Elma. Elma likes to meet new people and travelers and I had been in communication with her for a couple of months. There were probably 50 people at the party -- it was a great mix of travelers and local people that like to meet travelers. Dave and I brought Elma some nice souvenirs from the USA.
At the party we met so many nice people including Shelly and Mei. We spent the following day with them and they showed us all around KL! Here is a picture of Dave, myself, Shelly, and Mei inside the largest Batu cave. The Batu cave complex is a set of famous Hindu pilgrimage caves located just outside of KL. One look at Dave's shirt and you can tell that he is still acclimating to the heat!
Here is a picture from the outside. One has to climb 271 steps to reach the inside of the largest cave:
Each year around the month of January thousands of Hindus make a pilgrimage here. They come to worship deities and many of the pilgrims also severely flagellate themselves as they process up the steps in order to atone for sins they have committed during the past year.
The four of us later visted a forest reserve outside of the city. As we were leaving there, we noticed that a traditional Malay wedding was taking place inside one of the buildings. Mei Yee's sister, Mei Kuan, had just joined us mid-day and mentioned that we should crash the wedding because this was the "opportunity of a lifetime!" Well, I was pretty shy about entering or even getting out of the car but then someone who was leaving the wedding came up to us and told us to go inside as the main part of the ceremony was over and things were just winding down.
We slowly walked up to the front of the building and the bride suddenly came outside and asked us to come in and eat! I was pretty leary about being an ugly American dressed in shorts and crashing an otherwise civilized proceeding but she insisted that we come inside and eat. Mei Kuan kept repeating that this was an "opportunity of a lifetime" and that they were amazed at what they could get away with when accompanied by two American tourists ("with you guys we can do anything!"). The Malay food was delicious. They gave each of us decorated eggs which is a key part of the Malay wedding ritual. After eating, they insisted that we take a picture with them!
We have found the Malay people to be so friendly and this wedding story and the kindness of Shelly, Mei, and Mei-Kuan is just a small sample of the warm hospitality that we received.
Later, the five of us went out for Chinese desserts, yum!! These are some sort of ice flavored sweets and the lower right is a peanut sauce that tasted like melted peanut butter except that it was sweeter and tastier:

I wish I could tell you exactly what these Chinese desserts were, but they were all good! The little white ball you see in the dishes is a sweet dumpling:

The following day we met up with Jessica, another friend that we made at the couchsurfing party. Fellow American Matt, also from the Bay Area, joined us and we had a nice traditional Malay meal (sorry no pictures). Thanks, Jessica!

The day after that we met up with Febri and Nanie:

We had a wonderful Malay meal together. After that, we toured the most modern part of KL, Bukit Bintang. We randomly chanced upon a live performance of a well known Malay singer and we were able to stay near the stage and attend for free. What a night! Thanks so much ladies!

If you can't already tell, I loved KL. This place has it all from the modern to the old, from First World to Developing World. It is an ultra-modern city, yet despite such Western comforts, food stalls and night markets are never far.

Here is a picture of a local mall, all decorated up for Christmas (more Christmas music heard here in this Muslim country than in the USA!):

And Malaysia is simply food heaven for me. It is tops of any place that I have visited on this trip. The mix of Malay, Chinese, and Indian for a spicy food lover like me is simply irresistible. Dave and I even had a wonderful Indonesian meal on our last night in KL.
It is astonishing how widely English is spoken in the capital. In fact, during my entire time in Malaysia, I heard almost no live entertainment in the Malay language. It was either in English (75% of the time) or in Mandarin (15%) and perhaps in Malay 10% of the time.
I hope to come back through here on my way back to the USA and maybe more often in the future ;-)


kay said...

Hola Travis,

Thanks very much for posting your travelogue through KL and the neat photos of scenes which I am sure are even more vivid and memorable in real life.

Happy Holiday good wishes during your world trek also.



Ninie said...

hey Travis,
thanks for posting up the photo of us. i'm glad you had a nice time in my country, and also in Thailand. i hope to see you back here next month :)


Travis said...

Thanks for your well wishes, retmd. I know that we will continue to be in touch via that financial forum we both frequent ;-) I will be posting more frequently once I return to the USA.

Travis said...

Nanie, I enjoyed our time together so much and then I was so disappointed not to make it to Bangkok to join you gals for New Years after your kind invitation. I don't think I am going to make it back to KL this trip since duty calls me back to the USA. But I will definitely be passing through KL (and more of Malaysia) on my next trip out (this may quickly become an annual event). And please come visit the USA ;-)