Posted Jan 14, 2011 in Travel | 0 Comments

Malaysia, Truly Asia

Malaysia, Truly Asia. The phrase used to be the motto of Malaysia. Does it fit? Considering that Malaysia is a definite mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian, yeah it does.

Flying around with Malaysian Airlines, I couldn’t help but notice the cultural mix. Well groomed, and despite the 70s velvet green tuxedos for the men, the beauty of the people can be seen in the sincerity of their smile. I had no problems connecting to several cities in various countries. Can any local airlines say the same? The service was impeccable.

Kuala Lumpur

Funny enough I never wanted to visit this city. I always assumed it to be some massive mega hub like most of the other Southeast Asian cities. Fear of absolute congestion, pollution and disarray loomed over my head, but was quickly wiped clean upon entry. An amazing, brightly-lit skyline waited ahead. Sure there was traffic, but it was Friday night and it was nothing to complain about.

I was also quite pleased with my hotel. The PNB Darby was impressive with its spacious rooms. Did I say rooms? I should say full apartment. If only my house was this comfortable. Considering the size and amenities, it would easily be three times its price in Canada, but it wasn’t. It was actually affordable on the verge of being cheap. To top it off the restaurant on the 39th floor offers an unobstructed view of the magnificent Petrona Towers (opening picture) and the city. You have to see it to believe it. I couldn’t help but sit and admire the view. By the way, the chef makes a wicked lamb.

Shopping

Of course sitting takes its toll, so I had no choice but to shop. Much to my dismay, I couldn’t fit into most of the clothing I liked (and there was a lot), but I did manage to overstock my luggage. With the various exciting malls that could give some North American malls a run for their money, my attention was drawn towards Bintang Walk. This street built to encourage shopping in every way won my heart by offering great fashion, good food and nice international eye candy.

Well don’t despair, I did manage to find this great mall, actually huge, that catered more to my size. Known as the Mid Valley Mega Mall, its name does do it justice, is there anything you can’t find in this mall? I doubt it. Big sizes can be found, much to the foreigners delight! Check out the Izzue store, a Hong Kong brand if I‘m not mistaken.

Food

As you all know, food is always high on my list and the Malay do not disappoint, with numerous outdoor food courts offering various takes on Chinese, Indian, and Malay. I gained weight under the pressure of the intoxicating smell of the food. With a fantastic exchange for the Canadian dollar, your meal, though quite filling never puts a dent in your wallet. My favourite place was Chinese Village. Mostly, but not solely Chinese food, it’s situated in the middle of a field under tents. It’s completely a sort of mom and pop shop atmosphere with its numerous stalls. I enjoyed the greenery and eating outdoor in the shade.

Another area to visit is Jalan Petaling which is also chinatown. The food is just fabulous and with that added malaysian spicy kick.

Nightlife

I’m sure my faithful readers are wondering about the nightlife. Again KL does not disappoint. Actually one of the nicest clubs décor wise I have ever seen was Bliss (unfortunately now closed). In the heart of the active entertainment district, something about the music caught my attention. The music made sense and it had a soulful feel that everyone enjoyed. Unfortunately, a Toronto DJ was the guest at one of the nights and completely dulled the night with his brand of high energy/hard house. The happy feeling was gone. Which proves my theory that international DJs don’t always provide better quality.

The bar scene, like in any Asian city, can be quite  festive, as generally people don’t take to alcohol very well. Sometimes a good night doesn’t involve having to pay entry, but merely just hanging out and witnessing the strange and obscure things the drinkers do as they leave the clubs. It’s always interesting to see a girl ask her brother to beat up her boyfriend and then push the brother off cause she couldn’t bear to see her man hurt.

Batu Caves

Before you head out of KL, you have to visit the Batu Caves. In the surrounding hills there is a Hindu shrine located deep within a cave.  A few hundred steps up hill, a heat factor of 33 degrees Celsius (it felt like 40), and a few monkeys hanging out on the steps make for an interesting climb. Try running up and you’ll understand the true definition of cardio. Deep within the cave you can’t help but wonder that in the month of November thousands of Hindu devotees flock here. That’s a sight to witness.

Deep within the caves I was surrounded by this calmness that overwhelmed me. This was only interrupted by a  man hacking up some phlegm. The cave was enormous and could fit hundreds of people and, typical of me, all I could think of was “man what a wicked dance floor.”

Penang Island

Onboard Malaysian Airlines towards Penang, I encountered the sweetest flight attendant who was nice enough to make a list of destinations I would enjoy in Malaysia. It’s striking how helpful the staff was.

How can I explain this island? It’s the perfect mixture of modern and old traditions. Imagine shopping with tons of markets but just a few feet away, tranquility right on the beach. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to explore, due to a cold, but I will definitely include it on my return trip.

It rained on my visit. I had to slosh everywhere, which was part of the fun. I managed to visit the Kek Lok Si Temple where South-East Asia’s largest bronze Buddha (120 feet) lies. What’s also interesting is that different Buddhist countries were invited to construct temples in their image. The Thai created the Wat Chaiya Mangkalram with a Buddha in their respective style, and the Burmese temple is built in Burmese style. The difference is quite interesting.

Langkawi Island

Magnificent! I was not expecting to enjoy this island as much as I did. My first stop was the Langkawi cable car on Mount Mat Cincang, which is literally 709 meters high into the clouds. When walking on the bridge, refrain from jumping up and down as cables are holding you and the bridge does sway. Barf!

This island of 80,000 people and 480 square kilometers has more forms of entertainment than some countries. Comprising of 93 percent Malay, 5 percent Chinese, and 2 percent Indian, this tiny island is noted as Malaysia’s playground. It also has direct flights from Penang and KL on Malaysian Airlines.

It truly is amazing and still feels untouched in many areas where you can witness  jungles with incredible scenery.

Take a 3 to 4 hour cruise on the Kilim River and witness the transformation of swamps into a veritable sea. You can skim the coast of Thailand while in Malay waters, and ride the stream through caves. Whatever you do make sure you stop at the fish farm and eat the freshest seafood while feeding a stingray!


This cruise also includes eagle feeding. I didn’t know this until my driver threw some chicken skins into the water and dozens of eagles came swooping down just a few feet away. Probably one of the most amazing scenes I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing, besides my brother at a buffet.

When in Langkawi a definite must is the Pelangi Beach resort, where there are some of the best-grilled meats and seafood I’ve had in a long time. Sure, I know when it comes to a resort, you want to hear about the accommodations, but the meal was enough to please me. However, my room was quite nice, and with absolute privacy and comfort, who could complain?

The locals are friendly and full of stories. One story is the legend of Malsuri, a sad story about a repressed girl who cursed the island after being misjudged. You can actually see a monument made after the legend.

The number of activities, the beauty of the country and its people, and the different cultures represented in the food all make you want to come and experience Malaysia. So does their motto fit? To a tee. Malaysia is truly Asia.

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