Kuala Lumpur: A Word Picture

My laptop chord has been finicky lately and two nights ago it finally gave out, so I'm sans laptop for the time being. Unfortunately, this means no photos of KL for now. I don't like any of my hardware to touch Cambodian computers because viruses run ramped here and the last thing I want is a virus on my camera that could then be transferred to other computers, etc.

I hopefully well get my chord replaced today or this week. I found an authorized Mac dealer near one of the markets I'm going to check out tomorrow. If things go efficiently, I won't be laptop (and iTunes and DVD) deficient in my remaining month here.

Since I can't provide photos of Malaysia. Let me paint you a word picture of my trip.

As I mentioned before, I was drooling over the aesthetically beautiful and culturally diverse city upon my arrival to KL. I've always loved cities, but after walking through the dirty, smelly streets of Phnom Penh for nearly a year, my eagerness and excitement to immerse myself in a modern, bustling city was exponentially compounded. So many tall buildings to gawk at and parks to stroll through in just five days, we had to attack the city with gusto, and that's just what we did.

Seeing It All
On our first full day in KL, Lauren and I not only saw the city, we saw the city. Of course, we had to make our first stop of the trip to the Starbucks at the dueling Petronas Towers, once the tallest building in the world, and then headed on to do some fashion browsing at the nearby Suria KL City Center mall.

After reveling in a bit of modernity, we set off to find the delicious street food we had heard so much about. We settled on Indian-style fare and topped off our meal with a bag of fresh fruit juice to go. My pick: starfruit and apple - a refreshing combination.

Onward, to dodge the rain, we regrouped at the Malaysian Tourism Office. In the neighboring chocolate shop, we tried chocolate covered durian and decided to take a taxi to the National Museum to learn about the conquests and royalty that would evolve Malaysia to what it is today.

Finally, we wrapped up our day with a stroll through Chinatown, complete with foot massages, fried noodles and hipster troubadours. By the end of the day (and by end, I mean a Cambodian end of 8 p.m.) our bodies had given out and all energy we hoped to have to explore KL's nightlife depleted.

Urban Living
After a grand tour of the city, we decided to lay low on day two and give our weary bodies a rest. We did some more shopping, ate sushi off a conveyor belt and took in a show (I Love You Man) at the cinema. Being able to see a flick in a real life movie theater was great, but given the strict Islamic culture, many of the scenes were bleeped or cut altogether.

While browsing the mall, Lauren stopped outside a men's shoe and hat store to bask in the blaring hip hop music. The store owner, amused by our behavior and inquisition of where we could find more of this kind of music, recommended Zouk, apparently a pretty happening place.

All we had packed was our non-happening backpacker clothes, but we didn't care. We decided to dress ourselves up with a hair wash and straightening (which would never last in Cambodia) and headed out that night in jeans, tank tops and flip flops to dance our hearts out. We met some locals who found our energy hilarious. We had a lot built up from Phnom Penh's lack of good music and didn't stop for nearly 5 hours. Just call us the energizer bunnies.

We washed, rinsed and repeated the following night.

Worthy Sights
KL has more than 40 worthy sights to see, all frequented by the "Hop On-Hop Off" double decker, but we decided to put our navigational skills to the test and take the trains and monorails to our selected destinations. This might have cost us a little extra time as our senses of direction were a little rusty, but between the two of us we got to see some great things.

Islamic Arts Museum: This is a must-see for anyone going through KL. Housed in the mosaiced building are artifacts and artistic works from the Islamic Culture in Malaysia over the years. Because much emphasis is placed on beauty in this religion, everything from textiles and jewelry to dishes and weapons were beautifully ornate. The special exhibit shown at this time was a British photography exhibit showing the unification of Western society and Islamic society in the UK.

KL Bird Park: I had to visit the world's largest outdoor aviary as a tribute to my work with BirdChannel.com The park houses horn bills, flamingos, songbirds, owls and many other types of Asian fowl. If you're looking for parrots, though, the only ones you'll find are the lovebirds that greet you at the entrance.

National Mosque: I've never been to a mosque before, but this was a true example of understated beauty. Very clean and simple, it's white walls were accented with spots of turquoise mosaics and lovely gardens. All women visitors not attending one of the days five prayer sessions had to wear a pink hooded robe.

Central Market: A very touristy market, but great for finding batik sarongs, scarves and Malaysian nick knacks. With it's A/C, it's a great place to get out of the sun's heat and only a short jaunt from Chinatown.

Little India: I'm not sure why it's called Little India as most of the street fare here is Malay and most of the clothing shops cater to the Islamic population. The street market boasts the same cheap knock offs as Chinatown, but the street food here is amazing and I gathered myself an array of snacks to try. We also found our way to a nearby Indian restaurant where we had the best nan I've ever had and spicy dishes to accompany.

Malaysian Hospitality
One thing both Lauren and I agreed upon is that the people of Malaysia are some of the most beautiful, hospitable people we've met in our entire lives. From taxi drivers to people riding the bus, everyone greeted us with a smile and kindness.

Case 1: We decided to stay in a dorm-style hostel and booked our beds before seeing the rooms. This could end up being a scary situation, but our experience was wonderful. Not only were our $10 beds at Classic Budget Inn clean and accompanied by free breakfast, but our hostess, Madame Ong, was one of the most cheery people you could ever meet. She's always around the hostel, day or night, and greets you with a bright-eyed smile and helpful directions to anywhere you'd want to visit. Her staff are the same.

Case 2: While out and about we met a Malay who upon meeting us took us under his wing and helped us see the city. He took us to get good food and answered our incessant questions about Malay society, no strings attached. It was great to be blessed with such kindness.

Case 3: We met up with a friend from Cambodia, a Malaysia native, who despite her getting readjusted to KL life and starting up a new and stressful job, made it a point to help us out and treat us to a night at a jazz club (No Black Tie). I had only met her once in Cambodia, as a friend of a friend, but she was so helpful in helping us figure things out and whenever I talk to her am greeted by her optimistic energy.

Farewell 'Til Next Time
Visiting KL was a much needed break from Cambodian life, but I am sure I will be back. KL is only the tip of the iceberg as far as far as Malaysia is concerned and I look forward in the future to discovering Saba and Malaysian Borneo and other beautiful areas.

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