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“Malaysia, Truly Malaysia!”

by becca on February 3, 2010

Kuala Lumpur, affectionately referred to as KL, is the capital of Malaysia, and has become a symbol and shining beacon of the country. The city boasts a handful of 8+ story malls featuring the latest couture fashion and tech concept stores, museums to suit a wide range of interests, and wealth plus standard of living much higher than any mainland SEA countries we’ve visited.

I’m not sure when my jaw dropped first: seeing the indoor rollercoaster doing a few loops above my head on the 10th floor of a mall, or standing in the middle of the all-glass skybridge connecting the 47th floors of the Petronas Twin Towers. At some point during that day though, I realized that Kuala Lumpur offers a very different type of tourism than Becca and I are accustomed to. Cargo pants stained from the Mekong River and tired t-shirts smelling of bug spray had no business in this city of architectural magic and wealth. Our wardrobe didn’t change, but we adjusted ourselves to accept and embrace the malls and fruits they offer: I finally found an Apple Store and bought a much needed replacement laptop battery, and we dined at a rather fancy (and only) Papa John’s. We also went to a fancy aquarium and had afternoon tea in a revolving restaurant in the world’s forth tallest tower.

Pizza and garlic dipping sauce aside, the food highlight award goes to the amazing satays that can be found at every corner of Chinatown. A buck would get you about five, with a savory peanut dipping sauce. We finally sampled a durian, a foul smelling fruit (so pungent it’s banned in many guesthouses, trains, and buses), popular throughout Southeast Asia. As we stood on the sidewalk in the bustling Chinatown, a local walked up and stopped to witness our first tastes of the durian flesh and got a total kick out of our surprised, yet disappointed, yet relived-that-it-wasn’t-worse faces. It tastes more like spicy barbeque than tropical fruit and has the consistency of a thick custard.

The extensive and brilliant Petrosains Discovery Center we found to be the most fun museum — or more accurately, series of interactive science exhibits — in town. For about $4 each, we took a ride through history on a motorized oil drop, played a game by controlling a ball with our theta brainwaves, and “flew” in a flight simulation vehicle to an artificial oil rig. I dare not leave out the full-sized animatronic rapping dinosaur and the motorized vehicles we used to literally dig holes (Bob the Builder comes to mind). Of course, it turns out the museum is mostly for kids and “playful” adults, but when we sat at a station and began to learn about hydroelectric energy, as a presenter put together some fancy electronics, I definitely learned something.

KL’s public transportation earns the city yet another gold star. With a handful of LRT (light railway transit) lines, a monorail, an extensive bus system, and sidewalks (a rare feature in any SEA city), navigating to your way to the shopping mall, towering skyscraper, aquarium, or museum of choice is a breeze.

So, Malaysia, the west coast that we traveled at least, feels less like Asia and more like Europe. Or, in Nate’s opinion, Epcot. It’s just strangely clean and efficient, everyone smiles and speaks English, so I can see where he’s coming from. The tourism board of the country had a field day making brochures and maps (that actually make sense) for the big tourist cities through out the country and they can all be found in every hostel or hotel. The tagline: Malaysia, Truly Asia! Which is great, because we’ve had non-stop fun mocking it in various voices because Malaysia is Truly Malaysia.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Aland 05.28.10 at 8:57 am

Nice blog. Glad you enjoyed. I had a fabulous time as a backpacker and the stay at cheap Kuala Lumpur hotels near some of the places of interest was so easy to get especially through a great travel website that I found.

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