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Malaysia Archives

May 9, 2006

hostel culture shock

After arriving at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, gathering my backpack off the conveyor belt, and hopping on the express train to KL Sentral, i was struck by how everyone around me was very business. sandals had been replaced by wing-tipped shoes, and conservative business suits were the norm. needless to say, my casual outfit and backpack raised a few eyebrows among the business set.

the train itself was an exercise in modernity -- flatscreen LCD monitors in the train showed information about upcoming stops and the train's current position, in addition to cycling still image and video ads while the train was underway. i haven't run into trains this high-tech since tokyo, but the tokyo train windows didn't have acres and acres of dense jungle-like forest on the other side of them.

when i arrived in KL Sentral, i hopped a taxi to chinatown. the system at the train station is to buy a prepaid ticket (my ticket to chinatown was RM 7, or about $2.20 USD) at a specal taxi counter, and then givbe the ticket to a taxi driver waiting out front for a prepaid ride to your destination. a nice system, since that means you don't need to worry about the driver pegging you as a tourist and either taking a circuitous route with the meter on, or refusing to turn the meter on and trying to ask for ridiculous fares to get you to your destination.

after getting my rather terse taxi driver to take me to the budget guesthouse that was "Recommended" by The Rough Guide, i went into the building only to have my heart sink. there are certain signs that you've arrived at A Place You Don't Want To Stay At, and this had all of them. no other backpackers visible (although there were a few transient-looking folks staying there), screaming kids running through the echoing hallways, and the rooms themselves had a strong resemblance to something that could be a Chinatown Detention Facility. after the spacious rooms and friendly backpacker's hostels in bali, i was in hostel culture shock.

luckily i'd chosen to stay in chinatown, which is dense with inexpensive backpacker accomodations. after trekking over to another hostel a few blocks away, i found a reasonably good room in a place that had ample customers, although still nothing like the hostels that i'd just been staying in. most rooms are lacking in external windows, and so have glass-slat windows facing into the hallways to provide ventilation. fans are tiny, strangely placed (and covered with metal louvers that swivel open when you turn the fan on), but somehow effective (the heat and humidity of KL definitely calls for at least fan-cooled rooms to able to sleep).

off to explore the night markets of chinatown to find some dinner!

May 10, 2006

towers and the night market

while roaming through Kuala Lumpur today, i ended up going to the famous Petronas Towers for my free ride up to the skybridge. after realizing that i had to wait 2 hours to actually get up to the skybridge (an inconvent time for that neighborhood, since there isn't anything else within walking distance, and the train would take long enough to not allow proper sightseeing of another area in the meantime), i whiled away some time in Suria KLCC, the mall beneath the shopping towers, where i looked for any needed supplies at isetan, and could not avoid having my first "american" meal in 2.5 months and had lunch at the california pizza kitchen which was inexplicably present in the mall.

the actual visit to the walkway was fairly uneventful (besides an ear-popping elevator ride), but i did take a bunch of photos of the towers themselves. that night i rounded things off with a delicious dinner at the night market, prepared in the most elaborate night market kitchen i've seen to date.

i'm headed out via bus to the cameron highlands in the morning for a few days of sightseeing and hiking on their famous trails before heading down to singapore next week.

May 14, 2006

the cameron highlands

when i first left KL's chinatown for my early-morning 830am bus to the highlands, i ducked into my local dim sum joint to get a steamed bbq pork bun (one of the tastiest things to eat in the world) for the road. here's a tip that i've learned about steamed buns with savory fillings -- if they're larger than your fist, they're probably not very good. in this case, the massive but doughy and generally dicey pork bun had to be quickly abandoned, and i went through the 3-hour bus ride to tanah rata breakfasting on leftover ting ting jahe candy from indonesia.

after arrival in the cameron highlands (where every morning was sunny, and every afternoon it rained at 2-3pm, evidently part of the ecological tradeoff for having such a wonderfully cool climate after KL), i read it was vesak day, and gathered some friends from the hostel to set off to the local sam poh buddhist temple up the road in brinchang.

we were warmly welcomed almost literally with open arms, and sat down to a delicious vegetarian lunch at the temple as part of the vesak day festivities. the restaurants specializing in buddhist-style vegetarian chinese cuisine are few and far between at home, such as the now-defunct veggie delight in san gabriel, and garden fresh in mountain view, so i was grateful to have a chance to have a chance to taste this excellent food from the source.

later, after some misadventures trying to find a usable jungle walk, we ended up drinking tea overlooking a massive tea planation and enjoying some surprisingly warm afternoon sun, and spent the evening swapping travel advice on future locations in between games of shithead at the hostel.

but all good things must come to an end, and this particular adventure ended after 3 days with a manic speeding bus ride down the hills back towards KL, constantly honking as the driver swerves past huge dropoffs on the sides, my ears popping with our rapid descent as the TV overhead blared out the driver's particular choice of entertainment: 2 hours of WWE wrestling. media-wise, i strongly suspect (and hope) that tonight's 9-hour train ride to singapore will be somewhat more sedate.

About Malaysia

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to gone living in the Malaysia category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Macau is the previous category.

Mongolia is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.