Official airport taxis are expensive in Malaysia, so I bargained until I got a good deal. The airport is pretty far from the city centre and not as intuitively labeled as Changi Airport, Singapore. (Changi Airport must have the most directional signs in the world!)
When I arrived in Malaysia, it occurred to me that it’s hard to go to a new city to relax. There’s just so much to see and too little time. The solution may be to spend some time in a spa after your shopping and sightseeing binge. I also learnt that many world famous sites look better on paper than in reality. I guess that’s the power of professional photography!
The hotel I stayed at in Kuala Lumpur– Hotel Capitol – was good. It’s right in the centre of Bukit Bintang where everything is – shopping malls, cinemas, restaurants, clubs, spas – you name it! But, it didn’t have an in-house gym. That’s not a problem if you plan to walk everywhere.
The English in Malaysia’s not as good as Singapore, and some signs are only in Malay. However, while Singapore is a four-language country (in the sense that official sighs are written in English, Malay, Chinese and Indian), Malaysia’s a two-language country (Malay and English). You can get by with Minglish – a combination of the two languages and gesticulations, to get your message across.
Unemployment is very low here and there are vacancy ads everywhere, without enough people to fill the spaces. I was informed that a lot of guest workers come in from other South East Asian countries, though emigration is quite a difficult process. Foreigners can however gain residency status by purchasing property worth about RM250,000.
The national pastimes are foot reflexology, body massage, shopping and karaoke.
En route to the Hindu temple at Batu Caves (where I climbed 272 steps), I discovered that Malaysia is deeply religious. The dominant religion is Islam and Hindu is also significant. People are largely defined by religion and race. So, when a stranger’s trying to get to know you, he usually asks about your religion. That way, he can determine your cultural and traditional leanings. Interestingly, my braids and beads were a big hit culturally.
One of the low points of my trip was having to use a public pit latrine for the first time in 20 years. In Government facilities, you pay 20c to use the toilet and tissue costs 30c. It’s advisable to carry your own hand wash. The floors of the mall toilets are sometimes wet because of the hoses used in purification during prayers.
I enjoyed my visit to the Batik factory and the demonstration on many different ways to tie a scarf. Sadly, you’re not allowed to take photographs. At the factory, they also have a nice selection of pearls and jade. In Asia, if your bust size is bigger than 40 inches, finding the right clothing size is hard. Go everywhere with your tape measure, as label sizes can be deceptive and there aren’t always changing rooms.
More touristy things to do
I visited Selwyn Pewter, home of all things Tin. I also took in the War Memorial at Lake Garden, passed by the National Theatre by Lakeside as well as the National Art Gallery and the city’s largest Mosque.
The national flower of Malaysia is the Hibiscus (while in Singapore, it’s the Orchid). Eight is a prosperous number and that’s why the Petronas Tower has eight floors in each tower. At Beryl’s Chocolate Factory, I sampled free delights – Chili, Tiramisu, Milk and Almond chocolate bars – yum yum!
I took a couple of pictures with the Royal Guard at the King’s palace – one of nine Sultans rotate the title. Yellow is the royal colour and if you are invited to a meal with a member of the royal family, avoid wearing it.
A major mall to visit is Starhill at the Marriot, where every floor is an experience.
Malaysia’s a night city and you have folks lining the street at 1 am, “hawking” reflexology massages. At one point, I was concerned whether they were selling more than massage – I was asked whether I wanted a man or a woman to do mine.
Food and more
The food in Malaysia is very good – fried rice, stewed meat and the like. Because of space constraints, parking is usually on the rooftop or in the basement of buildings.
Couples are very affectionate, like Singapore. The youth are into punk rock dressing – spiky hair and all. Apparently, Malaysians like their women slim. Slimming therapy is good business here. The country is a tropical fruit heaven. There are so many varieties to choose from.
The taxis are the locally produced car – the Proton – which runs on gas. The gas tank is under the hood. Tourism is the fifth largest foreign exchange earner after Oil, Gas, Rubber and Timber.
During my trip, I finally understood why people don’t like to return to Nigeria when they get the chance to go abroad. It’s all the things they experience when they visit other nations – law & order, low cost of living, caring government, safety, no ostentatious displays of wealth & power, dignity of labour, low unemployment, opportunities for the bright & ambitious, progressive leadership, good transport, constant power & Internet, reduced traffic – it’s just everything.
When you travel to a foreign country, you pray less for inanities – things that should be taken for granted.
On my way back to Nigeria, I was so ashamed of my country. Our national problems run deep and they’ve impacted the psyche of generations. We need political, military, legal, business, intellectual and moral leadership to get out of the mess. Sigh!
Read previous posts about my Middle East & South East Asia trip, starting with Dubai here.In this post, I write about Malaysia, the last leg of my Middle East & South East Asia Trip. Click To Tweet