What if you could take the sheer serenity of a capital city like Vientiane and add a wee bit of Bangkok’s spice (minus the sheer chaos of it all) and you end up with a city like Kuala Lumpur. For a teeming metropolis, it feels incredibly calm and laid back, a sheer contrast from the intensity of the Thai capital, where yesterday I stepped aboard an AirAsia jet heading south.
I only have a couple of days here, as I basically built in a stopover for myself here on my way back to China. You see, AirAsia, which is, in my humble opinion is the greatest budget airline in the world, is only a point-to-point carrier. In other words, they don’t book connecting flights, only segment per segment. So if I first had to come here before heading to China, I might as well spend some time, right?
Given my short time frame, I decided to try my luck at CouchSurfing again, which has turned out to be a really fantastic experience! My host played a wonderful guide for me today and introduced me to activities and foods I never would have dreamed of doing, including, going to see, of all things, a play.
Today was a brief whirlwind of KL’s touristy sites. Classic historic sites, such as the photogenic former courthouse to ethnic neighborhoods, like Chinese and Indian ones, to ultramodern sites like the famous Petronas Twin Towers, once the tallest buildings in the world.
This is my first time both in Malaysia and in an Islamic country, which has been a stark change from neighboring Buddhist Thailand. At 6am and 4 other times throughout the day, calls to prayer are broadcast from the many mosques that dot the landscape. Many women wear shawls over their hair and you see the occasional rare man wearing a small turban. Typical “Arabian” architecture (of sorts) can be spotted everywhere and Malaysia’s King (who rotates amongst the Kings of various states) is the leader of Islam in the country and the final word on the enforcement of Islamic law (used in matters relating to the church).
What is perhaps most fascinating for me is the Malay language. They utilize the exact same alphabet as we do in English and even borrow a lot of English words, but tweak the spelling. So for example, they have KL Sentral (as opposed to KL Central) or Tiket (Ticket), Lif (Lift), and so on.
Though I’ve only gotten a small sampling of KL in my short 24 hours here, I feel like I’ve gotten a big dosage of Malaysian life and culture! It’s only a nice little taste though and it has wet my appetite for a return some day.