Monday, February 7, 2011

Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur Day 1

We took a red-eye flight from Incheon International Airport to KL landing at something like 5:30AM. I initially thought that there was a huge time difference and it was a 10 hour flight for some reason. It turned out it was only a 6 hour flight with a one hour time difference. Was constantly mocked due to the fact that I convinced everyone else it was that long of a flight, but everyone was definitely happy they weren't in for that long of a trek. So the flight was real easy, although Air Asia, Asia's version of America's Southwest or Europe's Ryanair had the world's smallest chairs that were definitely built for Asian's and not me.

Not really what I had expected at all. I expected huge city, big lights, lots more buildings that looked like the Petronas Towers.

I was wrong, the towers dominated the skyline and there was nothing nearly they're size anywhere to be seen. The majority of the city was relatively run down and it was easy to walk around / take public transit. They had the monorail, which was like the things they have at the Vegas airport or in Disney World that take you to place to place but probably smaller to get you around the city, then one or two other larger subway lines to get you to longer distances. Over all, the public transit was decent, although nothing compared to Seoul. See below.

Kuala Lumpur



Our first day in KL we just wandered the city. We checked into our hostel, the Classic Inn then headed out for the day. We first headed out to grab some food at a local joint next store ran by some Tamil guys. One thing we quickly learned about Malaysia is that it was pretty ethnically diverse, but only if you were Tamil, Chinese, or Malay. Everyone in the country was one of those three races. The political parties are even divided according to race, according our man Nathan, pictured here below. He was our guy in Penang. He may need his own personal blog, so the picture will have to suffice for now.

Clearly he's the Indian guy in the center. Quinn, Eric, and the rest of the crew made buddies with this guy and made many jokes about him along the way. But back to KL.

Another first impression of Malaysia, everyone spoke English, and spoke it perfectly. Since they were a British colony until 1957, it's just like they're second language. They learn Cantonese, Malay, Tamil, then everyone speaks English so as all the races can communicate. Everyone, I mean everyone speaks English. From our hostel workers to the rickshaw drivers, they all spoke immaculate English, it was pretty crazy. The Korean government spends millions upon millions of Won getting us native English speakers over here to teach they're kids English yet they can barely form sentences. Our cab drivers in KL, who all claimed to have hardly any education, spoke better English than every single one of my students. It was incredible.

We wandered the city, our first destination was supposed to be the city center market, but we ended up in China town along the way. It was pretty much what I expected it to be. A bunch of of Chinese people selling fake gear (they love Paul Smith and this brand called Hackett) along with watches, soccer jerseys, everything one would find at Beijing's Silk Market just a little cheaper and much easier to bargain for. The one thing I have lost in my time here in Korea is my ability to bargain, although I like to think I regained it in SE Asia although this one Vietnamese woman did get the best of me. I didn't bring my nice watch with me on the trip fearing I'd lose it so I picked up a cheap blue fake rubber Casio watch for 10 Ringgit (or about 3 USD) hoping it would last the trip, it didn't. We stopped in Chinatown for an amazing lunch lunch including some of the best hot sauce I've ever had.

From there, we headed back on our journey to the city center market. Along the way, we stumbled upon Independence Square (celebrating independence from the British in 1957) and this awesome fountain.

Next stop was to the biggest mosque in Malaysia. I knew Malaysia was a Muslim country, but being my first time in one, I wasn't really sure what to expect. Hearing the prayer bells 5 times a day and all the woman in burkhas was a little surprising at first, but I got used to it quickly. Heres a good picture of the mosque below.

Masjid Jame Mosque - KL

Supposedly, at the most important time of prayer (I think around 5:30 - 6:00 PM - whenever the sun is setting) the place fits up to 15,000 people! So big I have no idea how this place fits that many. I learned this after I mistakenly strolled through the Muslim only prayer section with 'clearly not a tourist' stamped all over me. I was ushered over by a very friendly Muslim woman who volunteered at the mosque to teach people, like me, about Islam.

It was nice to hear some one talk to you about religion without trying to convert you. All she wanted to do was to teach me about when they prayed, where they prayed to, how they did the prayers. No asking if I wanted to attend a session or anything like that. Wasn't annoying at all and was actually really informative. I wish more Americans were open to coming to Muslim countries and seeing that almost all of them are peaceful, friendly people who simply follow a different faith than what we are accustomed to. Here is a picture of the mosque during prayer time.

Also, since all of us had shorts / dresses on, we had to put on these full body suits to enter the mosque so that none of our skin was showing. We weren't allowed to wear shoes, for the boys, the hood was optional, for women, it was a must. Here's some pic's of the crew in our Muslim gear.

After the mosque, the girls headed home to nap, Eric, Quinn and I decided to go check out the Petronas Towers (see above). They were the tallest buildings in the world from 1998 - 2004 until Taipei 101 quickly shot up above them. I'm fairly certain they are still the tallest twin towers in the world, sorry Minneapolis. They are really, really tall. Looking up at them made me seriously dizzy. They are each 88 stories high and about 1500 feet tall. We go inside, all excited to get to the top of our first major site, and just our luck, the viewing deck is closed for construction. As is the Sky Bar, supposedly the coolest place in KL to grab dinner / drinks on a weekend night. We had heard that there was a casino in KL, so hoping to maybe check that out instead, we asked the worker how to get there. I think his exact response was "Oh no problem getting there. Only 40 kilometers away. First, you take bus. Then you take taxi. Then cable car. Real easy". So that naturally was not going to happen so we made the most logical decision. Head back to the hotel, buy a bunch of beers and play cards.

It was a Saturday so Quinn, Eric and I started playing cards and having some beers around 6, next thing we knew we were all trading shirts deciding who Eric's yellow Bean Pole looked best on. I think we all decided on me, or we all should have at least.

After dinner we bet Quinn that he wouldn't eat a Durian fruit so naturally he did. These things are famous for smelling terrible, I mean terrible. He said it didn't taste that bad. But his breath smelled worse than someone's the night after a long night of drinking for the duration of the evening. These things smelled awful. I didn't want to stand near him the rest of the night. He still claims it didn't taste that bad.

We sent Zoe and Mo off to find some Malaysian vodka and chilled outside a local convenient store in the bar district. Liquor is pretty hard to find in Malaysia considering its a Muslim country. It's also much more expensive because of a whole bunch of taxes I'm assuming. A single can of Chang would run you 9 Ringgit or so (3USD) and that was from a convenience store. The 10 of us finished some nasty vodka, almost tasted as bad as baijiu (Chinese liquor) which is some of the nastiest tasting alcohol around. Anyone who has been / lived in China can attest to that. Makes soju seem seem delicious.

We then walked around the bar area, looking for a cool spot to head into. On our cab ride home from our failed trip to the Petronas Towers, our Tamil cab driver recommended that we head to a bar to find ourselves a "nice Malay girl to spend the night with". We asked if he meant a free lady. He quickly responded "no no boss". The guy loved saying boss. Finished every sentence saying it. I wish everyone called me boss, at all times. So then we asked about free girls, he responded by saying something along the lines of "Oh no boss. That takes to much effort boss. You gotta find a European girl, talk to her, befriend her, buy her drinks, to much work boss.". So we kind of knew heading into it we'd be seeing a lot of old white men with young, attractive prostitutes. This became a major theme throughout the big cities we'd hit on the trip. The bar scene in KL was less than spectacular, I'd say pretty awful. So, we called it an early night as it was a long day and there wasn't much in the way of partying and we had big plans for the following day, the Batu Caves.

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