No matter how many different countries I visit, I’m always surprised at how different they are from each other. Each country has its own rhythm. It is difficult to put into words. While Vietnam reminded me a lot of Guatemala, it was also uniquely Vietnam. The borders between countries often feel arbitrary to me, and yet as soon as I enter a new country, it becomes obvious that I’m in a new place. The food, customs, transportation, money, language: everything I see and smell and taste contributes to the uniqueness of the country.
I’m still astounded by how many unique ways to live there are in the world. Malaysia is no exception.
Malaysia is delightfully diverse.
A mix of Malay, Chinese, and Indians fill the streets. While Islam is the country’s religion, it also allows freedom of religion for non-muslims. An estimated 60% of the population is muslim, 20% is buddhist, 9% is christian, and 6% is hindu. This mix made Easter a non-event around here.
The oldest mosque in Kuala Lumpur is Masjid Jamek. It is situated at the merging of two rivers. If not for the city’s current construction project to make the riverside beautiful, it would be a beautiful location.
We happened to visit the mosque on its 108th birthday, which several friendly greeters eagerly told us. I had to wear a robe with a hood and Martin had to wear a long skirt to cover his shorts. We removed our shoes and went inside. Divanna attached herself to us and gave us all sorts of interesting information about the mosque, Islam and Malaysia. I love eager tour guides! They always have the most fascinating information.
After we returned our borrowed clothes, they insisted we sit down and enjoy some food to celebrate the anniversary. Everyone was so happy and enthusiastic. We left feeling giddy. It was by far the happiest and friendliest place of worship I have ever visited.
The Islamic Arts Museum holds an impressive collection of religious books, porcelain, textiles, jewelry and the like from the cultures in Malaysia.
Hindus, not to be out-shined by Muslims, have amazing shrines.
Eating in Kuala Lumpur is a dream.
Little India is filled with vegetarian restaurants. My favorite meal was a traditional “banana leaf meal.” A whole pile of steamed rice is accompanied by a variety of sauces, lentils, and vegetables. You eat the whole lot with your hands! This banana leaf meal was only 6.50 ringetts or about $1.70. The quality of the food in Kuala Lumpur is better anything I’ve had in a long time.
What’s for breakfast? Steamed buns stuffed with sweet things like yams, coconut, and red beans. Malaysian pancake stuffed with sugared peanuts and corn. Oh my goodness. I’m drooling.
Even though Malaysia is an Islamic state, finding alcohol is easy. Finding good beer…a little tricky. Taps Beer Bar is one exception. They don’t waste any beer here either, not one drop goes wasted. It was an amazing thing to watch.
Malaysia is hotter than hot.
The temperature usually hovers around 100 degrees Fahrenheit every day. I sweat all of the time. Yet despite the heat and the reliable afternoon rain shower, Kuala Lumpur is a fun and easy city to visit. Shopping malls are everywhere. A decent train system runs throughout the city. One day on the train, a Malaysian man struck up a conversation with Martin, and they ended up commiserating the ridiculousness that is Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Needless to say, he’s not very popular in Islamic states…
Monkeys are common throughout Malaysia.
Martin and I were looking for a cheap and easy place to visit before my job in China starts in May. Malaysia has been the perfect spot.
Want another perspective on Malaysia? Check out Martin’s blog post about Kuala Lumpur!