Published: July 13th 2009July 9th 2009
There are commercials broadcast on Japanese television that tout the wonders of Malaysia, showing 20 exciting activities and finishing with the catchy slogan, "Malaysia, Truly Asia".
We fell for it. Who says advertising is dead?
So an easy hour bus ride to the airport, a 7.5 hour flight, and an hour taxi into Kuala Lumpur later, we arrived in Malaysia's largest city with 2.5 million people. For the first time in 6 months, i didn't feel like a tourist. English is taught as a second language, so it's fairly easy to navigate through town. We had a massive mall across from us which (for those in Atlanta) puts Phipps to shame. Tokyo doesn't really have malls, mainly because of the density, and even if they did, it's ridiculously expensive and we don't really want anything they sell there. Malaysia is the opposite. 30 minute cab rides: $5, Beers at dinner: 30 cents, catch of the day: $1, knock off watches: $4, Tony Roma's Ribs: $6. Being able to speak the language while walking around with a fake Rolex and a full stomach : PRICELESS.
We took a bus tour around Kuala Lumpur. I've never done this before, and now i'm
Sultans visiting Prime Minister
4 times a year, the 9 sultans visit the P.M.
a believer. Our guide taught us a lot about the city and the culture and we saw the highlights (and some low-lights (we could've skipped the Pewter factory tour)) of a fairly large city.
Malaysia, made up of 13 states (their flag looks very similar to Mrs. Ross' original) with 9 Sultans and a Prime Minister is just as politically screwed up as the rest of the world. 26 million people, 55% Malay, 13% Chinese, and 32% Other, create an odd mix. They wear robes for clothes. It's on the equator, so it's absurdly hot, and as a result, loose fitting clothes are the way to go. That is unless your a devout Muslim woman (they're all Muslims), in which case you wear a loose fitting black Burka covering every inch of your body except your eyes. These women should literally melt away into nothingness. But with no ability to show off their body, they don't seem to put much stock into working out. I can't say i really get the beards on the guys either (who knows if the women have them). I mean, it's hot enough without a bunch of facial hair. But, hey, no one ever said
Mo visiting Prime Minister
Her police escort is not pictured
religion was meant to make your life easier.
Anyway, the tour took us to Malaysia's largest Mosque (Muslim church), the zoo, a museum, the king's castle, the Petronas Towers and the aforementioned Pewter sweat shop. I mean factory. The zoo housed the world's largest under net bird cage. It's massive. The Petronas Towers were once the tallest buildings in the world. Now they settle for the world's tallest Twin Towers. The cross-walk you see in one of the pictures is on the 42nd floor.
They start riding mo-peds here at the age of 2, sans helmets. It's absurd. The value of the human life gets a pretty big discount when you get to Emerging Asia. If you aren't on a mo-ped weaving through traffic, then you are driving the national car, the Proton. Producing 32 models, but selling only 180,000 units a year, as you might guess, the Proton is a piece of crap. In fact, it sounds a lot like the 2-cycle mo-peds that are passsing it. But as with everything else in Malaysia, the government has the people snowed. They massively tax imported cars, making it look as if you're getting a sweetheart of a deal by buying
local. Similar foreign cars with real live engines cost 2x more in Malaysia than they should. As a result, 60% of the cars driven are Protons.
The average income in Malaysia is around $4 grand a year (perhaps one reason it is so cheap). But the governement offers housing (really apartments) for $14 a month. You can keep your apartment for 30 years, but then are forced to move out. I guess you should have saved enough after 30 years. Again, this is viewed by the locals as a blessing from their wonderful government. What they fail to realize is that the awful government supplied housing would be replaced by private investment were an actual capitalistic market allowed to exist. This would improve competition and the standard of living.
Moving on. I don't want to pick on Malaysia to much. It is an absolutely beautiful country, comprised mainly of forest. More on that later. But I do want to tell the Malays one thing; QUIT LITTERING. There is trash everywhere. Our cab drivers would toss PET bottles out the window into the street. The streams and ocean should be crystal clear. They aren't. And it really is a shame.
walkway is on the 42nd floor
finaly observation from our K.L city visit: it is massively overbuilt. It will take 30 years of population growth to fill the apartments. There are stadiums in the middle of nowhere built for no reason, and as yet, unused.
Anyway, we headed from K.L. to a tiny island, population 60,000 called Langkawi. This is as much of a resort town as Malaysia has. You can see the coast of Thailand from Langkawi's shores. There are monkeys everywhere on the island. We stayed at the Westin in the south-eastern tip, which was absolutely beautiful with infinity pools looking over the ocean. Check out my 16 week pregnant bride at the edge of infinity. You really don't have to leave the resort, but to experience Malaysia a bit more, we did.
We took two boat trips, one for touring and one for fishing. The fishing was a bust as usual when we try these vacation, touristy luring attempts. The touring one on the other hand was exceptional. We fed eagles, floated through caves where bats hung and dove, fed fish and monkeys. One of the fish we fed is called an Archer Fish. He has the ability to shoot water out
of his mouth like an arrow, hence the Archer. If you hold bread three feet in the air, he can shoot it off of your finger with a spout of water. Why this trait evolved is beyond me, but none the less, he can do it. The monkeys are quite bold, jumping into the boat if they see a pack of available potato chips, and they too are guilty of littering.
Armed with the knowledge that my wife is 4 months pregnant, we passed on the scuba diving, but for some reason, it didn't stop me from arranging a 4 hour hike. I truly thought this would be like walking around the farm. It ended up being a jungle trek equipped with monkeys (sick of seeing them at this point), spiders, leaches (3 attached for a 2 hour ride), cobras (we only saw the molted skin), and iguanas. In addition to the wildlife, there were hills and slippery slopes. Slippery moss laden rocks crossing streams just lurking for a misstep had to be navigated, and thankfully, they were. Mo was a true trooper the whole way through. I complained more than she did.
Mo is scared of heights, just a
Malay money of old
I'll gladly trade you this turtle for a mo-ped
little, but enough so that you shouldn't arrange a cable car to take her 2000 meters into the mountains. She's also afraid of riding elephants. Just kidding. But I was able to talk her into both of these things and the views from the top of both the hill and the elephant were amazing.
Langkawi is so beautiful and cheap that it is tempting to retire there. we could live on $10 bucks a day and eat like kings. Of course, we'd also have to start smoking, littering and begin teaching our
-4 month old baby how to start a mo-ped. I think we'll stick with the good ol' US of A for a while.
There are more photos below