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Published: November 16th 2013
The Golden Triangle
Upscale shopping district in Kuala Lampur. Kuala Lampur feels like a manageable Chinese city, despite the haze. You don't wheeze on day one, and the public transportation works well.
* This is the first in a series of entries about a whole month of travels I did in October. In my mad slog through SE Asia, I made it to Malaysia, Indonesia (Sumatra and Java), and Singapore.
Say that you are American, you have one month off and can go anywhere in the world. Would your first response be, I'm going to fly to Malaysia? Chances are that's not the case. But that's exactly what I did - or at least where I started - and it isn't a decision I regret.
Despite geographic similarities Thailand's neighbor to the south, Malaysia, has a completely different heritage. Whereas Thailand is a Buddhist monoculture, Malaysia is a mishmash of cultures: Chinese, Hindu, various Muslim, ethnic Malay... Because the society isn't particularly assimilated, it's like you can experience all of these countries in the same place, but perhaps with higher sanitation standards and no dolls singing and dancing to "It's a small world after all". The lack of assimilation is a problem for Malay society, as the Princeton in Asia fellows and their friends at the University Sains Malaysia in Penang made clear to me. Malaysia experiences its own
Entrance to the Arab Quarter
near the Golden Triangle and where I was staying.
quota systems for colleges a la University of Michigan Law School, and it's politicians are apparently almost exclusively ethnic Malay.
For an American though, Malaysia is incredibly easy to travel in, especially compared to Thailand and Indonesia, where I went next. As a former British colony, English signposts in cities and at tourist sites are leagues ahead of Thailand's Google-translated sign posts, not to mention the speakers. You can actually understand what is sitting in front of you at museums.
Photos in this flog underscore the diversity of animals and Malaysia's varied cultural heritage: Chinese, Hindu, Muslim, and Colonial. They were taken around Kuala Lampur, the Cameron Highlands, and Penang.
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