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Discovering Malaysia

What a beautiful country! Malaysia is a mix of fast-paced urban areas and natural habitats.

by Deedra Abboud in Travel
November 25, 2015 0 comments

I have always wanted to go to Malaysia – since the first time I saw pictures of the Petronas Towers. I didn’t know anything else about Malaysia; just those iconic towers were enough.

My husband often asks me why I want to go to certain places and I always respond, “Because it’s there.” Everywhere has something to see and enjoy, even if it is just to interact with different people and see how they live differently than we do – that includes different cities and states within the United States.

My husband travels for business. A lot. We try to limit his time away from home to six weeks or less. Sometimes that does not work out.

That was the case this year. He left at the beginning of September and was supposed to return mid-October. Then we got word that, due to several conferences he needed to attend in Europe and Asia, he would not be returning until mid-December.

That is simply too long.

To make matters worse, we decided to cancel our annual New Year’s trip because our niece is having a baby on December 27th.

So a “meet in the middle” to break up the time apart and replacing our New Year’s trip was in order.

But where should we meet? Europe was out because we both dislike cold weather. On a whim, we chose Malaysia. Neither of us had been there and I had never been to Asia at all.

What a beautiful country! Malaysia is a mix of fast-paced urban areas and natural habitats. Everywhere we saw modern architectural masterpieces, yet overt ecological conservation efforts. And it was so clean! Everywhere we went – the subway, the train, the taxis, the malls, the bathrooms– had at least one person using a trash-bin, broom, mop, or cloth to quickly remove any waste or grime.

Malaysia has something for everyone: shopping, art, architecture, culture, food, nightlife, nature, etc. November is their rainy season but in the 9 days we were there, though it rained every day, it usually lasted less than an hour.

20151108_141958Not to mention it was so inexpensive! A five-star hotel was under $200 per night and a two-hour taxi ride was less than $40. And so many shopping opportunities!
I am not much of a shopper myself, but they have malls to rival Dubai – in number, size, beauty, and products – in addition to the street markets: Chinese, Indian, etc.

But what struck me most was the diversity – so many different ethnicities and religions. Malaysia’s population is made up of native Malay, Indian, and Chinese as well as a large migrant and refugee population from various countries. Tourism is also a major activity. Chinese and other Asians, as well as Australians, being the largest group, but Mid20151108_141943dle Eastern, American, and European tourists are also prevalent.

Though Malaysia is a Muslim majority country, everything is represented there. We visited Buddhist and Hindu Temples, Churches, and Mosques. We saw cultural and religious schools and Universities. Some people dressed in a cultural or religious dress, but the majority dressed totally “western” – pants, shirts, business suits, dresses (of all types and lengths).

Almost everyone speaks English. English is the country’s second language, though many of the people actually speak several languages.Every food imaginable was available: Chinese, Indian, Italian – even Mexican – to name a few.20151109_205948

The most shocking thing I saw was people who were transgender. Not because I saw them on the street, but because I saw them working at brand name companies such as Victoria’s Secret, Zara, Gucci, etc. That was different than what I see in the United States. I may see them on the street and maybe even work at places like Walgreen’s, but brand name stores? I have never seen that. That is very inclusive.

And unlike in the United States, there was no controversy with the bathroom either. They all went to the men’s restroom. My husband was a little surprised to find both women cleaners and men dressed as women in the men’s restroom, but he got over it very quickly. I can’t say I noticed anything in the women’s restroom because we had private stalls.

When we first arrived, all of Kuala Lumpur was 20151111_134138decorated in celebration of Diwali/Deepavali, a Hindu holiday. We went to bed on November 9th and woke up November 10th to Christmas trees, Santa, and reindeer covered in “snow.”

We spent most our time in Kuala Lumpur, the capital, exploring the streets, malls, subways, cultural markets, museums, public parks, and famous buildings. One day we did take the train to the end of the line at a southern point of the country near Crab Island. There was a storm, so we decided not to take the ferry to the island.

Another day we took a taxi to the Genting Highlands – a Casino and theme park built on the top of a mountain. Though the indoor theme park was open, the outdoor theme park was closed due to expansion. The construction has already begun, and it is huge. Once finished, it will unquestionably be a wonderland theme park to rival any other in the world.

We also found Malaysian Muslims were not allowed to participate in certain activities: gambling, bars, etc. But being foreign, even though Muslim, we did not have those restrictions – so we did go inside the casino and walked down the “night-life” street full of very active bars blaring music – almost all English songs. We like to see everything!

The Chinese have an interesting rule. Alcohol was available at the casino but forbidden in the gambling areas. Their thought is that gambling is a serious activity and one’s capacity should not be inhibited while participating in such a serious activity. The casino did not even have waiters or non-alcoholic drinks available. If a gambler is thirsty, the gambler has to walk to a water dispenser where small plastic cups are available. Signs were all around the betting areas stating “No alcohol beyond this point.” Very different from what we would see in Vegas!

Malaysia is a country we will definitely visit again. There is so much left to see! We avoided most of the natural and ecological attractions because, being the rainy season, mosquitoes were prevalent in those places. We did not see one mosquito in the places we did visit, and Malaria is no longer a concern in Malaysia, but we decided to put those places off until next time we visit outside the rainy season.20151107_143235

Because we enjoyed Malaysia so much, it now excites us to add other Asian countries to our list: Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, China, etc.

We cannot wait!

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