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One of my most distinct memories, if not the most distinct from my last trip to Malaysia is, of my aimless wanderings through the narrow lanes of George Town, the capital of Penang state. Be it the charming architecture, the rustic shops, the beautiful the graffiti, everything there was so charming in a rustic way. I could not have enough of this charming place even after roaming around the same places not once, not twice but thrice! There was hardly anything which I did not like there (if only the beer was a little cheaper though 😉 ). As I wandered through the narrow lanes of Georgetown, I could not help but imagine how would it have been life here like, half a century back! [More on Georgetown coming soon]
Malaysia was nowhere near the top in my list of south-east Asian countries that I wanted to visit. In-fact I was not even sure if I would be heading there. Malaysia never looked like a budget-friendly destination (not that I had done any research though) to me and I had other interesting places in my mind to be visited. But then things happened and I found myself on a flight to Kuala Lumpur in June this year. Peeping out from my window-seat as we prepared to land, I saw numerous islets scattered randomly, much like what you see when you are landing at Port – Blair. The only difference here, the islets seemed significantly smaller than those of Andamans. The light drizzle made the view even more pleasant.
Over the week that I spent in three different parts of Malaysia – Kuala Lumpur, Penang Island and Melaka – I got see different facets of the places. Some things were common in all the three places while some very different.
Let me share with you few of my observations during my time in Malaysia.
Vibrant Snap-shot of the colonial past
Malaysia no doubt takes immense pride in their historic past. Wherever I went I saw people, be it students or elders, taking immense interest in their historical monuments and the stories related to them. Even on Sundays, I found groups of school-students on guided tours to museums and old palaces. Their teachers explaining them about the places while the students took notes in rapt attention. I also came across other students who were on their own but seemed equally interested in the places they were. In places like Georgetown and Melaka, both of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, this love and seriousness for preserving the past is evident even more. While I was delighted to see how the people cared for their historical past, I also could not help but feel sad about how insensitive we are towards our historical monuments and the past in general.
A potpourri of cultures
While I have always known just like most of you might be already knowing, that South East Asia is a region where various cultures from the region and beyond come together to make something it is so loved for, a multi-cultural and vibrant place to be. Though it is something which is more or less the case across South-east Asia, seeing and experiencing it first hand was a totally different experience altogether. Malaysia has a strong Indian and an even stronger Chinese influence in almost every aspect of the society. Be it the architecture, the food or the bill-boards and restaurant menus, different cultures make their presence felt whichever you turn.
When we are talking about a mix-of cultures, how can I not talk about food. While I might not be someone who eats a lot, I love eating. One of the things that makes the foodie in me delighted is diverse and authentic food experiences. Now, we all know that south-east Asia is a foodie’s paradise and so naturally, I too had great expectations from Malaysia. Malaysia did not disappoint me. From Chinese to Vietnamese to Malaysian to Mediterranean, all I had to do is decide which way to go. Even though I at times worried about my gut not being able to handle my sudden change in eating habits and the frequency of eating, this worry lasted only until I found myself at another street-food stall or the other 😉 .
As soon as I landed in Kuala Lumpur, I got myself a 4G sim card from KLIA2 itself with enough data to last my entire stay. The coverage and bandwidth remained excellent all-through and I had no reason to search for places with wifi while deciding where to eat or sit to grab a drink. This however did not stop me from being pleasantly surprised as I moved from one place to another. Everywhere, be it on a bus-stand, a park, a restaurant or a public place, there were always more than one blazing fast wifi waiting to be latched-on to. So omnipresent were they that I at-times couldn’t stop myself from asking myself if I really needed to buy the SIM card 😉 .
The wifi-scene in Singapore was quite a different story though, more on that later.
What has been your first impressions of an interesting place you have visited? Let me know, I would love to know.