A brand new leg of Southeast Asia. Geographically, we weren’t much further from where we’d originally touched down, in Bangkok. Culturally…well, that’s another story.
Besides our one-way ticket to Thailand from Canada, Teresa and I had booked a single solitary flight for the somewhere-in-between. That flight was from Hanoi to Kuala Lumpur on Malaysian Airlines. The only timeframe we had to adhere to was one that allowed us to complete our journey through Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam by August 15th, 2013. We’d made it. Now, everything was open ended all over again.
Arriving in KL was a breeze. Passports stamped and off we went. No pre-purchasing visas, no backwater land boarders to cross. This was a different kind of Asian metropolis from what we’d experienced up until this point.
We took a direct train from the airport into the heart of the city. From there, we took another light rail transit system to the centre of Chinatown where we figured would be the best place for us to stay based on our budget. The guesthouse we landed in, after a few trials and errors, was really old and dirty, but by that point, it hardly fazed us. We were living in Asia at this point, well integrated into the culture and the low level of accommodations were more than adequate by our standards.
In a few days, my sister Desiree would be joining us, flying in from her original destination of Winnipeg, Manitoba where we both grew up. A couple of days after that, Teresa’s sister Mary would be flying in from Toronto. I guess a part of us forgot how integrated we’d become because our standards of living were much lower than theirs upon arrival. Even though we eventually upgraded to a much nicer hotel compared to what Teresa and I had become accustomed to, and by far the best we’d be staying in up till that point, it was still a kind of “meh” to them. But that’s for next time.
KL is a massive city. The Chinatown district has a central corridor shaped like a big lowercase T, or a big + symbol. Occasionally, motorbikes can make it through here, but it’s next to impossible as the streets are just jam packed with street food, stores, and stalls selling all kinds of items and souvenirs. The great part about KL is that the transit system is phenomenal and it was extremely easy to get around when we didn’t feel like walking anymore.
Of course the biggest change for us was the culture, and more specifically, the religion. Everywhere we’d traveled in Asia so far had had a majority Buddhist population. As I’m sure many of you know, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia are primarily Muslim. Instead of seeing Buddhist temples all over the place, we saw mosques, or Masjids. There was one extremely beautiful one that we passed time and time again during our countless walks through the city.
It’s quite interesting how the city transitions from older style buildings, like in Chinatown where we were staying, to the modern downtown commercial district which boasts futuristic-looking skyscrapers, the most notable probably being the twin Petrol towers downtown.
Another notable difference is the ethnicity of the people. In Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, the majority of each respective population is what the local ethnicity is. In Vietnam, for example, a whopping 93% of the population is ethnic Vietnamese. I also remember someone I know telling me how blown away he was when he went to Japan and literally everybody is Japanese. It sounds silly to be surprised by that, but when you’ve grown up in a multicultural country where immigrants from all over the world make up a large chunk of the population, it can be a little surprising to witness a sea of people in a busy district who all look more similar to each other than different.
Malaysia is not like this. Known for their distinct ethnic diversity, the country is populated with ethnic Malays, Chinese, and Indians, many of whom have been living in the country for generations and have passed down their cultural traditions which have mingled and merged with the local traditions over the course of time. Because of this amazing mixture of people and cultures, Malaysia is home to a wide variety of cuisine, architecture, and other traditions from all over Asia and other parts of the world that make it an extremely interesting place to visit. Not to mention British and other European colonists who’ve been sailing to the peninsular side of the country for centuries.
Yet another leg of the journey, yet another adventure to begin.
With our sisters on their way to meet us from the other side of the world, things were about to get very interesting.