Every time Paul and I arrive in a new country, we classify it into one of two groups – Asia for Beginners, or Asia for the Advanced.
Malaysia is at the top of the first group – it is Asia for the Stop-Over. People speak excellent English (it could be confused as being their first language), their cuisine is amazing and not too in-your-face spicy, shopping is first-class, transport is hassle-free and their skyline is very impressive. It’s a little bit of lots of parts of Asia, without anything being particularly unique.
So you can understand why just over a decade ago the country decided to construct the (then) tallest building in the world – and build two of them, in fact. The Petronas Twin Towers are hands-down the most eye-catching skyscrapers I’ve ever seen, and we viewed them both inside and out, and from the nearby KL Tower.
Singapore and Kuala Lumpur are very similar, but KL is just that little bit more relaxed. Religion is also a lot more visible – about half the women wear headscarves, yet all women in advertisements are headscarf-free. I’ve intentionally dressed more conservatively, but for every Malay in a headscarf there’s a Chinese woman in a miniskirt. You’ve got to admire the country’s tolerance.
We’ve gotten our share of colonial buildings in the past week – KL has a bunch of them, as does Melaka, just two hours down the road. We stopped there overnight from Singapore, as Paul was keen as mustard to continue his Dutch imperialist history hopping. Melaka was held by the Portuguese, Dutch and then British, and really felt – in parts – like a quintessential European town. The only thing which almost ruined it was the insane traffic that choked the Old Town. It was like how Hanoi will be when everyone makes the switch from motorbike to car.
The car theme continued in KL – the Petronas Towers are the headquarters of the nation’s petroleum company, you can’t miss the wall-to-wall advertising for the Malaysian Grand Prix, and this afternoon we visited a lakeside festival celebrating Malaysia’s federation. The biggest attraction was the minibike races, with the mini speedboats coming in a close second.
We’re out of the big smoke as of tomorrow morning – next stop is paradise – otherwise known as Ko Phi Phi, Thailand.