Where are all the Malays?

Trip Start Apr 06, 2007
Trip End Nov 18, 2007

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Flag of Malaysia  ,
Thursday, October 4, 2007

From Hat Yai in Thailand I jumped on a classy coach (3 seats across instead of the usual 4, what happened to budget travel being uncomfortable?) south to Kuala Lumpur. I arrived at 4am and got a bus further south to Melaka at 7am. In the interval I watched Celtic beat AC Milan in an Indian cafe as I ate an onion roti (Malaysian pancake) and drank an ice milo. Good on the tic, I guess.

I remember I've yet to say anything on KL...

The four days I spent in KL before heading back up to Thailand were hindered by chores and a broken hand. I spent a whole day trying to sort out posting stuff home. So I never got round to exploring this city like I usually do.

The skyscrapers are more spread out than in Bangkok and so their scale can be better appreciated, particularly from the magnificent Petronas Twin Towers and the 421m high telecom tower (see photos). The skyscrapers aren't as modern and impressive but some clearly have an interesting Islamic touch and there is a nice British colonial area.

The population was split something like half Malay and the other half Chinese and Indian. I found myself speaking much more to the Chinese as they have their fingers in the business side of things there, as they do in most of the country.

I did get speaking to a Malay taxi driver though. He told me how he had two wives. Intrigued, I asked questions. His 58 year old wife, so he said, told him four years ago that because he was still strong (ie in bed) he was free to go and find a second wife (score). He was 60. His wives were 58 and 32! His 3 year old son was soon to be the nephew to his unborn uncle (the taxi drivers first son's wife was pregnant). We both laughed at this. "My throat is dry and sore from fasting" he said, "I can't talk much more".

One of the standout things about KL was how easy it was. Skytrains frequent and cheap (30p for 3 stops). Nobody hasseling you on street corners for a taxi, maraj, books, begging etc etc. Most people spoke English. It is clean and heavily Western.

For me its ease was its downfall. I missed the chaotic streets of Bangkok!

MELAKA was a colonial town from the Portugese, then the Dutch and finally the British mixed with a large Chinatown area at its centre. Interesting but perhaps somewhere to go when your older as there was little night life, backpackers and everything was expensive. Still quite interesting with all the Singaporean tourists and I did see that huge lizard! Check photos!

I stopped over in Batu Pehat, a southeastern town where I ended up getting my cast removed. Very happy (for that mean time anyway - see Darwin entry). Again the town was, on the surface, mainly Chinese Malaysian but there was a little Malay night market to enjoy. The reason I comment about Chinese Malaysians is that the Chinese may be a minority but it is such a large minority that they largely retain their own culture. Different religions don't help and either does different working circles: Chinese in the shops and cafes, Malays in the offices. I was rather tired of the unfriendly Chinese shopkeeper/hotel management/cafe by the end of Malaysia, they were very money driven.

Malaysia was very developed and, prior to Singapore, the most westernised of the SE countries visited. For me its success was its downfall. It didn't have that 'Wow, this is so different from home' feeling that everywhere else has. Had I visited the East side (a lot more traditional, less developed, Muslim Malay) or Borneo (other half of Malaysia across the South China sea) I would have had a very different time without doubt.
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grantrough on

Sounds good to me!
Hey man. I thought after the hectic streets of Bangcok you would have enjoyed a nice relaxing time, no? I cant believe the wife offered her husband to get another wife!! 24 years younger 2! bloody hell. Oh, and good to hear you got your cast off.

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