Trip Start Sep 10, 2008
Trip End Sep 03, 2009

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Paradiso Backpackers

Flag of Malaysia  , Wilayah Persekutuan,
Saturday, November 22, 2008

Malaysia is quite a contrast from South Africa, but then, I wasn't expecting them to be similar. It has been said by many that Kuala Lumpur hits you like a brick wall, and that was certainly how I felt upon arrival. The crowds, the humidity that causes sweat to pour off you, the endless shopping malls, the absolutely crazy traffic which is like playing a human version of frogger, the occasional moped driving on the pavement all create the mish mash of KL. Then there`s the transport system itself. Built in bits meaning that its more confusing that cohesive. It's very difficult to determine exactly what is "Malaysian" from the huge Chinese and Indian influences. But underneath it all, the relaxed, friendly and open attitude of the Malay's is infectious and most people come to love the diversity of the country which at first makes it so confusing.

Just as an example, to find the monorail at Sentral Station when you are stood in Sentral Station (and yes, that is how its spelt!) should really be a simple matter, especially as it is no more than 200m away from where you are standing. How to get there however, is about as clear as mud and involves you asking several locals (it took me 4) how to get there as each one will only tell you the next few steps. Me "how do I get to the monorail?", "monorail outside", you go outside, no sign of it. Asking someone else once you`ve convinced them that you don`t want to use the bus/taxi/massage that they are trying to sell to you, you get, "monorail downstairs", then "monorail that way"... you get the picture.

Luckily, the Malaysians are very friendly and most can speak English very well. The next thing that strikes you is how multicultural the country is. A mix of a wide range of Asian Nationalities, Malay, obviously, Chinese, Indian its hard to actually work out the identity of the country underneath this. At first extremely confusing, the mix of people and architecture means that visitors quickly grow to love the chilled out, accepting, welcoming culture of Malaysia.

Malaysia, land of shopping malls and fusion between traditional Asian culture and modern Western ideas.

On my first day, stupidly thinking I'd manage to escape any serious jet lag, I headed to the Batu Caves with Collette, (a series of caves containing various temples and shrines, with a giant Gold buddha parked up out front)famous just as much for the cheeky monkeys that live there as the actual temples and caves themselves. Greeted by the Buddha, which is higher than the 272 steps you have to climb, this place certainly has the wow factor. Dodging the chaotic traffic, we made our way to the temple, watching some monks being filmed by a TV crew for some reason in the middle of the street. Rather amazing no-one interfered, as they really were in the middle of a busy street, full of locals and tourists. 

However, it was here that I ran into a spot of trouble. I was a monkey. Heading up the 272 steps, I had a carrier bag with essential emergency supplies of biscuits, crisps and water. Thinking that if it was in a sealed container, the monkeys wouldn't be able to smell the food and so wouldn't go for it. I was wrong. No sooner had we reached step 128 I felt my bag being pulled away from me whilst pausing to photograph another monkey, no doubt his accomplice acting as a decoy, who was posing for me. Handicapped by having a camera in one hand, and trying to protect my handbag with the other, I only managed to snatch my water and crisps from him, the biscuits had to be sacrificed. Smugly he ran off into the sunset, although only far enough for me not to be able to reach him, and sat and tore into my packet, gorging himself on the feast whilst staring at me, smiling to himself, as if to say, nah nah, nah nah nah, you can't catch me, (Ok, so maybe I made that last bit up, but I'm setting a scene here).

After a few hours spent overcoming the trauma, we headed to the Saturday market, and tried a variety of different foods and drinks whilst praying to the travelling Gods that we wouldn't get food poisoning. On the way down to the Chinese market we came across a huge gathering of people. Walking round the crowds we eventually worked out that a museum was being opened. There was a huge parade waiting to walk and so we hung around for a bit. Which turned into about an hour as the crowds and performers got more and more restless through a very long speech which evidently wasn't that interesting, even if you did speak the language. Eventually the dancing started and horses, costumed dancers, Chinese dragons and even an elephant marched past us. That really was a lucky find.

The next day after looking round one of the country's many butterfly parks we headed to another market. I ended up buying the most ridiculous pair of trousers ever. Turquoise in colour and involving a complicated dressing system, first tying a band behind your back, pulling the fabric through your legs and fastening again, they were a bit of an impulse buy and quickly lost their novelty when I had to use the toilet. Oh well, at least they're comfortable and everyone has to own at least one ridiculous piece of clothing!
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