My Middle East & South East Asia Tour (Part 4: Malaysia)

Official airport taxis are EXPENSIVE in Malaysia, so simply do what we do in Nigeria, bargain with the touts and get a good deal. The airport is pretty far from the city centre and not as intuitively labeled as Changi Airport, Singapore. (Changi Airport must be the most thoroughly labeled airport in the world!)

I found that it’s hard to go to a new city to relax. There’s just too much to see and too little time. The solution may be to lock yourself up in a spa retreat for a week before/after the shopping and sightseeing binge. Instructively, many world famous sites look better on paper than in reality. I guess that’s the power of professional photography!

The hotel I stayed at in Kuala Lumpur– Hotel Capitol – is very very good. It’s right in the centre of Bukit Bintang where everything is – shopping malls, cinemas, restaurants, clubs, spas – everything! But, it doesn’t have an in-house gym. That’s no problem if you walk everywhere. Then, you’ll get sufficient exercise.

The English in Malaysia’s not as good as Singapore and some signs are only in Malay. However, while Singapore is a 4-language country (in the sense that official sighs are usually written in English, Malay, Chinese and Indian), Malaysia’s a 2-language country (Malay and English). You can get by with Minglish – a combination of distinct words and gesticulations to get your message across.

Unemployment is very low here and there are vacancy ads everywhere without enough people to fill the spaces. I was informed that a lot of guest workers come in from other South East Asian countries, though emigration is quite a difficult process. However, foreigners can gain residency status by purchasing property worth about RM250,000.

The national pastimes are foot reflexology, body massage, shopping and karaoke. By the way, reflexology is another name for massage by knuckling, pinching and pounding!

Enroute the Hindu temple at Batu Caves (where I climbed 272 steps), I discovered that Malaysia is deeply religious (the dominant religion is Islam and Hindu’s also big too). You are defined by religion and race. So, when a stranger’s trying to get to know you, he usually asks about your religion. That way, he can determine your cultural and traditional leanings. My braids and beads were a big hit.

One of the “low points” of my trip was using a pit latrine after 20 years. In Government facilities, you pay 20c to use the toilet and tissue costs 30c. It’s advisable to carry your own hand wash when going out. The floors of the mall toilets are sometimes wet because of the hoses used in purification during prayers.

I enjoyed my visit to the Batik factory. Interestingly there are so many different ways to use a scarf. They should make instructional videos as you’re not allowed to take photographs. At the factory, they also have a nice selection of pearls and jade. In Asia, if your bust size is bigger than 40 inches, finding the right size is hard. Go everywhere with your tape measure as sizes can be deceptive and there aren’t always changing rooms.

I visited Selwyn Pewter, home of all things Tin, the War Memorial at Lake Garden, passed the National Theatre by Lakeside, the National Art Gallery and the city’s largest Mosque.

The national flower of Malaysia is the Hibiscus (in Singapore, it’s the Orchid). 8 is a prosperous number in Chinese culture – that’s why the Petronas Tower has 8 floors in each tower. At Beryl’s Chocolate Factory, I sampled free chocolate delights – Chili Chocolate, Tiramisu, Milk Chocolate, Almond – yum yum!

I took a couple of pictures with the Royal Guard at the King’s palace – 1 of 9 Sultan’s who rotate the title. Yellow is the royal colour and if you are invited to a meal with a member of the royal family, avoid the colour yellow.

There were quite a number of backpackers in Malaysia – you can tell who they are by the maps they constantly refer to when walking around.

A major mall to visit is Starhill at the Marriot where every floor is an experience. Malaysia’s a night city and you have folks lining the street at 1 am “hawking” reflexology. At one point I was concerned they were selling more than massage – after all I was asked whether I wanted a man or a woman to do mine.

The food is very edible – fried rice, stewed meat etc. Because of space constraints, parking’s usually on the rooftop or in the basement of buildings. The couples are very affectionate, like Singapore. The youth are into punk rock dressing here – spiky hair and all. Malysians like their women slim. Slimming therapy is good business. Malaysia/Singapore is tropical fruit heaven. There are so many varieties of fruit.

The taxis are the locally produced car – the Proton – which runs on gas. The gas tank is under the hood. Tourism is the 5th largest foreign exchange earner after Oil, Gas, Rubber and Timber.

During my trip, I finally understood why people don’t want to come back to Nigeria when they get the chance to go abroad. It’s the law and order, low cost of living, caring nature of Government, safety at night, lack of ostentatious displays of wealth and power, dignity of labour, low unemployment, opportunities for the bright and ambitious, progressive nature of the state and leaders, good transport and telecoms networks, constant power, light traffic – it’s just everything. In a foreign country, you pray less for inanities – things that should be taken for granted, like not being robbed during an inter-state journey.

On my way back to Nigeria, I was so ashamed of my countrymen. I shouldn’t be but I was struck by a deep profound sense of shame. The rush, the horrible way we dress when traveling (like refugees). Our national problems run deep and they’ve impacted the fragile psyche of generations. We need political, military, legal, business, intellectual and moral leadership to get out of this deep deep mess. Sigh!



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