Selamat Datang, Malaysia!
That’s hello in Malay, one of the four national languages of Malaysia. The others are Indonesian, Chinese and English. Most people know at least two of the three, which per usual, makes me feel like a lazy human being. Malaysia is a really interesting place. Not only are there multiple languages, but it’s also one of the most diverse places I’ve ever been. After being in Korea, the most homogenous nation in the world, it was certainly refreshing. The population is a mixture of mostly Malaysian, Indonesian, Indian, and Chinese people, and there are tons of tourists and foreigners, at least in Kuala Lumpur, where we were.The country is Muslim, but not by mandate, so there are several different major religions as well. The Muslim women wore a mix of everything from a small scarf in their hair, to full burkas. Many of the Hindi and Indian women wore bindis and saris, and because it was Chinese New Year, many of the Chinese people were dressed in traditional Chinese clothing as well. Like I said, it was a really fascination mix of cultures.
At the start of our trip, we had a one-day layover in Kuala Lumpur (commonly known as “KL”). We were really happy we did this, because despite how awesome Kuala Lumpur is and how much we loved it, their airport/bus/subway systems were so confusing, and we were happy we got a little lay of the land before we spent any real amount of time there. Luckily we fumbled through, and eventually made it to our hostel in KL’s Chinatown. Hostel is a deceptive word…for those of you that haven’t used them before, this can be anything from a dorm room with bunk beds to a discount/boutique hotel. Ours was definitely more of a hotel, and a pretty nice one at that! KL’s Chinatown is great–it’s a smallish street packed with market stalls. The market stays open late, and our room looked straight out over it. It is loud, crowded, and full of delicious food and cheap sunglasses, scarves, bags and anything else you can think of…it’s pretty awesome. With such a short stay, we didn’t have time for much sight-seeing, but we did manage to explore Chinatown, and saw a famous Hindu temple. However, we didn’t go inside because we weren’t sure if there would be wardrobe requirements, and I didn’t have a scarf or anything on me to cover my shoulders in case that was required.
After Chinatown, we went to the nearby Central Market, which is housed mostly indoors, with one street of outdoor markets running alongside the building. The Central Market is two floors, packed with shopping and food. Within the Central Market, there is a mini Chinatown and mini Little India. I think there were some others too, but I can’t remember what they were. I can’t even remember if we bought anything, we mostly just walked around and took in the sites! We ate dinner at an African-inspired chicken restaurant, and then went to bed early, falling asleep to the sounds of the night market. All in all, it was a good first taste of Malaysia!
In the morning we gave ourselves a lot of time to get to the airport, which was really good, because it turns out there are two and we originally went to the wrong one. Like I said before, confusing! Luckily, someone finally pointed us in the right direction, and after a short bus ride that we somehow never paid for (oops), we made it to the correct spot and were on our way to beautiful, sunny Thailand!