Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I floated down the steps of my Chinatown hostel on the smells that make big Asian cities so exciting.

Exhaust….sewage…and most of all, delicious and mysterious foods frying in woks all over the street.  Having arrived at 04:00am this morning and not eating for 12 hours, all I could think of was my stomach.  After 3 months of eating nothing but bland fried rice and noodles in Indonesia, this was going to be fun!

Just outside the hostel is a KFC, McDonalds, and pizza place.  I didn’t even cast a glance in that direction and walked a few hundred meters down the congested sidewalk to my dream come true.  A Vietnamese Pho stall, a Thai curry shop, an Indian restaurant, a Dim Sum restaurant, a Tapas bar…..it was too much.  I stood dumbfounded, my feet planted in place by sensory overload and such an array of choices.  Every time I made my way toward one eatery, I would see something more tempting and divert.

After loosing 10 pounds in Indonesia, the future is clear.  I have officially abandoned any delusions of staying in shape here.

I went into Anthony Bourdain mode and ended up eating a delicious bowl of spicy Chinese noodles, then Sushi, then some unidentified object on a wooden skewer, then finished with dessert in a Muslim bakery.  My stomach was full of octopus and eel and my head was swooning with a food buzz – all for a grand total of US$5.  Absolute Nirvana. Shangri-la. Heaven.

You may think I’m crazy if you have been here, but Kuala Lumpur has taken the title for my favorite city in Asia, and not just because I was so desperate for good food.  Sure, the sky is the same polluted nuclear white as in Beijing, and there are rats in the dirty streets the size of farm animals, but this place is simply amazing.  I have never seen such a diverse swirl of people and cultures mixing in one place, all getting along and functioning happily.

Waiting to cross the street a Thai monk stood in his robes next to a stunning Persian business woman, the two were surrounded by Chinese, Indian, Muslim, and Malay people. In one single conversation I was trying my best to speak to a man in Mandarin when an Indonesian man joined us and I bounced to Bhasa Indonesian.  After having fun, we all three finally gave up and switched to English – nearly everyone here speaks English in order to do business with all the other nationalities that call this city home. This place is a playground for world culture and I am having an absolute blast!

There are lots of tourists here, both backpackers and suitcase types, and no one even glances at my white skin or has tried to sell me anything.  Needless to say, the Western expat community is big here and at every Starbucks (there are a lot) white men, Arabs, and Asians wearing suits are busy making deals.   This city is everything that I love about Bangkok, Beijing, Indonesia, Cairo – all condensed down into one accessible place which is easy to move around.

High rise hotels and office towers are surrounded by mazes of street food stalls and shopping places.  There is absolutely nothing that you can’t find to buy in this city, there are shopping districts the sizes of small villages.  The place is buzzing with business deals, excitement, culture, and the energy that I feel in the air is positively vibrating and addictive.

My hostel, the Red Dragon, is right in the middle of Chinatown which is exciting and frenetic.  A single bed in the open-air loft is $6 a night, and the wireless is free and faster than what I use at home.  There is a multitude of hotels here ranging from budget/backpackers to five star spa retreats – there is definitely no shortage of places to stay.  Malaysia is certainly going to be more expensive than Indonesia, both because of prices and the currency is doing well compared to the dollar, but I am getting some “bang for my buck”.

When I landed, the first people I saw in Malaysia were wearing chemical suits and doctor’s masks. A creepy welcome when you are half asleep.  They are extremely serious about keeping the Swine Flu out and we had our temperature checked by infrared before we were allowed to get in line for immigration.  I thought of the slight fever that I had thanks to my coral infections and was glad to clear the screening with no problems.  They stamped me in for 30 days (for free) with no questions asked and I felt welcomed with open arms.

Aside from positively blowing my budget here on food and shopping, KL is certainly worth sticking around for a week or so. There are nice trains here, but I hiked across the entire width of the city and back with no problems, its big but it doesn’t really feel that big.

Now back to priorities……for dinner (and my 5th meal of the day) will it be Chinese dumplings, Padang curry, Egyptian shawarma….then again there’s always more Sushi, Pad Thai…..   🙂

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2 Responses to “Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia”

  1. Yum! That sounds awesome and it’s making me hungry. Think you’ve inspired me to head over to the Indian grocery for some dinner ingredients… (hey, it’s NC, Indian food IS exotic!)

    I know you were sad to leave Indonesia the other day, but when I heard about the bombs in Jakarta yesterday, I was SO pleased to know you’d left the country already and hadn’t wandered over to see Jakarta. So glad you’re safe!

  2. yes! see what i meant about KL? it might not be the best city in the world, but whenever you pass by there, it’s exactly what you’ve been dreaming of. good food, all sorts of people, kind conversation, clean streets and shops that sell creams that don’t whiten your skin. a nice break from asia eh. have fun in the perhentians!

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