Malaysia: Book it or Bust

We entered this country weary from a long 7-hour bus ride, famished & a bit disgruntled from our previous stop in Singapore {refer to Singapore blog post}. We really had no expectations about Kuala Lumpur, KL as the locals call it, but were prepared to make the best of it…only because we were stuck with an already booked exit flight 3 days later. Once we checked in to our (less than desirable) hotel, we took off to wander the streets for some grub and that’s where the adventure began.

We thought Singapore had a great food culture but, OH BOY, does KL give it a run for it’s money! This was the basis of our itinerary for the most part and I had no complaints about that.

The People.

While we didn’t have long to experience KL, only about 2.5 days, from what we saw the people were very kind and respectful. On our food tour we had a chance to meet and “attempt” to converse with locals at various shops, restaurants and market stands and while hardly any of them spoke English, it was so fun to talk with our hands to get the message across. They were all very light hearted, would joke with us (even though we had no idea what was going on) and they had a smile on their face!

We stopped by a market stand with fresh produce and meat on our food tour and the sweetest old lady was working it. She was so spunky and was a ball of fire! We were told she had been working at that very same stand since she was 18 years old and she was 85. We had seen historic pictures from over the years of that section in Chinatown and it’s changed SO much, so it’s crazy to think that she has been there through all of those years.

The Food.

At first thought of KL, you wouldn’t necessarily pin it to be a foodies paradise. In fact, I didn’t have any thoughts about Malaysia AT ALL – aside from associating it with Zoolander and Dereks’s mission to kill the Malaysian Prime Minister (but really, who doesn’t think about that reference when they hear about Malaysia??)

We were a bit spoiled having come from Singapore where the food is great but more on the pricey side and we were able to eat like kings with the same high quality street food but for a much lower price.

It was decided that tours were the way best way to see the cities we stopped in so for KL, we thought the natural option was a walking food tour. Yet again, we happened to be the only people on the tour but we weren’t complaining. We met our guide and were taken around Chinatown and to some of the local spots to learn about the typical cuisines and how they are prepared.

It was so interesting to learn about the ingredients and one thing I learned over the month in Asia is these cultures really pay attention to what they’re putting into their bodies and how the ingredients impact them. They use food as natural remedies for just about everything, which is just the opposite (sadly) of the American food culture where I truly believe we are slowly killing ourselves out of lack of knowledge and education in the industry. Every single ingredient has a purpose in a dish and they worked together harmoniously with each bite.

Similarly to Singapore, KL is full of many different cultures so you get a wide variety of offerings when it comes to food. Indian food is one of my all time favorites and with the very large indian population here, we were constantly munching on naan, curries and delicious pockets of heaven also known as samosas.

The Culture.

Of all the countries we visited on this trip, I think I can say I was most intrigued by the culture in KL. Mainly because it was a melting pot of so many cultures and was the first country I’ve ever visited that was predominantly Muslim. I wasn’t expecting this at all (like I said, I had no expectations in the first place) but I never quite got used to the shock of cultural differences. There were so many women who were covered from head to toe with those all black garments - abayas, which are the dresses, and niqabs, which are the head pieces which only have a slit for their eyes. I had only seen these on TV from the national news stations and in the movies (most recently American Sniper) and have to admit that I was ignorantly startled to say the least every so often as I had a negative connotation associated with them.

I was so enthralled with this culture and really enjoyed sitting in public places and just observing. On a trip to a large shopping mall, we stopped into an Applebees to grab a cold beer. I just sat and watched several of these women with their children, carrying on with their meals where they’d have to lift up their face covering just enough to feed themselves or take a sip of their drink. I also noticed that they LOVED expensive handbags and a good amount of them would have designer bags or be seen shopping in very expensive stores. There was even a man with what looked to be 5 wives sitting with him at the lunch table. Such a different culture from our western lives and I found it to be quite intriguing!

We spent some time at the national mosque, which was gorgeous, and were required to put on the traditional robes to cover what we were wearing (tanks and shorts) and I had to put a cover on my head as well with a hijab. It was so interesting to see someone else’s place of worship. We even had the pleasure to meet some young monks from Vietnam who seemed to be very intrigued by US and asked to take a picture with us!

Our Experience.

We spent a lot of time walking the city, which was very walkable, and seeing the sights. Aside from the food tour, we spent half a day out at a temple that was built into a cave, hitting up their markets and attempted to go to the twin towers, which used to be the tallest buildings in the world. Unfortunately, they apparently sell out in advance and spent quite awhile trekking out there to be disappointed. We went to happy hour and took pictures of them from the ground instead, which wasn’t all that bad!

KL is another big city and there isn’t a whole lot of charm to it. However, we were told about a city north of KL that came highly recommended, called Penang. I think if I were to do this trip again, I’d spend some time there as it seemingly has the same great qualities of KL, but in a beachy, serene atmosphere instead. 

While Malaysia has never really been on my list of places to visit, I’m glad that we took the time to stop for a couple of days. It was such a unique place with endless, rich culture that’s hard to beat. Prices are cheap, the food is good and the people and great.

Things we did: 

 

All in all, I say Kuala Lumpur is a BOOK IT!