During my time in Singapore I often saw an advertisement for Malaysia which read “Malaysia, Truly Asia”. So, does it really live up to this rather bold statement?
From Johor Bahru to Kuala Lumpur
I arrived in Malaysia via a very short train ride to Johor Bahru from Singapore; and by “short” I mean less than 5 minutes. I had time to put my passport back in its secure spot, remove my camera from my pocket to take a couple pictures and then as I began to apply mosquito repellent we were already pulling into JB Sentral station. One of the first things I noticed was the spelling on many things here was slightly different than the more commonly used English (UK or US); so something like “central” is spelled “sentral” and “tyre” instead of “tire” are a couple examples in Malaysia.
Random Fact: There is the western part of Malaysia which sits between Thailand and Singapore and the eastern part which shares a large island with Indonesia and Brunei.
I find the statement “Malaysia, Truly Asia” a bold statement because Asia is a big area and people vary widely, From Turkey to Japan, from Mongolia to Indonesia, everything in between like the Koreas, India, Saudi Arabia, Philippines, United Arab Emirates, Bangladesh, and even the majority of Russia is geographically part of Asia; but since Moscow is in Europe it is part of the EU. So leaving out Russia, that’s still a lot of diversity, and when one single country is trying to stake the claim that it is truly Asia, is stating a lot.
There was very little to do in Johor Bahru, so I caught a train almost instantly to Kuala Lumpur; once I arrived one of the first things I did was visit the Batu Caves which will be a separate post; after that I wanted to explore a bit and find out if Malaysia really does represent the continent of Asia. One of the first ways to do this is to try the food, so being pretty hungry from exploring the Batu caves a couple people I had met at the hostel and myself went to an Indian restaurant. While the food wasn’t anything special, the spices they used caught my attention.
I’ll continue on about food a bit later though. The following day I decided to head downtown and see the famous Petronas Towers. The rail system in KL (Kuala Lumpur) is pretty efficient, so I decided to use it as my main mode of transportation during my stay. After getting off at the nearest station I passed through and walked through a mall connected to the station to stay out of the heat a bit longer before walking around the entire city.
I decided to grab some ice cream on the way and since I was here in Malaysia I figured I would get one of the flavors native to this region of the world which is Durian, the fruit I mentioned in my post about Singapore. Personally I was not a fan of the ice cream flavor at all, very rarely do I not finish ice cream; this was one of those times. I didn’t get around to trying the actual fruit, this would remain something I needed to try as I continued on into Cambodia the following month.
Random Fact: The word “lumpur” in Kuala Lumpur is pronounced “loom-por”, not “lump-pur”. Kuala Lumpur literally means “muddy estuary”.
The Towers did not disappoint, but unfortunately they were closed almost the entire time I was here due to the holiday time; the majority of Malaysia is Muslim and therefore the country was celebrating Eid al-Fitr which meant I got to enjoy some fireworks around the same time as I normally would in the US for independence day! This also meant that there are plenty of Mosques to checkout if you’ve ever been curious as to what one is like, so this led to my next activity.
Exploring A Mosque
One thing we don’t have many of around my home city is mosques and since Malaysia is the first country I’ve visited that is considered a Muslim nation I wanted to visit one. So, what better than to visit the biggest in the country! The National Mosque of Malaysia is (to no surprise) located in Kuala Lumpur and a short walk from the nearest rail station, so I headed over and checked it out. Visitors are only allowed in during certain hours and luckily I arrived about 15 minutes before they open the doors, so I walked around a bit and checked out the exterior.
Random Fact: The currency of Malaysia is the ringgit, which in Malay means “jagged”.
After I took a quick walk around it was time to head in. In order to go in you must dress appropriately and luckily for me they had some thobes available for free rental, so I got one and went in. The inside is very spacious, clean, and quiet and while you can walk around the majority of the mosque, there are some spaces prohibited to visitors. One of those being the inner area where the main prayer section is, but you can get a good view from the main doorway.
The mosque also features some amazing massage chairs as well which I tried out and enjoyed. I ended up staying just a bit passed the visitation hour, but no one seemed to cause a commotion about it. I rather enjoyed wearing the thobe, I got comfortable wearing it pretty quickly and it was also nice not standing out as much. The downside though was that it was already pretty hot outside and the extra layer added a bit more heat, but not enough to really affect me more.
The Food Of Malaysia
One of my favorite things during my stay in Malaysia was the food, I had many great dishes, but there is one meal I had that stood out above the rest and is now currently my all-time favorite chicken dish. The chicken dish in question is Naan Tandoori Chicken and if you visit Malaysia this is an absolute must! The chicken is red in color and comes with a slice of lime to squeeze over the chicken. On a separate plate you will get the naan with 3 different types of curry dips. Every aspect of this meal is delicious!
A rather popular food is satay which is meat on a stick which is cooked and then coated in a peanut sauce. I had tried some back in Singapore, but it wasn’t that good; the satay here though was much, much better! A popular Malaysian breakfast is Nasi Lemak in Malaysia which (in its on-the-go version) is a triangle of rice stuffed with a hard-boiled egg, chili sauce, peanuts, and anchovies; it’s not too bad at all! Even though I enjoyed it, I’m not sure I could get accustomed to the Malaysian breakfasts, but I could easily get used to the Pasar Malam.
Random Fact: The original name of Malaysia was Aurea Chersonesus which means “peninsula of gold”. It was named by Roman geographer Ptolemy.
Pasar Malam basically means “night market” in Malay and is full of amazing local foods. From mountains of fish to fried noodles, coffees, smoothies, chicken, and more! While I only went to one during my time in Malaysia, I could’ve attended more, but didn’t find out about them until right before I left.
After my stay in Kuala Lumpur I headed north by train to Padang Basar, stopping by Butterworth on the way to change trains. Unfortunately I didn’t get to explore Butterworth, but I ventured around Padang Basar a bit and encountered some really shady areas. I enjoyed my time in Malaysia and I now understand why it’s considered to be “Truly Asia”. I saw a mix of people from all over Asia here, the high amount of Indian food, a large percentage of people who had come from China, the religion which had migrated from the far western part of Asia, and many other people from different Asian cultures who now call Malaysia home.
Check back soon for my post on the Batu Caves which are located right here in Malaysia! Thanks for reading!