Malaysia: Truly Asia, 2007
DISCLAIMER: The decision to actually choose Malaysia as a honeymoon destination was more circumstantial than by our real desire to visit the country, at least not as our first destination. With the suffocating restrictions that go with having a Pakistani passport, Malaysia is one of the few countries that allow visa-on-arrival for said passport holders.
Having said that, I can honestly say that it was one of my funnest trips to date, from all that happened, and all that we got to see and do. The country, it’s people, the sights, the experiences were so wonderful, and I’m having a hard time fitting everything into my memory bank.
Sure, the weather was hot and humid, and I went from looking like a dark North Indian to a dark South Indian … but that’s all part of the game.
The trip overall was a bit winded, since I had to get Hina to Kuwait before I could join her so she could get her new re-entry visa back to Riyadh. Gave her a chance to catch up with her twin, as well as giving me a chance to hang out with friends like old times.
I ended up in Kuwait for 5 days to visit with family as well, and it was great schmoozing with everyone after sometime. Attended quite a few parties, and gathered a plethora of gifts from all our well wishing friends. If any of you actually ever get to this … we’re very much grateful for the love and kindness!
I guess I’ll keep with the format from the last few trips … do a “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” … that way I can summarize and you don’t have to get too bored with reading endless rantings of a madman.
A lil background first … we departed Kuwait on March 5th, and landed in Malaysia midnight on March 6th. Layovers are a real bitch, and scientists really need to discover time portals …
2007 happens to be Malaysia’s 50th anniversary of their nationhood, and they’re promoting this to no end, with taglines galore. Whether Malaysia is “truly Asia”, I dunno, but it’s great whatever it is.
Ladies and gentleman, without further ado, let’s get started:
- Dewans Filharmonik Petronas: For me, this was the absolute highlight of the trip. Going to a world class facility to enjoy an evening of great jazz music live, performed by the tremendous Chick Corea and Gary Burton. The whole air of the evening was grand, from the ladies dressed to impress, and the guys in their suits. I was able to secure the exclusive box seats in the first level balcony which gave us a great view from the top. The music was wonderful, and just having a chance to experience the whole event was a highlight in itself.
- The hotels: Sure, I paid quite handily for some of the places we called home at night, but it was totally worth it. From the Pan Pacific Hotel and KLIA to our last hotel, The Mandarin Oriental in KLCC, every hotel came with it’s own character, and each had service beyond compare.
- The spa treatments: I had always imagined myself enjoying a nice aromatherapy massage, with some nice ambient music playing, and loving every second of it. I didn’t realize that in reality, I would enjoy every millisecond of it. Talk about total indulgence and unsurpassed sense of relaxation.
- Masjid Ubaidiah: No Top 10 Must See In Malaysia should be complete without reference to this one of a kind quaint mosques in the peaceful town of Kuala Kangsar. The town was once the royal capital of the State of Perak, and it still echoes the grandeur and elegance of years past. Long winding roads flanked by lightly blooming trees, the soothing lakes and the beautiful architecture add a sense of calm that I have not felt in very many places.
- Underwater World: Langkawi’s main attraction after the beautiful beaches. Much like any other aquarium, but the variety of species on display were breathtaking and thoroughly enjoyable.
- Hina and the Monkeys: An extremely hilarious (scary at the time) incident that happened on our first day on Langkawi. So, Hina and I decided to take a tour of the island and make the most of our time. Our first stop was Temuran Falls, a tranquil spot just a stones throw away from our resort. Due to conflicting reports from various hawkers, we started on the wrong trail, although that wasn’t the hilarious part. Being a lil thirsty and hungry, we purchased some food and hand carried it onto the trail. Apparently monkeys love food too (who knew?!?) and decided that 3 of the chief monkeys (as Hina calls them) could take on one lil Hina. Apparently they were right. As soon as they saw us, they started their chanting and took off towards the bag of chips. Hina and I at first thot it was so cute until the monkey actually got within striking distance and then all hell broke loose. I couldn’t stop laughing and Hina was running back towards the trail, and the poor woman fell down hard over the curb, and by then the monkeys made away with the bag of chips, as well as my very expensive zoom lens! It took a while, but finally the taxi driver was able to coax the lil booger to drop the lens from the tree and take a yummy cookie instead. All for naught … the lens is virtually useless. Oh yeah! we’re talkin about Hina here … poor thing was in pain the next day, altho the aforementioned spa treatment took care of that the following day.
- Trishaw ride in Penang: Although, I was feeling a little concious when we started our little tour of Georgetown on this bike-rickshaws, I thoroughly enjoyed it by the time we got off in Little India. It’s a very different view of the city you get riding in an open carriage, with the constant rattling of the gears behind you, and the incessand buzzing of cars and motorcycles around you. We enjoyed it so much, we ventured into a trishaw once more before departing Penang. Must do!
- Batu Ferringhi: The supposedly “happening” spot on the island of Penang. This is where the action happens every night … the NIGHT MARKET! Just a hop from our hotel, we were able to enjoy the lively atmosphere virtually all our nights. Very exciting place.
- Hawker Stalls: I think I spent the least amount of money on food in Malaysia, most likely because I never dined at a proper restaurant except for 2 times. The rest of the time we frequented small food stalls setup along the various markets, and I swear they offered the best food in town, for the best prices too! It would be a stretch to say that a very satisfying meal for 2 cost more than $5 on any given night.
- Central Market: The awesome indoors market in KL, selling everything imaginable at unimagineable prices. Not sure what else to say for this one … great bargains all around.
- Ferry Ride (Penang -> Langkawi): What to say … clear blue waters, cool breeze, great cloud cover, soft sunrays stroking your skin. You get the point :o)
- The annoying rain: As you can tell, I have to look real hard for something as a “bad”, but the rain really did put a damper on our last evening in town. Stranded under a jittery covering outside a small store for over an hour waiting for the rain to subside, and then paying 9RM to a cab driver to cover less than 3 city blocks was awful!
- Chinatown: Apparently we’re one of the few that didn’t see the charm this street-turned-shantytown holds. We planned an entire evening around Chinatown which included a nice dinner at one of the hawker stalls (see above), combined with a few blissful hours of shopping. The only highlight of Chinatown was a commotion when the police raided the area looking for DVD piraters. Yeap, too much fun. Actually … I take that back … I enjoyed one more thing there: a very delicious glass of fresh sugarcane juice! Price? A grand total of $0.23!!!
- Twin Towers SkyBridge: Where should I start with this one?!? You queue up early morning for a ticket for an odd hour during the day, and then when your entire days’ plans are thrown in a turvy, your entire trip up, including the small movie and elevator ride up, take less than 15 minutes. The views aren’t that spectacular, and for the few things you do see, you aren’t given enough time to fully take everything in. I guess I really shouldn’t complain about something that is free, but come on.
This will be hard to come up with, cuz really there really weren’t that many downtimes on our trip, but I can think of a very few.
- The rude taxi drivers: I only mention this for the 3 total a$$hole drivers we encountered on our entire trip. 1 in Langkawi, and 2 in KL. The one in Langkawi was the grand daddy of all tho. We were starving and got some KFC on our way and as we try to open it up to grab a nugget, the guy turns off the AC, looks angrily in the rear-view mirror, pulls down his window and then proceeds to say “You stink my car. No eat car.” The nerve. I agree that he has the right to ask us not to eat in the car, but damn, how about some tact and politeness?! The remainder of the ride, he kept looking back to make sure we weren’t sneaking a bite in between breaths.
- Near heart attack in Dubai: So, this morning we land in Dubai and make our way to the Passport Control queue. We’re chatting it up and as I reach for my wallet, my hand embraces an empty pocket. The fear, shock and panic that hits you at this point is remarkable. Especially for me … both my passports were in the wallet, and that meant no entry to Saudi. It was 5:10AM and the next few hours were pure hell. I must’ve walked the length of the airport a good 5 times trying to get some answers out of the police here. It was finally around 8:47 when a very kind officer in the police department decided to escort me to the plane. Before we arrived, word was sent to the cleaning crew to look hard, and as I starting making my way down the aisles, a gentleman from the cleaning crew informed me that they had indeed found the wallet and had sent it to the lost and found! Talk about relief!!!
Umm, yeah … can’t think of anything else that would be deemed ugly.
Although, I will say that I have presented a very short list in “The Good” section. There really were a whole lot of great times. I’ll just do an honorable mention list:
- Batu Caves
- Butterfly Garden
- Lunch at E&O Hotel
- Kek Lok Si Temple
- Wat Chayamangkalaram Temple
- KL Tower by night
- Shah Alam State Mosque
- The KL Krafts Komplex
- Little India (Penang and KL)
- Lake Gardens
WOW, I realize that I can keep going so let’s save this for a rainy day spent in the company of good friends.
Malaysia … perhaps Truly Asia!