Only Planet

One Child, One Year, One Planet. A family of three traveling around the world...

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Kuala Lumpur Malaysia: Truly Asia

There’s a commercial on TV right now that shows verdant jungles, orangutans, sandy beaches, the Petronas towers and the many faces of Malaysia. Dylan and I have been caught singing its jingle, “Malaysia, truly Asia” many times while here in Kuala Lumpur. (The word Malaysia is pronounced not harshly with a z sound at the end, but softly like sss of a snake. That’s why it rhymes so well with Asia). That pretty much sums up some of the Malaysia we’ve seen.

No word describes Malaysia better for me than crossroads. All of Asia, as well as Europe and the Middle East, seems to have stopped here and left their mark. There are Muslim, Chinese, Indian and British influences that permeate this country. For example, on one day we had mendi henna tattoos done by a Malay man,

wandered through a Hindu temple that venerated one of the many goddesses of India, walked across the street from there to find the most incredible Chinese temple we’ve seen (which is saying a lot since we saw a lot of them in our month on the mainland)

and soaked in our hotel pool while overlooking a mosque while prayer calls filled the air for the Muslim faithful.

Kuala Lumpur, about the size of Portland, is the capital of this small country, and has captured us with its exoticism. It’s the first Muslim country we have been to and even though we have stopped turning our heads when we see women dressed in traditional headscarves,

we still did a 180 last night when we walked into our hotel and saw four men from the Persian Gulf wearing the full-on robes, kalifas and goatees of Saudi aristocracy.

Although we knew and still know very little about this country, we’re struck by the seeming tolerance and relative peace in a country that has so much religious and cultural diversity. Hindus and Muslims are killing each other in Kashmir over religious ideology, Thai Buddhists and Muslims are in conflict in the southern states of Thailand, and I won’t even start to dig into what is happening in the Middle East. But here we’ve seen little evidence of conflict (though again, we are here such a short time and have had such little contact with locals that we are definitely not getting the entire picture). The stores at the Suria KLCC mall have Christmas decorations (interestingly there are no signs promoting Christmas or Christmas sales), so perhaps the common denominator here is the quest for economic growth evidenced by KL’s mega modern skyline of buildings dedicated to commerce.

In front of the Petronas Towers, the highest twin towers in the world


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