November 12, 2008

Mainland Malaysia and back to Singapore

After a fantastic wilderness adventure in Malaysian Borneo, I flew back to Kuala Lumpur (known as KL) for the second time, to meet my old friend Jodi. Both of us studied at McGill University together in Montreal, but it wasn't until New York that we became friends. Jodi is also traveling solo around the world and we figured it would be fun to meet up and see some of Southeast Asia together.

I wasn't that excited to be back in Kuala Lumpur. I had spent two nights in the Malaysian capital before flying to Borneo, and you can really do and see everything in only two days. On my first visit I stayed in Chinatown, and spent my time visiting the iconic Petronas twin towers, the KLCC shopping center which puts other high end malls to shame, the botanic gardens, and the famous night market on Petaling Street, where you can buy every fake designer shirt, watch, and handbag brand. For my second time in the city, we stayed in the Golden Triangle neighborhood, in a fantastic hostel called the Red Palm. The place felt like a family home that opened their doors to tired backpackers who needed a little TLC.

With another two days, we basically checked out the same sights as I did on my first trip, but added a visit to the Batu Caves, which blew my mind. These Hindu caves are about a forty five minute bus ride from downtown. From the entrance gate, you then need to walk up two hundred and seventy-two stairs, dodging frisky monkeys, to get to the start of the caves. There are two large caverns with huge ceilings and mini temples inside. I had my first puja (blessing) done since India in 2001. I hadn't really seen a good religious site since Bali, and although the temples inside aren't that special, the caves themselves are what really impressed me.

Another thing that impressed me, was the abundance of good food in KL. Jodi is a foodie, so it was nice to have some company while we explored all the hawker stalls and restaurants around town. We did fight a little on cuisine style since she could eat Chinese food all day, everyday, but we also ate fantastic Indian food, and a myriad of soups, dumplings, noodle and rice dishes. And this brings me to the city of Melaka.

Melaka is a foodies' heaven, located about two hours Southwest from KL on the coast. We headed to Melaka on the Diwali holiday long weekend, so it was extra crowded, but probably more fun than normal. The city was a famous trading port, with lots of Portuguese, British, and Chinese architecture, and there is a canal that reminded me a little of Venice. So you can imagine the cultural blend. For the first time in a while I was inspired to take more photos than normal.

We stayed in Chinatown, right in the heart of everything. The city was packed with Malay and Singaporean tourists and the night market on Jonkers street, was one of the best I had seen. I ate everything I could get my hands on. The city has a unique style of food called Baba-Nyonya, which is basically Chinese food with a Malay twist of spices. We ate some excellent spicy curry soups, and chicken rice balls, which are their specialties. The night market complimented this with stalls selling waffle hot dogs (no joke), and pancakes. Melaka was a nice break from all the moving about I had been doing, and we just rested and ate for about four days before heading back to Singapore.

My favorite day of the year is Halloween. I'm totally serious. For me, it's like New Years but everyone is in really fun costumes. I would even choose Halloween over my birthday. Being so far away from family and friends, and the fact that New York city has the best Halloween celebrations in the world, I had to find somewhere fun to spend the holiday. Last year I was in Banos, Ecuador, and we didn't even dress up. This year I was determined to go all much as I could with a limited wardrobe and budget. So, we headed back to Singapore to see our friends.

It was also convenient that Halloween in Singapore coincided with the first Asian Youth Energy Summit, hosted by the National University. With a little help from friends, we arranged some passes for the two day conference all about renewable energy and sustainability. I had read a great Time magazine issue about their heroes of the environment, and they had profiled Joachim Luther, a leading scientist on Solar energy, who spoke at the summit. It was a really thought provoking two days for me, and we sat in on some amazing panels. It felt good to learn again after more than a year on the road. Thanks to the Garag3 crew of Justin and Bjorn who took us out to karaoke (with google), and let us crash on their office floor for our four days, and to Mohan who hooked us up with the conference passes, and showed us a crazy Halloween night.

As for the Halloween festivities, we partied for two nights, and realized that Singapore is an amazing spot to celebrate this holiday. On the night of the 30th, we met up with my friends Taylor and Lee and crashed an INSEAD party at a bar with the best live cover band I have ever seen. The lead singer looked like the actress Tia Carrere (from Wayne's World), and we danced all night to American rock anthems. For Halloween night, we went to the Butter Factory club at Robertson Quay. I had never seen so many clever and intricate costumes in one place. I felt a little inadequate in my basic cowboy costume, but I've got some good ideas for next year! I honestly can't do justice by describing the costumes at the party, so you'll just have to see the photos. They're awesome.

Here are my photos of Kuala Lumpur and Melaka, and Halloween in Singapore.


Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

hohoho..u have a great pics here. anyway, care 2 xchange link?I've added ur blog in my blog.Thx

Nomadic Matt said...


When do you two enter thailand? Any idea where you plan on having new years? I'm probably heading to the islands., cool to meet up.