Going to a new country, big differences

City Panorama

After Hanoi, it was time to bid Vietnam goodbye and say hello to Malaysia and Kuala Lumpur. We flew with Malindo Air, a local Malaysian cheapie airline, which turned out to be pretty ok. Although one of us was unreasonably nervous about flying with a budget airline despite us having recently flown with similar airlines both in Asia and Europe. I’m not going to mention any names but it was the less tall and handsome of us. Eventually, we settled on this flight when one of us rightly pointed out that the mother airline (which was more expensive) would use the same plane as booking via the cheaper budget option anyway. The flight was very comfortable and went very smoothly. They did spray this weird disinfectant in the cabin before landing though (which made me become sneezy), which according to them was due to Malaysian hygiene regulations. A really weird way to go about things I must say, after all, we had all already been breathing the same air for a couple of hours so we would probably already have infected each other with whatever dangerous disease that we might carry and spared my airways the vaporized alcohol and perfume.

Once you land in Malaysia you are almost immediately struck by how much more clean and orderly it is compared to other parts of southeast Asia. What also struck us was the heat, it turns out that spending time in a city with an average temperature of 25 degrees Celsius is a big difference to one where the average temperature is 35 degrees. Gee, who would have thought that going closer to the equator would make it even warmer? Anyway, I had visited Malaysia before, but that was a long time ago so I had some idea of what to expect, but the differences are still immediate and very obvious. Kuala Lumpur has very much the feel of a sleek modern metropolis or at least parts of it. Well, a sleek modern metropolis where you sweat buckets just from moving your fat ass outside that is. But here’s the sweet part, it has all of this without losing its character, you still have the sweet mix of different cultures (mainly Malay, Indian and Chinese), the absolutely glorious and still very cheap street food and just that generally very Southeast Asian feel. In short, you can cut away some of the disadvantages of visiting a big Asian city but still enjoy some of the benefits. Of course, every place is a bit different and still has it’s own character and is worth visiting individually, but in KL you kind of get the feeling of having your cake and eating it too. It feels like you’ve somehow cheated the system when you are eating really good food for a euro and a half, without having crossed the street fearing for your life and then nearly fallen into a 3-meter deep manhole on the sidewalk all while enjoying the delicate bouquet of garbage mixed with pollution and sun-warmed durian. This makes me think that Malaysia is a bit underrated as a travel destination, why are there so many Europeans going to Thailand when you can go to Malaysia as well? Not that Malaysia doesn’t have any tourists, but it’s not enshrined in our (Swedish) culture as a middle-class holiday pilgrimage in the same way as Thailand is for example. Maybe a religious thing, the fact that alcohol is more expensive(probably the reason)? Or perhaps it’s just too hot? Anyway, I can’t really understand it.

Ok ok, I admit, some traffic. But look at the trees, it’s so green.

KL does in part really feel like a big modern city with high-rises and big air-conditioned monster shopping malls. Compared to most other Southeast Asian capitals KL is quite a young city which also means that it’s been planned and that you will notice that. Unlike other cities that I will refrain from naming which feels like big writhing masses of humanity which has just grown and absorbed other similar but smaller masses until you end up with a huge chaotic mass comprising tens of millions of people. KL feels very lush and green, and not by accident either. It looks really nice when you are travelling on the elevated train across the city and see the skyscrapers whoosh by encapsulated by pockets of green foliage. The food in KL was so great that I’ll probably give it a post of it’s own down the road(so to speak). Despite all this you can still duck into an alley and find a really sweet food stall or maybe an old temple from out of nowhere. If it seems like we really liked Kuala Lumpur, that’s because we did. Just don’t go there if you can’t stand the heat. Obviously it’s also seasonal but it’s quite a bit closer to the equator than most of the other Southeast Asian countries with the exception of Indonesia.

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