Shopping and eating our way through Malaysia

It took us 24 hours to travel from the Middle East to Malaysia which included a 7 hour stop over in Jeddeh, Saudi Arabia  one of the dirtiest airports we have been in.  However, our carrier, Saudi Arabia Airlines, was top notch and provided service we don’t see in Canadian airlines these days, including plenty of free food and drink, cozy fleece blankets, pillows with soft cotton covers, and toiletry packs which even included a pair of socks.

We haven’t had the best start here in South East Asia as it took us a couple of days to get over our jet lag even though it was just a six hour time difference and then we both got sick with some sort of throat infection that knocked us off our feet for another few days.  A round of antibiotics from our trusty medicine bag came to our rescue.

There isn’t much to see culturally or historically in Kuala Lumpur (KL) although architecturally there are many beautiful, modern buildings to admire.  While most people just spend a few days here in transit to other destinations, we spent almost a week here.  It wasn’t the worse place to slow down and recover.  It seems the main things to do in KL are shopping and eating.  There are 66 malls in KL alone, many of which were within walking distance of our hostel, The Nest Guest House, which is located in the area known as the Golden Triangle.  Our hostel was very clean, well located, and our room was quite spacious.  But we both found the bed to be rather uncomfortable and the breakfast dismal – white toast with jam, tea/instant coffee, and bananas, but I think it is the standard in this part of the world. It was still pretty good value at 99 RM ($33 CAD) per night.

The malls vary in size but most are huge mega-complexes up to ten or twelve stories high which made the Eaton Centre in Toronto look pale in comparison.   The shops range from cheap discount stores to high end designer labels and everything in between with some noticeable exceptions.  For instance, we searched high and low for hiking sandals but came up empty handed.  Turns out Malaysians aren’t big on outdoorsy type activities. The sizing and styles are quite different from North America too.  It was a challenge to find anything that fit us, and neither of us are overly large, at least not by North American standards.  We looked like giants amongst the majority of the Asian population!  No matter the time of day, the malls were jam packed with people, tourists and locals alike.  Shopping is big business and contributes billions of dollars to the local economy each year.

Entrance to Times Square Plaza overlooking the
Deepavali 2012 greeting made of coloured rice.

Entrance to China Town.

Entrance to Central Park – another shopping plaza with
both outdoor and indoor stalls.

There is a plethora of food options on offer throughout the city including Indian, Malaysian, Chinese, and Thai.  Street stalls are everywhere – outdoor restaurants with tables and chairs under umbrellas or other makeshift shelters.  We cautiously ate most of our meals at these street stalls.  If you haven’t noticed by now, Chris and I are not the most adventurous when it comes to food.  We like to eat where the locals eat, but we’re ever conscious of the health dangers, and we are reluctant to eat anything we don’t readily recognize, especially meat.  Most of our meals cost about $5 CAD each which is pretty expensive by Asian standards.  We’ve been told Thailand is much cheaper, but we’ll see when we get there.  As much as I enjoy Asian cuisine, after a few days, I was already tired of it.  Indian food was a nice alternative and we ate some mighty tasty dishes in KL.  But when we got sick, I craved homey, recognizable food and was quite content to eat a bowl of chili from Wendy’s and a burger from MacDonald’s.

On a whim, we decided to make a detour to Borneo, which was a quick, cheap flight away (just a hundred bucks a piece).  Borneo is home to the Orang Utan along with lush jungles and rain forests and some of the best diving in the world, especially at the island of Sipadan off the north east coast.  We are now in Borneo, in a place called Kota Kinabalu, a large city on the north west coast.  It’s taking a little longer than expected to organize our itinerary which will hopefully include a day or two of diving, some jungle trekking and a visit to an Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre.   We’re anxious to get out of the city and into nature, but when we do, we’ll probably be off line frequently. We’ll be sure to share our adventure whenever we can.

Chris’ Xmas wishlist – at almost 45,000 RM, that’s a whopping $15,000 CAD
and  weighing in over 5 kg, I’m not sure what would hurt more, the budget
or Chris’ back as he lugged it around the world. 

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