My Trip to Malaysia

by phillipsauve on April 25, 2010

This past winter vacation was spent in the tropical climate of Malaysia, enjoying the food and sights that the country had to offer.  It was a very nice break from one of the coldest winters in Japan in recent years.  The following includes some brief highlights and impressions from the trip, along with a few pictures.

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A Wild Beginning

The trip started off with a real bang!  When my girlfriend and I arrived at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) we grabbed our bags and looked for signs for the terminal carrying AirAsia flights, the airline for our flight to Langkawi, an island in the northwestern part of the country.  Our flight was not listed anywhere though, so we asked around and found out that the LCC (low-cost carrier) terminal that we needed was not only separated from the central terminal (we assumed this much), but that it would take a 30-minute car ride to get there.  It was about 8:15 pm, and we needed to catch a 9:15 flight.  We ran out of the airport to catch the next bus, only to find that the next bus to the terminal wasn’t for a half hour, so we had to take a cab.  To stop cab drivers from making up ridiculous rates to charge, KLIA has a system set up where you purchase a ticket from the airport taxi desk for where you need to go beforehand which you then give to the cab driver.  A very good system, but it does require a little more time, time we didn’t have…

First, we had to go back into the airport and find the taxi desk.  There was a line, of course, and when we finally get our ticket it was nearing 8:25.  We had less than an hour left.  We needed to hustle.  We ran to the taxi area only to find that this well-organized system included a well-organized (and well-developed) queue.  We ran to the front and told one of the workers that we had a flight to catch and needed a taxi.  He told us to get in line.  So we got in line- it seemed there was no other choice.  The line seemed to be moving at a decent speed, but after about five minutes of waiting anxiously we realized that we would never catch our flight at this rate.  There were still at least thirty people in front of us.  I ran out to the cab area again and spotted the man I needed to talk to- he had “taxi master” written in yellow across the back of his black shirt.  I explained to him the situation.  “Here’s a cab- hurry up and go,” he said in an indifferent voice.  So I waved down my girlfriend to leave the line.  We got in the cab and told the cab driver our flight was at 9:15.  He told us that it normally takes about 30 minutes to get there, but that he could do it in 15.  It was now 8:32.  We sped off towards the LCC terminal.

This ride was quite possibly one of the scariest car trips of my life.  Our hearts were racing, and we weren’t even driving.  We were zooming down the road, weaving in and out of traffic.  He squeezed in between two trucks in a maneuver I would have never thought possible, and later dropped from about 100 mph to about 50 as he blasted through a red light (luckily it was just a small side road with no traffic at all).  This driver was experienced- he clearly had done this before.  He seemed to enjoy it too.  Thanks to his skillful driving we made it to the terminal in one piece with about ten minutes before our flight.  We gave him a tip.  Tips aren’t customary in Malaysia, and as part of the organized airport taxi system the airport cab drivers aren’t supposed to accept any, but this man deserved it.  We ran to the check-in desk, checked our bags and then ran to our departure gate area, somehow by-passing the metal detectors completely.  We sprinted toward our gate sweaty and a bit panicked.  By now it was 9:12, were they going to let us board this late?  We rounded the bend and saw sixty tired travelers, tourists and locals alike lounging around lazily in front of our gate.  It turned out that our flight was forty minutes late.  So we grabbed a juice, settled into some chairs and smiled at each other, happy that we didn’t miss it…and glad that we made it there in one piece.

General Impressions

I was quite impressed with Malaysia as a whole.  The more I learned and experienced, the more the place intrigued me.  There is a great deal of cultural diversity in the country.  The population is about 50% Malay, 25% Chinese, and 10% Indian.  The remaining portion is comprised of various ethnic groups and indigenous peoples.  There is actually an official government program, Malaysia My Second Home, openly inviting foreigners to come and live in Malaysia.  The cost of living is very cheap in Malaysia.  A meal for two with drinks only cost us about ten dollars at the most.  And the food was absolutely amazing.  The cultural diversity of the country was represented by the meals that we had there- Malaysian fish dinners, seven-course Indian lunches served on banana leafs, Korean BBQ pork, great Chinese stir fries, etc.

Another point that really stood out was the country’s infrastructure.  Getting from city to city and point to point was almost completely pain-free (the only exception was the main bus station in Kuala Lumpur, Puduraya.  It was small and very, very crowded.  Combined with the heat and bus fumes, it was not the most pleasant place to wait for a bus.  This station is currently being upgraded and a new main transport terminal is being developed).  Overall, the network of bus transportation was very efficient in getting us from place to place.  There were buses throughout the day to places all over the country.  And the highway infrastructure was particularly impressive.  All the highways were in great condition and well managed.  It was streamlined, with toll stations that didn’t create serious bottlenecks and clean roadways that enabled vehicles to move quickly.

A Few Random Highlights

While on the second leg of our journey in the city of Georgetown, on the island of Penang off the west coast of Malaysia, we stumbled upon the Chingay Festival on December 27th.  During this festival people crowd the streets to watch men carry gigantic bamboo flags in a long street procession, with the more skillful participants carrying them with one hand, on their backs, or in their mouths.  We even saw one man balance the flag on his foot, then shoot it up into the air to a friend who caught it in his mouth.  It was really unbelievable, especially given the height of these flags (between twelve and eighteen meters tall).  The following video clip is one that I took of a particularly talented fellow who switches from holding the flagpole in his mouth to balancing it with one finger, then on his forehead, and lastly catching it on his hip.

On one of our last nights of the trip, we happened to catch Guinness record holder Ho Eng Hui.  To achieve his Guinness World Record he pierced four coconut shells with his right index finger in thirty seconds!  Now, every Saturday night in Melaka, a UNESCO World Heritage site, he performs a show where he’ll pierce two coconuts with his finger at the Jonker Walk night market.  A physician by day, Ho Eng Hui uses this opportunity to sell a few of the healing products which he uses to treat his finger after his performances.  He is a very charismatic person and quite the talker as well, conducting his show in both Chinese and English.  He was able to sell a great deal of his healing lotions to people in the crowd.  After over an hour of telling stories and jokes and selling products, he finally got down to business.  Here’s a short clip I took of him doing the remarkable (due to his long-winded talks I ran out of memory right after he smashes his finger through the coconut shell but you can still see a little milk squirt out).

Lastly, while in Melaka we came across the ‘fish doctors’.  I had heard about these fish that eat the dead skin off your feet and knew I had to try it.  Just up the road from our guest house there was a Korean cafe that had the ‘doctor fish’ on call.  Now was our chance to get our feet sucked!  We kicked off our sandals and quickly put them in the foot pond.  These fish were definitely not shy!  They swarmed your feet as soon as they hit the water.  It was almost like being at one of those animal feeding zoos for children, where the animals are starving and dying for you to throw them some kibble.  Here, your feet are the kibble!  It didn’t hurt at all though.  It was actually ridiculously ticklish.  In the end, we didn’t last more than ten minutes in the pond- it was just too overwhelming!

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

mike November 27, 2010 at 9:03 am

Cool Trip dude. Love it

Reply

Lewis October 28, 2011 at 2:17 am

Hi Philip,

My name is Lewis and I work for an English learning center in Hong Kong. I would like to use a piece in your blog in a class worksheet. I will include your name with your blog piece. I would like your permission to do so, kindly let me know, thanks.

Lewis

Reply

ATs December 10, 2011 at 6:21 pm

Wow, some experience, especially to catch the connecting flight to Langkawi. Yes LCCT is about 30min away from KLIA, but soon LCCT will be located in KLIA2, which is just 10 minutes away from KLIA, this will happen only if AirAsia agrees … hopefully they do lah, it will be a lot easier to all of us (the travelers)

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noorjinadeer nadeer April 9, 2014 at 5:59 am

We enjoy the reading

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phillipsauve April 11, 2014 at 7:48 am

Thanks!

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