Welcome to Malaysia!
Landing in Malaysia looking out on the tarmac I see palm trees… Palm trees. I just came from Tokyo which during the day was a high of 37 degrees fareignheight. I get off the plain, right onto the tarmac. I am suddenly hit with this foreign feeling. Humidity, hello where have you been. I have not felt you since the hottest game ever played in Kinnick stadium this past season. It is sunny and 90 degrees. I am OK with the warm weather considering Iowa was going through its third bout with the “polar vortex.”
We were about an hour from our hotel in Kuala Lumpur. The landscape in Malaysia was very much of rapidly evolving society. There was construction everywhere. In Iowa City, there is currently over 1 billion dollars of new construction or capital improvements, which I thought was a lot. If only you could see the amount of construction in Kuala Lumpur, many multiples of billions of dollars in contruction. Buildings are being constructed on every city block. I would say every other sky scraper is about half way completed. It was actually a little mind blowing to think about the amount of money invested in commercial property.
Pulling up to our hotel I was excited to see where we would be staying. The Marriott Renaissance Hotel was a nice hotel. We quickly learned our hotel was 2 blocks from the worlds 6th largest building the “Petronas Towers 1 & 2” Since the group had yet to have dinner, we decided to head towards a restaurant our taxi cab driver had suggested with a great view of the towers. Before departing, the concierge flagged us down to warn us about the “monkeys grabbing our bags”
Alli, one of my colleagues from Mizzou said, “really? Monkeys?”
The concierge proceeded to laugh. “No, no, no, Monkeys” from what we gathered he was implying to hold on you our bags tight encase someone tries to snatch them from us.
Upon seeing this spectacle I was taken back. Out of the city skyline were elegant glowing towers. They were so majestic, they almost looked photo-shopped into the skyline.
See picture above! This was the view from the restaurant we decided to eat at. In the states, we would call this the million dollar view, but this was a relatively inexpensive meal. That is something I have noticed in the states, consumers are willing to pay for these amenities like a view. In other countries they do not always make you pay extra for these amenities.
While looking up I could not help but wonder how much they were paying for electricity to light up these buildings night after night. I am the one always turning my roommates bedroom lights off. But what a sight. The first 8 floors are high end shopping stores. Louis Vuitton is a little out of my league, so I did not purchase anything. Just enjoyed seeing the sights.
While on this trip we have run into logistical problems time after time. While in KL we were scheduled to visit with 4 schools, then have the Education USA fair on Sunday. We had hired a driver for the day to take us to all of our visits. Before getting in we showed the driver the addresses of all the schools. He assured us he knew where they all were. After driving around for 35 minutes we started pulling over to random strangers on the streets to ask if they knew where the school was or if they had even heard of it. Addresses in different countries can sometimes be more guidelines than lead you to an exact place. Therefore, we would miss our first appointment, but conveniently while looking for our first school we were able to drive past our second visit! What luck, right?
The third visit was over a lunch hour. Our hosts were most gracious. Not only feeding us school lunch (nothing like school lunch in the states, more like college market place style) Not only did they feed us, but they gave us a guide to Kuala Lumpur. This was so nice because I am always trying to maximize the downtime I have in each country. Recommended to us in KL was the Bukit Bintang, Central Market, China Town, along with the Batu caves. Later that night, Graham, Allie, and I went down to the Bintang. It was Friday night, so this area was very crowded. I would compare this to a much more crowded downtown Iowa City. However, every store was a very crowded restaurant with salesmen out front convincing you to eat at your restaurant. Showing you pictures of all the food to try and entice you. Having this not happen in the states it can be very difficult to tell someone you do not want to eat at their restaurant, and having them follow you for the next 5 minutes still trying to convince you. Finally, we decided on a restaurant. We ordered crab, a seafood dish, and something else. We decided to share everything, as we called it “Family style” You get very close with your traveling companions on these trips. The food was amazing. Seafood is hard to beat when you know it is fresh.
Saturday night Alli and I headed out to China Town and the Central Market to find food. China Town and the Central Market were interesting, but we were both starving and needed to find a restaurant. Apparently, there are no restaurants in China Town or Central Market. We ended up walking for about 45 minutes until we decided on this Arabic restaurant. We paid 34 ringgit for dinner or about 10 dollars. Not a bad price to pay for dinner for two. After walking out of our restaurant we could see the Petronas towers in the distance, so we decided to walk. We quickly found out the streets in Kuala Lumpur are not straight. We were zig zagging our way to the Petronas towers, finding ourselves in back alleys (eek) and side streets, until we came to the place we were Friday night. We had been walking for about 45 minutes before we got to the Petronas towers. After a long walk on a warm night what could be better than some gelato. Oh, did that taste good! The cold taste of pineapple and strawberry hitting my lips, made me think of some of the creations I have made at Yotopia here in Iowa City!
Sunday came the fair in Kuala Lumpur. Education USA at the Grand Chulan Hotel. I had arranged to meet an alumni of the University of Iowa Math department at the fair. Syaza was fantastic, she is originally from KL and graduated the University of Iowa in 2011. We were looking through the picture book before the fair, and she found herself. What are the odds of that? Just goes to show everyone students come from many different backgrounds, and they may not have known how much their legacy carries on after they are done at the university.
Crazy is also a good adjective to use for the fair. from 2:30-6:30 I did not stop talking. I would say there was a swarm of interested students and parents. Every time I looked down at my table I was out of materials. I had families coming behind my table, to the side of my table, I even think at one point someone crawled under my table to try and ask me a question. By the time 6:30 came around I was completely out of materials, my voice hoarse, and my energy zapped. That had to of been the most intense fair I had ever been to, but I got a chance to meet President Barack Obama!
After we went back to the hotel, I packed and got ready to get up at 2:00 am for our flight to Hanoi, Vietnam the next morning. Malaysia was great. I enjoyed the warm weather, the people (thanks Syaza), the food (fresh mango smoothie!), and my opportunity to visit Malaysia. Until next time…