Transited through Taipei this am (Hello Kitty area which was under constuction last time is now open!) before arriving in Kuala Lumpur around noon.
Discovered through the in-flight magazine that 2007 marks Malaysia’s 50th Merdeka, or anniversary of independence (August 31) from the British. My travel agent had booked me into the Empress Hotel for the day, but rather than sleeping the day away, I decided to take an (overpriced) tour of KL. I do hope to have a few days here on my way back to visit my dancer friends I met in Bali, but just in case that doesn’t work out, I wanted to see a little bit of the city. Took the tour with 7 NRIs, 5 from LA and 2 from Chicago. Our tour guide was himself the son of Indians who migrated to work in the rubber plantations of Malaysia. He drove us first to a view of the King’s Palace. You can’t go in, but can look at it through the gates. He said that sometimes the King comes down to say hello. Next was a whirlwind trip (“10 minutes!”) to the Kerajaan Malaysia Muzium Negara (National Museum), which consisted mostly of mannequins in the clothing of the major ethnic groups in Malaysia, Malay, Chinese, and Indian. Next we drove by Independence Square (featuring the tallest flagpole in the world – the Malaysians do seem to love their flag, which looks like a US flag, with a gold crescent and star replacing the 50 white stars) the colonial railway station to the National Mosque. It had been really humid all day, and here it started to pour. It’s not yet monsoon season in Malaysia (it begins in October, just around the time the monsoon ends in India). It was just about 5pm and rush hour in KL, so we sat in traffic on our way to see the Petronas Twin Towers in a posh area of town that includes all the 5 star hotels and many embassies. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped in Putrajaya, a new-seeming development featuring all of the governmental departments, the Prime Minister’s office, a mosque, and picturesque bridge (evidently used in lots of Bollywood-type movies).
Though my friend Helen has standards for defining what constitutes a visit to a place (her quest to visit all of the 50 states involves I believe a 2 night stay over), I think this qualifies as having “been” in Malaysia. (I do agree with her that airports don’t count, so, for example, I would not say that I’ve been to Taiwan even though I’ve spent hours in the Taipei airport on three occasions.)