Sunday, September 23, 2007

19 September 2007: Klang

Flew a redeye from Bangalore to KL last night, leaving India at 12:30am and arriving Malaysia just after 7am. Only, Malaysia is 2 ½ hours ahead of India, which means the flight was less than 4 hours, giving little time for sleep!

I was met at the airport (very efficient – I zoomed right through immigration and baggage claim) by my friend Chih-Pei, whom I met dancing in Bali. She drove me to her home in Klang, which is an important port city in West Malaysia, and which (depending on traffic) is just a half-hour or 45 minutes from KL. In front of her house she has a lovely water garden, with water lilies and lotus flowers growing in pots. Small fish in the pots eat mosquito larvae, preventing the garden from becoming a mosquito breeding ground and also providing a delightful flash of gold beneath the surface.

I freshened up and then we dropped her son Jing-Wey at preschool before heading to a local morning market. Many of the stalls were closing up shop, so we chose a local restaurant to have our breakfast of noodles and veggies in “curry” soup. Malaysia boasts significant populations of Chinese (who came because Malaysia was a key point in the spice trade between east and west) and Indians (many of whom came when both countries were still British colonies, recruited to work on the rubber plantations), creating some unique fusion foods. We also enjoyed a very cool and refreshing barley drink, and a vegetarian dish called “pigs intestines” (because of the way it used to be rolled, it resembled the innards) made of rice. Chih-Pei’s dance studio where she teaches ballet to children is located right down the block.

Tummies full, we went back to her house so I could take a nap before we ventured into KL in the afternoon. First we went to Jalan Petaling, which is the Chinatown of KL.

The street itself has become quite touristy, even being covered by a structure which reminds me of downtown Las Vegas. Chih-Pei said that locals don’t shop on the street itself, but on the smaller streets surrounding it. In fact, many of the stalls could have been located in any other city, selling knockoff Gucci and Chanel handbags and watches, sunglasses, bootleg DVDs, etc. I did find a watch in the style I’ve been wanting for only 10 Ringit (about $US3). Here we got another delicious cooling drink whose name I’ve forgotten of some winter melon and dried and sweetened longnan. Fruit stands featured many fruits I’d never seen before, or that I’d only had canned, like white and red dragonfruit, and two kinds of rambutan. Other stands feature cool slices of these fruits and I sampled both red and white dragonfruit. Yummy! From Chinatown, we walked over to the Central Market, which features crafts and goods from Malaysia, like batik, wood, and pewter. Finally, we stopped at a restaurant called Old China, which is located in an old laundry building. There I had yet another tasty cooling drink (very important in Malaysia!) of iced lemon tea. Lunch was yellow noodles (mie) with veggies and egg.

Tuesday of next week (the full moon on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar) is a mid-autumn festival, commonly referred to Moon Cake Festival. Throughout the day I got to sample different kinds of Moon Cake, including the traditional lotus, black bean, and jelly.

By this time it was rush hour, and we headed back to Klang, so Chih-Pei could get ready to teach her evening class. I took another nap so I could be rested for dinner at an outdoor Indian market with some of Chih-Pei’s high school friends (more fusion food!).

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