I can now understand why most people think Singapore is clean and easy to navigate: by comparison, Kuala Lumpur is a messy city and a chaotic capital.

We stayed right in the heart of Chinatown, a couple of blocks from Jalan Petaling, a busy night market jam-packed with vendors of all kinds of counterfeit goods and small eateries. By day, there is barely any room to step on the sidewalk, since it is the top-choice parking spot for drivers. By night, there isn’t any sidewalk: gas bottles are attached to small stoves and cooks fry mee (noodles) and nasi (rice) on the street, and the little room left is taken by orange plastic chairs and late-night passers-by.

Kuala Lumpur is a pedestrian’s nightmare. The city is sliced by freeways on the ground and the train/LRT above ground. There seems to be a construction site at every corner. Crossing the street is best done with both eyes closed and a prayer book in hand, as you try to dodge trucks, cars, irate taxi drivers and motorbikes. The pedestrian green light, a flashing animated little stick figure that runs, sums it all up: run like hell.

Yet it is a fascinating place. People are pretty laid-back and very friendly. Food is great. The mix of old and new, as well as the cultural melting pot, is mind-boggling. Indians, Chinese and Malays, Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam seem to get along. I’m sure it is partially because they have to, but it is still an interesting sight.

China and India, the two Asian giants, have never been that close, politically and culturally. Ghandi and Mao’s “friendship” lasted about three years, and many border disputes have plagued the relation between the two countries. To put it plainly, both cultures are extremely different, kind of like two long-lost siblings. To see Chinatown by Little India, baozi by Indian curry, is fascinating to me.

I have been into many Buddhist temples and various churches and cathedrals, and Kuala Lumpur gave me the chance to visit both a Hindu temple and a mosque. It’s funny that every religion has different rules regarding the proper dress code: in Singapore, at the Buddhist temple, I had to cover my arms and shoulders, and this time it was my head (for the mosque) and I had to take off my shoes to step into the Hindu temple. The mosque was very intriguing for me, both because non-Muslims aren’t usually allowed in and because of all the bad press Islam is getting as a religion. As a non-militant atheist, I consider religion a personal choice—only proselytism and taking whatever holy book literally bothers me.

We wanted to visit the Petronas Tower but unfortunately, the skywalk was closed for the week, so we had to observe them from the ground. Pretty amazing building—I wonder how it stays so shiny, considering the pollution and the dust!

In Malaysia!
Malaysians love their motorbike…
Around Petaling
Death for Drug Traffickers
Petronas Towers
Petronas Towers
The Old Jail
Kuala Lumpur
Masjid Jamek
In The Mosque
Malaysian Women
Passer-by
Street Traffic
Malaysian Women
Kuala Lumpur Public Transport
 

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7 Comments

  1. kyh January 17, 2011 at 8:54 am

    KL has this notorious traffic jam, as with other big cities in developing countries. So I can understand why you say it’s messy, esp if compared to Singapore which is always so clean and preen.

    The graffiti looks cool! And you look so adorable in a headscarve! Haha! I haven’t visited the Jamek Mosque before – and what the heck, I’ve not been to KL for more than 10 times in my whole life! 😛

    Reply
  2. khengsiong January 17, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    Hmm… KL is pedestrians’ nightmare? You haven’t been to Vietnam yet.

    Hey, you expose your hair in the mosque! That’s not the right way to wear head scarves.

    Reply
  3. Sidney January 17, 2011 at 11:06 pm

    Great street shots !

    Reply
  4. Max Coutinho January 19, 2011 at 11:38 am

    Hey Zhu,

    You look good with a scarf upon your head. It suits you (anyway, I think that scarves suit any women).

    I loved the photos: diversity is such a marvellous thing (I thank God everyday for the world’s beauty, despite all things).

    Cheers

    Reply
  5. Linguist-in-Waiting January 20, 2011 at 12:05 am

    That looks just like the Philippines, including the silver pots!

    Reply
  6. Zhu January 20, 2011 at 7:15 am

    @kyh – I guess I was surprised because even though Beijing has traffic jams, the streets are a bit “communist-style”, i.e. straight and wide. So traffic jams don’t affect pedestrians that much. But in KL, sometimes we just weren’t sure where to step!

    @khengsiong – 😆 I didn’t tie the headscarf, one of the Muslim guys at the entrance did it for me. I guess he did it wrong?!

    @Sidney – Thank you!

    @Max Coutinho – Well, I definitely would have a hard time getting used to the scarf on a daily basis, but it is a normal thing to do when stepping into a Mosque.

    @Linguist-in-Waiting – Really? Makes me want to go there!

    Reply
  7. Zunnur January 25, 2011 at 11:34 am

    What? Zhu was in Kuala Lumpur?
    If I’d checked your blog a couple of days earlier, we could have met here in KL, so frustrated Zhu, and hope you still remember me. I was away from blogging for many months due to a couple of reasons and just paid a visit today. I’m planning to spend some time for blogging this year. Sorry that I didn’t keep in touch with you while I was away, life was so hectic.

    Reply

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