what the colonists built
22.07.2007 - 08.07.2007 0 °F
a few weeks hitting the hotspots in the peninsula satisfied my palate for edible goodies as well as historical interests, but left me anticipating the other side of malaysia, the one without congested highways and kitsch town centers. i have arrived, but since the adventure in borneo is still ongoing, i'll focus on what happened just a few short weeks ago.
after basking in the sun of the gorgeous perhentian islands, i took a frigid overnight bus to penang. known in the states as the comfortable abode of fiery cuisine and in britain as a cultural melting pot created by the colonial forces, its' capital georgetown blends both details with a modern flair. the indian, chinese and malay food stalls were ubiquitous, cheap and served delicious meals. the mixture of mosques, buddhist and hindu temples and a few churches served as the architectural support for a culturally diverse city. after a few walks and countless conversations i found that the citizens still retain heritage from their native lands, and are even able to study chinese and tamil at government schools. the chinese restaurant menus offered me an opportunity to read a few characters i can recognize, and also learn a few new ones with the help of the gracious staff. the visual highlights were most certainly the religious buildings, as you can see below.
a few kilometers outside of town, a massive, chinese-built buddhist temple dominates the landscape. eschewing tradition, its' maze of gift shops, restaurants and lifts do not bode well for anyone attempting to achieve spiritual peace. undoubtedly a tourist trap, the kek lok si temple is visited by those from far and wide, and for a large donation they will even write your name on a roof shingle.
leaving georgetown, i was close to flipping a coin to determine my next destination. in the end, though, i took the next bus which departed to the cameron highlands. it turned out to be quite a fortunate event because the sweaty humidity from penang was leveled by a serious drop in temperature up in the highlands. the tea plantations spanning across rolling jungle proved to be wonderful scenery for my day walks. the locals were extremely friendly and a few rides were certainly hitched during my stay.
my 48 hours in kuala lumpur was unfortunately uneventful, although a bunch of people tried to convince me to go gambling with them. that is usually a tell-tale sign that someone is offering to steal your money. if i was completely bored out of my skull i may have ventured with them, but i like my moola in my pocket. ascending to the 41st floor of the 2nd tallest building in the world was certainly the highlight, and surprisingly, it was free.
i rounded out my tour of the peninsula with a grand stay in melaka. upon arrival at the hostel i was greeted by a lovely mother who saw my guitar and remarked that her son was a musician. within 6 hours i was sitting in his studio listening to his band jamming. my amateur guitar skills were displayed with much enthusiasm from the malays, and after smoking the shisha, everything sounded far-fucking out.
i also toured the portuguese and dutch settlements, which were well-preserved and thankfully free of vehicles. a night at the bowling alley finished my stay in melaka, but a return trip to the music casa may be in order.