My last few posts were about Venezuela, mostly because my first visit to the country showed me so many things that inspired me to write. I will be headed back to Venezuela soon, and will probably have more to write because I find the country to be so inspiring; however, in the meantime, I want to write a little about my trip to Malaysia.
I am currently in Malaysia participating in the AEO Study in the USA international education fairs, which will travel around several countries in Southeast Asia. In Malaysia, we stopped in Kuala Lumpur (the capital and largest city) for a few days, and we will head to Penang (the second largest city) very soon, as well.
Recently, I saw a commercial about fun, adventure, good food, and friendly people in Malaysia. Apparently, this is one in a series of commercials in a campaign to draw tourists to the region. The tagline: “Malaysia, truly Asia.”
It is my first time in Malaysia. Prior to coming here, I had heard that the country is very developed; even so, I have to admit that I still had an image of a developing nation in my head. I thought it would be like other places I have visited in Southeast Asia, with buildings falling apart, many people living in poverty, long lines, crumbling infrastructure, excessive air pollution, bad traffic, etc.
As far as my visit to Kuala Lumpur (KL) goes, I could not have been more wrong. Here are a few of the characteristics of KL that struck me.
Efficiency was certainly a prevailing theme of my visit to KL, beginning from my first moments there.
Upon arrival, I made it through the immigration line very quickly, and my bags was already on the carousel. That never happens!
I was able to follow the signs quite easily to the KLIA Express, the train that runs between the airport and Sentral station, a train/bus terminal that has links to much of the city. Though the procedure for purchasing tickets had changed due to renovations that are in process at the airport, everything was still very easy to figure out, with very little delay. The ride from the airport to Sentral Station was quite fast (approximately 30 minutes), and, again, everything was very efficient.
Everything continued in this manner throughout the entire trip. KL is so organized, and so international-friendly with its efficiency, simple processes, and bilingual signage everywhere. I was very, very impressed.
I find that Malaysians are incredibly friendly people. Everywhere I went, people greeted me with a smile and a slight bow with their right hand crossed over their heart. They make the same gesture when saying “you’re welcome” after one thanks them. This heartfelt gesture is symbolic of the treatment that I received from everyone I met there–once again, from the very beginning of the trip.
Upon arrival, I was greeted by an immigration officer who was courteous and friendly. He welcomed me to his country, said a few nice things, and encouraged me to eat their local foods. What a difference compared to immigration officers in most countries, who barely acknowledge your presence–and a big difference from my country, where security issues force our immigration officers to treat everyone with suspicion.
This continued on throughout my trip to KL. Nearly everywhere I went–hotels, stores, etc.–people were incredibly helpful and friendly. In addition, English is used quite commonly in the city, and it was normally quite easy to communicate.
Watching traffic and life on the road in this city was a completely different experience than in my previous visits to other Asian countries. Not only was the infrastructure modern and well-maintained, but drivers followed the rule of law, as well. Cars were not speeding and cutting each other off all over the place, and the state of the roads looked far from chaotic. Most people get around in cars, by bus, or by rail–there were very few scooters or motorcycles anywhere, and no sightings of motorcycle drivers wearing face masks to protect themselves from exhaust–a vision that is almost ubiquitous in other Asian nations.
KL is a beautiful city. The buildings are well-maintained and reflect the country’s cultural heritage from China and India, as well as elements of Islamic influence.
Many of the buildings have beautiful designs, stonework, and arches. We saw some light posts that were decorated with artificial flowers, and others that were in the form of chandeliers.
I don’t think I have ever seen a city with so much green space in my life. KL is incredible. It is a city of 1.6 million people, but it has a small number of high rises, and they are developing the city with a great respect for life. There is a section of the city (“Lake Gardens,” I believe) with beautiful gardens that boast many tall trees with the greenest foliage. I swear, the temperature in that section of KL seemed 10-15 degrees cooler than everywhere else–a wonderful thing for a city that regularly averages about 33 degrees Celsius on a daily basis! It was completely refreshing.
Another amazing thing that I noticed about KL was the amount of diversity among its people. There did not seem to be a single “look” to the people of KL, whereas I have visited other Asian nations in which the people were more homogenous. One can see the mix of ethnic backgrounds in many of the people there. Beyond that, there are also many transplants in KL–I met many people from India and from various nations of Africa, as well. I really loved the diversity in this city.
Overall, I loved Kuala Lumpur, and it really gave me a terrific impression of Malaysia. It is not surprising to me that the country has such a great reputation. Beautiful cities, friendly and diverse people, in a system that is multilingual and easy to understand–I could definitely go back to KL in the future! I hope that their “Malaysia, truly Asia” campaign brings the nation its just rewards!