Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Selamat Datong Malaysia!

This is a picture of my good friend Annie, taken in her car during my visit to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Sorry Annie, but you knew I'd do this!) I spent a glorious seven days in Kuala Lumpur and also got to visit Malacca, which is a three hour bus ride to the south of Kuala Lumpur.

The "Cat Eye" soup was wonderful!

It's not really cat eyes. The Malay name is Mata Kucing, which means cat eyes, because the fruit, which is also called Mata Kucing, looks a lot like cats eyes. (Annie was none too quick at mentioning this, no doubt reveling at my reaction) This "drink" is a mixture of the Mata Kucing fruit and winter melon. It's really not too bad, but not something I'd make a habit of sampling.

My hair was painfully short during this trip, the shortest it's been since Navy boot camp in 1979. I attribute this to Tanka's lack of fluency in Mandarin, when he accompanied me to Xintang to get my hair cut. From now on I will remain alert while I'm getting my hair cut! Thanks a lot Tanka!

This is Central Market in downtown Kuala Lumpur. My stomach was pretty tender during this trip, after Annie took me to an authentic Indian restaurant in the city. My poor tummy wasn't used to such an assault, although my taste buds thought it a treat! So, we went looking for a lighter fare while shopping about the market, which was filled with interesting souvenirs, clothing shops, restaurants etc.

We finally settled on Ahmad's Restaurant, a tiny Egyptian restaurant located in a small alcove. We ordered the chicken shawerma, which was a delicate and delicious tasting chicken wrapped in a piece of flat bread with other, unknown condiments that only added to the delightful flavor. Just thinking of this meal makes my mouth water. It was truly delicious.

There was really so much Annie and I did, day-after-day, that it's hard to remember the course of events. This is a picture of the outdoor market in Chinatown. Felt funny to visit here, as it almost seemed ridiculous to come all the way from China and visit a Chinatown, but still it was fun.

This is Masjid Jamek, the Muslim area of Kuala Lumpur. I loved this place. Annie and I came here looking for some aftershave lotion for my pal Tanka, a treat you can't find in China very easily. The people in Majid Jamek were all so friendly and the sheer culture of the place was enough to keep me there for days.

I remember that Annie and I had some packages with us, an umbrella and a newspaper. When we approached the store, they had a package check window where you put your stuff before entering the store. The gentleman at the window took the umbrella and the newspaper, allowing us to enter the store with our packages.

Annie and I looked at each other like, "What the heck?" Annie turned to me and said, "Perhaps there are many items in the store that can be smuggled out in a newspaper or an umbrella!" We got a good laugh out of that one!

The "covers" that the Muslim women wear, called "tudong" in Malay and "hijab" in Arabic, are as diverse as any other article of clothing. Some of them are stunningly beautiful silk adornments. A sign of the times, many women simply wear their hijab with jeans and tee-shirt underneath, while others wear the more traditional long silk robes, called Baju Kurung, also very colorful. Still other Muslim women dress in black or white with face covered except for their eyes. This is mysteriously captivating to behold.

Annie and I took a three-hour bus ride south, to Malacca, the oldest city in Malaysia, which was a wonderful experience. These colorful tri-shaws are everywhere and reminded me of the ornate and ostentatious jeepneys in the Philippines. For a mere 20 Ringgit, Annie and I were transported to the small Portuguese settlement of Malacca.

Crammed tightly into this garish three-wheeled bike, we got a slow tour of Malacca, without having to budge. At some point, Annie's mobile phone went off and after a brief pause I asked her, "Well, aren't you going to get that?" We both got a good laugh out of that one, because we scarcely had room to breathe, let alone fish something out of one of our pockets.

Malacca, founded in 1400, has a rich history, one that I am not prepared to tackle here on this blog, but suffice it to say I was able to visit the Malacca Fort, the Dutch church (with a wonderful view of the Straits of Malacca), Padang Pahlawan Square, the Red Square (with a brief stop at Annie's favorite Chicken rice ball restaurant), the suburb of Bandar Hilir and not to be missed...The Straits of Malacca themselves, where I got UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL with the Strait, a personal story for another blog?

Monuments and historical places are okay, but give me a Monitor lizard any old day! This rather scaly fellow was on lease to me for three Ringgit, while Annie snapped away with the camera. The owner of this cheerful fellow had two other, rather large snakes, which he offered to place on loan for a picture or two, but I gently declined as I am not really partial to snakes, especially ones bigger than me.

I couldn't wrap up this blog without mentioning Simone, who is Annie's sister. This is a rare photograph of her hugging her evil counterpart, who tortured her through the better part of her young life. We finally got to meet on Wednesday, after she returned from Singapore. Simone was a delightful person to get to know and it still amazes me that she remained intact, through all these years at the hands of her villainous sister Anne Charmaine!

Well, enough for now. I hope to publish more pictures in the future and please, please stay tuned for my...confession, er, uh, excuse? In regards to the truth about my (and poor Annie's) experience upon (in?) the Straits of Malacca.



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