What is Kuala Lumpur? I had no idea what to expect, especially coming from a remote island off the coast of Thailand. Reminder, it was down to Dave, Wescott and me as Kate and Halas returned to their respective homes.
Kuala Lumpur was the most interesting place in terms of ethnic diversity. I was completely amazed. Equal numbers of Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist religions living in perfect harmony, without batting an eye to the others' existences. Kuala Lumpur is a place where you can walk from Little India to China Town to Metropolis within 30 minutes. Women dressed in full hijabs (full-length Muslim robe) walking with someone in a mini skirt. It seemed like I was the only one phased by this stark contrast. It was also the closest I felt to America since last July. But I'll get to that later.
Malaysia is a Muslim country, and Kuala Lumpur is all about the oil. Everyone speaks perfect English. It's the default common ground between all of the diversity. We went to two super malls during our two days there. Including one that had a Borders bookstore. There were McDonald's every 200 meters. (and, with the Lunar New Year right around the corner, McDonald's was promoting a New Year "Prosperity Burger." As the Dave's said, "How could you not have a 'Prosperity Burger!?'") I even saw an Ace Hardware!
Needless to say, KL kind of made me homesick. For America. Not Korea.
Our first adventure was to the Batu Caves. Batu Caves are limestone caves that contain important Hindu places of worship. It's one of the largest Hindu shrines outside of India.
The most famous event is Thaipusam (which fell on Jan. 29, a week before we got there). Thaipusam attracts over 1 million Hindu worshipers for this one day event where worshipers show their religious commitment. Thaipusam is infamous for self-abuse such as pulling a wagon via hooks attached to your skin or driving a small rod from one cheek to the other and carrying things on each protruding point. Just do a Google Image search for "Thaipusam" and you'll see what I mean.
Needless to say, the caves were a little trashed when we got there, so we were a little disappointed.
After the caves, we went to super mall #1 to kill time before going to Petronas towers - the tallest twin towers in the world. It was cool, as far as tall buildings go. You don't actually go to the top, but to the skybridge on the 40th floor. There was a 3D movie about Petronas company and how they're the leaders in humanitarian efforts around the world and how they do no wrong. There was also a museum about how Petronas operates in Earth-friendly ways. They're propaganda was a little much. The Dave's and I felt like we were in a James Bond movie, at the headquarters of Petronas - the bad guy. :)
The last day we went to Merdeka Square, the place where Malaysia declared their independence. It was nice. Very pretty. We wandered through China Town and Little India and then hit up super mall #2. After, the Dave's had to get back to the airport to go to Korea. I wasn't leaving until early the next morning. So we said our goodbyes. There I was. All alone in Kuala Lumpur, getting ready to make my way to Cambodia the next morning.
At 5:30 AM on the train speeding for the airport (where I would need to catch a cab to the smaller airport to make my 7 AM flight) I kind of did a double take. I honestly couldn't believe that me, a shy little girl from a quaint Chicago suburb, was making my way to Cambodia from Kuala Lumpur. A year ago, I was probably studying or doing something trivial along those lines in Des Moines, Iowa. It's scary and invigorating how life twists and turns and just sort of takes you with it. That kind of volatility makes me feel so out of control and so ... free. Like a luck of the draw. Anyways. Onto Cambodia!