Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

After having spent 5 years in Vancouver we thought it was time for a short adventure and lined up a 1-year ‘visit’ to Kuala Lumpur. Rodger took a visiting professor position at Sunway University College, where he worked with their School of Computer Technology to help build up the school and its research program.

Malaysia is a blast! It’s a rapidly developing economy with a curious mix of first and third world infrastructure, culture and attitudes. Kuala Lumpur, or KL as it is known by all, is a classic South East Asian city, hectic, sprawling, polluted, but immensely colourful and vibrant.

Part of our reason for coming here is to explore Malaysia and south east Asia a little – a few of our trips are listed below. Here are a few notes on getting set up in KL for those of you planning to come and join us:-)

  • Cameron Highlands Hill station in central ridge of mountains, peninsular Malaysia
  • East Coast of peninsular Malaysia
  • Perenthian Islands of the North East Coast just near the Thai border
  • Penang Island North West coast
  • Vietnam A short trip to Northern Vietnam – Hanoi and Halong bay
  • Sarawak/Borneo A first taste of Borneo with Kuching, Bako National Park and the Rainforest Music Festival
  • Vietnam-Cambodia A trip with our friends Mark and Emma, exploring the Vietnamese capital, the Mekong Delta, Phnom Penh and the temples at Angkor
  • Redang Diving trip to Pulau Redang on the East coast
  • North Sulawesi New Year’s in North Sulawesi
  • Laos A swing through Laos, Northern Thailand, and Vietnam. Feb 2009

Life in KL

The view from our apartment – we are in an area called Bangsar, just south of the city centre.

A good example of the old and the new, about 10mins walk from the shiny new Petronas Towers (built on oil money) is one of the best local Malay night markets.

My new workplace is Sunway University College – now affiliated with Lancaster Uni.

Malaysia was part of the British Empire in the 19th and early 20th Century, and as usual the British asset-stripped the country and gave back railways, legal and political systems, and of course the bureaucracy! This is the old KL railway station.

The culture is equally amazing and diverse. As the population is made up of approx. 62% (Muslim) Malays, 24% Chinese Malaysians, 8% Indian Malaysian (mostly Tamils) and the rest a mix of mostly indigenous groups, there is a fantastic mix (and tension!) as they all rub along together.

A typical Malaysian Hindu Gopuram with Lord Murugan, the God who is predominantly worshipped by the caste groups which came to Malaya in the last century from Tamilnadu in India, and Ganesha and some celestial beings around him and on the fringes. All three major ethnic groups tend to live overlapping but mostly separate lives. This is a cloth shop mainly frequented by Muslims. Next door is a Sari shop for the Indians and just down the road another shop with mainly chinese traditional dress.

These flower arrangements were being made just before the major Hindu festival of Thaipusam. The Batu Caves north of KL are home to the largest Thaipusam festival in the world at which the tradition of body piercing with spears and hooks is still vigorously practiced. The national mosque in central KL – a vast building. Just next door is the Museum of Islamic art which is really worth a visit – partly for its contents but also for its lovely Islamic architecture.

A sculpture wall at the Hindu temple at Batu caves. These three Bhuddas are in one of the lesser temples at Kek Lok Si, which is one of the largest Bhuddest temple complexes in Malaysia at Air Itam on Penang island.

No escaping Christmas, even in the tropics, so we happily decorated our apartment in red and gold (handy anyway for the approaching Chinese New Year at the end of January), put the air con on cold, played Christmas songs and defiantly feasted on crackling pork loin. Our Malaysian version of a Christmas tree – flaming red bush orchids and the obligatory German ‘bunter Teller’ with Christmas cookies, handmade truffles and other sweet treats.


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