- Each culture fusion has a name. The names are not slurs and people are generally proud to be identified. Mamak is an Indian Malaysian fusion. Baba Nyonya is Chinese Malaysian fusion, although less used now. And of course Eurasian describes a Europe Asian mix.
- Mamaks are also 24/7 Indian Malaysian food vendors, known for cheap eats and great late night hangs
- In addition to being a fusion of culture, it’s also a fusion of religions. Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christian, this week I even met Syrian Orthodox. And the respective places of worship exist for all. Consequently, school kids get lots of days off because they have public holidays for everyone’s celebrations! The three Mondays that we’ve been here have all been public holidays.
- Polygamy is allowed in Malaysia. A man can have up to four wives. However, it’s only really found in rich families because Malaysian law is strict on making sure all wives and children are supported financially. Even if he divorces one of them, the husband will still have to give the wife money.
- The Malaysian greeting gesture is placing your right hand over your heart and giving a little nod with your head. Like you’re pledging allegiance to the flag then saying hello.
- Despite having a lot of English, we have learned a bit of Malay. Thank you is ‘terima kasih’, Oh my God is ‘walao eh’, and let’s go is ‘jom!’ Ya know, all the important things…I also like the term ‘bo jio’ a term for when someone does something and doesn’t invite their friends
- Similar to kha and krub in Thai, Malaysians add ‘la’ to the end of phrases just as a filler/to add politeness. To me it’s less obvious than the kha, but definitely audible often la.
- The city is VERY hazy this time of year because Indonesia burns large forests to create rice plantations/prep land for growing crops. It was on and off during the first week but now the air quality is really rough. Lots of gray days and you can kind of smell fire in the air constantly.
- Ladies’ Night is Wednesday and Thursday (well, really every night) in Kuala Lumpur. Bars offer drink specials just for women.
- Fun fact: You know how we say fair weather fan to describe someone who follows only when the team is doing well? Here, they call you ‘plastic’, like fake fan.
Week in Review:
- Public holiday. I celebrated the King’s birthday by checking out a mall (yeah, ew) and café hopping to try to find WiFi.
- Brunch with the city team at Nasi Lemak Wanjo, KG Baru. This was my first time trying Nasi Lemak, the national dish and it was DELICIOUS. Always follow the city team for good, local food.
- Ya better work, bitch.
- Go ATVing for the first time!!!! Not gonna lie, I was a little nervous, especially after the practice loops we did through the mud and up bumpy hills. However, once I got comfortable, I LOVED it.
- Wound through the trails of the ATV adventure park outside the city, to a waterfall in the middle of the forest. The trails were wild, at times we were riding what felt like 90 degrees perpendicular to the ground and other times holding onto the breaks and guiding the vehicle down steep hills. I did not flip, thank goodness, though I felt like it was inevitable.
- Super chill gang for the day, had a blast wading in the waterfall and laughing over the bumps
- Lunch at Histana Maju, my first mamak! Did not disappoint.
- Another what is life moment when it hits I went ATVing through Malaysia before work #what
- Deep chats with a friend by the pool before work
- Ladies’ Night at Vertigo (the rooftop bar we’d mingled with royalty at last time). This visit did not disappoint either. I joined up with two Remotes who had already been boozing on the Ladies’ Night special for an hour or so. I arrived and we got another round of Pinot Grigio. 5 minutes later, the waitress comes over with a tray FULL of more glasses of wine. I thought she was serving us another round (that we didn’t ask for) but no, she proceeded to unload all twelve glasses in front of the three of us. ‘End of the pour, you gotta finish’. LMAO. Needless to say, we did NOT finish but whaaaattttt.
- Needing a change of pace, work from a café near Chinatown called Merchant’s Lane. Ordered something labelled as gluten free that was not gluten free, got rudely asked to move tables, and the Wi-Fi was in and out but otherwise it was great for Instagram photos! I would actually go there again, knowing what to expect. Cool vibes.
- Check out Petaling Street in Chinatown, KL. This street is a big open market marked with red lanterns hanging above. It’s known for having great knockoffs, from Nike and Puma to Prada and Michael Kors to fancy watches, technology, and clothes.
- Organize a day trip with getyourguide.com and four other remotes to Melaka, a small town in the south of Malaysia. I wanted to get here because it’s known for having Portuguese influence.
- Basically Melaka is the crux of Malaysian history. Because of its location on the sea, it was a major trading port and the first place Europeans landed.
- In 1511, the Portuguese arrived bringing ships, armies, and Catholicism. They forced the Malaysian sultan out that was living there at the time and built churches and a fortress to keep that sultan out….not a shining moment for my people.
- In 1641, the Dutch took over Melaka bringing Protestants and destroying most of the churches. The pink church that you see when you Google Melaka is a Dutch structure and the whole square it sits in, also Dutch.
- Then came the British until Malaysia gained independence in 1957. They are the reason Malays drive on the left side of the road.
- Anyywwwaaayy, I had great expectations for the city but it was actually quite the tourist trap. You really had to get away from the main roads to find its charm (and I did!). The Dutch square and nice church? Covered in people and Hello Kitty/cartoon rickshaws blaring pop music. Jonker street? Overrun with tourists. Portuguese church? Really quite bland actually.
- But, the city was once ocean so there are rivers running through it. Walking along the river was by far the highlight. Definitely had some Amsterdam vibes.
- Places we hit:
- San Pedro (Saint Peter)’s church
- Dutch square
- St. Paul’s church
- Portuguese fortress
- Lunch at a Babanyonya (Chinese Malasian) restaurant, had a shrimp, coconut curry that was to die for
- Jonker Street shops and drinks by the river way
- Glad I went? Yeah, need to go again? Nope.
- Back to the city for a night out in the TTDI neighborhood, nothing special.
- Feeling exhausted but drag myself to the gym
- Do one of my favorite things and go for a walk alone through the city, turning wherever my heart desires
- Signs I’ve appreciated in Malaysia:
- No Durian- honestly, it’s not allowed in tight spaces
- No Indecent Behavior- shows two people kissing, not allowed in public places
- No Squatting on the toilet signs- one read ‘it’s dangerous for you’
- First stop I came across: Masjid Jamek, a mosque. I got there around 4 which happened to be just before closing and just in time for the call to prayer. Pretty cool to wander through people performing their daily ritual. Note to self: wear mosque appropriate clothing. I didn’t and had to wear a very hot, hooded purple robe.
- Wander through the area, finding the city gallery, textile museum, and a food truck festival. The architecture in the area was quite European, white/yellow stone bricks.
- End in Central Market, a great place for souvenirs and local goods
- Ok y’all, here’s where my month gets good:
- Because we’re only in a place for a short time, Tinder can be a great tool to meet people. Despite telling others we met on the train, I met this guy on Tinder, we started talking about interests, then soccer, and he invited me to play with his friends and church people this Sunday. It’d been 8 months since I’d played in a game, I was PUMPED.
- Minus the fact that he was an hour late to pick me up (seriously so close to giving up, he claimed it was Malaysia time), the experience was way better than I could’ve imagined.
- Arrived to the Republic of Futsal, a covered, but open air futsal arena and met about 30 of this guy’s friends. We broke up into 5 teams of 6, playing 6 on 6, for 7ish minute games.
- When my team was resting, I got to socialize with everyone, all but two were guys. They were SO friendly, SO welcoming, and we chatted about everything from sports to social issues to religion. Most of the guys were Liverpool or Man United fans, all EPL. And they were proud to say they spent most of their childhood playing barefoot just because.
- One of the girls enlightened me on some struggles she has as a woman in Malaysia, and some of the problems with the school system. She shed light on the fact that yes, people live harmoniously, but preference in a lot of areas is still given to Malays. She is Indian and found that around age 12, the school system started discriminating against her. ‘The grading system was preferential, all the best opportunities were given to Malays, and I didn’t even try applying to public college because there is such a small chance I would have gotten in. They limit the amount of spots for non-Malays and some of the brightest kids are denied. So I went private instead and had to pay a lot for it.’ With regards to soccer, she said girls were never really encouraged to play, not that they weren’t allowed but it just was not a thing. Now, she’s just getting into it. Handball and badminton were more for girls.
- Because it is unusual for Malaysian women to play, I was treated like I was a goddess. Any time I beat someone off the dribble, picked someone off, or scored all thirty of them ROARED and gave shit to the opponent. It was hilarious and all in good fun. Seriously the vibe and level of competition was perfect.
- Oh and the guy I met on Tinder? Super easy to talk to, definitely well liked in the group, and really good at soccer! We combined for a lot of our team’s goals. Very grateful for his generosity and kindness.
- After 2.5 hours, about 5 games, so SO much sweat, and a happy group picture, headed home. Man, if only I’d met them sooner.
- Deep chats with my amazing (now two) roommates! Refreshing to just chill and talk with no distractions.
Whew, what a week. Really sad not to have more time here after all. I always say travelling is about the people you meet, and Sunday was most certainly a night I will never forget.
Mental health check-in? Been pretty up and down, partly due to total exhaustion and partly due to nerves about heading home for a week. Trying to keep reminding myself of the big picture, how much I really love what I’m doing and not letting little challenges drag me down!