Saturday, February 12, 2011

Kuala Lumpur – Back into the Organised World

Air Asia is every travellers friend, because even you book short in time before your flight, it is still not expensive. From Bangalore to Kuala Lumpur it took only 1 h sleep, 1 h reading and another 1 h chatting with my neighbour until I reached Malaysia. Unfortunately it was in the middle of the night and without having had the opportunity to check my mails before leaving India, I did not know, if any of my couchsurfing requests were answered positively. So what I had in mind was the plan to stay at the airport over night and find out next things at a more proper time. It did not take long until I met company and did not had to rest alone. Ingela from Sweden was a way better prepared than I was, because 11 years of living in Bali made her quite experienced in visa-touring to KL. Together we could share our turns of getting food and drinks, the free internet on her laptop in front of StarBucks and some travel stories. Interestingly she is building a house over there, where she as a yoga teacher will open a centre as well. That will hopefully be reason enough to say Hello to her in April, if time permits after I will have finished my internship in the Small Hydro Power Project of the now called GIZ (German International Cooperation formerly known as GTZ). By the time we found out that one couchsurfer had replied and I, probably her as well, could sleep on his couch. But first things first! After spending about 6 h at the airport, we took a bus into the city, had a quick breakfast and took some passport pictures for our Visa application at the Indonesian Embassy. As both of us had not just exclusive tourist purposes for staying in the country of more than 17000 islands, we both had to visit the embassy. Usually it never makes any problems, but as you also do not know the exact outcome of the visit at the Visa office, we were a bit exited. And as we almost could have guessed, we both did not get the two month permit, but only one! Anyway, for me it seems like not being a big problem, because I can and now have to extend the Visa up to 4 times. Without our passports and the reminder to pick them up one day later we left to meet Jason, my couchsurfing host.

When Jason opened the door he had already seen us from the window before and were not wondering much that two people were standing in front of him. It was no problem for him and his “cousin brother” as he called his flatmate Andrew that the both of us wanted to stay at his place! For everybody, who doesn't know the couchsurfing project should check it out in the internet. Basically, the idea is sharing the knowledge and information of locations all around the world by staying at local’s places, especially their couches. It's free of charge, but in return you either participate in the same way and host other travelers, which come to your city, or/and you make your stay at nice one for your host as well. In my 5 years of couchsurfing experience I never had troubles hosting people from about 25 countries in Kaiserslautern and Berlin, but I actually haven't surfed to many couches myself. Thus, my travels through Malaysia should mainly be driven by that purpose! How much fun this can be, you will see on the picture.

After arriving Andrew, Ingela and I went out for lunch and thanks to Malaysia's great climate, which lets them grow mangos all around the year, we enjoyed one of the best ice-blended mango lassie I ever had! Since the mango season finished in India in October, I was very happy to finally get one again. Later, we explored the city markets with all its fake products of shirts, backpacks and watches, ate in Kuala Lumpur's famous China Town and finished the day with some beer in bar. Introducing me to the concept of food courts, made me wonder why we don't have such places in Germany and probably nowhere in Europe. Principally, the owner of a kind of big location is renting out slots to other people, which built up little stands and sell their one or two different dishes. While the owner of that location is making good money from the stands on the one hand and from selling the drinks on the other hand, customers can enjoy different types of food as they would go to different restaurants! When Ingela left for Bali and Andrew was busy with work, Jason was showing me around on the other days. Again in China Town we spent some more time, shopping some fake brand products and observing the strange food offers like the drought and flattened goose skin in the back of the next picture.
What makes KL as locals call their city famous through the world are probably the PETRONAS Twin Towers, which give a very nice photo set especially at night time. Other than that, the towers accommodating about 4 storeys of shopping area and offices above and cope with the western standard as the whole city is doing. Coming from India and loving the freedom of unrestricted daily life with heaps of unexpected situation every day, KL besides its nice sites seems a bit boring, because there is a way how to do everything. Continuing our city tour we drove to the lookout point, from where you have a nice view over the entire city after climbing a almost steep combination of stairs. At exactly 12 pm you can even see when the switch of the electricity at the twin towers. Up there we met Rayne, a friend of Jason. Together with her having Chinese roots and Indian based Jason I got some interesting details of society in Malaysia. When the British ruled the country, they needed cheap labour and where else would that come then from the most labour abundant countries in Asia. Since then there were Indians and Chinese living together with Malay, but an integration never really happened! Both told me, that a Chinese-Indian marriage for example is a No-Go and that friendships are usually restricted within their “natural” context! There are exceptions of course...

Anyway, I was not coming to Malaysia for staying in big cities, but for exploring more of the nature sites, so Jason also drove me to the Batu Caves. This extraordinary and huge cave system functions as a very important pilgrimage site for Hindus from all over the country. Not just that they knee up the 260 stairs carrying milk pots on their shoulders, but also the fact that on certain festival days (e.g. 19th January Thaipusam Festival) they come in herds of 2 million people! Luckily we went there some days before and thus, could also get a snapshot of Malaysia's broad variety of nature. The ever-present Monkeys and some snakes, as well as palms and fern made me forget the bit of visa issue and looking forward to my next destinations in the Taman Negara National Park, one of the oldest rain forests in the world. Besides its religious attraction, the caves must also drag some people because of its climbing site. Unfortunately I've only got to known that fact when it was to late, but if any climber should ever go to KL, he or she should definitely check it out and post me a mail.

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