Other than Vietnam and a quick 3 day business trip to Singapore, I hadn’t really explored Southeast Asia, so I decided to rectify that this trip. I started in Cambodia, hit 4 cities in Thailand and capped it with stops in Penang and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. My introduction to Malaysia started with my Aussie friend Patsy taking me to an amazing Malaysian restaurant in Melbourne, Aus, continued with Else introducing me to the Malaysian Belacan Grill in Redondo Beach and hit a high point when I met my Malaysian friend E-Lin. Through its food, I learned what a fascinating mix of cultures Malaysia had come to be. I’ve longed to experience that cultural and gastronomic mix first hand!
Malaysia is a mix of three distinct ethnic groups, well four if you count the numerous ex-pats, there is the Malay group, which is the largest, then there are Chinese and Indian groups. The Indians came during the British colonial rule as did some of the Chinese. But as in many other countries, many of the Chinese came to partake in trade, be it the silk, spice or other types of trading back in the day. It is also a mix of religions, with the majority of the country Muslim, (and that is across all ethnic lines), but you’ll also find Buddhists, Christians, Hindu’s etc throughout the country and across ethnic groups. This was my first visit to a non-Arab Muslim country and it was quite interesting. There was one section of town that had something like 10 different houses of worship in a two block area, from grand Mosques to Methodist and Baptist churches, to Buddists, Taoist and Hindu temples. All are accepted. Both Penang and Kuala Lumpur seem to be quite tolerant societies in terms of openness of faith.
At least in the cities I visited, major cities to be sure, Malaysians embrace their multiculturalism, yet they amazingly have retained their own unique ethnic identities as well. As someone from the US, a cultural melting pot isn’t something new, however, the tendency is for assimilation after a certain number of generations, though your grandparents or great grandparents may have been from Italy or Germany or Poland, the chance of you speaking the language and knowing, let alone adhering to your grandparents customs are slim to none. Yet in Malaysia, most Malaysians speak at least three languages, Bhasa Malaysian, English and either Chinese or Tamil/Hindi/other Indian dialect, even though they are third to fourth generation at this point.
All ads are multi-culti 😉
Hawker stalls at the night market
Satay and Lorbak -a tofu wrapped sprimp/fish pastes, deep fried.
The guardian protector
Burmese Buddhist temple
Buddhas in the Burmese Buddhist temple, really interesting the differing representation of Buddha’s
A Hindu temple on top of Penang Hill
View from Penang Hill, it was about 10 degrees cooler, a nice respite from the heat of Penang! But not a respite from the damn mosquitos!
Monkey just hang out on Penang Hill, but they aren’t very nice
Ice Kechang, also known as AIS Kechang, which took me a while to figure out they are the same thing 😉
Penang Laksa, a fish based broth
Cendol, named for the green wheat noodley thing
Street Art- wire structures
The restored Blue Mansion
This is a fancy, pretty bed, but I bet it has to be the most uncomfortable nights sleep ever!
Shophouse styles- these date back to the 1800’s
One street that has been completely renovated
I love how they’ve fixed up these historic shophouses instead of tearing them down. By the way, 7-11′s in Asia rock, the one US brand I don’t mind seeing wherever I go 🙂 unlike McDonalds, Starbucks and KFC…