Saturday, August 21, 2010

So Malaysia, Day. 1

Thursday night I took the train to Hangzhou and had the worst beef noodle soup ever for dinner in the airport, hopped aboard the red eye, and woke up down south. I could tell I was in southeast Asia before I even left the airport: The air is different down there, the customer service agents smiled and looked me in the eye (not common in China), plus they were wearing hijab and there were Bank of Islam ATMs in the arrival area.

I took a cab to the golf-course condominium complex my friend Yan was staying at during her month at home. She's from Malaysia but works in London now (we met in college).

Outside the residences there was a security booth. We have these in China too, but it's typically run by a chubby old man who leaves his shirt untucked and sits around smoking - not exactly a formidable first line of a defense. Plus, if you're a white woman, from personal experience, I know they never stop and question you, wherever you walk in. Not so in Malaysia.

The security quizzed me on which building I was going to and whom I was visiting. It was serious stuff, and every time we entered throughout the weekend it was the same. Yan said it was necessary, that Malaysia has violent crime issues.

I slept a couple more hours, then we jumped in the pool, and then headed downtown to eat our way through Kuala Lumpur:

Graffiti, something you don't see in China

First stop was KLCC, the mall below the Petronas towers.
From malaysia

We ate lunch at Madame Kwan's - an upscale version of typical Malaysian food. Yan figured since I only had three days it was best not to press our digestive luck, so rather than eat street food we stuck to restaurants.

Lunch was delicious:
Fish Cake
nasi lemak - typical Malaysian food: Curry chicken with rice soaked in coconut cream
mmm...shaved ice with rose syrup to cool off the palate

Eating was the highlight of the trip. Malaysian food is so good - it has Chinese, Indian and Western influences, and lots of dishes are made with fresh coconut milk.

From malaysia
We wandered around the mall a bit, but not long. Yan said her other friend who came spent days shopping in KL, which is one of the thing it's known for. For me it was more like, "Mall. Cool. Okay, what are we going to eat next?"

Throughout the weekend the trick was to avoid the holiday crowds: Ramadan is going on, and right after sunset the restaurants fill up with people breaking fast.

For afternoon snack we stopped into a cafe for pulled tea, Malaysian coffee and toast sandwiches with a big pat of butter and coconut jelly:

From malaysia

The tea is made from black tea and condensed milk. It's poured from a height before it's served to give it a frothy consistency (hence the name). This kind of snack used to be typical of roadside cafes, Yan said, but that culture of people wiling away the day in such places is disappearing, and what remains is the post-modern, mall food-court version (which is where we had ours).

We also tried some yummy soup, a dish that comes from the southern-Chinese Hakka ethnic group:
From malaysia
And I also discovered my favorite Malaysian dessert:

From malaysia

These chewy little number are covered in coconut and have palm sugar in the center. I'm not a big fan of Chinese desserts, but a lot of them are similar to Malaysia's. The difference being all the desserts in Malaysia are made with palm sugar which is fragrant and delicious, unlike cane sugar.

Here's one place we didn't eat at:
From malaysia

From malaysia
The toilet-bowl concept restaurant. Some of you may remember a similar restaurant in Taipei. Looking back at that entry, I can't believe I called it "Sichuan-style" hot pot, because that was definitely not Sichuan food. Shudder.

Before heading home we got drinks. I had a pina colada - mandatory vacation drink.
From malaysia

Street scene

More later!

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