The Kuala Lumpur Experience

(Because Myanmar law allows foreigners to stay for only 70 days in the country, the Cardoner Volunteers here in Taunggyi have to go to another country from time to time. Our first such exit was to Kuala Lumpur, capital of the Federated States of Malaysia. SAG’s three scholars in KL, William, Alvin, and Pan Phyu, along with Fr Paul’s contact Mr. Nordin, served as our hosts. Here are some thoughts on our three days there.)


  • Few things are more beautiful than a metropolis at night seen from the sky.


  • Kuala Lumpur International Airport smells like Changi but looks like Hongkong
  • It seems to be a trend that airports are built far away from downtown. KLIA is so far away it is actually in an exclave of Kuala Lumpur within the adjacent state of Selangor.
  • Malaysia displays the best of Muslim culture I’ve seen so far. Women look so fashionable in their hijabs!
  • While Singapore may be very near, KL is infinitely cheaper.
  • Rubbing alcohol really seems to be a Filipino thing – we could not find it in Thailand and Myanmar, and we couldn’t find it in KL either.

A replica of the throne of Perak

  • Malaysia also shows what a malay culture would look like if it conquered the ills of a colonial past, a good example for the Philippines to follow.


  • Kuala Lumpur is somewhere between Singapore and Manila, clean and very urban with glistening high rising buildings, but also still quite neighbourhood-ly. Unlike Bangkok it may take some effort to get a glimpse of its history and culture.
  • One thing it has that few metropoleis have, though: genuine vegetation. In between imposing modernity are patches of what look like virgin overgrowth. Singapore’s greenery just feels artificial compared to KL.
  • 20160910_141408

    Looks can be deceiving

  • As if to make up for their patches of urban void, the cars in KL drive ridiculously fast. Jaywalking is ten times scarier in Malaysia.
  • Laksa really comes close to being the best noodle dish in the world.

I said it before: Laksa, glorious, glorious laksa

  • I wouldn’t give the same praise to Asam Laksa though: light but sour and fishy, it can be an acquired taste

And I have not acquired it yet

  • Petaling Jaya, in Selangor, is lucky to have its own community museum!

And it’s surrounded by a lovely park

  • It was unfortunately closed when we where there last time, though
  • Good luck trying to buy books in KL: the vast majority are in Bahasa. I guess it’s admirable how much literature exists in the language, but it makes literary tourism difficult!

I had to daginot with Filipino writer

  • But English is thankfully common. As one of the world’s top tourist cities, KL is very friendly to foreigners.
  • Yup, Books Kinokuniya is still the most impressive bookstore chain I know. When I found out there was a branch in KL I knew I had to go there.

I got some Malaysian literature though!


Books Kinukoniya has prime location in KL

  • The Petronas Towers are a pair of huge diamond skyscrapers that glisten under the sun in the day and glow with office lights at night. The cylindrical shape of each tower makes it feel so solid and yet so ornamental compared to the soap bars surrounding it.

The towers during day


The towers at night


The tower seen from one of the glass domes of Suria KLCC

  • There’s more to the Petronas than the towers: in front of Suria KLCC at the feet of the towers, there’s a fountain pond that has a fountain show every half hour. And there is a whole park just beyond that.

If this were a video, you’d be seeing knots made of water

  • There is a strange pleasure – an urban luxury, if you were – to riding trains. I guess it’s the Kidapawan boy in me still thrilled at the artifacts of metropolis.

Next station, crossing Lanao: interchange station to the Bartolaba line

  • Yup, the best way to enjoy a sexy metropolis like KL is to wander around alone. In lieu of having someone special wander with you, that is.

A record breaking phallic symbol jutting out from bush – I miss my girlfriend

  • Roses have the taste of love, and I could not help missing her again while sipping Minuman Bandung. The Johor style of the drink though has a hint of lychee acidity to it.

Love in a plastic glass

  • I think I just saw a snatcher running away in Suria KLCC!
  • The Malaysians deserve a reputation for having the most colourful sweets. Kuih never fails to impress whenever I see it.

Edible jewels


Clockwise from top: Pulut tai tai kaya, talam ubi, abok sagu, talam, lapis selatan, getuk getuk

  • It is a bad idea to visit KL’s historic center at high noon: Taunggyi’s cool sunlight made me forget how our latitude’s noons could be scorching.

The higher the photo quality, the higher the risk of skin cancer


  • And we were equally unlucky to find Masjid Jamek – where KL’s most primitive beginnings could be traced – was under renovation and open only to muslims for the time being.

I got a shot of its back though

  • Refreshing discovery by the confluence of the Klang and the Gombak rivers: Duterte is loved across Southeast Asia. Contrary to Western media coverage, the foulmouthed Philippine president really is becoming the poster boy of ASEAN independence. In Bangkok and Myanmar the case was similar. But the hat vendor outside Masjid Jamek was so much a fan of the man than when one of us mentioned Digong used to be our mayor, he gave us a free hat.


  • The Muzium Negara just made me drool with envy: the Malaysians are proud of their history and culture, and they’re making money by showcasing them.



Lovely, but I think it’s not Minangkabau enough



  • It is really in Malaysia that you see the richness and relevance of Mindanao history. The precolonial Moro polities were featured in the Muzium Negara. As a Mindanawon, Malaysia makes my heart bleed because it shows me what Mindanao could have been if it wasn’t so messed up by the Philippines
  • They have a separate section for the rubber industry. as a son of a rubber plantation family, it resonates to me. What is common between Kidapawan and Malaysia? Rubber.
  • It also has a section on the contribution of writers to Malay national consciousness.
  • Which just highlights one thing for the Filipino: Rizal is still the only writer to have contributed to National consciousness. The rest are victims of obscurity or are too busy squabbling with each other – irrelevant, to put it simply.

The tiny selection of Filipino writers on the shelves in Books Kinokuniya is sobering

  • Malaysia’s elective monarchy never ceases to fascinate me!

The royal headdresses of Malaysia’s nine federal monarchs


The headdress of the Yang Di Pertuan Agong

  • KL minus the Petronas Towers is so much more: the Muzium, Central Market, Petaling Street, and Jalan Alor.


  • Central Market makes me feel embarrassed at Davao’s Aldevinco.


  • Petaling Street feels like a movie set – a more humid version of Hong Kong’s Temple Street.
  • Stay away from chestnuts being roasted!


  • Jalan Alor, the longest food street I’ve ever seen, was where I finally reunited with my Singapore craving, Char Tow Kway, aka the carrot cake with no carrot.

Hello sexy

  • Food brings the world together: also in Jalan Alor, there’s a restaurant with Filipino staff serving Filipino food. And when I bought Char Tow Kway, the waiter exclaimed in delight at seeing the Burmese kyats still in my wallet – it turned out he was Burmese.
  • When departing from KL, KLIA can be very badly managed, with queues taking over an hour. You must get there at least three hours before your flight. Even if you live nearby.
  • Unsurprisingly, having a relationship means wishing you were with her. Anywhere really, but most specially when exploring a new, wonderful place.
  • I obviously did not take enough pictures! See a bit more of them on my Facebook album!

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