Hong’s Trip to Malaysia

On the 5th of November 2002, which is also November 5 2002, and is thus either 5/11/2002, 11/5/2002, or 2002-05-11 depending on your nationality, location and/or ISO 8601 compliance status, yours truly went back to ye olde land of his birth for the first time in sixteen years.

Here's a writeup and assorted pics from my time in sunny Malaysia, the land up top. That's as opposed to sunny Austria, the land down under. Many people keep confusing Austria and Australia. This is, needless to say, quite silly as they are really very distinct. Just remember that Austria is the country and Australia is the continent, and you'll be fine. You can trust me, because I always check my facts before posting nonsense to web pages.

The webpage may look a bit eclectic, because I'm writing it for at least four audiences:

  1. The people in Malaysia who looked after me and threatened grevious bodily harm unless I sent them a record of my trip;
  2. The people in Austria who know me personally, and are looking for stories on what I did while bungling around Southeast Asia;
  3. The people both in Austria and elsewhere who know me online, and are looking for stories on what I did while bungling around Southeast Asia;
  4. J. Random Lurker who followed a link here and doesn't have a clue what to expect.

So there you go. It's all your fault if you don't understand it. Really. Would I lie to you?

The Mission

To clear things up right away, this was not a vacation. This was a journey to see people whom I hadn't seen for  a long time. Not only that, but some of them stood a good chance of actually dying of old age in the meantime unless I got my act together. The trip was also nicely timed in other ways, in that I arrived right before Deepavali, and in time for the start of Ramadan. For all the iggnerant Westerners, Ramadan in 21st century Malaysia is sorta like a month-long Christmas season. The occasion being celebrated obviously isn't the same, but in terms of social significance and (especially) commercialisation, it's close enough.

A side-effect of my extended absence was that everyone's mental image of me was stuck somewhere around age 10-14. This led to many laffs all round, but at least it meant noone told me I'd lost weight. Normally whenever I meet someone I haven't seen for a long time, they always tell me I've lost weight. But not this time!!! — but on the other hand, they all said I'd gained height. Funny, that.

Hence you won't see that many touristy snaps on this page, compared to the usual travel blog. On the other hand, I did go to two banquets and a wedding, and met six million people who all knew me when I was a kid (and have the pictures to prove it). I should get either Ang Lee or Mike Newell to turn it into a movie.

Just before I left, the Austrian Government kindly issued a Travel Advisory warning Austrians that evil, nasty things would happen to them if they went to Malaysia. Then after I got back to Austria, the Government kindly issued another warning that evil, nasty things would happen to them if they stayed at home. Maybe I should have just stayed in mid-air, somewhere over the Timor Sea.

The Flight

Get a load of those wheels!

Being a fine, upstanding Austrian, the natural choice was to use a fine, upstanding Austrian airline for my journey. And what better Austrian airline is there than Lauda Air? Why, they even have a dual-language (Austrian/Australian) in-flight magazine, as illustrated by the following passages:

London boomt. London ist hip. Und in London werden die Trends von morgen und übermorgen gesetzt. Bei einem Kurztrip in die britische Hauptstadt fällt es allerdings schwer sich zu entscheiden, ob man nun das legendäre Nachtleben auskostet, die berühmten Sehenswürdigkeiten abklappert, in Kunst und Kultur schwelgt oder frei nach dem Motto „Shop till you drop“ durch die quirligen Einkaufsstraßen der Metropole wandert. Als heimliche Hauptstadt Europas hat das Lifestyle-Mekka auf jeden Fall alles zu bieten, wovon Städtereisende immer schon geträumt haben.

(London boomt. London is hip. And in London the trends are set from tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. With a Kurztrip into the British capital it falls however heavily to decide whether one out-costs now the legendary night life, which schwelgt famous objects of interest abklappert, in art and culture or moves freely after the slogan "Shop till you drop" by the quirligen shopping streets of the metropolis. As secret capital of Europe the Lifestyle Mekka has to offer in any case everything, about which city travelers always already dreamed.)

At the end of the 1980s, Airbus Industries launched a programme to develop two new models of aircraft, one with two engines (A330), the other with four (A340), but almost identical in every other respect. The A330-200 is about five metres shorter and is intended for long-haul flights. It is flown using so-called "sidesticks" (a kind of joystick) and controlled by a "fly-by-wire" system.

(Am Ende der achtziger Jahre, stießen Airbusindustrien ein Programm aus, um zwei neue Modelle Flugzeug, eins mit zwei Maschinen (A330), das andere zu entwickeln mit vier (A340), aber fast identisch in jedem anderem Respekt. Das A330-200 ist ungefähr fünf Meter kürzer und ist für Fernbeförderungsflüge bestimmt. Es ist das geflogene Verwenden sogenannt "sidesticks" (eine Art Steuerknüppel) und kontrolliertes durch ein "Fliegen-durchleitungs" System.)

All translations courtesy of Google; speaking of which, "London boomt" is now my favourite phrase of the month. The flight itself was very uneventful, without a single hijack attempt or bomb scare. Bugger.

The Camera

A soul sucking machine

Although I wasn't really doing this trip for touristy reasons, I figured I'd better get myself one of these gadgets just in case. Rather than using the ancient analog camera I'd had since the Jurassic, I got a fancy, newfangled digital cam after arriving in the country. I was reassured by the salesman that, contrary to popular belief, they DO NOT SUCK OUT YOUR IMMORTAL SOUL when they take your picture. So that was okay, IF, OF COURSE, YOU BELIEVE CAMERA SALESMEN. Although I guess if you are a vampire and hence don't have a soul to start with, it doesn't really matter. So any goths and other aspiring vampires out there can breathe easy. To the extent that vampires breathe, anyway.

As for the camera itself, it's a Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC20 with 3x optical zoom, 5 fps burst shooting, 2 megapixel capacity, and a Leica lens. Awesome, eh? Actually, no, not really these days, but it did the job. A friend bargained the salesman down from 1200 Ringgit to 900 (that's roughly 500 Austrian dollars, 0.00275 Euros, or 0.000012 US dollars [AKA "real money"]). I paid him back by promising not to steal his immortal soul with my newly acquired devil device. Never say I'm ungrateful.

Speaking of which, the bank reacted to this AUD500 charge popping up in Malaysia by placing a block on my credit card. Never say banks are ungrateful, because they might block YOUR CARD AS WELL.

Kuala Lumpur, the City of Mud

KL rainy day

No, really, it is; look up "Lumpur" in a Malay dictionary if you don't believe me. Although these days you won't find much mud around KL; traffic jams and smog are your best bet instead, like most bustling cities around the world. Oh yes, and a couple of buildings that are supposed to be the tallest in the world. Plus a legislature, an executive and a rubberstamp judiciary.

Some observations about Kuala Lumpur:

To expand on that last point: people here are REAL drivers. Not at all like the namby-pamby, limp-wristed excuses for the name that you get back in Austria (the Anglo-Saxon-Teutonic influence, possibly).  No, Malaysian drivers live their driving lives to the full, as if every moment might be their last. This is entirely reasonable, because the way they drive, it could well be true.

Perhaps in an effort to keep its citizens from killing each other on the roads, KL has a very sleek, high-tech Light Rail System. If you've seen the movie Entrapment, you've seen it in action. I kept my eyes peeled for Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones, but to no avail. Speaking of whom, If anyone can illuminate me as to what happened to her previous clones, Catherines Alpha through Epsilon-Jones, I'd be very grateful. ThaADVANCEnks!

Here are some piccies and babbling from assorted places in KL.

Cyberjaya, Putrajaya, Petaling Jaya and Shah Alam

Yes, someone did think it would be a good idea to put "cyber" in a town name.

Cyberjaya is a central part of the planned Multimedia Super Corridor, a package of initiatives designed to encourage high-tech firms to invest in Malaysia. It's essentially a giant planned town with all the bandwidth and infrastructure needed for a connected future. Nowhere else in the country will you be able to download pr0n and warez as easily as in Cyberjaya.

Putrajaya, on the other hand, is Malaysia's new administrative capital. It's the intended home for most Federal government departments: what Canberra (infamously debauched capital of Austria) might be like if it was built today. Where Cyberjaya is full of geeks, Putrajaya is full of public servants. Whether this is an improvement is a decision left to the reader.

Petaling Jaya, right next door to KL, is the biggest middle-class suburb in the country. Because it's older than Putrajaya, it gets dibs on the PJ acronym. According to a tourism guidebook I got (because there was no way I was going to be able to find my way around after 16 years of booming development), it has the highest rate of car ownership in Southeast Asia. After the experience of trying to find a parking space in PJ, I'm not going to disagree.

Shah Alam is the capital of Selangor Darul Ehsan ("Selangor: the Darul State"), one of the 13 states that make up the Malaysian federation. It's a quiet city, by comparison to PJ to its northeast and Port Klang to its southwest. It has few large buildings... except for the biggest darned mosque in the country, and one of the biggest in the world.

Here are some more piccies and babbling from assorted places in these towns.

Touristy Stuff

In between running away from the ravening hordes of relatives, I went to the Batu Caves, and a day tour to Malacca. It's amazing how much more interesting all this stuff becomes once you're no longer living in the country.

Yet more piccies and babbling from the Batu Caves and Malacca.

Not-So-Touristy Stuff

And for the long-suffering people who put me up (and put up with me) for two weeks, here are the snaps I promised (with the occasional semi-coherent caption).

The Wedding of Allen and Amy

Various Relatives and Friends

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