LESSONS IN MALAYSIA ...
Considering my wonderful memory, I should have started a travelogue way back in time to document my innumerable memorable travel escapades - dance related and otherwise. Since I didn't take to writing so seriously back then, I'll have to settle with photo-album memories of Singapore, Switzerland, Hong Kong, London and China, and a host of Indian cities and towns, should the desire to reminisce them arise. Here is an account of the wonderful five days spent in Malaysia, with anecdotes and instances specific to the travel.
"The most blessed country - Mutli-religious, Multi-cultural Malaysia", came the remark, once every 15 minutes from our tour guide Mr.Ben Soo. Ben was in charge of taking us through our three-hour city tour in Kuala Lumpur, the capital city. After spending our first day in Malaysia snoozing away our alarms (thanks to the midnight flight), and shopping away at the Sungei Wang Plaza the entire evening (three women together results in either an estrogen overdose or a buying spree. We were naive to think otherwise !) , we figured we would do our trip costs some justice and do the traditional "sight seeing". What ensued was a City Tour and a Country Side Tour and some Local flavor absorbing (read roaming close to the hotel at the centrally located Bukit Bintang).
KL CITY TOUR :From our rooms we could see the conspicuous mono-tower, known as the Menara. Not far away was the Petronas, something we itched to see for as long as we could remember. The City Tour with our guide Ben Soo began at the Petronas (well, somewhere close we could say). Amid the photography sessions, I couldn't help pondering over Ben's rantings. He was so proud about his country. Of course he is a tour guide and he is supposed to speak high of his nation that thrives on tourism as a main source of income. But beneath all those layers of duties towards his country, I saw pride, I saw a sense of belonging, and it was unconditional.
Lesson 1 !
The next two stops were shoppers' paradise. A Crafts Emporium and a Chocolate Factory. How smart of the tour operators ! They just know the game. But on hindsight, it is a no-brainer. Who wouldn't want to take back some really beautiful souvenirs and specially crafted chocolates ? After an hour of picking up classy souvenirs and gifts and of course tasting and buying the boutique chocolates, we hopped back onto the car to do more sight seeing.
A quick delve into the history of Malaysia at the Museum showed the metamorphosis of the way of life in Malaysia and neighboring regions. Ranging from utensils used in the stone age equivalent, to the throne of the King, myriad phases of existence were conveyed through actual artifacts as well as imitations and panels. But what caught my attention was articulate shadow puppets of Sita, Ram and Ravan. It was time for me to feel proud of our Indian culture. The pride lasted just a second. After all, the South-east Asian countries and India share common roots, so our Gods and Goddesses are as much theirs as ours. Ben Soo did mention Multi-cultural after all.
|Shadow puppets of Lord Ram, Sita, Ravana and Hanuman|
"Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy", he remarked. I quickly checked - A constitutional monarchy is a form of monarchy where the governing powers of the monarch are restricted by the terms of a constitution. In the case of Malaysia, the King/Prime Minister holds office only for a period of 5 years. He is ably assisted by a cabinet of ministers, who should be qualified in the respective field. For instance the present health minister Dr.Subramanian is a qualified dermatologist. All other ministers are equally well-qualified.
So many thoughts crossed my mind while Ben Soo stopped at the Prime Minister's residence, which I guess in some sense is a Palace as the King resides in it. "Istana Negara". Palatial, Lavish, Earned ! Lesson 3 !
|Istana Negara- The residence of the Prime Minister /Monarch|
In the remaining time spent at the two attractions within the city - the War Memorial and the Independence Day Square, Ben's account of the "Rukunegara" or the Five Principles of Nationhood kept ringing in my ears.And he was extremely proud to flaunt all of them. He vouched for every fellow Malaysian as well. How lovely, I thought ! If only ..... Well ..... Enough said.
1. Belief in God
2. Loyalty to the King and the Country
3. Uphold the values of the Constitution
4. Follow rules of Law
5. Good moral and social behavior
Lesson 4 !
Ben Soo dropped us off at Saravana Bhavan (an Indian chain of restaurants that is extremely popular globally). He offered to take our chocolates and other souvenirs back to the hotel lobby, as they would melt in the tropical heat if left in the car during our Countryside Tour. We happily packed it in a parcel, name tagged it and sent it with him. I'm not sure if I'd ever trust a tour guide or a taxi driver here with something as precious as chocolates :)
Lesson 5 !
COUNTRYSIDE TOUR :
|Hand impressions of the workers who helped establish the Pewter Factory|
Lesson 6 !
After another visit to a Batik (wax-resist dyeing of cloth) boutique, we headed up north to the famous Batu caves. The naturally occurring wonder is flanked by a man-made towering golden statue of the Tamil God Kartikeya/Muruga. Naturally the place was a little poorly maintained (Lesson 7 - Part 1) in contrast to the rest of KL, nonetheless we managed to have a great time climbing 272 stairs with prying monkeys hoping to pounce on us at the sight of food / anything that interested them. The dark damp caves were beautiful and had two Sannidhis (Sanctum sanctorums) of Lord kartikeya - Velayudhar and Valli Daivanai Naathar. The climb down proved to be a tad bit disappointing. To see an Indian stand right in front of the massive statue of the Lord and smoke was disgusting and it spoke so much about value systems. (Lesson 7 - Part 2)
Of course, what followed was more roaming and more shopping, before we hopped onto a flight to Langkawi, an archipelago of 99 islands in the northern part of Malaysia.
More to follow in the next post !!!
More to follow in the next post !!!