Friday, May 1, 2009

Malaysia - Asia On Training Wheels

They say that Malaysia is "Asia On Training Wheels". In other words, it is not as hard to travel around in comparison to the more "Asian" countries, like Vietnam, Cambodia or Laos. Well, if Malaysia is Asia On Training Wheels, then I am going to need to do a few more laps of this country before I take the training wheels off!!

I am in Pulau Penang, which is located in the North Western part of Malaysia, just near the Thai Border. It is a "Pulau", which means "Island" in Malaysian and it is a place where many Malaysians bring their families on holiday. Do the images of white sandy beaches, coral the colour of the rainbow and cocktails by the hotel pool come to mind? Forget it. Wrong island. Langkawi is where I am headed tomorrow. In the meantime, I am in dirty, disorganised, over populated and hot Penang with half of the Malaysian population, thanks to the May Day Long Weekend.

Am I having a good time? I LOVE PENANG!

The place may be an absolute hole compared to the pristine beaches of Langkawi, but this place is amazing... in a cultural kind of way. In amongst the dirt, sewer rats and uneven footpaths, the Malaysian charm is ever present - the smiles are infectious, the laid back attitude to life is obvious and the diversity of religion is mindblowing.

I am staying in Georgetown, which is the historic capital of Penang. On 7 July 2008, it was "formally inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site alongside with Malacca". It is officially recognized as having "a unique architectural and cultural townscape without parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia".

I agree with this assessment. I have never been to a place that is as culturally diverse as this one, and they are wearing their UNESCO World Heritage Site with pride. In amongst the grubby hawker street markets are numerous Hindu Temples, Islamic Mosques, and Christian Churches. When you enter each of the Hindu Temples, it will not be uncommon that you share the experience with a Muslim. In a similar fashion, I spent the afternoon walking around Penang's oldest Mosque with a number of Hindus. It really is fascinating. You can be walking through a Christian Church and in the background, you can hear the muslim prayer being broadcast over the speakers from the Mosque across the road. The people of Malaysia are just tolerant to others' beliefs. Simple as that.

We could all take a page out of the Malaysian book. Very little frazzles the Malaysians, and their attitude of "what will be will be" is easy to live with. Compare that to the uptight, rule driven Singapore and you can hardly blame me for loving the travelling in Malaysia. I am beginning to relax a lot more now, which means that I can begin to see the beauty of the people and the country instead of wondering where my next meal will be, whether i can avoid using a public toilet, and whether or not I will get mown down by an unruly scooter. Sure, I may not know where my next edible meal will be, i still hate using the public toilets and many of times I have had near death experiences with scooters, but that "what will be will be" attitude makes it all seems just part of the journey.

The good news for readers is that I have taken another stack load of photographs. Walking around, photographing anything and everything is quite tiring in this Malaysian heat, but with continual hydration and a bit of mental toughness, you will see the results when you see the photos - I truly love Malaysia.

1 comment:

  1. I was smiling when reading your entry as I'm from Penang. Yeah, Penang is quite warm. If you like the shopping like in Komtar or Prangin Mall, don't forget to go to Kompleks Bukit Jambul too.-smile-