Archive for Malaysia

Women in Malaysia

While the caning of the actress $$$ was on everybody’s mind, I think it really betrays the freedom and status women have in Malaysia. Funny, as it may sound, I found more burkhas in Bengaluru (Bangalore) than in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysian women enjoy the privilege of being the denizens of a moderate Islamic country. While, head scarves are prescribed by the religious norms, one can easily see Malay / Muslim women in daily life and mass media alike not covering their hair. There seem to be quite liberal in dressing down the scarf. While Baju Kurung seems to be the acceptable Islamic dress, one can easily spot the women wearing the trendiest clothes; even sometimes the ones that are frowned upon in Bengaluru.

During my first few days of traveling in the train in downtown KL, I saw a scarfed young girl, with a low cut and her boy friend’s arm around her waist which was so tightly wrapped as if she would fly off in the wind if he loosens it. That set the tone of life in Malaysia where orthodoxy and modernity co-exists in a pleasantly strange manner.

That being said of the Malay women, the Chinese and Indians are far liberally dressed. The Chinese in their really ‘short’ shorts and spaghetti straps easily co-exist with the baju kurungs. The Indians are a little lost in this trying to dress up like the Chinese with those Indian bodies hurts the eyes more than they think it does. Some of them have come to terms with the body structure and have more Indianised clothes kurtis over jeans or sarees.

My observation may be skewed by my circle of friends but I think there are more women smokers than men. Reasonably, a good percentage of women smoke in Malaysia atleast in the cities.

Women are well represented in the industry. Although,  I have seen less women CEOs, there is a good number of women at top positions in Malaysia even in the Govt sector including the police.


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KL International Marathon 2008

30th March 2008; Start Time: 4:30AM; Location: Merdeka Square, KL.

It was a freak IIT discussion which enthused me to start running long distances. I ran the 7km run in Mumbai that year and once more in the following year. The 10km KL Marathon was my third run. This time, not worrying to catch the local train home, I decided to spend some time cheering the 21/42 km runners who were finishing after my ‘small’ run. It was a fantastic experience.

I couldnt see the first 50 finishing the race but I watched the rest till 3:30 hrs (closing for 21km run) & 5:20 hrs (when the cute girl finished her run) and I realised that the run is such a mind over body activity – it was more a mental activity than physical. It is not a competitive activity, many people run for the sense of achievement of completing a normally ‘unthinkable’ task (I hope you dont think of running from PJ to your office in KLCC everyday); for many it is a refreshing fun activity done in groups; for others it is for a cause. I have just run those little runs just for heck of it.

Today I saw a person dragging his feet to the finish line and collapsing as soon as he finished; a couple holding hands and finishing the race together; an old man painfully dragging is worn out knees; a middle-aged guy who would have normally collapsed somewhere mid-way obviously with his determination finishing off the complete run! It was really a moving experience. The excitement among people was very palpable and infectious.

For me running of the marathon was a sight-seeing experience. What normally whizzes past when you are driving, I could see it in slow motion and the highways normally inaccessible for pedestrians was thrown open for running.

KL International Marathon is an annual event organised by AmBank. You can find more information at http://www.klmarathon.gov.my

Running Clubs in Malaysia:

Key Running Events in Malaysia/Singapore

  1. KL International Marathon – late march
  2. Penang Bridge Marathon – 3rd week of June
  3. King of the Road – Half Marathon @ Sunway Early August
  4. Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon – late december

For the entire list, please check this link http://www.runnersmalaysia.com.my/events/index.htm

External Links

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marathon

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Port Dickson

I finally found a nice getaway from KL. Port Dickson, with its own little nick name PD, is just around 90 km from KL and around 32 km from Seremban. It costs as little as RM10 to reach the place from KL.

You can take a bus from Pasar Seni (below the Putra LRT station) to Seremban. Seremban is the capital city of Negeri Sembilan state located south of Kuala Lumpur. As soon as we completed appro landed in Seremban, we found a bus waiting to leave for PD. 45 minutes later, we were by the sea! We checked into a small hotel Seri Malaysia . Its a decently maintained budget hotel. It is a part of a larger chain and you can be sure that no one is ripping you of because the price list is fairly standard and openly avaiable.

The hotel overlooks the sea and the beach is right across the main road. The stretch of beach close to the hotel is popular among campers. It is a safe and convenient place to pitch your tent.

One can hire a car like in any Malaysian town for around RM100 per day. I was disappointed not having found a place to rent a mobike. Taxis are relatively easy to find and they charge RM10-20 depending on where you want to go. Hotel guys can help you to call the taxi.

Ostrich Farm : Having had just one day, we had to plan our trip carefully. We first went to ostrich farm by a taxi and hoped to finish the visit in 30mins. We eventually ended up spending 2.5 hrs. The OF is a nice place to relax for adults and for children to freak out. Apart from the regular display of ostrich, there are interesting activities like Ostrich Ride (I was foolish enough to try it), Ostrich Race, Monkey show etc.

Ostrich Race

The Winner of the Race

Cape Rachardo (Tanjung Tuan) Light house: Its a 500 year old Portuguese-built Light House, well preserved till today. A mini equatorial forest is preserved around this light house. Vehicles are not allowed in the immediate vicinity. It is a nice 1.2 km trek from the base of the hill to the light house. The journey is as beautiful as the destination. It is a nice walk through the green cover, would bring back your memories of Robert Frost’s ‘woods’. The view of the light house is breathtaking. A white structure with a backdrop of blue ocean gently merging into the blue sky with a carpet of green below, is a perfect poster material.

PD Light House

I highly recommend exploring the woods around this place. They will provide you some splendid pictures for your album.

Blue Lagoon Beach

As we walked exploring the Light House area, we stumbled into a really beautiful beach which we later realised was one of the popular destinations – Blue Lagoon Beach. There are several 4* and 5* hotels and condos near this beach which makes is slightly crowded but doesnt diminish its beauty! There are a few water sports activities although parasailing was conspicuously missing. The highlight of the activity on the beach was that we tried canoeing. The water is relatively still and the Strait of Malacca is kinder for the amateurs like us. It was fun canoeing away from the coast.

There are little restaurants along the beach. Its a nice romantic & serene experience to sit by the sea and have your dinner.

The next morning, we got up and explored the coastline near our hotel, we walked for miles and saw a small island connected to a bridge. Unfortunately the bridge was broken almost at the end and we couldnt reach the island. I didnt want to risk swimming because the sea was shallow and the bed was rocky.

Some other places of interest in Port Dickson are beaches like Batu5 (5th mile) , Si-Rusa, Bagan Pingang, Tanjung Tuan etc.

There is a fort and a war museum which I have promised myself that I will visit during my next trip.

All in all, PD is an excellent place to unwind if you are lover of the sea and dont want to go very far from KL. Hotels are cheaper and food is good. What else do you want ? 🙂

Read More

1. Wiki: Port Dickson : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Port_Dickson

2. Yahoo Map: http://travel.yahoo.com/p-map-486811-map_of_port_dickson-i

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Penang – The Pearl of the Orient

Approach: Penang has an international airport with limited international connectivity. But domestic airlines connect it well with KL. Air Asia & Malaysian Airlines fly to Penang. It is just around 4 hrs by road from KL

Penang consists of a thin stretch of mainland on peninsular Malaysia and a nice island where Georgetown, the capital city is located. For history and research freaks please refer Wikipedia : Penang

I was lucky that my company flew me to Penang for a meeting on Friday. I would have ended up looking foolish if I returned the same night. I sponsored my 2 day extension in Penang I am still revelling on the experience.

Penang has a ‘mainland’ part and a island part connected by 13.5 km bridge. Georgetown is the capital city of Penang. Due to the numerous factories of many MNCs setup in this region, there is a healthy expat population. I vaguely remember reading an article which claimed Georgetown to be one of the top-10 locations for expats in SE Asian region.

Penang reminds me of Mysore in the sense that it is a wonderful combination of luxuries of a small city with the pace of a town. As you move out of Georgetown towards the northern part of the state, the beauty of the place is revealed. Lined with clean, uncluttered beaches, there are several beach resort around the Batu Ferringhi Area & Tanjung Bungah. Batu Ferringhi has some of the expensive resorts costing RM350 upwards. You can get real bargains if you get to the Tanjung Bungah area.

Penang is notorious for piracy (imagine a ‘China town’ the size of that island). You get more than bargain in terms of RM4 per DVD. Beware, there is a firm warning posted at the airport about harsh fines for carrying pirated DVDs. But has any punishment been able to stop crime?

Things to do: Water sports – water scooter is heavenly for amateurs because the see is fairly placid; pasar malam (night market); drinking
Places to visit :

1. Penang Hill : Best time would be 6PM, enjoy daylight and also night fall. You can take a taxi but my recommendation is take a bus. You can easily find a bus to go to Komter and from Komter you take a bus for Penang Hill. It will drop you off at a place 700m before the hill. The bus trip is lovely and gives you a feel of the city.

2. Snake Temple : Some live snakes ‘guard the temple’. They have a small snake farm attached to the temple. For a RM1, you can see snake feeding on a live animal.

3. War Museum: One of its kind. Slightly oversold. But if you have time, you should take up the shooting game for RM75, it lasts an hour. It real fun to shoot fake bullets in a simulated warfield.

4. There is a musuem in the city which is worthwhile if you are history buff.

5. Orchid Farm

6. Butterfly farm

A nice weekend getaway.

View from my Hotel Room

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India & Malaysia – Basics

My favourite category of post for any country!

                                                          

India and Malaysia share a quite a bit of common heritage from Hinduism to Islam and now thanks to Bollywood, the fascination for India has increased even more!

1. Visas : Indian passports can get visa on arrival for RM 100 (Rs.1200). Remember to carry the hardcopy of the return ticket and local currency. There is a forex counter just as you get out of the aircraft. If you are traveling for less than 5 days, better take a free transit visa. No stickers just a stamp. (Remember, VoA is only if you fly to KLIA and not by road)

2. Food: You will love Malaysia for its food. I hate when many people come to KL and start asking for ‘Indian Food’. You as well stay at home for that. Nevertheless, the good news is that most of the Malay food will appeal to the Indian palate. Too bad if you are veggie because you will miss out most of the Malay delicacies. If are still game to try something, ask them to make it vegetarian.

3. Weather: Its bright and sunny all the time and rainy anytime of the year. It is tropical climate and is never really cold. So Chill! Time to dig your summer clothes and not a bad idea to get an umbrella.

4. Safety: While Singaporeans crib of Malaysia being unsafe, safety is a very relative term. The main parts of Malaysia which are tourist spots are quite safe. You keep the emergency number ready and cops respond really fast when there is trouble.

5. Mobile: Better buy a sim card as soon as you land. Calls are not too costly nor is the sim card. Would be really easy getting around with your mobile.

6. Religion: Malaysia is a muslim country and with respect to tourists it can get way too liberal than India can think of. If you are i-have-to-go-to-temple-everyday types, dont worry there are enough temples around.

7. Travel: Direct flights from Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Bangalore by Indian Airlines and Malaysian Airlines. Book by Indian Airlines because it is cheaper and it doesnt matter which of the two you book, you end up flying the same flight, thanks to code-sharing.

8. When in trouble, dont hesitate to call Indian High Commission

High Commission Of India
No. 2, Jalan Taman Duta,
Off Jalan Duta,
50480 Kuala Lumpur

Tel: (00-603) 20933510
Fax: (00-603) 20933507, 20925826

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Welcome to Malaysia

After a long hiatus, I am to blog! Not that I didn’t travel but that I traveled so much that I didnt have time or the enthu to blog. It took me one leisurely lonely weekend on beach of Penang to pen my travelogue.

I moved to KL, Malaysia the beginning of this year and since the time I have come here, it has been a race for survival at the work place and all work & no play made ‘Jack’ a dull boy! rather a dull, lonely boy!

While my love to Taipei still stands strong, getting into the groove of the city in KL was way way way swifter than in Taipei. Malay traditions – be it tribal or the muslim – share roots with many Indian traditions, Tamilians of course a normal sight back home and me moving from Taiwan made Chinese also a familiar sight. Being a British Colony also helps and KL looks like any other Indian city (that is, if the Govt bothered to maintain)

Food is rife, and has eventually settled in unwanted places of the local population. I looked older in Taipei because of being ‘pleasently plump’ and for the same reason I look young here because the rest of the population especially Malay is extra ‘pleasently plump’.

If Singapore thrives on symmetry, Malaysia thrives on assymmetry! Each building is a architecture of its own and is characteristically different from the one next to it! Not to forget KLCC and KL Tower – the best in their own right!

Its a great year to visit Malaysia let alone live here. Year 2007 marks the 50th year of nationhood and country (read Tourism Dept) has been running a successful ‘Visit Malaysia’ caVisit Malaysiampaign! If you are planning for a Malaysian trip for long, nowz the time!

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