A Travellerspoint blog

September 2011

Multicultural Malaysia: Impressions

Thoughts and experiences of the thriving, yet some-way-to-go multiculturalism culture in Malaysia.

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Religious melting pot

When the judgment comes to find the world in shame
When the trumpet blows won't you call my name?
- Peter, Paul and Mary

As I left Kota Kinabalu for the last time, boarding a flight for Kuching, I saw a man struggling with a box up the stairs to the plane.
I offered to help and he graciously accepted. He spoke good English and was very interested in my travels. It turns out that I was seated next to him and his colleague.
I asked what they were doing in Kota Kinabalu, and they replied "The international Gideon convention. Do you know who we are?"

I do.
Famously, the late comedian Bill Hicks had funny bit about them - wondering how they sneak around distributing bibles like the easter bunny - to hotels and anywhere else for that matter around the world. Spreading the good word of Jesus and warning of the perils of not heeding the good word"

I had to ask, "how do you fight the good fight in a Muslim majority country, that is sectarian, despite claiming not to be?"
Sensitivity and care of others' pre-existing beliefs is the answer.
In other words, they only try to convert atheists and agnostics.

In truth, Malaysia is a very tolerant and mixed country.
Conservative, even by Asian standards, but open nonetheless with some wonderful cross pollination of foods and interesting beautiful faces.
From a religious perspective stats are something like 60% practice Islam, 20% Buddhism, 10% Christian, with the remainder practicing Taoism, Confucianism and other Chinese religions.
Interestingly, by law, all ethnic Malays must practice Islam, and I am told there are breaks and incentives to be Muslim in Malaysia, despite the open status.
So, on the surface it does seem very harmonious, however through the fairly limited-tourist engagement with my new Chinese and Indian non-Muslim pals in Malaysia, I understand that there is favoritism, which does create a strain for non ethnic Malays.

I was lucky enough to be in Kuala Lumpur for Malaysia Day - commemorating 48 years of union with the Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak. The dialog of the day, was "we are a great multicultural nation, but we have some way to go before we are a completely integrated society.

Posted by SkinnyFists 21:49 Archived in Malaysia Tagged religion malaysia Comments (0)

Malaysia: Perhentian Islands

Super chilled, like Gilligan's Island with cabins on the beach, great food, wonderful warm personalities. Beach party at night.


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Perhentians

I flew from KL to Kota Bharu (near Thai border), and then took the very eventful (see: rainy, bumpy, getting soaked) trip across to Pulau Kecil - a gorgeous, stunning oasis.

Long Beach, Perhentians
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Lodgings

Checked in to Mohsin, on the coast which had a gorgeous view of the sea from it's elevated point.
Food there was terrific, but it's right next to the beach party (goes until 5am), and being an elder gent, I decided to check out in the morning and move to Coral Bay around the corner.
CB is worlds apart, so quiet and not many people around. I checked into Maya and got my own cabin with bathroom and fan for about $10 a night. So nice!

Diving

Did two dives on the Perhentians. The first was D'Lagoon, where we saw a lot of turtles, and other interesting fish. It was a nice easy dive.
The second was Sugar Wreck - a sunken ship way off the coast. Conditions were POOR! Super strong current and almost no visibility. We went down anyway, but a few minutes in we lost one of the group!
Protocol says to ascend after 1 minute to find them, our dive master indicated for us to stay put whilst he looked around.
Upon returning without our friend, he indicated to then just continue the dive(!!).
I freaked out, but did what the diver master asked. Eventually we found our lost friend, but the dive was a bit of a waste

Snorkelling

I decided to join the Maya snorkelling trip the next day.
Totally awesome!!!
The group was about 30 people on two boats and we went to 6 sites around the island. The water was crystal clear, and there were black tip sharks, turtles, barracuda, and bump heads everywhere!
Was a great trip and good group.
I met a couple from Germany who gave me a lot of insights into traveling India and South America, and a couple on their way to Sydney to work. Everyone on the trip (internationals) said they would like Melbourne better, I think the poor souls were disappointed.

Me with a new friend
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Long Beach is the place to party at night. There are two beach bars set up, and the nights I was there, a fire twirling (for want of a better word) group were performing. It was absolutely amazing. Put the Confest hippies to shame. Really spectacular.

The Perhentians are really nice, and worth the trip!

Sunset at the Perhentians:
Perhentian_Sunset.jpg

Posted by SkinnyFists 05:09 Archived in Malaysia Tagged beaches snorkelling diving malaysia coral_bay perhentian_islands Comments (0)

Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur

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KL

Ridley Scott's vision of a future metropolis in 2019 will likely be realised in Kuala Lumpur: with it's enormous Petronas Towers, multi level hi-way overpasses and intermittent rains, and Bangkok (I will explain BKK later).

KL is a nice place to visit - especially if you like shopping.

Lodgings

I stayed at Back Home Hostel - which is fantastic!! Some hostels in KL unfortunately have a rule that doesn't allow Asian or Middle Eastern people to stay. I find this strange and discriminatory. Many Australian Hostels have the same rule.
Fortunately this one doesn't have such a rule, so i was able to meet people outside the western-backpacker sphere of folks.
On my first night I shared a dorm with a group of Indonesian students; the remainder I shared with a family from Cambodia who incidentally run a guest house in Siam Reap - so I will probably stay with them in Cambodia.

Malaysia Day

I was lucky to be in KL for Malaysia Day. This commemorates the union (48 years) with Sabah and Sarawak, and celebrates the rick and varied diversity of Malaysia - with enormous fanfare!
The dialog of the day was "we are a great and varied nation, but we have work to do in order to be completely integrated.

"If you feel Malaysia Day get your hands up!"
Malaysia_Day.jpg

In da... club

The hostel was generally pretty social, and a group of us ventured out to Sky Bar, which is within the Traders Hotel, at around the 36th floor, facing the Mighty Petronas Towers.
The club itself is the hotel's pool by day, and so in the evening, you could easily fall in after a few drinks. The view from the club is spectacular.
Nobody seemed to be dancing. It was a fairly stuffy place where people like to be seen.
We had our drinks and sat down at a table.
An american fellow, flanked by a swathe of ladies way above his punching weight told me that he was waiting for friends and that we should move.
"Contractors?" I asked with a smile. He just looked at me blankly hahaha.
We found a couch and had a nice night out.

Shopping

Most people come to KL for shopping. The centres are enormous. They make Chadstone (Melbourne's biggest) look minuscule. 8 levels of enormity. Each having at least 15 opticians, which is what I was after.
Specs are soooo cheap in KL, so I indulged in 2 pairs, and a couple of shirts.

Batu Caves

The Batu Caves are a huge natural shrine for Malaysian Hindus, roughly 13km outside of KL. Ceremonies still take place there, and it is a healthy climb up. It was a really nice visit, and I did a tours of the bat caves, which was very interesting indeed.
Batu Caves Wikipedia

Posted by SkinnyFists 05:29 Archived in Malaysia Tagged kuala_lumpur batu_caves shopping Comments (0)

Malaysian Borneo:Sarawak Highlights and Departing Thoughts

Exploring Kuching and Baco National Park

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Kuching

Kuching is a gorgeous riverfront city, with a warm, friendly, laid-back atmosphere.
I arrived in time for the Moon Cake festival, so there were many Chinese festivities, and lots of yummy street food to be had.
I stayed at Beds Hostel, and definitely recommend it to any backpackers going to Kuching. It was recommended to me back in Kota Kinabalu by fellow travelers.
Imo and David at Beds made my stay totally awesome. We went out on two occasions drinking around town and singing karaoke. On my last night in Kuching, David, myself and Marion and Karine from France had a few too many shots of Tuak - felt it the next day.
Going back to the hostel - the facilities were excellent, I actually had a dorm to myself with air-con.

Kuching at Night:
Kuching_Night.jpg

Baco National Park

Baco National Park is roughly a 1 hour bus ride plus 20 mins on the boat from Kuching.
It is a massive jungle on the coast with beaches and wildlife - and when I saw wildlife I mean wild promiscus monkeys swinging in the trees!
I took a maps from the registration office and hiked two of the major routes, covered about 8 kms of jungle all together. At the end of each track you reach the coast, and the juxtaposition of jungle and beach makes for a truly spectacular scene.
Map of tracks:
Baco_Map.jpg

View from the coast:
Baco_View.jpg

Bye Bye Borneo

Sadly, I ran out of time and couldn't do any more of Sarawak, as my flights out were not changeable. It would have been nice to stay longer, but I had the best time in Borneo.
I write a further few weeks on from departing Kuching and still say it's been my favourite part of the trip so far.
I met a lot more intrepid travellers there, and really got to know the local people. It's a really wonderful place that hasn't been spoiled by tourism yet, so if you like trekking, diving, amazing wildlife, down to earth quality hospitality and vibrant culture definitely get yourself to Sabah and Sarawak!!!

Posted by SkinnyFists 05:28 Archived in Malaysia Tagged borneo kuching jungles baco malyasia Comments (0)

Malaysian Borneo: Sabah Highlights

Diving, climbing, eating, wildlife and getting to know the wonderful people in Sabah

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Welcome to Malaysia, Craig David Parsons

Wow, it's a month already since I left freezing Melbourne for the tropical jungle of Malaysian Borneo.
First stop was Kota Kinabalu, and it was pretty fast paced for the next 4 weeks from there: exploring, diving, climbing, eating wonderful food, getting a little bit sick and meeting terrific people.
In KK I stayed at Masada Backpackers - if you go to KK I recommend it!
Facilities are the bees knees, it's super clean and the food is divine!
On my first day I decided to book an action packed itinerary - whitewater rafting, diving, Mt Kinabalu climb, etc.
When I told the booking agent my name, she asked "Craig? Like Craig David?" .....even in Malaysia!!! proper bo

Here are my highlights from Borneo

Kota Kinabalu

The "capital" of Sabah. A really nice place to visit - lovely people and a lot of diversity: Christian and Buddhist Chinese, Muslim Malays and Hindu Indians. Lots of lovely food - everywhere!

Padas River Whitewater Rafting

The train ride through the mountains is nearly as exciting as the rafting itself, weaving through the jungle mountains on a rickety old train.
Exciting.
The Padas river has level 3 and 4 rapids, which means pretty fast and busy.
The experience itself was wonderful, my group didn't capsize, but came close a couple of times as we steered through the rapids!
Where the water was deep, we were allowed to swim through, but floating on our backs, with feet up/forward. Lots of fun, but lots of water up the nose.
For the last rapid, I hung from the front of the boat, which was very gnarly indeed!
P1030495.jpg

Mantanani Island

This is the tropical island that you see on ads. Crystal clear blue water, white sandy beaches, (literally) no-one around.
I took a speedboat over with new pals from the hotel, Darren and Xui and we stayed at Mari Mari resort.
Basically 6 elevated huts and a mess/hall restaurant - r i g h t o n t h e b e a c h!

The dive centre servicing the areas, is a huge facility built on stilts out in the ocean. Absolutely fantastic
Did 3 dives at various sites, with visibility of (and I'm not kidding) 40 metres plus.
Saw turtles, barracuda, black tip sharks, nudie brands, everything. Super duper!
Mantanani.jpg

Mt Kinabalu

This was H A R D yakka!
Xui and I were driving to the Mountain by the owner of Masada where we met our guide for the journey!
The first part of the trek is 6 kilometers of pretty grueling trekking on (at times) very steep gradient)
The scenery was so very lush and nice, though it can be hard to focus on such beauty as you dig deep to press on.
I have to say the vibe amongst trekkers was really positive and fun, which helped a lot!
On the way up, you meet hikers on their way down, giving very mixed accounts of what to expect!
At the 6km point we reached our stopping point for food, shower, and rest - before the big part.

There is no hot water at the lodge, and with temps down to about 16 degrees, the cold shower was tough, but invigorating.
My trainer at home reckons cold water is just as good, if not better for the muscles to recover - and indeed it helped.
A quick dinner (nice food) and then straight to bed (a little narc'd on altitude too - whoop).

At 1:50am we rose again for a quick brekkie and straight on to conquering the peak of Mt Kinabalu.
The last 2.5kms of the trek are the toughest.
Much of the finale requires you to pull yourself up via ropes, and it you are at all squeamish about heights, then it may be a bit scary.

In the final 200 metres, you start humming to Rocky soundtrack (doo-doo dooooooo!) and get to the peak. Amazing!!!!
So cold (-1 Celsius), but so worth it.
As dawn breaks over the mountain, you become in total awe of nature - it's enormity, beauty and power.
Definitely a life highlight.

At the top:
Kinabalu_top.jpg

On the way down:
Kinabalu_morning.jpg

Climbing down was definitely harder than going up - the legs are exhausted and you kinda slump your way down.
AT the end my calves were pretty destroyed, though proud of themselves too :-)

Kinabatangan River

This is the Borneo that you hear about: wild oran-utans playing on the banks of the river (we saw plenty), promiscus monkeys, playing in the tree tops, bats, giant lizards, etc.
I stayed at Billit Kinabangan - and was the only guest - so I got a private boat tour, and night explore/hike. Was truly spectacular!
Froggy having some chill time:
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Dramatic Kinabatangan at dawn:
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Diving: Mabul, Sipadan, Kapali

This also falls into the 'life highlight" category!!
I had to take the bus down to Semporna (Lonely Planet describes this town as "no great shakes" - a total understatement), and then meet my group for the speedboat across to Seaventures Dive Resort; a converted oil rig which is like divers heaven - right in the middle of some of the best dives sites in the world (and Jacques Cousteu's absolute favourite).
I stayed for 3 nights, where we did 3 dives at Sipadan, 2 at Mabul and 1 and Kapali. All sites are amazing in their own right, but Sipadan takes the cake. Malaysian Government mandates the folks need a permit for Sipadan, and rations are low. This means that it isn't crowded when you are lucky enough to get in.
Truly spectacular.
The food, organisation, accommodation and service on Seaventures is outstanding too. I'll never forget the experience!

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Photos
Feel free to check out all my photos from Sabah.
(Note: they are Facebook links, however you don't need to have a Facebook account or be my FB friend to access)

Sabah Gallery 1
Sabah Gallery 2

Posted by SkinnyFists 05:08 Archived in Malaysia Tagged food diving wildlife jungles mountain_climbing oran_utans Comments (0)