The Man Who Ate Malaysia…..

Food glorious food – I make no bones about it!  Your waist-line is going to expand significantly while in Malaysia.  The food, with its melting pot of Malay, Chinese and Indian influence is amazing.  This really is a foodie mecca and whatever you try, you know it is going to be great!

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We are very adventurous eaters and in a world of such diversity and culture there is nothing we will not eat and nothing will we not try……okay, with the exception of dog and shark fin! They are definitely out for me.

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Durian!  Durian is a little like the vegemite of Malaysia.  You either love it or you hate it!  It has a pungent odor and you will smell this fruit long before you see it, and you are banned from keeping it in your hotel room (this ban is in effect across Asia).  There is however, for the lover and connoisseur of the Durian, a once a year ‘all-you-can-eat-Durian-buffet’ where you can indulge in as much of the ‘stinkiest fruit on earth’ and not a soul there will criticise nor condemn you for your choices.   I don’t mind Durian and although it has been described as smelling like raw sewage, pig shit and rotten onions it has its place in the fruit world.  Best to eat it outdoors and if you can get past the smell, it isn’t too bad.  I would probably sum it up by saying it is a bit like eating a crème caramel – which oddly tastes a little like vomit – while standing in the filthiest toilet block around.  Durian ice-cream however, is lovely.

The food in Malaysia, and for very good reason, is an irresistible draw-card and the very best way to sample it?   Well that would be at any of the lively, colorful, noisy and busy markets or street food vendors or push carts or roadside stalls or Hawkers stalls.   No snobby waiters, sparkling silverware and fine china for us.  It is street and hawker food all the way.  This sort of eating is cheap and cheerful but it is also where the locals eat so apart from eating some of the best food around you also have the added bonus of a little cultural experience as well.

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When being with the locals in their own communities you will be exposed to wonderful things you would normally not experience.  These are the places you will witness the lovely art of ‘teh tarik’ which simply means ‘pulled tea’. It is tea which is virtually thrown by Mamak men across a distance of up to 3 feet from one cup to another without spilling a single drop.  It is where you will eat the best Nasi Lemak – coconut rice with spicy chilli sambal, chicken rendang topped with half a soft boiled egg and deep fried silvery anchovies – amazing!  And it is where you will see food being prepared with love and respect by some of the nimblest and quickest hands on earth.  It really is theatre just watching these people chop and cook so pull up a stool at a rickety old communal table and enjoy because life is short and sometimes it is the simple things in life which can bring the most pleasure.

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Now there is a little dining etiquette to follow while in Asia (especially in the south east) and most notably when using your hands to eat.  It is simple – wash your hands first and do not eat with your left hand.  If water is being poured for you from a ‘ketor’ (which is a small jug together with a basin), wash the fingers of your right hand.

Here’s your pineapple, how would you like it…..  In lovely Melaka it is almost mandatory to have a pineapple tart.  Very happily, I discovered these dainty little tarts of sticky pineapple jam encased in a crumbly butter rich pastry in KL.  Devine!

Food really is one of the best reasons to venture to this wonderful country and most of it will only cost you a couple of ringgit.

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The beer is always good and cold, the ice coffee’s are amazing, the water is drinkable and the  cocktails….well they are strong enough to set your hair on fire just looking at them.

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You don’t need a silver spoon nor an attitude of pomposity in order to appreciate, enjoy and eat great food.  Food is life and some of the very best food you will ever eat is the simplest and to experience it in the communal warmth and vibrancy of another culture is even better…….xx

A parrot, a grain of rice and a Cemetery on the streets of KL Malaysia…..

Sometimes I just enjoy a little alone time.  It is how I best re-energise. I am a rather solitary person by nature and I never believe that is a bad thing.  Solitude is my sanctuary and I also find it to be the best way for me to relax.  FB on the other hand finds a massage the perfect way (as do many) to unwind.  Personally, I find absolutely nothing luxuriating about a complete stranger running their hands over my naked and oil soaked body!  For me, seeking out something wonderful is my Zen.

At times I like to wander the streets alone and here it KL it was no different.  No plan, deep in thought and very much in love……with this incredibly beautiful country is how I like to while away an hour or ten and it is in these moments of tranquility when I usually stumble across something quite special.

When I left Australian shores, I was given a little guidance (which could have been more of a request) and that was ‘please do not go wandering off alone and do not go down any deserted alleyways’.   Naturally, I ignored my head and that sage advice to follow my heart down an alleyway of sorts – or as I like to refer to it – ‘places your mum would not want you to go’!  

Sometimes the most wonderful experience can be found by accident. A journey can become indifferent when we know the destination but when you are unsure of the path something quite lovely can await and this was one of those times because at the end of this rather cumbersome alley……

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Was this.  A piece of tranquil beauty right in the heart of the city.

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I spent hours here walking around in the heat, occasionally seeking shade and solace under the huge banyans and rain trees which are planted throughout this most peaceful and spiritual of places.  Although the Cemetery is also located in the heart of a bustling and busy KL, I heard no traffic noise.  Skyscrapers tower over the graves like sentinels, silent and ever watchful yet the mix of modern and traditional is respectful and humble.

I stopped and spoke with the workers who tend the sites on a daily basis and they told me this was the oldest Muslim burial ground in KL.  They were interesting and interested and it was great to converse with them in broken language.  Communication should never be a barrier when travelling and sometimes it is not the words but the meaning which becomes most important.  Apart from the workers, I was the only other person there and during our conversation one of the men asked if I was afraid of being there alone.  My reply to him was ‘No, because the dead cannot harm you. The living however, are far more treacherous’.  He nodded and smiled and said ‘These are wise words’.

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Tip:  Always be respectful, do cover your legs (occasionally arms) especially when visiting temples, mosques and other religious places.  And btw, it is easier to use the entrance to the cemetery which is tucked away down off Jalan Ampang (Jalan meaning road or street) than trekking the alleyway and climbing through a small hole in the brick fencing 😉

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And on the streets of KL you can also have your fortune told.  By palmistry, by casting bone, by spiritual vision, by sticks shaken from a bamboo cup, by tea leaves or by a parrot…….. as any sensible and rational woman does!  A dear little bird will muse over a spread of cards then randomly choose.  Your fate is cast and either way your future is about to significantly brighten or darken.

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These are moments of complete whimsy and I am still a little unsure of fate and destiny and the belief by some that everything happens for a reason.  I do struggle at times with this concept as I have always believed we are the captains of our own boats and therefore we steer our passage through life just as we are the only ones to fulfill our happiness dependent on the effort we put forth.  I wonder too if the need to believe in fate and destiny allows some to ride that big heady wave of life and the trust they have in these intangible moments allows for times to be a little easier.  There are some things I do believe in and I believe in them with all my heart.  Those beliefs being that you always need to be kind.  That you need to be brave.  You cannot be helpless either for we are the only ones responsible for our lives.  I believe in integrity and humanity and I will always strive to appreciate everything and all…..and I believe in love.

So what was my fortune.  My fate or destiny if you like.  After much thought and serious contemplation the Tamil said ‘You will live in another country and you will marry and you will have great happiness in your life’!!

I didn’t have the heart to tell him he had got it a little backward and given the prediction I will admit a little skepticism began to creep in.  More than that, I convinced myself that he must say that to all the women because he, in all probability, believes that is the one thing that all women want to hear.  That they will marry, live happily ever-after, the end!

I looked at the Tamil who smiled and wobbled his head in that lovely way some Indian folk do.  He then said ‘It is your destiny, this is true’. I then looked at the little bird for reassurance.  She suddenly appeared much wiser as she cocked her head to one side as if to say ‘You may be cleverly disguised as a responsible and sensible adult but you just put your faith in a bird who frankly gets paid a tiny grain of rice for this gig’!

Perhaps the dreams and wishes that do come true are the ones you do not yet realize.  Those which are hidden, waiting for us to one day seek them out.  Though fortune telling is a little bit of fun, I cannot see myself living anywhere else but Newcastle. I will of course continue to travel and roam but there is a pull that will always see me return here.

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 I have a favorite song.  It is my most loved song of all time and it has lyrics in it which go ‘like a bolt out of the blue, fate steps in and sees you through, when you wish upon a star, your dreams come true’.

Perhaps in some small way I do believe, just a little, in fate because for a moment or two you get to dream and believe there is perhaps something much greater out there which guides you to more.  So rather than being skeptical I should be grateful.  I should be appreciative that my prediction was not ‘You will die alone and be found several days later surrounded by cats very poorly dressed!  You will be the one poorly dressed by the way, not the cats!!’……. xx

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Part I…..

Just as the temperatures dropped in Newcastle and winter sounded its arrival we boarded a flight for a little down time in sultry Malaysia.  There really is nothing like stunningly beautiful skyscrapers, six lane highways, markets of freshly cut pigs heads to durian,  steamy equatorial jungles, elegant colonial buildings and religious beauty to allow you to see how truly fortunate you are to just be…….

At present, it is the very early hours of the morning and I cannot sleep.  I am listening, even 20 stories up, to the traffic and noise of this wonderful city and I am watching the lights of the buildings blink and sparkle.  There is no doubt my insomnia has been fueled by the many iced coffees I have indulged in since being here a mere 24 hours.  I love Asian iced coffee.  There is nothing on earth like the taste of intensely brewed coffee, thick sweetened condensed milk and ice!  It is a rich, bold and wonderful mix and I always tend to over indulge in them when in Asia.  Detox will surely be required once I hit home soil but I regret nothing 🙂

I tend to do a lot when I am travelling.  Life is short and I never want to miss a moment of it (which may also explain my need for little sleep) so I will be posting several blogs about Malaysia while here.  I do love this country.  I have been to many parts of Asia but there is something quite wonderful about the beauty, color and vibrancy of this one city.  KL as it is fondly called, is a place that will bury itself into your veins.  You will see things that will make you heart glad and to be among the kind, happy and beautiful Malay people is a blessing beyond all else.  They really are amongst the most friendly, warm and genial of folk.

Once out of the doors of the hotel, the whole world just opens up to you.  And do get your walking shoes on because that is the only way to truly experience this city and here is a snap-shot of my first few hours in KL:

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A stunningly beautiful and powerful symbol of modern Malaysia is the Petronas Towers.  The steel and glass wrapped twin towers have an Art Deco feel with a lovely Islamic influence.   The unusual design is based on an 8 pointed star, the number 8 being an auspicious number for the Chinese. I see this impressively beautiful  building almost every moment of the day and night and it continues to take my breath away.

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I don’t believe I could ever be happy with a sedentary life because I will always believe that being in wonderful and amazing places such as this will ruin you for the ordinariness of a life…..xx