Friday, September 05, 2008

Malaysia Trip - Saturday August 15, 2008 (actual)

My contact in Malaysia, EH, picked me up at the airport. We ate a quick lunch at Burger King, and then went to the Hotel. One of the churches I will visit had planned to hold a High Tea for me, but I was just too tired. We stopped by Jalan Imbi Chapel to pick up a food basket, and then on to the hotel. I cannot say enough about the hospitality I have received. The people at JIC have been so kind to me, even arranging for a phone card so I can phone my family!

It was late last night before we got the Internet working in my room. I got Yahoo Voice working for making phone calls, and I can receive emails though I can’t send. As a result I will use my Gmail account.

For supper, EH came by at about 7:30pm, and we went to a place for beef and noodles. It was quite good, though my stomach is still sorting itself out! Interestingly enough, because it is a tropical country, the kitchen is outside. Why cook inside and heat the place up? Of course that won’t work in Canada.

My health is good, though I am watching how much I eat and what I eat. I seem to have a weak stomach, and the nerves from travelling don’t help. But I would say my health has been fine.

My first impressions of Malaysia? It’s dynamic, hot, unplanned and a study in contrasts. Malaysia is a very dynamic country. Everything that is available in Canada is available here, including all the well known brands; Starbucks for coffee, Bridgestone for tires, 7-11 for convenience items and American Standard for toilets. KFC is big here, but you can also find McDonalds, Burger King and A&W. The people are really working hard towards building a modern developed nation (and in many ways they already are a modern developed nation). For example, they have a light-rail system in KL, something Ottawa is still struggling to do.

It’s also very hot. I had been warned that the heat would hit me like a wave, but the warnings couldn’t have prepared me. The temperature is only about 31-32 degrees Celsius, but the humidity is about 100%. Incredible. But my hotel room is well air conditioned.

I would also describe Malaysia as “unplanned”. Maybe that’s not the most accurate word, but I can’t think of a better one. For example, the sidewalks are uneven and of different styles in front of every building, although in truth this is less significant because people park on the sidewalks thus forcing pedestrians to fend for their lives among the cars and motor scooters. Everyone just makes their own decision, without central planning. The traffic is incredible, not so much because of the number of cars (which every city has) but because of the motor scooters. They weave in and out of the traffic, on the sidewalks, through red lights and drive on the wrong side of the road. I’m told there are relatively few fatalities because the traffic moves so slowly. At the same time, anything that they want to do well they do well. There are tons of modern buildings, including the Petronas Towers, which are world class in every way.

And Malaysia seems to be a study in contrasts. Most of the Muslim women wear a headscarf, but they also get many tourists from the Gulf and the women only show their eyes. On the other hand, many women dress as they would in any North American city (which isn’t necessarily a good thing). Islam is everywhere, but there are also huge signs advertising Carlsberg beer. A major political issue seems to be whether this country is Islamic enough, or too Islamic. Or maybe I’m not using the right expression when I say that being “too Islamic” is a political question. The role of Islam in the nation is an established fact. But the Chinese and Indian populations wonder if there is enough opportunity for their people. So maybe it’s a racial thing rather than a religious thing. Overall there does seem to be a lot of harmony. Anyway, these are my first impressions.


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