Tuesday, January 12, 2010

MEGAPOST - Christmas in Kuala Lumpur

This is a MEGAPOST, meaning it will be curiously long. The subject of this MEGAPOST will be the details of my Christmas trip to Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia.This post is about my four days in Kuala Lumpur. I arrived in KL on Christmas eve, after spending my New Zealand birthday in Auckland and my Canadian birthday (a day later) in transit on a plane and in Hong Kong. My experience in Malaysia for the next four days was one of extravagance, of food and of comfort. I was staying with my friend Karen's family, and they made sure I was well taken care of.

I was really glad that I got to spend Christmas with a family. My sister recently got engaged and I was pretty choked up that I would miss Christmas. My family was funny enough to send me pictures of their Christmas (holding up the gifts I had sent home from New Zealand!) so that was a nice touch. In any case, during my time in KL, I did a lot of touristy things but also a lot of local things, since I had the benefit of my local tour guides. Most importantly, I ate TONS of local food.

First day, first thing we do, after dropping off my bags, is to eat, of course. If I was going to eat everything I could I'd have to start early in order to get all the meals I possibly could! We went to a Mamak place, which is an Indian-Malay (and Muslim) open-air street side restaurant, where we had...
ROTI TISU!!! Roti is a type of flat bread common to India and many places in the subcontinent. My friend Carrie had told me to try Roti Canai (there's lots of different kinds of roti), but this Roti Tisu was very different. It was really thin and covered in sugar so when you ate it it was like eating cotton candy kind of. It was so big that it took up three plates! As you can see, I was so excited to be in SE Asia that I was rocking the Asian poses already.

Later that day we went to have char kway teow (it doesn't spell well in English), which was a lot like the fried rice noodles you get at dim sum, except spicier and with more stuff mixed in. In that same meal, we had ABC, a Malaysian desert that is shaved ice with jellies and other stuff on top. It's also called an Ais Kacang. I was obviously so engaged in eating during this meal that I forgot to take pictures.

Later that night, I went out with Karen's family to this fancy Chinese restaurant for dinner. It was quite delicious, I remember having spicy crab claws and some good egg drop soup. After that, we went out to Putrajaya I think. Wherever we were, we were at the place where all the government buildings were and the architecture and bridges were very modern and neat to look at. There was also this huge building I thought was a mosque, but was actually a HALL OF JUSTICE (the Supreme Court).
We also went to this HUGE mosque that had this huge square in front where tons of people brought their families who were just chilling out, playing games and stuff. It kind of reminded me of St. Peter's square in Vatican City (not that I've been, I've just seen Angels and Demons).

The next day, that would be Christmas, Karen, her high school friend Guoyi, and I went to Malacca (in Malay: Melaka), a historic town with shops and food southeast of KL. We had an early start, to avoid the holiday traffic. Our first stop was this historic church on a hill and the remnants of a fort:
Rocking the asian pose once again, I learned that Malacca was once a trade mecca during the early colonization of SE Asia, having been controlled by the Portuguese, the Dutch and then the British, before being surpassed by other trade centres like Singapore.

The city was very historic and it was a lovely day for walking around.

Of course, we stopped off for Hainanese chicken rice. I'm glad I was with some locals because I would've gone here!:
They had a big chicken out front and everything!

So we went here, which was a much better choice:
There wasn't even a menu. The options were more than half a chicken or less than half a chicken. Oh! And the rice comes in these little riceballs rather than in a bowl. Only in Malacca!

The last thing I remember eating in Malacca was cendol and deep-fried banana. After all of our walking, it was nice and refreshing to sit and chill a little bit. Cendol is kind of like Ice Kachang (it's also shaved ice with assorted jellies), but it tastes a bit different.

That night, Guoyi and I joined Karen and her extended family at this fancy seafood place. It had tons of fresh seafood, so fresh in fact that you could pick the exact one you want to eat. This particular crab was trying to get out:
It was pretty awesome. Such good food that night, though. We had spicy malaysian crab, a delicious steamed fish, some delectable prawns and even some japanese escargot! See what I mean about being well taken care of?

The next morning, we went to Mamak again for breakfast. This time, we had the always ubiquitous and much praised roti canai.
Definitely sedap ("sedap" means delicious in Malay). The sauces are, from left to right: dal (a type of lentil curry, non-spicy), sambal (a sweet and spicy sauce that is typical of Malay food), and a spicier dal.

Then for lunch that day we went to have bak kut teh (in chinese it's yook gwut cha, or meat bone tea). This, like most of the things here, was also delicious! The meat was tender, and it came with this cool sauce on the side a mixture of soy sauce with red chilis inside. It was really spicy and really complimented the bak kut teh well.
Oops! It was so delicious that I only took an 'after' photo!

After that we went to Sunway Pyramid, a mall nearby. There were SO many people skating! I tried to convince my friends to go, but they weren't up for it!

That night Karen's family had a housewarming party for their new house. There I had some authentic Malaysian satay!

The next day was a Sunday, so we went to Guoyi's church in the morning. Afterward, we went and had rojak, a vegetable and fruit salad dish. It was like fruits and vegetables covered in this interesting curry-ish sauce. It also had crunchy things in it and we had squid (sotong in Malay) in ours.
It was, uh, interesting. I think it was one of the first things I didn't immediately love. I could see having a craving for it on a certain type of day, but it definitely wouldn't be my first choice.

At that meal we also had coconut drink. They took a coconut, cut it up, took some meat out, and drained it into a rather large cup for us. I have to say, I thought coconut would be much sweeter. By itself it tastes just kind of like slightly sweet water.

That afternoon, I realized that I had to start booking flights and organizing the next phase of my trip (Karen was going back to Waterloo soon), so we did one more touristy thing: visit the Petronas towers.
Unfortunately I wasn't able to go up, but we spent a lot of time at the base and enjoying the gardens and attractions they have there. I'm going back a week and a half, so hopefully I'll be able to see it again!
So that's it! a jam-packed four days in Kuala Lumpur with tons and tons of local delicacies. I'm so thankful for Karen and Guoyi, without them I would have been utterly lost and definitely would not have experienced as much, and for the gracious hospitality of Karen's parents and her nanny. To spend Christmas in a hostel would have been pretty sad, but in KL I got to have dinner with a family who welcomed me in!


  1. damn seems like a great time...i miss asian food, how would you think kl/singapore fare against hong kong in terms of development and infrastructure?

  2. That was a pretty good post Jeff. How much weight did you gain? :)

  3. rosa: haha well look at my on the last day i look pretty much the same!
    victor: i think it's definitely comparable. often times i felt in KL that I was in HK, except there was more jungle haha.