I’ve never seen such a multi-cultural city. In Kuala Lumpur (and presumably the rest of Malaysia) is a heterogeneous mix of Malay Muslim, Chinese Buddhist, and Indian Hindi. There’s temples and places of worship all over the place, but people don’t seem to be very strict adherents (through my untrained observation). Skin color, dress, and food is different and recognizable.
Buddhist Temple. Old style with contemporary building techniques, so mostly concrete here.
A very tangible upshot of this is the food. There are often Indian, Chinese and Malay restaurants all on the same street. KL’ers don’t tend to cook and fantastic meals are inexpensive even for locals ($1-$5 with drink). Meals are once again social, as the places to eat are ubiquitous and inexpensive. I think this would be the only positive aspect of bicycling in this country, though. Traffic is crazy as usual and the weather would be oppressively hot if you’re cranking up any kind of hill. I met a pair of German cyclists and through their stories and experiences I feel that cycling in this area is not for me. Not being able to sleep at night because it’s hot, humid and no breeze? No privacy for wild camping anywhere? No thanks.
Roti Canai, a light meal
I took a trip to the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM), an academic/tourist campus on the edge of the rainforest. There’s a few awesome hikes, complete with waterfalls. The humidity is so high I was dripping just walking up a hill so I took an impromptu bath in a waterfall basin.
I’m a hit with high school girls in the rainforest
Weird rainforest canopy
On site, there are two great replicas of traditional Malay homes. The construction is fairly simple (as expected) with the key points of using thin wood wall exterior, the main floor raised on stilts, large attic ventilation, organic or clay tile roofing and many wooden windows to open. Interesting that most of the buildings constructed now are concrete, which seems to be the exact opposite design that their ancestors used. One of the buildings was made without nails, though it’s not as interesting as it sounds as they just add a bunch of wooden pegs in the same way a nail would be used in contemporary housing. Unfortunately, the kitchen and another outbuilding were not reconstructed (in too bad of repair as the sign said), so I don’t have any insight into the cooking technique except that it was in an outbuilding which makes sense to me.
Traditional Malay house
After the rainforest adventure, I met up with Eric on couchsurfing. He’s a pretty amazing man – a retired realestate manager who is running a Live-Work-Travel-Learn-Play collaborative housing project out of his spare condo. The longer I’m here, the more I believe in the project and I’m glad I can participate as a prototype member and help out wherever I can. Check it out at SOHO Land Collaborative. Here’s a picture of our work environment, which I’m sharing with an Algerian web developer and entrepreneur (Eric is in front)
SOHO Land (Small Office, Home Office)