Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Midweek Musical Muse XVI: Handle With Care

Happy belated birthday George!

Here then the heartwarming adventures of Nelson, Otis, Lucky, Lefty and Charlie Wilbury…

“ essential pioneering rockstar, a visionary poet, a peace inspiring enigma, a pure americana artist, and a living vocal icon.... did they even have to try?”

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tempel van die Draak in Vrede

Die ongetwyfelde hoogtepunt van my dag in Kyoto was my besoek aan die tuine van die Tempel van die Draak in Vrede, Ryoan-ji tempel. Ek het reeds geskryf oor Ryoan-ji se wêreld bekende rots-en-gruis tuin, maar die tempel het ook ‘n enorme konvensionele tuin. Ek wil amper sê ‘n tipiese Japanese tuin.  

Alhoewel ek gekom het vir die herfskleure en dit gereën het het ek nie baie omgegee oor die reën nie want Japanese tempel tuine lyk soms beter as dit nat is. Die lagie reënwater wat soos verpakkingsplastiek om die rotse geklou het en glinsterend op die oog vertoon het en die bewolkte lug het bygedra tot die skepping van ‘n atmosfeer van somberheid en statigheid. Groen was groener and bruin was bruiner. Vallende reëndruppels vanaf blare en takke het ‘n amperse musiekale agtergrond verskaf vir die wandeling deur die tuin en om die dam. Maar beskrywende woorde is nie regtig nodig nie. Ek sal die fotos die praatwerk laat doen.

Kyoyochi Dam wat in die 12de eeu geskep is as ‘n watertuin. Soms dink ek tyd staan stil in tempels. 

'n Bruggie wat toegang gee tot een van die twee eilande in die dam. Die bruggie lei na die grootste van die eilande waar 'n heilige plek (shrine) is wat Benzaiten vereer. Benzaiten is die enigste vroulike godin onder die groep van sewe gelukbringende Shinto gode van Japan.  

Herfskleure op hul mooiste.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Rickshaw Ride to Bamboo Avenue

At the Togetsukyo Bridge

A photo journal of my maiden voyage (pun intended due to the rain) in a rickshaw in Kyoto in black & white...and a little color.

In the "taxi stand" they clean, polish and maintain their riskshaws. 

The "human-horse gallops" across the bridge

The rickshaw, which originates from Japan, was invented in 1869. The name is an alteration of jinrikisha, the Japanese name, which literally translate to "man-powered carriage". I got to know it as a riksja, the Afrikaans for rickshaw that was brought from India to South Africa, where they were pulled by Zulus and mostly used in the city of Durban. Today hand-drawn rickshaws serve mainly as tourist attractions in many cities.

Down Main Street

And up steep hilly, narrow alleys where they sell ice cream, raincoats and umbrellas

Until you get to a bamboo grove, generally known as Bamboo Avenue 
The cemetery at the top of a curved road 

Walking back to Main Street in the rain

Thursday, February 16, 2012


The bloated Kyoto sky was bleeding rain profusely. All week the weather was excellent, but came Saturday… It poured when I was picked up at my hotel in the morning and only stopped by late afternoon as I arrived at the train station for a ride to Osaka and dinner with friends and thereafter to Itami City for my early morning departure.  On this strictly business and not-at-all-reluctant gourmet food visit to Japan, Kyoto was planned to be the highlight. For days if not weeks I have been looking forward to the one free day and to sunshine. I don’t mind the cold, but rain?

I have been to Kyoto on previous occasions and I will come back again and again. I love this city. It’s the kind of city one can never tire of. It’s a great city, like Rome, for walking. You select an area and you can be visually entertained for hours on end. With 1600 temples and 400 shrines and hundreds of gardens it is an unexhausted indulgence for lovers of architecture, horticulture and the cultural history of Japan. It has it all. It is to be expected if one considers that Kyoto or Heian-kyo as it was previously known was the seat of the emperor and capital of Japan for a 1000 years. And the meaning of Heian-kyo, “tranquility and peace capital” is still so appropriate for modern day Kyoto. I have been to the northwestern hills with Ninna-ji, Ruoan-ji and Kinkaku-ji temples in close proximity. I have been to the eastern area with its Murayama Park and the Higashiyama District, old Kyoto, with its steep hilly, stone-paved streets, narrow lanes, wooden buildings and hundreds of little shops aimed at modern day tourists and ancient pilgrims alike, to the impressive Kiyomizudera Temple and its breathtaking views over Kyoto, and the nearby Yasaka Shrine.

"For whom the bells toll"

This time I came to Kyoto for the autumn colors. Just like the New England region in America is famous for its autumn colors, Kyoto receives thousands of tourists during November. I couldn’t even find a hotel room over the Internet and had to ask a colleague to book me one at one of several hotels on our company’s retainer list. But the tree covered hills that were supposed to be drenched in red, yellow and orange flecks against a dark green canvas of trees were misty and grey and depressing and left me with an image of running mascara on the face of a beautiful girl. I did not want the rock star look. I wanted sunshine. Moreover I wanted light for photography. I wanted to capture the essence of tranquility exhaled by so many temple gardens in a happy shiny light. But I got droopy skies. I got wet jeans and soaked shoes that went swish swish when I walked. But I got lucky. I was alive and well and in Kyoto. It was Saturday. Ticket and hotel and food were paid for. Colleagues were carting me around on their precious time and expensive petrol. What more could I asked for! I was appreciative of their hospitality and their generosity. How truly fortunate I was. I was in Kyoto.


Tourists on the Togetsukyo Bridge which spans the Hozu River

We started off our morning in the Arashiyama area on the western side of Kyoto with a walk over the Togetsukyo Bridge which spans the Hozu River. This was supposed to be one of the best locations for viewing the western hills. It was quickly evident that autumn colors and thousands tourists have arrived in Kyoto. The tourists were semi-visible under a canopy of umbrellas, but the low misty clouds transformed the bright leaves to ghostly crayon splashes behind a shower’s glass wall. While many tourists trudge back across the bridge I was convinced by one of my colleagues to experience a rickshaw ride to a bamboo grove which was our next destination. I have never had a ride in a rickshaw before; Matter of fact, I never would have believed that rickshaws still existed in Japan. I have never associated rickshaws with Japan. Not human-pulled rickshaws in any case. India, yes, but Japan? See my next post about this ride.

Higashi Honganji Temple

But let me first step back a few days. During the week I came from Kusatsu to Kyoto for some market research at the Kyoto-Yodobashi department store in the Kyoto station area and after the completion of the research used the opportunity for a quick traveler’s outing to the Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple near the station.

I love wood and the projection of warmth and history that I associate with wood. Hence, the wish to visit the Higashi Honganji complex. It is one if not the largest wooden temple in Japan and its gate is one of the biggest in Kyoto.  The other interesting historical fact about this temple is its origin. At the beginning of the Edo Period (1603-1868), one of the important historical periods in Japanese history when there was peace after decades of internal shogun wars, the first shogun of this period, Tokugawa Ieyasu, donated land for the building of the temple. His goal was to split the increasingly powerful Pure Land Buddhist faith and to create a Higashi (Eastern) and a Nishi (Western) branch of the faith. The Nishi Honganji temple is only a few blocks away from the Eastern temple. The current building does not date from the seventeen century. Through the years several fires have ravaged areas of Kyoto near the current train station and the temple has been rebuilt on several occasions. The current building dates from 1895. The Goei-do or Founder’s Hall has been restored in recent years and the Amido-do or Amida Hall where the Amida Buddha is enshrined is currently closed for restoration. 

Where I come from they don't build gates like these. Entrance gate to Higashi Honganji temple.

Inside, photography is strictly prohibited, the space is immense.  More than 900 tatami mats cover the floor and the massive wooden posts, my guess about 3 meters in diameter, looked to me like solid trees. It might not be because it was rather dark inside.  The grounds are not as beautiful and tranquil as other temples. Some of it is due to the restoration efforts underway, some of it due to its location in the city center compare to the many Zen Buddhism temples located in vast gardens in the hills surrounding Kyoto. Nevertheless, the woodwork was on enormous scale and the carvings beautiful.

Religions of Japan

 Heian Jingu Shinto shrine “Byakko-ro” (white tiger tower)

Japan has two main religions that have coexisted for hundreds of years and compliments each other well. Shinto is an indigenous, primal spirituality in Japan. The way I understand it, and I profess I am no expert on this or even have a deep understanding of Shinto, it is in some ways related to the spiritualties that originated from the Polynesian islands that are based on experience rather than faith, and the connection between the departed and the living and about warding off of evil spirits.  It is not really a religion as defined by Western society standards. It is more a set of practices and rituals to find harmony between man and its environment. Unlike other major religions which believes in a single God, or follow the teaching of a single person (i.e. Buddhism) Shinto does not have a creator or sanctified scriptures; it does not have holiest places for worshippers like Jerusalem for Christians or Mekka for Islam, or Varanasi for Hindus. It does not focus on right or wrong, rather, it emphasizes on man fitting into this world on a daily basis instead of preparing one for the afterlife. It has existed in Japan long before Buddhism reached Japan from India via China and Korea. Shinto is deeply embedded in the subconscious of Japanese society.  

On the other hand, Buddhism is a religion, largely based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha. It’s a complicated religion with its main goal to purify one’s inner self and ending the cycle of rebirths until one reaches Nirvana. I am making it sound simple, but it is far more complex. For sake of simplicity I will continue to say that Buddhism focus a lot on the afterlife, just like Christianity, while Shinto focus more on this life on earth and finding happiness within it. And that is probably why the two religions have coexisted so well for centuries.

During a visit to Japan it is difficult not to, at some or other time, visit a Buddhist temple (a place to worship in) or a Shinto shrine (a place for safekeeping of sacred objects, not for worshipping.) A better understanding of the purpose and what’s behind the purpose gives me a better insight into the understanding of these buildings. In general the temples are less complicated in design while shrines are more complex in design.

Heian-jingu Shrine
Heian Jingu shrine Oten-mon entrance gate

Heian-jingu is a Shinto shrine that was built in 1895 to commemorate the 1100th anniversary of establishing Kyoto or Heian-kyo as the capital of Japan. The shrine is dedicated to the 50th Emperor Kanmu who founded Kyoto as the capital in 794 and to the 121st Emperor Komei, the last Emperor who stayed in Kyoto before the imperial court moved to Edo, modern day Tokyo. The buildings are intended to be replicas of the Imperial Palace in Kyoto that was destroyed by fire in 1227.  The shrine’s torii (heading picture) is the largest in Japan.

Heian Jingu shrine Daigoku-den Main Hall

Unfortunately it was already late afternoon and I had a train to catch for Osaka so there was no time to visit the gardens at Heian-Jingu, which is described as some of the best in Kyoto. More reason for me to come back someday if I am in the Kyoto region again.

Nijo Castle

Our last stop of the day was at Nijo Castle. Built between 1601 and 1626 by the first shogun of the Edo period, Tokugawa Ieyasu, we stopped at Nijo Castle only for a short while and did not enter the complex. I only took a few photos from the outside.

Gourmet Food

While daytime was all business, evenings was all food. I don’t think I ever had a bad meal in Japan. Whether it was in one of those tiny, hole-in-the-wall restaurant-bars, usually, but not always, close to train stations where they serve flavorful morsels of mackerel or Japanese pizza or dumplings with soya sauce and the proprietor personally comes to the door to see you out and bow you goodbye and thank you for your patronage, or in a classical Japanese restaurant with your table in a private room with sliding walls and a waitress enters the room on her knees and you sit cross leg on tatami mats and get served gourmet tofu or fish in dainty porcelain, or a good old Friday night seafood barbeque where the beer and sake flow by the barrel and the conversation is loud and cheerful, the food always seem to be of the best quality and flavor.

One such dinner was in Kusatsu at the Ume no Hana’, which means “plum flower”. The restaurant specializes in tofu with one excellent course after another. The sake, poured from a bamboo decanter and drank from bamboo glasses was the best I have ever tasted – cold, smooth and utterly "savorable" (my own new contribution to the English language.)

On a Friday evening I was with colleagues at a unique indoor seafood yakiniku, Japanese barbeque, although we also had lamb to grill. What an experience. It was also the evening that I enjoyed, for the first time, a Shabu-shabu, the Japanese version of the Chinese hot pot or Steamboat, shuan yang rou in Chinese, which I wrote about in a previous postabout my visit to Malaysia. Whether I am using the right terms here I am not sure, maybe my Japanese readers can correct me looking at the pictures above, because in Japan slight variations of a dish could have different names. It is possible that we actually started off with a seafood ojiya which turned into a Hokkaido kaisen nabe (rice soup with egg) because they did put rice and egg in the pot at the end after the seafood and vegetables were consumed. Maybe both these terms refer to the same thing. Nevertheless, this is Japanese comfort food and I loved it.

Heading Home

Alas, my stay in the Osaka, Kyoto and Kusatsu area came to an end and early on a crisp Sunday morning I left from Itami Airport for Tokyo.

On the homebound trip, after liftoff from Narita airport in Tokyo and as we made the turn to head out east over the Pacific Ocean I saw this volcanic cone in a haze through the airline’s window. I thought it was one of the volcanoes close to Tokyo, maybe Mt. Asama or Mt. Hakono. But after comparing my photos to photos on the Internet it is my conclusion that it is Japan’s most photographed and revered mountain, Mt. Fuji. Amazing because Tokyo is 100 km / 60 miles from Mt. Fuji and I never would have thought that the small Panasonic DMC-ZS7 camera could take a still picture that far.

My trip to Asia reaffirmed my love for travel, seeing faraway lands, listen to foreign tongues and experience the taste of exotic foods and spices, and I remembered what St. Augustine said: “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” I have always loved books and I love to read.

Somewhere over British Columbia, Canada. Brrrr..

Friday, February 10, 2012

A rainy day at Ryōan-ji Temple’s rock garden

a rainy day at  Ryōan-ji Temple’s rock garden

i sit
on ancient wooden steps
and stare at boulders in the sand
blanking the brain
forgetting the wet socks and cold feet
no shoes allowed
forgetting the glistening streets out there,
the pouring rain
it helps to cleanse the mind
the simplicity of it all
forget for a moment
which will not last long
no doubt
about the world outside the temple’s walls

i look
at more rocks
gravel neatly raked in lines and circles
water ripples in the sand
cast away the thoughts
i look closer
at even smaller rocks
grinded to sand over millennia
the glue to it all
keeping boulders and gravel
and tiny spittle’s of green moss together
as one
a tranquil sandy enclave
no doubt
inside the embrace of the temple’s walls

i listen
to the rain
cascading down
a modern gutter-chain
a single-stream waterfall
rustling over river rocks
to silently flow away
no doubt
to the lake outside the temple’s walls

i hear
but don’t hear
the stir of people
just the sound of my breathing
goes in and out as it always have
no dreams no wishes
no wants no denials
no why’s no when’s
just the calmness of the present
don’t touch
it will burst
the moment
it won’t last
too soon
it will flow away
like the rain
no doubt
to the world outside the temple’s walls

The Zen Buddhism Ryōan-ji Temple is one of many temples and shrines scattered in and around the hills and mountains of Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan. The temple, originally an aristocratic villa was converted to a temple after Japan’s Civil War, the Ōnin War (1467-1477). Situated in park-like surroundings with a large lake and beautiful gardens, it is also the site of Japan’s most famous rock garden. The garden’s creation date and creator are unknown. The meaning of the garden is also unclear. Although there are many suggestions and speculations about the meaning of the garden, no historic facts exist.  It is up to each viewer to find the meaning for him/herself. I have always believed that is how all gardens should be seen.

The rock garden consists of fifteen boulders of different sizes, some of them moss-covered, in a bed of raked gravel. The boulders are placed in such a way, when looking at the garden from any angle only fourteen of the boulders are visible (excluding looking from above.) Tradition maintains that only through attaining enlightenment would one be able to view the fifteenth boulder.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Kuala Lumpur

With only one day available to me to play tourist in Kuala Lumpur or Malaysia and trying to get the best bang for my time-buck I originally thought of taking a 5-hour bus tour from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore at the bottom of the Malay Peninsula and then fly back from Changi airport to the US. But that idea died when colleagues told me these buses are crowed, hot and you don’t actually see that much of the countryside going down south. Also, accidents and traffic jams could lengthen the trip and maybe even result in me missing my connection flight in Singapore. So I stayed in Kuala Lumpur. There I contemplated taking one of those “look-Ma-no-roof” buses you find in most major cities around the world. We have used them on occasion in New York and Rome and in London it saved us a ton of money in transport cost. In Kuala Lumpur, however, these buses are air-conditioned with roofs due to the constant heat and humidity, but comments from fellow travellers on travel related websites strongly suggested that it was a waste of money because the windows are fogged up from the air-con and the difficulty seeing things from an enclosed bus. So I gave it a skip. I was on my own with only my feet doing the walking and KL’s taxi corps doing the driving.

The King of Malaysia's Palace

Although Malaysia is a federal constitutional monarchy, the monarchy is not directly hereditary, but elective. In most monarchies the king or queen comes from a single royal family (Britain, Spain, Sweden, etc.) and in some monarchies the king or future king is elected from within the ruling family (the Saud family of Saudi Arabia elects the Crown Prince and it is not necessarily the eldest son), or by a Council of tribal rulers/local kings/cardinals, etc. (i.e. Cambodia or The Vatican – The Pope is nearly like a king). In Swaziland the royal family elects which one of the king’s wives will be the “indovukazi” (She-Elephant or Queen Mother) and then her son will become the next king. In all these cases the ruler is usually on the throne for life or until an abdication. But Malaysia is unique in the world in that the king or the Yang di-Pertuan Agong as he is called in Malay, is elected for only a five year period by a Council of Rulers, made up from nine hereditary sultans (broadly speaking since one of thise "sultan's" is also elected) who are the rulers in nine of the Malay states.

Malaysia consists of 13 states, 11 on the Malay Peninsula and 2 states on the island of Borneo across the South China Sea. (Borneo in itself is unique in that it is the only island in the world that is governed by 3 different countries (Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.))  9 states are ruled by a sultan or hereditary leader (thus, these are the members of the Council of Rulers) and 4 by appointed governors (appointed by the King.)  These states are loosely based on historical Malay kingdoms or sultanates.

Massive Byanan trees are seen everywhere along the streets of Kuala Lumpur. Even in the city center you sometimes have to walk around these trees. Quite a statement from the city fathers to keep nature within the skyscraper city.

Given its location in Southeast Asia, on trade routes halfway between India and China, and the Strait of Malacca on the Malay peninsula’s west coast being one of the most important waterways in the world it is not surprising that the Malay peninsula and the greater Malay Archipelago saw its fair share of wars, kings, sultans, foreign invaders and European colonization via the Portuguese, the Dutch and the English through the eons of time. Add to that the thousands of islands in the Archipelago and the nature of Southeast Asia’s geography which favors the development of isolated pockets of different civilizations and traditions, and the fact that the peninsula’s west coast was part of the ancient migration path of humans between 30,000 and 50,000 years ago as they settled Asia and Australia from Africa, and that some of those early ancestors are still “around” and represented in Malaysia’s Nigritos (among other the Semang peoples and Sarawak’s indigenous people)  and you have a modern day Malaysia that is truly a melting pot of cultures, traditions, languages and architecture from the Malays, the Chinese, the Tamil Indians, the “Orang Asal” (non-Malay indigenous people), the Siams, the Khmers, the Burmese and of course, Europeans.

So it was against this background of diverse history and influences that I anticipated a day of magnificent cultural discovery at Malaysia’s National Museum. I rose early, refreshed, energized after the previous day’s tiredness, had a sumptuous breakfast in the hotel’s Maya Brasserie restaurant, booked out of my room, stashed my luggage in a store room in the hotel, and hailed my first taxi for the day.

First stop though was at Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown district. Got to do some shopping too! Look for bargains! I guess if you are a big shopper then this is definitely the place to go and look. Their prices on the same merchandise sold at Suria Shopping Mall at the Petronas Towers are far lower and if you haggle hard they are always willing to come down even more in price. Actually they expect you to haggle. But Chinatown was not my main interest of the day and the area was still relative quiet first thing in the morning.

The Chan She Shu Yuen Chinese Temple in Kuala Lumpur

Hundreds of small sculptures decorate the roof and walls of the temple

I exited the shopping area, consulted my map and it was my plan to walk to The Heritage Railway Station to see the architecture and from there to the Museum. They are all sort of in line from Petaling Street and within my walking range, but I never made it. I only got as far as Kasturi Walk and the Central Market.  I realized that the tropical heat and my Northern European/South African genes weren’t compatible. The humidity was killing me. So, lots of liquid, slow casual strolling, ducking in and out of air-conditioned places and taxi hopping was at the order for the rest of the day. The Central Market reminded me lot of the Indian Market that used to be or still is (I don’t know) in lower Cape Town. “Little India.” From there I jumped into a taxi and headed for the museum.

Royal Headgear. A variety of head royal “crowns” in the National Museum. Headgear is very important in Malay culture. It signifies stature in the society. Malayan rulers do not have a crown like many other rulers. The Tengkolok is a replacement of a crown. Bottom left is the current King’s tengkolok and the others belong to Sultans of some of the Malayan States.

Either I expected too much from the museum or the museum simply delivered too little. In the end it was a disappointment from a content aspect, but it was a great way to stay out of the heat. It houses the normal exhibits one finds in natural museums from rock strata to geographical information of the Malay Peninsula and its early peoples from the Stone Age to the Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms to the Muslim Sultanate of Malacca. A large portion of the 2nd ground floor gallery is devoted to the Malacca Sultanate and one can derive from that that this powerful Sultanate played a big role in the forming of modern day Malaysia’s identity and the spread of Islam. The sultanate was established around 1400 AD and at the height of its power it controlled most of the southern Malay Peninsula and most of Sumatra, across the strait. In 1511 European colonization started by the invasion of Malacca by the Portuguese, followed in 1641 by the Dutch and in 1824 by the British.

It was from Malacca and Java that Malayan and Javanese craftsmen and slaves were brought to the Cape of Good Hope by the Dutch. With them they brought bobotie and sosaties, (“satay” is still a traditional food in Malaysia – meat or fish marinated in a curry sauce) and what is more tastier than rich, creamy Cape fish curry made with coconut milk, which is one of the important ingredients in Malayan cuisine.

The 3rd and last gallery of the museum is devoted to the colonial period and the forming of modern Malaysia in the 20th Century. As I mentioned in a previous post about guilt and “affirmative action” on the “previously elite” in South Africa, Malaysia has similar affirmative action laws to favor the Malayan people over the large Chinese and Indian populations of the country. And the lack of historical references to and exhibits of these portions of the population is a major drawback to the museum’s credibility as a showpiece of Malaysia’s history. After all, the Chinese make up about 40% of Kuala Lumpur’s demographics and more than 20% of Malaysia’s population.

   The Royal Throne of Perak

On the Internet travellers warn not to use KL’s notorious meterless taxi’s. They charge an arm and a leg in fees. When I left the museum for my next destination no taxi was readily available and I saw a booth near the museum advertising for taxi services. It was one of those meterless taxi’s, but I negotiated a fixed price of 15 Ringgits, which I though was very fair, and which was less for a longer ride than what I paid in the morning from the hotel to Chinatown. And that was a metered taxi. And it was also far less than what I paid later in the day on another metered taxi for a very short hop from KL Tower to the hotel. Go figure! However, I think I was just lucky to find a drastic driver at a quiet time.                

 Wooden Swing bridge entrance to the cultural center at the Kuala Lumpur Tower

My last tourist stop for the day was the Kuala Lumpur Tower with one of the highest observation decks in the world. On previous travels there was always some or other reason why I never went up on high structures. In Washington DC the line was too long at the George Washington Memorial. In Venice with so much to see we had too little time to ascend St. Mark’s Basilica’s Campanile. In KL I had more than enough time on my hands to take the elevator up the 335 meters in 58 seconds. That’s more than 20 km per hour. Pretty fast for an elevator! My ears even popped going up.

The view from there was spectacular. It was a semi-cloudy day and with KL’s ever present haziness and having to take photographs through a thick glass it prevented crystal clear quality photos, but I could get a beautiful view of the Klang valley, the Titiwangsa Mountains on the eastern horizon, the hill where the Batu Caves is, and the skyscrapers of KL. On the same grounds, the tower is located inside a park, across a wooden swing bridge are replicas of several traditional houses from various Malayan states and regions. It was quite a worthwhile excursion and another example of the diverse architectures and cultures from across the Malay Peninsula.

Traditional houses from various Malayan regions

By 5:00 PM my visit to Malaysia came to an end. It was time for me to go to the hotel, change clothes and go to the airport for a flight to Tokyo and from there to Chicago before the last leg home to Lexington. Notwithstanding the tropical heat and monsoon rain, I thoroughly enjoyed my stays in Shah Alam and Kuala Lumpur. The food is semi-exotic and spicy, the people super friendly and helpful, and the infrastructure and hotels are world-class (hotels are far cheaper and more spacious than in Japan where I was prior to Malaysia.) Although I only visited cities I heard and read only good things about Malaysia’s countryside and other cities like Malacca and traveling is easy and everything is in English. I would have loved to see more of the countryside but I wonder if I could have survived the tropical heat without air-conditioning.
Kuala Lumpur's towers at night.