My dear friend Clement from Singapore came to visit me in Kuala Lumpur during my first weekend here in Southeast Asia. I met Clement while studying at Ewha Women’s University in Seoul, South Korea. Although the university is a women’s university, their well-known international student program is co-ed, which generated a group of over 480 men and women from all over the world. Clement and I became wonderful friends while in South Korea, and since we left Korea in December 2009, we have remained dedicated pen pals, skype buddies and most importantly, friends. Therefore, it was definitely an added bonus to hear that I would be doing my Fulbright Scholarship in Malaysia, his neighboring country.
Clement arrived later in the evening on what was my first Friday night in Southeast Asia. After he met me in KL, I knew immediately that I wanted to go get Korean food to catch up and enjoy one of our favorite cuisines! So, we jumped in a cab and set out for Korea Town, Kuala Lumpur. It was fun to be amongst Korean writing again and familiar signs I once saw regularly in Korea. We enjoyed fantastic Korean BBQ that had fresh, familiar flavor! I think I need to get Korean food at least once more before I leave Kuala Lumpur.
|Buddy Bears in Pavilion Plaza|
On Saturday, after I ran around the city doing the Fulbright scavenger hunt, Clement and I met by the “buddy bear” exhibit. The buddy bears are close to where I am staying and right in front of the upscale Pavilion Mall. There are hundreds of bear statues that are painted with a vast array of pictures, symbols and colors. Every bear represents a country and it symbolizes all countries coming together to create beauty and peace. The street of bears is a temporary exhibit that attracts people from all over the world posing for photos in front of the bears they connect with the most. Clement and I definitely posed with the Korea Bear, USA Bear (which is a bear Statue of Liberty) and the Singapore bear. Sadly, the pictures of us by our favorite bears did not download off my computer correctly and have been lost in translation.
|Statue of Liberty Bear|
After looking at the bears we set off for Chinese food. Clement would not just let us have any Chinese food. He wanted it to be good stuff, since his family is Chinese and he knows good Chinese food. We finally found a restaurant that he thought could most likely live up to his standards of real Chinese food. He was right! It was the best sweet and sour chicken I have ever had in my life, full of rich sauce and the perfect crunch. With the chicken we had some leafy dish with prawns of some sort (I have no idea what it was) and a fried egg dish that was so satisfying, with a Carlsburg Beer to complement it. The ladies that waited on us were so nice as well, and for some reason were fascinated by me. I still am not entirely sure what it was. Many of us Westerners here have people staring at us, and although it can be a bit blush-provoking, uncomfortable and unsettling, I guess you just have to get used to it.
With yummy food in our bellies, we went and saw a Chinese New Year Dragon Dance Performance that was truly impressive. We sat on the stair steps of the Pavilion with hundreds of other people while young men created a fascinating dance with a dragon float –like balloon. Together, the men synchronized their movements to relay a sort of beautiful, fluid motion for the dragon. The Pavilion was filled with “Ooohhs” and “Ahhs” as they created a lovely dance filled with bright yellow and red colors.
From there we grabbed the KL monorail to head to the KL Menara, which is the tall overlook tower in Kuala Lumpur. I feel as though every city has their “tourist, skyline tower.” For instance, I have seen the Eifel Tower in France, London Eye in London, Toronto Tower in Toronto, Seoul Tower in Seoul, Tokyo Tower in Tokyo and of course the Sears Tower, so I had to see this one. I understand that many people do not like to pay money to go to the top of a structure to simply see a view, but I just feel, “I’m here right now. Why not?” Of course I want to see the top of the KL Menara!
|Our firework picture|
Clement and I were so busy talking that we got on the monorail that was going the opposite direction, which of course put us behind a little bit time-wise. By the time we made it to the ticket booth for the tower, it had closed nine minutes earlier. But, there is no raining on our parade. We took some posed pictures in front of a large picture of fireworks and the skyline we could have seen. Although we did not get to the top, we sat at some available tables on the deck and overlooked the Petronas Towers. We ended the night with some drinks at a nice bar with outdoor tables before we wandered inside to see a lady sing popular American songs with a crowd of Australians. It is moments like those when I have to pinch myself and remind myself that I am in a foreign country. To add, while we were walking back that night, we saw a group of five men jamming out on the corner to Eric Clapton.
|Men jamming out to Eric Clapton|
Sunday I had my first non-Asian meal in Kuala Lumpur. I suppose I gave in a little earlier than expected. I mean it had only been five days in Kuala Lumpur at that point. However, I justify it by reminding myself that at least I have the option now, because in just over a week, I will not have any Western food at all. So, I have ten months to enjoy Asian food, and therefore, I gave in to Italian soup at a little Italian place at the Pavilion. (Like I’ve said before, Kuala Lumpur is not the Malaysia I will be experiencing in a short time) And, for the record, I savored every bite of that soup. Surprisingly, or not surprisingly, vegetables are extremely hard to come by here. It is mainly fruits and very sweet things. I could use some vegetables in my life, but this soup certainly curved that craving. And, it came with a side of garlic bread!
From there, Clement and I wandered to the crowded fruit stands located a block from Bukit Bintang. He thought it was important that I experience some new fruits. In Korea, he always introduced me to new foods as well, such as bananas. I never ate bananas before I met Clement. So, here in Kuala Lumpur, he introduced me to mangostines, which are redish, purple fruits in roughly a shape of a circle. To open them, you place them on the table on their sides, place your palm on them and gently apply pressure. It slightly cracks it open and inside is a white ball, which is the part you eat. The first one I opened on by myself ended up exploding, because I throw my entire arm strength into applying pressure. It ended up splattering, dripping and being destroyed. Lesson learned: Less is more in this case. The fruit is so immensely sweet, and I am pretty sure we sat at the plastic table at the fruit stand eating them for at least 20 minutes. Right next to us was a huge cart of hundreds of durians, and I kept eyeing them up.
“I really want to try them Clement!” I exclaimed.
Clement has always been keen on me trying new foods and new things, so I was surprised that he adamantly discouraged it. “I like durians Rach, and I want you to like them too. But, these are not the durians to try. You need to try them when they are at least at season and when you are in Singapore. I do not want you to try them here and hate them and then not try them when they are actually in season.”
The curiosity was killing me as the big plastic table next to us had a Chinese family digging their teeth in the mushy fruit and making yummy sounds. Although the smell was distinct, I just wanted to experience it myself. However, I trusted Clements judgment and we agreed that I would try them in Singapore. Until then, the curiosity is going to kill me. I may just give in and get one, but I will keep you all posted on my durian status.
Two o’clock on Sunday came quickly and with that Clement headed back to the airport to catch his flight. Afterall, he had work that night. It was such a fun weekend, and it was so heartwarming to see such a familiar face in such a new place. Thanks for the visit Clem!