Our Chinese week in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and why the China town of KL is the best place in the world to study Chinese
First, a small general update. I remember that when we were leaving for this trip, every time we were asked how long we were planning to travel for, we would give a vague answer in the style "one year, maybe a little more, or as long as the money lasts"... Well, it turns out money is lasting surprisingly well so far, probably because Asia turned out to be as cheap as we expected it to be, but also because of AirAsia and our doing it wherever and whenever possible "the local way".
So for those of you already preparing a surprise "welcome home" party for us back in Terrassa, don't buy anything with an expiration date closer than half a year, as we "ain't coming back" just yet :-). We have been traveling Asia for over a year now and it might look like we "got stuck" here but that's because there is a time and place for everything in this life and we figured out that there are quite a few things we would like to do while we are still here. As to our original round-the-world itinerary, it's been "re-crafted" multiple times by now but is officially still on. In the next posts (after we have settled some things) we'll tell you more about our next moves, and for the time-being here is a short update regarding what we've been up to in the month of June (July update in the next post).
Directly after Philippines we went to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia in order to apply for a Thai visa and take a "deep breath" after the previous four countries. We ended up spending almost a fortnight in the ever-happy ever-busy China town of KL, doing nothing much but (1) studying Chinese. And to live up to the title of this post, here is why China town of KL is the best place in the world to study Chinese.
You all probably know how when you go abroad and run across your fellow country-men, it always stirs something deep inside your soul, something that makes you remember where you come from and that this place on earth is distinct from any other place? And it doesn't matter how cosmopolitan you are, you might even have a passport of the citizen of the world by then, meeting your countrymen abroad makes you remember where you come from, and in most cases - at least momentarily - feel proud of it. Well, my personal opinion is that this feeling above is the origin of all foreign diasporas around the world. Immigrants of different nationalities, when living abroad, flock together and form communities inside which they feel stronger through that feeling of belonging and ethnic pride. And what does it have to do with learning Chinese in KL? Well, very simple! There is no other place in the world where there exists a Chinese community more vibrant and more proud than in the China town of Kuala Lumpur, and nowhere else would you access more physical attributes of an ethnic community than in this China town. There are all these Chinese book shops, and Chinese souvernir shops, and all sorts of Chinese gourmet shops, and Chinese DVD shops, and Chinese tea shops, and - most importantly - Chinese people who feel so strongly about being Chinese. Have I repeated the word "Chinese" too often in the last sentence? Maybe, but this is simply to reinforce how Chinese it all looks and feels!
So, back to Chinese language study, when you get to this China town, something about the atmosphere of this place makes you feel that you are in that traditional old China that you won't find anymore inside the borders of the People's Republic of China. And if you are already into China and Chinese, it's this atmosphere and this incredible Chinese vibe that will make you wanna study. And it's all those huge bookshops where they sell hundreds of Chinese language courses, dictionaries, DVD's, posters, calligraphy brushes and crispy collections of illustrated books that can help you so much in your studies. To sum up, the China town of KL is a great (in our personal experience - the best) place to do an intensive self-study course of Mandarin Chinese... You have no idea what this huge fuss about Chinese is about? Go visit China :-)
Ok, back to KL. In the meantime we also: (2) got our Thai visa and finally (3) visited the Skybridge of the Petronas Towers.The visa was as non-chalant as it could possibly be (the Thai consulate in KL is really "easy-going") and the visit to Petronas was not as adventurous as it was for Gin and Mac from Entrapment. (But we did enjoy it a lot and it was definitely worth an hour-long queue and getting up at a much earlier time than usual. See some photos below of the view from the Skybridge of what used to be the tallest building in the world in 1999, when Entrapment was filmed).
The two weeks passed really fast and the time came to leave for Thailand. We took an overnight train from KL to Butterworth on the border with Thailand, and then another day-and-a-half train from Butterworth to Bangkok. During this trip we fell in love with the Thai trains (so far these were the most comfortable berths we've ever had) and studied even more Chinese. More on what we've been doing in Thailand in the next post...
A street in KL:
China town, KL, Malaysia:
Chinese claypot noodles and Jordi's favourite noodle stall:
If we were going home after Malaysia, we would be coming back with her:
Despite the fact that China town of KL is awesome, it's not the place to buy fruit cheaply, so we went to get our weekly stock at the Chowkit market:
The Skybridge of Petronas saw a lot of cool action in the "Entrapment" movie:
Waiting to take the train from Butterworth, Malaysia, to Bangkok. These Burmese monks have just arrived from Bangkok to Butterworth: