Click for Kuala Lumpur Pictures & Movies
Malaysia History - Please read this
this Wikipedia entry.
Flag History - It may seem like the Malaysian flag is a dead ringer for the flag of the United States of America. However, according to
this Wikipedia entry, "Though it's design is similar to the British East India Company and of the flag of the United States, no substantive connection to either flag has been established."
- There are several types of shopping in KL;
- Real - Go to the local department stores like Isetan and Parksons. They have well made name brand goods at reasonable prices and you can barter (though it may feel strange to do so).
- Malls - At the beautiful Petronas towers mall (Suria) move to the very upper 2 floors to shop and eat - the lower floors are too trendy and expensive. At the far end of the third level is a series of Malaysian shops which are nice. The store Arch has some inexpensive but nice souviner wood cuts which make good gifts. On the far end of the top floor is very good local food for cheap. There is a grocery store (Cold Storage) in the basement for international comfort food.
- Surreal - At the largest malls (like Petronas), there are many stores that have all the super brands like Cartier, Gucci, Rolex, etc. But things are very expensive and most things are cheaper in the US. Steer clear!
- Unreal - For the black market stuff (Cartier, Gucci, Rolex, etc), you have to go to the stalls such as in Little India or (especially) China Town. Little India (open Saturdays only) is the better of the two for prices (IMHO). Bartering Hint: Offer 50% of what the shop owner quotes. Be willing to walk away as there is always another shop just down the block with the exaxt same merchandise. If the hawker calls you back, you are more likely to get a good deal. Watch for the "you are my first customer!" ploy. Stick to your guns!
- Touristy but good - Central Market is definately touristy but has some good quality items such as wood carvings, butterflies, clothing, etc. The upper floor is best. Remember to barter.
- Local - Where do the locals go? Little India! Saturdays only. There must be 10 blocks or more of tightly packed stalls. If you find yourself at the commercial "Casbar" area, keep walking for better deals and more local color. If you can't see the stalls for the crowds, you're in the right spot. Very few non-locals seem to shop here. Go early to avoid the crowds. You might not want to try the food but take lots of pictures.
- Electronics - There is only one place to go. Low Yat (pronounced La-oh Yat) Plaza! Tough to find (because it is off an alley) but impossible to beat. Eight floors of electronics! One full floor of cell phone vendors (unlocked)! One full floor of camera vendors! The rest is all computers! Wow! Get yourself out away from the center of each floor for the best deals. There are two "super" computer stores (All IT Hypermarket, Thunder Match Technology) on the top and next to top floor. A hard to find, but tough to beat, store is Sri Computers. You may find that assembled goods (i.e. laptops) are expensive as compared to components like hard drives and memory, which are cheap. Name brand items are definately more expensive. You are unlikely to be directly approached to buy bootleg software and videos in this mall - for that kind of stuff find your way to the nearby Imbi Plaza. For lunch there are many small hawker stands to the north of Low Yat or go across Jalan Imbi to Times Square.
- Jay Walking as an Art Form - Within KL, I estimate that 50% of all people crossing the street don't do it at cross walks (otherwise known as Jay Walking - Is there a Malay term?). I also became quite adept at doing it also. I think there are a few reasons. The traffic lights are looooong so people get impatient. No one wants to wait. There are long stretches of road between lights and "I need to get across". They like to live dangerously.
- Saving Face - This is a key "Asian" trait that I was told about but it took a while before I encountered it. At first encounter you probably don't notice it for what it is because it is underneath people trying to please. Here is a simple example: I was in the large Suria (mall) KLCC at Petronas Towers and was searching for a small store which sold Malaysian crafts. I went to the help desk, described the store, and was politely told that the store had closed. At this point I had been in country long enough that I knew that she was saving face. I knew that the store was in here somewhere (I had just been there). She just didn't want to admit she didn't know (to save face) and/or she didn't want to embarass me (and my loosing face) to tell me I didn't describe it well enough. So the out was her saying that the store had closed and, in essense, that it was someone else's fault. This rears its head at work by people saying everything is fine, fine, fine and then BAM things are terrible. No one wants to admit there is a problem - hoping that it will just go away or fix itself. If something smelled wrong to me, I would ask questions over and over again (in different ways) to root out problems. To help this along I told my staff that it was OK to tell me bad things, that I can't fix issues if I don't know about them and that don't worry about my feelings. What I didn't do was yell.
- Petty Crime - I never had a scary moment in KL but I did loose a few things along the way. The hotel (need link) was perfect, nothing disappeared. But at work I kept loosing my stapler at night, I think three total. You just had to remember to put things away in a drawer.
- Bartering - Americans tend not to be very good at this, while for the locals this is part of day to day life. I have seen people bartering not just in hawker stands but in department stores. Non-locals are often offered 2x-3x what the locals are offered. Here is what I found works.
If you are non-Malay/Indian/Chinese they won't haggle very low. Keep it light. But things are inexpensive so it isn't too bad to give a few extra ringgit. At one point I realized I was haggling over $0.50. If he shows you his payment book and says "you are my first sale of the day" (considered good luck) then barter some more. Remember, there is always someone else with the same stuff down the line a piece.
- Look kind of interested at something. Get approached by the hawker.
- Get an offer, seem disinterested and walk away. If they come after you, they are hungary.
- Make a 50% offer. The hawker will be offended. Walk away again.
- If they come after you again, make your last offer.
- Government Comments - [future]
Places to go...
- Batu Caves - A great hindu shrine. Free. Opens at 6AM. Get there before 7AM on Saturday to mingle with the locals as the shrines are opened for the day, take pictures with the great morning light and avoid the tourists which start to show up around 10AM. The vendors selling offerings of flowers and milk was fascinating. The caves themselves are less interesting than the shrines at the base of the steps (which you MUST climb). Be sure to leave an offering tip to support one of the shrines. There is usually some small token to take when you do so. It may look like a sugar cube but it is camphor to burn as an offering...so don't eat it. Watch out for those monkeys!
- Little India - Great shopping with the locals with blocks and blocks of outdoor vendors.
- Central Market - Pink art deco on the outside, interesting stuff on the inside. The second floor is best. A good gift to buy here is a mounted butterfly, scarfs or wraps.
- Chinatown (Petaling Street) - OK but too touresty for me. High prices.
- Bird Park - Largest outdoor bird park in Asia. Great assortment of colorful birds. Be sure to see the show (no movies can be taken - I got yelled at). The peacocks are everywhere and not camera shy.
- National Zoo (Zoo Negara) - Feed the elephants!
- Low Yat Plaza - All the electronics you could possibly want. The nearby IMBI Plaza is also "interesting" where you might get offered some black market videos and software.
- Menara KL - Much better view of KL than Petronas Tower's sky bridge.
- Rum Jungle - Good watering hole. Try the chicken satay.
- Monorail - Nice way to see the central city. Unfortunately, it doesn't run in a loop, so you have to get off at one end and pay again to go back to your starting point (but it's cheap). Hint: wait for a train in which you can stand right at the front window for the best view.
The use of "Lah" - Soon after I arrived in Malaysia I noticed that the locals often ended their sentences with "lah". For example, "The work is proceeding nicely-lah". No one has a perfect answer why this is but it seems everyone on the Malay peninsula (including Singaporeans) uses the phrase in both English and Malay conversations (and in Chinese for all I know).
Here is a newspaper cartoon that uses "Lah".
Read more about this interesting and endearing colloquialism
here and here.
- Some of the interesting Malaysian words that I have figured out.
Click here for the answers. Hint: Malaysia has incorporated many British English words.
- Really Easy
- Medium Hard
- Lif - This is a double translation from Malay > British English > American
- Syiling - Another double translation
- Bas, Basi - Think transportation
- Jeti - Just like it sounds, think marine
- Lori - Another double translation
- Malaysian Words that I have picked up
- Jalan means "Way" and is used with the name of a street. I have also see it used for "Go".
- Menara means tower
- Wisma means building
- Suria means (shopping) mall
- Workplace Words
- Ding-Dong is the same as ping-pong (which is a US trade name for table tennis)
- Double-Confirm is the same as double-check
- Malaysian Salutations
- High Ranking Officials (in order of rank top to bottom)
- Tun Sri
- Datuk Sri
- Common Folk
- Enrik (En) means Mr
- Pn means Mrs
- Che means Miss