Seeing our friend Lu was the primary reason for visiting Malaysia; we didn’t know very much about the country itself. Lu described it as “Truly Asia” and after we got there we understood why. Although a predominantly Muslim country, it has a remarkably diverse mixture of East, Southeast, and South Asian ethnicities with British colonial influences — a truly multicultural society. That can only mean good things for the cuisine, which was a wonderful spectrum of Asian-Indian food. I loved that signs advertising “Dried Shredded Meat Toast,” “Fish Head Curry,” and “Preserved Egg Porridge” were as commonplace in Kuala Lumpur as signs for “Steak and Eggs” or “Salad and Pasta” would be in the U.S. I loved the mall food courts that offered a billion different types of Asian food. I loved that being Asian meant blending in with the crowd, not standing out as a foreigner. Not that there weren’t moments I felt awkward or out of place; sometimes I was a little self-conscious about wearing a sleeveless top in an establishment inhabited or operated by large groups of culturally conservative Muslim men. It’s interesting to compare those experiences with my experiences in the U.S., where I was often aware of my status as an ethnic minority but never self-conscious about my ability to blend in culturally. Like Penang, Kuala Lumpur was very visually stimulating, with juxtapositions of old and new, history and modernism, and these contrasts were evident everywhere, from its architecture to its cuisine, and throughout its communities.
Still, the best part was hanging out with an old friend who really got us, and who could relate to so many things that we were going through, like being an American living outside of America and being a parent to a hyperactive child (or two). It’s nice when someone understands the need to just sit back and stare zombie-like into space, enjoying the silence of unconscious children. It’s comforting to know that becoming old and boring isn’t a tragedy, it’s an evolution. And it’s always fun to share meals with a fellow foodie. On our very last night in Kuala Lumpur, we all had grand ideas about how we were going to spend this Friday night partying like it was 1999. There was talk of bar-hopping, all-night trance clubs, hookah lounges, and foot massages. Ultimately, we ended up vegging on Lu’s couch, sampling exotic teas from his fancy tea set. “We’re having a TEA PARTY,” Lu cried in horror and disbelief when it dawned on him what we were doing. And for at least part of the evening I was completely engrossed in a documentary about the bubonic plague in 17th century England. I know there were and are so many more things to see and do in Kuala Lumpur and in Malaysia, but on that particular night I wouldn’t have rather been doing anything else.
Full album can be found here: