Hungry? Go to Malaysia

The view from KL TowerYes, yes, yes. This post is very late, I know. We’ve been in Australia for a well over a month and I’m just getting around to writing a new post. Slapped wrists and all that. But what can I say? We’ve been busy… and you’ll find out more about that in our next post.

We had just over a week to spend in Malaysia, after Cambodia had to be culled from the itinerary – sorry again Nino! – and our plan for that week-and-a-bit was shaped by an old uni friend of mine, Lenny. We hadn’t seen each other for over 10 years but after catching up on Facebook and then letting him know about our travels, he insisted that we pop by Malaysia to visit. We did, and quickly realised that it was a great decision.

We were met at Kuala Lumpur airport by a smiling, waving Lenny, who got a parking ticket for his troubles. We offered to pay it but he told us he’d ignore it and responded to our shock by saying ‘Welcome to Malaysia!’ This would not be the last time we’d hear that line.

After stopping on the way for lunch, we arrived at Lcenny’s apartment to find that it wasn’t just his apartment. It was also the office for his company, and sitting there to greet us were his two staff members, eagerly working away (as the boss had just walked in). We had a few things to buy so Lenny took us to a nearby shopping mall then returned home to carry on with work. We didn’t realise how much we missed walking around in a mall. After the previous few months shopping in markets and tiny old shops in India, Nepal and Vietnam, this felt like walking around a futuristic space station. But this was no ordinary mall, it was colossal, and apparently it was only one of many in Kuala Lumpur. We spent a few hours wandering around in an air conditioned daze, spending our newly acquired Ringgits just because it felt good to do so. We have no idea how much of the mall we saw, but it was probably less than half. Then, after a quick phone call, we were whisked away by Lenny who had turned up, now accompanied by his girlfriend Siao Ling, to take us to Paris for a fantastic Chinese meal! Well, it wasn’t actually Paris, but the New Paris Restauran (no typo there… the ‘t’ isn’t just silent in Malaysia, it’s also invisible.) On the way we also picked up another friend, Lester, who only days before had a huge rock fall on his head while interviewing for an article on a new tunnel that was being built. Hope the head’s feeling a little better now Lester! Lenny and Siao Ling then took us on a late night guided tour of Kuala Lumpur for a few great photo opportunities, including our first views of the Petronas Towers. Lenny found a good spot for a photo which happened to be at some traffic lights, he spotted it, drove half of his car onto the kerb at the lights and got out to take photos. ‘Is that legal?’ I asked. His response… ‘Welcome to Malaysia!’

Perhentian Besar before the rains cameThe following morning we left Lenny to get on with his mountain of work and flew from Kuala Lumpur to Kuala Terrenganu to spend a few days on the island of Perhentian Besar. We arrived by boat and were greeted by picture-perfect blue skies and had a lovely meal at the restaurant overlooking the beach. Unfortunately that restaurant, and not the beach, turned out to be the place we spent most our time for the following two days. The heavens opened and we were stuck under the restaurant shelter surrounded on all sides by pretty much constant heavy rain. Then, on the day we were due to leave (as if someone was playing a joke on us) the weather suddenly cleared and we caught a few hours of beach time before heading back to Kuala Lumpur. We were kindly met at the airport by Lenny and Siao Ling, who took us back to the apartment via what they claimed to be ‘the world’s best tandoori’. It turned out to be better than any tandoori we had in India, and despite it being a little late at night for a meal, it tasted just perfect.

The next day we decided to explore the city on foot. Lenny dropped us off at the Petronas Towers and we were unsurprised to find another giant mall inside the base of them. After heading to the food court for some dry beef noodles (another Lenny recommendation, yum), we spent a little too long window shopping before walking over to the KL Tower. We took the ear popping lift to the top to admire the view and noted how, despite it’s modern look and feel, Kuala Lumpur is in fact a very sporadically laid out city. There’s no defined CBD, shopping or residential areas – it’s all just a big mix of everything. We continued the tourist theme for the day and strolled over to Chinatown to do a walking tour, before catching the monorail back to meet Lenny, Siao Ling and Lenny’s sister Jeannie. That evening we all went to a Stereophonics gig which was an odd experience.


The band helped make it feel like we were somewhere in Britain and there was a large British contingent present – mainly very fat and drunk, representing their nation with pride. But then there were slightly strange things such as the models wandering around with small glass-fronted cabinets in their hands, each displaying a nicely lit row of cigarette boxes for sale; or the big sign on the back wall of the bar which read ‘Alcohol consumption for non-Muslim only’, which reminded us that this definitely wasn’t Britain. The band were impressive though and we had a really fun night. I had forgotten they had so much material, and they seemed to play every last second of it. At two hours long it must’ve had the cheapest money to minutes ratio of any gig I’ve been to. Afterwards we realised yet again that in Malaysia, if there’s time for ‘supper’ before you head home then it’s only polite to have it!

We spent the next day doing touristy things again, heading to Old KL Train Station and Merdeka Square, before doing another walking tour, this time around Little India – which was quite a lot easier to navigate than its big brother. That evening we met up with a big group of Lenny’s friends and went for a quick bite to eat at an Indonesian chicken restauran(t). Then we all went out to see Iron Man 2 at a special screening which was full of comic book otaku. At the end of the screening and after sitting through all of the credits, the geeks squealed in delight as two unfortunate blokes waddled into the cinema dressed in plastic Iron Man and War Machine suits. I had to have my picture taken with them… how could I possibly refuse such a rare opportunity? Afterwards at Lenny’s apartment we tucked into some rambutans, or ‘wild man’s testicles’ as Lenny called them.

Iron Men

Lenny had arranged for us all to head to Penang the following day, and we left that morning, stopping at the lovely city of Ipoh along the way for yet another amazing meal, which included hot tea which you pour over ice to drink cold, Kai Si Hor Fan – Ipoh’s most famous dish of slices of chicken, semi fat noodles with soup and beansprouts – and the finest pork satay ever! Once we’d arrived in Penang we headed to the Gurney Drive night markets for dinner. Lenny sat us down at one of the tables and proceeded to dart from one food stall to another, delivering us dish after dish of Penang’s finest street food. Amongst other things we had Ma Chee – flour with nuts and sugar, Asam Laksa, Popiah, Rojak, Har Mee – prawns with noodles and some pork slices in spicy soup, and ‘Michael Jackson’ – a mixture of soy milk with black jelly strips known as cincau. It was such an amazing experience and we continued tasting a huge array of dishes and drinks until we were painfully full. The next day we went to the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion where we tagged onto a guided tour for a group of locals and after being the only people who attempted to answer any of the tour guide’s questions, ended up sticking out like a couple of Westerners in a group of short Asians and got in trouble for sneaking into the group. After visiting the Eastern and Oriental Hotel and popping to the Ghee Hiang biscuit shop for some edible souvenirs, we drove all the way back to Kuala Lumpur. We arrived, tired after the journey, but as there was still time for supper we had to head out to find some. Lenny already had things planned and we went to a small stall run by a guy known as Brother John. My 'Master Burger' being lovingly preparedThere we ordered some of his famous Ramly burgers. As this was my first experience with Brother John’s creations I thought I’d make the most of it, and decided to order the scarily-named ‘Master Burger’ – the biggest burger on the menu. I then stood by and watched Brother John work his magic. He fried a couple of beef patties, split them in two lengthways and flipped them open, put a few sauces and spices inside and closed them up. Then he cracked an egg and skillfuly formed a pancake-like omelette with it by letting the egg drain out of the shell slowly while he drew a spiral on the fryer. The seasoned patties were laid onto the egg, which was then folded up all around the burgers to make a little edible package. This was put in a bun, and finished with yet more sauces. We then all sat on little plastic stools on the street eating our burgers and chatting. What a great night!

Continuing the running theme of food, our last day in Malaysia started with an invite from Lenny’s parents, Tony and Sue, to go out for a Sunday lunch of Dim Sum. They took us to a fantastic restaurant and ordered a stunning range of dishes for us to try. Our reaction as the table was steadily filled with food was met with the usual ‘Welcome to Malaysia!’ from Lenny. There was barely any space left on the big round table for seven at the beginning, and appropriately, barely any space left in our stomachs by the end! Afterwards we drove out to burn off a few of the lunchtime calories by climbing the 272 steps of the Batu Caves, one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India. Then, after a little more shopping that afternoon, we went to Tony and Sue’s amazing apartment for a night of Premier League football. We watched Chelsea beat Liverpool to almost clinch the title (much to Jeannie’s dismay) and enjoyed some beer and pizza. Thanks to Tony, Sue and Jeannie for being such great hosts.

It turned out to be a late night and although Alexandra got a few hours, I didn’t sleep at all, just staying up until 4.30 to be ready to head to the airport. We said our goodbyes to Lenny, flew to Singapore and had almost a full day there to hang out, so Alexandra took advantage of the gym while I slept in one of the armchairs. We had a decent (online checked-in, emergency exit row, noone sitting next to us) flight to Sydney for which we had accidentally ordered the vegetarian and lacto-ovo meals. It turned out to be some of the best in-flight food we’ve ever had.

We’d like to say a huge thank you to Lenny and Siao Ling for putting us up, driving us about and generally feeding us fantastic food whenever and wherever there was an opportunity to do so. We had such an amazing time, and we will be back!

Anthony Written by: