Thursday, November 29, 2018

By George! It's Georgetown

Atop the KOMTAR Tower

Well, this certainly isn't being posted a month after the fact...

If you recall from the last installment, I endured an absolutely confusing bus ride getting to Georgetown (including an open-air installment pictured below). That being said, I arrived safely and in one piece at the hostel I picked out the day before (despite a trek down a dim alley that dropped straight into a sewer ditch).

After check-in, I hit the ATM and got myself some ringgits, then proceeded to grab a little dinner at an open-air cafeteria that had a live musical show on for some reason. I forget what I ate, but it was really tasty, which is the basic theme of Malaysia so far.

I believe I introduced the French couple who took the bus from Thailand with me in the last post, but if I didn't, well, know that they exist. We exchanged information at some point and they reached out to me the first night to let me know that there was a free walking tour around the section of the city we were staying in the next morning. Having no actual plans, you'll never guess what I did the next morning!

The tour was fun, albeit hot. The tour guide had fun highlighting the multiculturalism in the city (English, Chinese, Indian, and Malay all lived within blocks of one another, plus others like Germans, leading to a mixed ethnic and religious area). We visited several shrines and that sort of thing and got a feel for the city.

After the tour, the French couple and I backtracked and took a quick tour of either the town hall or the city hall - they were adamant that the two not be the same, because Georgetown had officially been granted city status (and they had the big fancy paper to prove it!). After that stint, I broke off from the two so we could see the city on our own terms.

I wandered down to the KOMTAR tower via the free bus and just did a terrible job of being a tourist. I saw sights and wrote a couple poems in the tiny, dingy library in the tower complex. After that (and maybe a nap and a shower?) I walked the streets around my hostel and found a place where the French couple and I could sit, drink, and listen to some live music.

The night ended nicely enough and I woke up the next day ready and willing to head to Kuala Lumpur. The bus ride was so unremarkable that I don't even remember how long it was (it cost 38+3 ringgit though). I spent my first night "in" Kuala Lumpur in the SJ neighborhood, where I ate dinner at a fish & chips shop and had some beer at a shark-themed bar. It was nice to have a hotel room to myself (as opposed to hostel living) before I started my workaway on November 1st.

The workaway and living in (the suburbs of) Kuala Lumpur require a different post. That being said, general impressions of Malaysia fit well enough here. Unlike what I saw of Thailand, Malaysia has a lot more "open ditch" water management, which seems like it could prove treacherous if one is not steady on their feet. Toilet/shower combinations are more common, which means the floor of the bathroom is almost always wet. The library and museum scene is severly lacking - I'll grant I was spoiled by Bangkok and my near-daily walks to the air-conditioned library there, but it seems there's less interest here in non-commerce related activities (there exists some mall culture here, and "to do" lists are often comprised of what night market is happening).

More people speak English here (if someone doesn't, a translator is just the next table over) and everyone's first comment upon finding out I'm American is that the exchange rate is about 4RM : 1USD. So far Malaysia is the cheapest country I've been in, with the exception of alcohol (an "absurdly cheap" beer is $1.50 / can at a grocery store - compare to under 50 cents in the US or Germany). The meals seem more expensive than in Thailand, but Thai meals seem to contain half the amount of food. Plus, of course, I'm using workaway, so I'm staying for free (well, trading my labor).

Alright, I owe a post for basically the whole month of November. It's going to be very boring, but that's not a bad thing!

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