Malaysia and Me: the Iconic Experience

MalaysiaMalaysia was never on my bucket list. “Malay mo, Malay niya, Malaysia!” That catchphrase from sitcoms and street beauty pageants may have initially influenced my disinterest.

It could mean, “Who knows, Who cares, Malaysia!” or can be translated to “Don’t you know, Doesn’t he know, Malaysia!”

However, I was truly floored the moment I set foot in this country.

Malaysia is truly amazing.

Its tourism tagline is “Malaysia Truly Asia”. And only a few hours before my flight back to Manila, I learned that the people behind the successful campaign that has quadrupled Malaysia’s tourism arrivals are Filipinos – the mother and son tandem of Julie and Paul Lingan.

It is with great pride that we share the Filipino talent to the rest of the world including Malaysia.

Going Places

MalaysiaThe best way to probably learn a country’s culture is to use its flag carrier.

However, if one recalls that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (MH370) is still missing, one would experience jitters traveling in one of the planes under its fleet.

MH370 was a passenger flight that disappeared on March 8, 2014, flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Until now, the aircraft, Boeing 777-200ER, has not been recovered, and the cause for the disappearance remains unknown. It carried 227 passengers from 15 countries and 12 members of Malaysian crew. It is presumed that Flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean.

To distract me from this thought, I focused my faculties on everything beautiful about the aircraft. And lots of prayers, too.

The logo of Malaysia Airlines is inspired by Wau Bulan, one of Malaysia’s national symbols. It is a moon-kite that has intricate floral designs with its famous crescent-shaped tailpiece. Bulan or moon is also bulan in Ilocano.

The Malaysian traditional batik and its national flower hibiscus could have been the inspiration behind the elegant kebaya designs for their stewardess uniforms.

A kebaya is a traditional blouse-dress combination worn by women in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Burma, Singapore and southern Thailand.

I picked up the in-flight magazine Going Places and was truly entertained by Sharon Crowther’s “Bedazzled” noting that the Philippine’s Greenhills Shopping Centre in San Juan is the place to go to buy the most famous golden South Sea pearls.

Reading the piece reminded me of Cultural Center of the Philippines’ tribute, September 21, 2009, to Imelda Marcos on its 40th anniversary where the First Lady sashayed with dazzling marvelous rubies around her neck that sparkled against her black and red wine colored long dress. During her heydays, some people say that whenever Imelda enters some great halls with her flamboyant butterfly-inspired dresses, she had the power to make the world stop. At the CCP ruby anniversary, when she walked in with her sparkling gems, you could hear the needle drop for a moment. I was there.

MalaysiaInside the MH B737-800 last March 5, I chose to listen to Russian Light by opera singer Olga Peretyatko on the 3-hour flight.

Make sure to buy a Malaysian SIM card at the airport and have your currency exchanged to ringgit (symbol is RM).

Alor Street

Jalan Alor is one of the most famous street food areas in Kuala Lumpur. It is perfect for travelers who want a bustling nightlife of street food choices.

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As you take each step as you enter the street from the main road, a “barker” entices you to taste their offerings and engages you to take a seat.

We landed at the inner stall, away from the street, in a place called Dragon View restaurant. And we regretted it.

The best place is to be right at the center of the street where the action and smoke is and where fresh and freshly cooked food is served.

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MalaysiaThe Malaysian cuisine

One of the Grab drivers told me that what makes Malaysia different from other nations is its cuisine. He said that it is a mixture of Malay, Indian and Chinese. He asked me to try nasi kandar (mixed rice) and roti chanai (flatbread).

My high school classmate who is globetrotting messaged me to try Nasi Lemak, Kwei Tiaw and Pompia as must-eats.

She also encouraged me visiting Sunway Lagoon featuring the Sphinx designed by Filipino architects.

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Progressive infrastructure

While the Philippines is still planning on its Build Build Build campaign, it seems that Malaysia is already implementing it. There is a lot of infrastructure development that is going on including The Exchange 106 (formerly TRX Signature Tower), a skyscraper under construction within a new financial district.

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“The 106-floor building will be topped with a 48-meter, 12-story high illuminated crown at its peak for a maximum height of 492 meters. When it is completed in the second quarter of 2018, it will be about 40 meters taller than the country’s current tallest building, the Petronas Towers,” Wiki says.

I was in Malaysia for a week and noticed its relatively wider roads and traffic was not as excruciating as Manila’s.

The iconic destination

Petronas Twin Towers is grandeur at any vantage point. Far. Near. Front. Back. Right side. Left side.

Even if The Exchange 106 or the TRX Tower is higher when completed, I don’t think that Petronas Towers’ magnificence will never wane and fade with its unique architecture and character.

It is at the heart of Kuala Lumpur’s Golden Triangle that is accessible by public transport with all the luxurious service apartments and hotels nearby.

It is not only a sight to behold. It is a shopping and entertainment destination.

Time stops as you join tourists snap memorable photos with water features and the iconic twin towers as a backdrop.

Inside the shopping complex right at the base of Petronas is the latest in fashion, entertainment, and fascinating arts.

MalaysiaLea Salonga’s brother Gerald recommended to me to visit the world-class concert hall Dewan Filharmonik Petronas known for its captivating music. “Go listen to a concert in the Dewan while you’re there. Ganda ng tunog (sound is beautiful),” Gerald prodded.

Dual wonders in sky

The dual wonder that majestically rises the skyline of Kuala Lumpur is undoubtedly the pride of Malaysia, symbolizing its modernization and progress.

Petronas Twin Towers is home to approximately 11,000 employees.

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A masterpiece of modern architecture has a total of 88 floors that stands at 452 meters. It is made of steel and glass and reminds you of Marvel movies.

The quest to buy entrance ticket is a journey itself. The ticketing counter ensconced at the Concourse Level engages visitors with a miniature of the twin towers, interactive walls and posters that provide details of the structure and photo walls that immediately compel tourists to capture their memoirs. It has a lounge area where guests can wait for their batch to fulfill their “desire to reach the sky.”

The ascension to the top was through a narrow elevator. Going to the Skybridge was just in a matter of seconds.

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The Skybridge that connects Tower 1 and Tower 2 is located on the 41st floor, 170 meters above ground.

What’s amazing about the Skybridge is that it is not fully attached to the two towers. There is a 10-inch gap between the bridge and the towers in both sides that is mechanized in such a way that the bridge slides and swings in and out of the two towers depending on the strength of the wind outside. The staff demonstrated this by showing the vibration that is created when stumping on the bridge’s durable floors.

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While that is an amazing trivia, what is marvelous at the Skybridge is the view that it offers to allow you to appreciate the beautiful city landscape that changes hues from dusk to dawn.

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A smaller elevator journey comes next which opens to a platform with a white miniature of the Petronas Twin Towers in a silver and pearl pedestal as the centerpiece. It also features the architectural scale model of the Kuala Lumpur metropolis and engages guests with high tech interactive walls that inform audiences with the story behind this majestic edifice.

Located on the 86th floor, 870 meters above ground, the Observation deck offers 360 degrees of breath-taking horizons surrounding the towers. A truly unique experience up in the clouds!

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The Philippine Embassy

It is great to see that the Philippine Embassy is located in the central district of Kuala Lumpur where most embassies are also found. It is a historical place being the first residential property of the first Prime Minister of Malaysia Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj.

I had the privilege of meeting Consul Johann Veronica M. Andal, Head of Economic, Cultural and Information Section of the embassy in Kuala Lumpur and learned the many concerns of Overseas Filipino Workers in Malaysia including labor issues, documentary concerns, and Sabah-related matters.

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While household service workers remain to be the majority of our OFWs there, there is an increasing number of Filipino expats who work as engineers and IT professionals.

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The growing trade and investment relationship between Philippines and Malaysia is also a major contribution to the expanding number of Pinoy professionals in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia is using the Philippine’s Petron brand and under a different name, is also tapping our Smart, Century Motolite, URC and Unilab products.  Malaysia is home to about 600,000 Filipinos.

Rebirth in Malaysia

But what is truly special for me in Malaysia is what I call in this blog for now as the ‘sea of orange’. It is a life-changing two-day experience that brings out the best in everyone, regardless of color, race, and religion.

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It is something that I cannot write or photograph, as it is a journey that should be experienced first hand. Please contact us (email or message the Contact Section of this weblog) for this exciting life-changing opportunity.

MalaysiaWhile Malaysia is unique in its own ways, this country is “Truly Asia” as I have heard, seen and felt a bit of something from my country in this country. I may be a Filipino, but in this country, I felt I am somehow part of it. That there is a Malaysian tinge in me. Hence, I feel wanting to go back to Malaysia and be re-born.

Magkikita tayong muli, Malaysia!  I will see you again, Malaysia!