Magical Malaysia: Fireflies and Temples

This trip dates back to 2007

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Our first flight left from San Francisco. There we had about 4 or 5 hours to wait for our flight to Hong Kong. It boarded on time but the pilot announced that strong headwinds would make it impossible to cross the Pacific Ocean straight for Hong Kong. Instead, we had to follow land: Canada, Alaska, Siberia and China. And that meant we had to refuel in Seoul, South Korea. The flight took much longer because of the land route. But Singapore Airlines was pleasant, the staff very nice and the food not too bad. The very best thing of all was that we had three seats to ourselves at an exit row. So no one in front of us and lots of leg room. 

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We landed in Seoul but it was very, very foggy. We couldn’t see a thing. Pretty soon the pilot stopped moving down the tarmac and announced that he couldn’t find the terminal without a truck to guide us in. We had to stay on board and then he announced that we would refueled but couldn’t take off again until there was a window in the fog to allow this… After a long wait, we were pushed back from the terminal but by then the fog had frozen and the plane needed to be de-iced. We were pushed back to the terminal. After the de-icing the fog had closed in again! We couldn’t even see the wing tips. There was 50′ visibility! Again we got pushed back but because of an electrical problem the engines flamed out. Finally, after about 4 hours of waiting, we managed to leave Seoul. It rained in Hong Kong but was a lot warmer. We stayed on the same plane which, after an hour, took us on to Singapore. By the time we disembarked, we’d been in the same seat for 27 hours! But the crew was wonderful. We were given packages with toiletries, extra meals, a deck of playing cards and a beautiful pen from Singapore Airlines. At the gate in Singapore, airline staff waited for us and immediately handed us boarding passes for our newly booked flight to Kuala Lumpur since we had missed the original connection plus a telephone card to phone the people who would pick us up there. Great service.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe finally made it to Kuala Lumpur where I was to conduct author presentations in a school. Our school condo is a one bedroom with a balcony overlooking a lush, tropical court yard and large pool. The school is a huge, 3 story building with palm trees everywhere. Open hallways and stairways, a large cafeteria, even a pool! The library is on the third floor, a large, beautiful library. 470 children from 44 countries are in this elementary school!

That night, we walked 5 minutes to a small shopping center and strolled across an evening market. Lanterns hung among the lush palm trees. We enjoyed margarita’s and wonderful food: pineapple rice, cashew chicken, crab omelets, packages of leaves with chicken in it and much more. I also treated myself to a full body massage. There are massage places here EVERYWHERE! This one was a three minute walk from the condo building. An incredible massage with fragrant oils and tea afterwards.

Downtown we visited a historic museum to learn more about Malaysia. We also enjoyed seeing the historic houses of parliament, a beautiful church, the national library, a huge Buddhist temple, the ornamental train station, a large islam information center and the national museum. Daytime temperatures are around the 30 degrees and the humidity is around 85% which makes you hot and sweaty whenever you are outside. KL is only 1 degree above the equator, so no wonder it is hot here.

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Kenny shows us Kuala Lumpur, where the city originated

The next day Kenny, a taxi driver, picked us up to take us downtown. First we stopped at the Petronas Towers. Very impressive – made of shining metal. We took photos of the towers and bridge and walked through the lobby. Then Kenny took us to “Kuala Lumpur” – the muddy confluence of two rivers where the city was originally founded because of tin found in the area. We strolled through the Central Market, bought postcards and gorgeous scarves. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen outside to Chinatown but found it too crowded and tacky. Little India was more interesting, with little food stalls and fabric stores everywhere. We ate some interesting looking “donuts” and balls from garbonzo bean flour with vegetables. Walked by historic buildings, a mosque. Ended up at the old train station. By that time we were very hot and sweaty, sat in a cafeteria with ice cold fruit drinks and called Kenny who drove us to the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. First we went inside a huge Buddhist Temple on top of a hill with nice views of the city.

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Selangor tin

Next we toured a tin factory. Selangor tin is famous around the world. It is mined here and we saw the whole process of melting, molding, polishing etc. In the gift shop we ended up buying a wonderful set of book ends featuring Winnie the Pooh.

Next Kenny took us to an authentic Malaysian Chinese family restaurant, basically just a roof over some tables and chairs on a street corner. A kind of bbq on the street was used for grilling saté. Kenny ordered and when the food arrived we had rice, chicken sate, steamed Red Snapper in vegetable broth, prawns and crab. It was very nice and not spicy at all.

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Sign in the school library!

Typically here, it started to rain: it poured endlessly. The streets flooded. Then thunder and lightning started. We drove outside the city on our way to Kuala Selangor where the fireflies are. I had no hope at all of seeing them because of the rain. On the way, the rain got so bad that we barely saw the road. The rain became torrential. Lightning lit up the entire sky.
Optimistic Kenny insisted that everything was a good sign because “storms blow over and thus the rain will end soon.” 
We made it to the firefly park but it poured so wildly that nothing was happening. We sat and waited for at least an hour and then, suddenly, the rain stopped and the boats went out. We went in a small wooden punter with a man standing on the back and rowing us across a fairly wide, brown, fast flowing river. Suddenly the bushes lit up like a Christmas tree. Across the river, more bushes glowed, reflecting in the river. Because of the rain, the bushes glowed wet and reflected millions of “lights”. They all blinked synchronized, truly looking like blinking Christmas lights. We must have floated along the quiet river for an hour. It was quite magical.

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