MacLasia

malaysia

Monday, 20 December, 2010

Melaka, Malaysia

If Kuala Lumpur was a person, it would have had a huge perm in the 1980’s, a centre parting in the 1990’s, and a snapback hat in the 2000’s.

The city seems so desperate to follow a style created in the west, that it has lost any form of personal identity along the way. We were in the country’s capital for four days, and frankly, we could have easily been in the USA.

The community takes great pride in Kuala Lumpur’s phenomenal growth in recent years, and so they should. It’s just a shame that the progress has been used to emulate another culture. That isn’t cynical guess work either, many officials throughout our stay have explained that much of the developments in the city were greatly inspired by America.

From above, 421 meters above to be precise, the city appears as just one towering modern building after the next. I think a company’s main objective here is simply to be taller than their neighbouring company – apparently, in Malaysia size really does matter.

Furthermore, the city’s feature activity is shopping. There are hundreds of massive malls, each with endless floors of designer shops – all of which, can be visited in most other western countries. I don’t want Gucci, I can’t afford Gucci, and Ruby is certainly with the wrong person if she thinks she is ever going to get Gucci. Therefore, the endless shops got tedious – we spent a lot of time drinking coffees and beers in Kuala Lumpur.

The capital’s obsession with becoming America doesn’t stop at high buildings and Italian handbags, either. They also share the same favourite historical figure – Ronald McDonald of McDonald’s fame. The fast food chain is virtually on every single street corner in the city.

There are also huge billboards beside each road, featuring photo advertisements of your ‘typical’ McDonald’s customer – people in business suits, with pearly white teeth and perfectly clear skin – elegantly eating a Big Mac. I guess it is just the UK where your average customer looks like the walk to and from the car will lead to them passing out.

The obsession goes further, most cars have the symbolic ‘M’ in sticker form on their windscreen – which I later discovered grants the owner a yearly McDonald’s drive-thru membership!

‘Are you sick of receiving a flyer every January trying to tug on your insecurities and push you into signing up to a gym? Screw them. Stick it to peer pressure, and instead, commit to the anti-gym membership at McDonald’s, which comes with extra-large fries.’

That said, change is potentially just around the corner – the other day, I saw a couple of lads in McShit t-shirts. I’m now quietly confident that the youth of Kuala Lumpur are about to successfully lead a revolutionary movement against crap food. I’ll be keeping an eye on their progress.

After a disappointing stay in the capital, we ventured further south to Melaka – a city steeped in history and culture, rather than handbags and hamburgers. This was a very welcomed transition.

Melaka has a long street dedicated to a variety of differently themed museums – a few of which were intriguing, so, we checked them out. The Museum of Enduring Beauty was a particular favourite.

I was fascinated to see the contrasting representation of beautiful throughout the world. Apparently, the human eye varies beyond whether you’re a ‘leg man’ or an ‘arse man’ – who knew? Sure, the examples on display are extraordinarily different, but the message was clear – everybody discovers their own version of beauty, which is often heavily influenced by the society surrounding them.

A stand out example comes via Native American tribes of years gone by – they would flatten a baby’s head in order to make the child look beautiful, or like an alien, or both beautiful and like an alien, depending on what the individual’s eye sees, I guess. The tribe would go on to inspire the flat screen TV, cheese slices and the act of flattery.

Another highly conspicuous section of the museum showcased a tribe in Zimbabwe. Those committed to the tribal community would be required to cut a hole in their bottom lip and place a plate inside, gradually expanding the size of the plate every few days – creating a lower mouth that resembled a whale’s. The mouthpiece was the size of a discus in some of the pictures.

The blurb placed alongside the picture of the woman with the gigantic lower lip, read, “the plates do cause some inconvenience.” I must say, as beautiful as the plates are, I did question the practicality of them. The description then went on to list the further hindrances, “The plates make eating difficult and the pressure against the teeth can force the teeth out of alignment or loosen them.”

People often complain about the pressure placed on society to look a certain way in the UK, but hey, at least nobody’s trying to put a plate through your lip! Achieving beauty in Zimbabwe seems like a lot of hard work – I suspect the opening of the lip and placing a large object inside, probably creates a lot of illnesses and infections, too.

malaysia2

Slightly outside of Melaka we stumbled upon another uniquely themed museum, the building in question is the delightfully weird, World Bee Museum. You’ll be surprised to read that this one didn’t make the guidebook – but it was very random and free so we decided to check it out.

The place was all rather surreal; I can’t help but question the sanity of a person who dedicates their life to collecting, and then displaying, carefully arranged dead bees in small enclosures. It was interesting though, and the previous museum taught me well – while dead bees positioned to look like they’re dancing may not be beautiful to me, it is to somebody. So, good for that guy!

I can also now remove The World Bee Museum from my to-do list – as it was definitely on there.

The last two museums were educational, but bizarre. However, having fish eat your feet is probably weirder than both of those places combined – which is exactly how we finished our week.

The Malaysian Fish Spa simply involves sticking your trotters into a fish tank full of very small Garra Rufa and Cyprinion Macrostomus fish (obviously all the pronounceable fish names, such as gold and salmon, were already taken up when naming that one), who then chow down on the dead skin attached to your foot.

I’d rather eat pretty much anything else, but the little guys go crazy for it.
“Hey, Sarah. What do you fancy for dinner tonight?”
“How about the skin from the sweaty foot of somebody that has been walking around all day?”
“Again? We had that yesterday.”
“It’s my favourite, ok!”

It’s actually quite soothing, once you get beyond the initial thirty seconds and loosen up. I recommend giving it a go, not to mention, you’d be doing a good thing – one of your feet could feed a family for a week.

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