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Pictures of Daily Life in Malaysia

Here is a sampling of some pictures I’ve taken while in Malaysia. These were all taken during my time in Kajang, a sleepy suburb south of Kuala Lumpur.

I have since moved to Mont Kiara, another suburb in a different part of town. Both of these locations came about via housesitting opportunities, which allows me to live rent-free in exchange for taking care of peoples’ pets and homes while they are out of town.

Loading up the car after going grocery shopping

Loading up the car after going grocery shopping. The homeowners, a German family, were nice enough to let us use their car while they were away on vacation.

Grillmasters during preparing Satay, Kajang's specialty

Grillmasters preparing Satay, Kajang’s specialty.

Feeding the fish, part of housesitting duties

Feeding the fish, part of housesitting duties.

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The front yard pond area.

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The pool area while raining.

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Heidi with Lucky and Luke, the house pets.

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Walking Luke in the upscale Country Heights neighborhood of Kajang.

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The CrossFit gym where I go two or three times per week.

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Lifting barbells inside CrossFit Pahlawan.

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Outside the local mall.

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An ice skating rink at the mall.

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Remembering where I parked.

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My favorite coffee shop was taken over one morning by a film crew.

9 More Notes on Kuala Lumpur

IOI City Mall in Putrajaya

IOI City Mall in Putrajaya

  1. Lots of malls
    Malaysians love their malls. They are all over the place.
  2. Highly air conditioned
    Malaysia is much more air conditioned than Cambodia or Vietnam. This is generally a nice thing.
  3. Materially comfortable
    I’m not really sure what drives the economy here, but people seem to enjoy a comfortable standard of living. At least the people I’ve met.
  4. Lots of high rise buildings and condos
    The skyline is littered with tall buildings with more under construction.
  5. Linguistically diverse
    As far as I can tell, almost everyone here is bilingual. English and Malay are the two dominant languages, with English being the lingua franca. Various types of Chinese and Indian languages are also spoken.
  6. Toilet paper on the outside
    For some reason, the toilet paper is sometimes on the outside of the bathroom stalls. So you have to estimate what you’ll need before you go in. I’m not sure if this a Muslim thing or what.
  7. Good food
    The food here is very tasty and cheap.
  8. Credit cards are widely accepted
    Credit cards are accepted at most places, even for smaller amounts. I appreciate this because I prefer to use plastic over cash.
  9. The pork section of Jaya Grocer in Mont Kiara

    The pork section of Jaya Grocer in Mont Kiara

  10. Hold the bacon
    Because of Islam’s prohibition against pork, the other white meat is generally less available. In some grocery stores there is a separate pork section where you have to pay for your items before you leave into the main area. Some restaurants even advertise themselves as “pork free” to appeal to Muslim customers .

7 Notes on Kuala Lumpur

Overlooking the city from the Petronas Towers skybridge

Overlooking the city center from the Petronas Towers skybridge

For over a month now I’ve been living outside of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital and largest city. Before arriving, I had very few pre-conceived notions about Malaysia. I knew about the Twin Towers and I had heard there were lots of other tall buildings here. But other than that, my knowledge was very limited.

Here are seven random things that have struck me since I’ve been here.

  1. It’s hot and humid
    Like much of Southeast Asia, it’s hot here. And humid. Because it’s so close to the equator, the temperature remains remarkably constant year-round with highs of around 87 to 92 degrees every day. This makes deciding what to wear an easy choice.
  2. No visa requirement for Americans
    The lack of paperwork required to enter Malaysia made the arrival process quick and smooth.
  3. Predominantly Muslim country
    I arrived in Kuala Lumpur on the first full day of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month when people fast from sunrise to sunset. Since the majority of the population is Muslim, this means a lot of restaurants were closed during the day and the food court at the local mall was deserted.
  4. Mix of cultures
    There are significant Chinese and Indian minorities in Malaysia, which is reflected in the cuisine. I have heard that the different ethnic groups don’t interact much socially, but I haven’t noticed any strict separations.
  5. People are respectful and mild mannered
    From my interactions around town and at CrossFit, people are polite and generally welcoming.
  6. Lots of cats
    There seems to be a high number of cats here, both as pets and strays. There are not as many dogs, however, because Muslims view dogs as unclean.
  7. “Don’t be a pain, stay in your lane”
    Like in many other countries, traffic can be a problem here. Although the main roads are nice and wide, they can be very windy and other drivers sometimes seem oblivious to the cars around them. The radio even runs public service announcements encouraging drivers to stay in their lane and not to tailgate. Also, because of the historical British influence, people drive on the “other” side of the road, which took this Yankee some time to get used to.

Commuting in Ho Chi Minh City

My motorbike in Saigon

My motorbike in Saigon

Last month I spent 12 days in Vietnam’s biggest city – Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon. It was great to see the other major city in Vietnam after living in Hanoi for three months at the beginning of the year.

Saigon definitely seems more “Americanized” than Hanoi, with plentiful fast food places and chain stores. But it also has a strong Vietnamese character, with lots of local places to eat great Vietnamese food – including my personal favorite, pho.

The preferred mode of transport in Saigon is the motorbike. I was able to rent a bike for 500,000 Vietnamese dong (about $23) for one week. The rental service even dropped off and picked up the motorbike from my Airbnb apartment – very convenient!

The video below shows what it’s like to ride through the streets of this southern Vietnamese metropolis. It follows the route from near my apartment in District 3 to a Starbucks in District 1. As you can see, it’s a very vibrant city and without a doubt one of the top spots to visit Southeast Asia.

Two Bags, One Guy: A Complete List of What I’m Packing

My two packed bags

My two packed bags

Before leaving for Asia, I read about the advantages of packing light. According to what I read, overpacking was one the most common “rookie mistakes” – and something I wanted to avoid.

The general idea is that bringing less stuff means your baggage is lighter, smaller, quicker to pack, and cheaper because of less baggage fees. This in turn makes your travel experience more convenient, comfortable, and luxurious.

What has worked for me is putting everything in two compression bags – one medium size and one large. These bags squeeze out all the air, which reduces the bulkiness of what’s inside. They then fit nicely into my two backpacks, with some room to spare!

All my stuff, except my computer

All my stuff, except for my computer

So what am I packing?

Below is a list of everything I currently have in my two bags – a Minaal bag and a Fjällräven Campus Ace 20L.

Clothes

  • 1 belt
  • 1 headband
  • 1 long sleeve, collared shirt
  • 2 pairs of shoes (one for daily wear and one for exercise)
  • 3 pairs of pants (2 jeans, 1 trousers)
  • 3 towels (1 quick-dry, 1 medium cotton, 1 small cotton)
  • 5 pairs of shorts (4 casual, 1 exercise)
  • 8 pairs of underwear (7 regular, 1 for exercise)
  • 10 short sleeve shirts (2 for exercise)
  • 13 pairs of socks

Electronics

  • Cell phone
  • GoPro camera with head strap and extra battery
  • In-ear headphones
  • Laptop computer with charger
  • USB connection cords (3)
  • Wireless mouse with USB adapter

Toiletries

  • Bacetracin ointment
  • Bandages
  • Bar of soap (2)
  • Beard trimmer with cord and extra battery
  • Comb
  • Contact lens case (2)
  • Contact lenses
  • Contact solution
  • Eye drops (2)
  • Floss
  • Hair gel
  • Hand razor
  • Lens cleaner
  • Lotion
  • Mouthwash
  • Nail clippers (one for fingernails, one for toes)
  • Nail file (2)
  • Packets of shampoo
  • Shaving cream
  • Stick of deodorant (2)
  • Sunblock cream
  • Toiletries bag
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Travel size shaving cream (2)

Miscellaneous

  • Book (to use as mouse pad)
  • Cash (U.S. dollars and Thai baht)
  • Cloth lens cleaner (2)
  • Compression packing bags (2)
  • Credit cards (4)
  • Debit card
  • Ear plugs
  • Extra pair of shoelaces
  • Face mask
  • International driver’s permit
  • Money clip
  • Notepad
  • Outlet adapter (2)
  • Packing cubes (2)
  • Pair of AA batteries
  • Passport
  • Pen
  • Sleep mask
  • Small bottle of hand sanitizer
  • Stick of lip balm (3)
  • Sunglasses
  • Tinted glasses
  • Toothpicks
  • Travel clothes hanger
  • Travel size roll of duct tape