Travelling to the Far East has been a long held dream of mine. I have realised it this year. Travelled to Hong Kong as the first leg of the 17 day trip , taking in Kuala Lumpur, Malaeca , Singapore and Bangkok. Having just seen them in the movies I was ready to explore them.
We left London on a very cold day , no drones or hold up luckily, flight took off nearly half an hour late but considering how bad things have been lately we were all grateful for being just the half hour late.
Hong Kong is a city of immense wealth or it gives you the impression outwardly. Every corner has designer shops, not just ordinary shops but huge emporiums ,every designer you can think and some you haven’t even heard of are there. Row upon row of them, and the strange thing is they have queues outside. May be because we were too near the Chinese new year ,but every designer has at least three outlets and they all seem to be doing roaring trade.
We were staying in a very posh hotel ,with some fifty floors. HK has sky scrappers every where, nowhere it is just one or two floors but hundreds of them. It seems every new building wants to top the other one. From the creation by Norman Foster of the HSBC building to the latest hotels they just seem to head skywards. We did the normal touristy things like the tour of the city in an air conditioned bus and the museums etc. It is amazing that this city once was just a little fishing island, and the British developed it to what it is today. A hub of industry and finance, with immense wealth.
though there are parks and flower arrangements everywhere but the city somehow lacked soul for me. Life seems to rush at a very fast pace.
We took a ferry to a little island, where I think I got a glimpse of what HK must have been before it became rich and famous. A tiny fishing village, with tin roofs and tiny little run houses. Some lived in the houses but the front of their residence is used as a shop. No cars ,just lots of bicycles, it showed the spirit , the trading and the enterprise which must have been the spirit behind the success of this city.
People are very ritualistic and superstitious,as if they cant quite believe this good fortune and are worried it might disappear. Something as simple as putting your hand bag on the floor when you sit down is considered inauspicious.
HK still treasures its imperial past, there are a lot of places ,hotels with the “Royal’ prefixes, roads named after the British royals .
My mental image of HK was , as a bustling place brimming with sky scrapers was not far of the reality.
We flew to Kuala Lumpur after spending three nights in HK. We arrived late in the evening as the flight was an hour late. Long waits at the airport ,cramped airline seats and arriving in an humid and hot environment doesn’t make happy landings, having to join a long and slow queue for immigration control didn’t help. None of us were full of joy . And then a long wait for our coach didn’t help either . We set off for the 80 km drive from the airport to our hotel. Someone pointed out the `formula One circuit as we left the airport ,but it was dark and none of us were in the mood to gawp.
KL ,or Malaysia is very lush and green, may be it rains a lot . It is a Muslim country, though at the airport the duty free was bursting with alcohol ,many restaurants and hotels do not allow any. It too has a lot of relics of its imperial past , not just the buildings but they too have a monarchy of sort, the King has no say in the state matters but has a ceremonial role. His palace is rather charming too , with two mounted guards on either side of the gate in red livery, but the horses are rather more troubled by the flies and gnats than their counter parts in the Buckingham Palace.
Kuala Lumpur was founded ca. 1857 at the confluence of the Gombak and Klang rivers. In English, the name Kuala Lumpur literally means “muddy confluence”. The venture into the tin mines led to not only its name but also to its prosperity.
The first day we went sight seeing by the old government offices, where the area around has been pedestrianised , hundreds of tourists of all nationalities were walking around ,with phones and cameras in hand taking pictures of the beautiful British architecture when two men on a moped drove through and snatched the bag and the phone of two Japanese men. It happened so quickly that we all were totally stunned . Disbelief and then shock made us all numb while the culprits fled with great speed. After that we all were nervous every time a moped rider appeared.
The next day we drove to Malacca from Kuala Lumpur. The present-day city was founded by Parameswara, a Sumatran prince who escaped to the Malay Peninsula when Srivijaya fell to the Majapahit. … After Malacca was conquered by Portugal, the city became an area of conflict when the sultanates of Aceh and Johor attempted to take control from the Portuguese.
Today it is a hub of industry and a holiday retreat for the rich and famous from Singapore who can drive there within hours in their shiny fast cars
This is a view of the city from my hotel room. it has joined the Asian craze of building higher and higher buildings . it doesn’t bear thinking about as to where those trend will lead to!
Malacca ‘s chief industry is rubber plantation and palm oil, driving through the city and out towards Singapore we met huge plantations of Palms, the guide was lyrical about the benefits of Palm oil. It seems Cleopatra used it to beautify herself with it and there is no ill that palm oil can not cure! On my question about the destruction of the habitat of other animals ,he was adamant that it was Indonesia which was doing it, and that Malaysia was very careful not to go down that route.
Malaysia is very prudish too! T.V only broadcasts “proper” family dramas, there are no adverts of a man and a woman together having fun. just very respectable family images.
Street posters and bill boards depict women clad in head scarf doing womanly things like cooking or advertising something for the children , or cooking utensils. I didn’t see a single image of a woman driving or dancing or even holding hands with a man.
Hon Kong and Malaysia were very similar in, cuisine and climate , Singapore is slightly different , now we are here I will write in my next blog,
Speak to you soon.