Things You Wish You Knew Before Visiting Malaysia

Being a frequent traveler, I often wish to know the “safety precautions” of a country that I’m planning to visit. Not just it helps to ensure I have a pleasant journey, but also to plan my expectation. As a Malaysian, I think it would be interesting to write up a blog post about tips that backpackers/travelers should know before visiting Malaysia.

KTM Station Signage in Kuala Lumpur

1. Communication. Most Malaysian speaks English, unless you plan to escape tourist trail and to visit rural areas (experience the simple life of rural Malaysian; staying at homestay, etc), you may try your luck but a simple pocket English-Malay translation guide is advisable. If you have an iPod Touch / iPhone, you should try this language guide.

2. Commuting within the city like Kuala Lumpur (KL) is convenient with Light Railway Transport (LRT) or public buses like RapidKL. Unless you want to travel to places which are not reachable by LRT, taking taxi is the fastest and most convenient way. However, be sure that the taxi you are hopping in uses a meter, or simply read this blog post. If you plan to travel around the country, express bus or inter-city coach services are available at Puduraya Bus Terminal (assuming you are at KL); make sure you only buy ticket at designated sales counter to avoid paying extra to ticket touts. An alternate way is to travel via low cost airlines like Air Asia or FireFly.

Look for this sign and hop in a metered taxi

3. Emergency Number. In case of emergency, you can dial 999 from any public phone; the worldwide emergency number for GSM mobile phones, 112 will be redirected to the 999 call center.

4. Personal Hygiene. Malaysia is a tropical country where diseases like Influenza and Dengue Fever are common but preventive. To prevent flu, make sure you keep your hands clean by having a hand sanitizer with you at all time. To avoid dengue fever, avoid being bitten by infected mosquito, or simply read this article.

5. Wear modest attire and keep away your Gucci and LV bags. You don’t want to portray that you are rich, and say “Come Rob Me!”. Not to say that Malaysia is not safe, but it’s better to be cautious with personal belongings. Check if you need a travel insurance too. Generally, Malaysians are friendly.

Rainy season in Malaysia

6. Weather in Malaysia is fairly hot and humid (sometimes wet) throughout the year. Temperature ranges from 21┬░ to 34┬░ Celsius. If it’s rainy season, make sure you have an umbrella (or raincoat) with you. Sometimes there will be heavy downpours with thunder and lightning.

7. Drug offences in Malaysia can be severe: trafficking (defined here as the possession of a certain quantity of drugs) incurs a mandatory death penalty; possession incurs a custodial sentence and possible whipping.

8. Ethnic Malay group are Muslim and hence they only eat Halal foods (i.e. NO pork and NO alcohol). During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims are expected to fast during daytime.

Urban Black and White

Another photo outing project, initially meant to shoot Urban Long Exposure, with moving cloud above tall buildings, and traffic trail lights, ended up shooting night architecture presented in black and white. This was partially due to a “No Cloud Night” and the location chosen was not having heavy traffic today. All shots using 50mm prime lens.

Celebrating Thaipusam

Despite working in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for some years, this is the first time I went for a Thaipusam celebration. I have to wake up at 5AM and drive several km to reach Batu Caves. By the time I reach there, it was already packed with people from all walks of life. One thing I noticed was most devotees were adorned with dresses and vesthi of yellow and orange color, known to be the favorite color of Lord Murugan.

On the main entrance to Batu Caves (obviously it has been blocked for vehicles), I can see thousands of people flocking towards the temple in procession, some carrying kavadis (wooden/bamboo structure decorated with peacock feather), some carrying milk pots (known as Pal Kudam), some were tranced to impersonate various Hindu deities. On another corner of the street, I can see shelter for barbers offering devotees to shave their head bald, an act of atonement to the Hindu God.

I followed the devotees towards the foot hill of the temple, where one needs to climb up 272 steps to reach the Murugan Temple (The Caves). There were 3 lanes for devotees to line up in front of the stairways: the right for exit, the left for entry, the middle as “backup” either for entry or exit. We as a visitor and photographer, managed to take the middle lane and snaps some good photos. I proceeded to climb up the stair and was lucky to capture a few of my favorite shots (as shown below). Upon entering the caves, there were already hundreds or thousands of devotees queuing up, ready to offer milk, water, fruits and floral that they have carried to Lord Murugan.

Season Greeting 2010

This time of the year marks the anniversary of my website. I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas with lots of blessing! As usual, I went out to took some Christmas decorative and try out different angle and composition. This time around was at Mid Valley Shopping Mall. With my favourite 50mm Prime Lens taken handheld, that’s not much of an issue. Most of my shots are taken fairly close to the subject, or it has been cropped during post-processing.