An American Abroad

Kuala Lumpur: Final Thoughts

Kuala Lumpur has the kind of mix I love. There are gleaming new buildings and many well-preserved older ones as well. There’s a mix of religions and ethnicities, most notably Malays, Chinese, and Indians. I felt some tension among those groups, but didn’t sense any violent hatred. The public transit system is extensive and easy to use, a mix of elevated trains, subways, and a monorail (which I couldn’t take without thinking of Marge Simpson).

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The city makes some adjustments to Islam, which is the dominant and official religion of Malaysia. Alcohol is available in restaurants, bars and shops, but it is taxed very heavily. A beer costs nearly $10. This definitely minimizes the consumption of spiritus fermenti. My American friends will recognize the graphics from Church’s Chicken in the picture below, but the word “church” has been replaced by “Texas,” presumably so that Muslims can feel more comfortable eating there.

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As in other Asian and some European countries, cigarettes must be sold in packages that graphically illustrate the health hazards of smoking. I didn’t see as much public smoking in Kuala Lumpur as I see here in China.

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The city feels open to the world. Air Asia, a big Malaysian company, is vigorously promoting Taylor Swift, probably not only for her musical talents but also to burnish the company’s international cosmopolitan image.

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There are also other knowing references to American pop culture, such as this sign below. (“MY” is the Malaysian internet domain suffix.)

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I left thinking this is a country I’d like to come back to. I regret that I didn’t have the time to see the less urban parts of the country and to explore the coast and the islands. And I hope I have the chance to do that someday.

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