Just a quick note to say my 8-hour train trip from Singapore was pleasant enough. Interesting highlights: the hybrid train station/border control point where you walk through a long maze leaving Singapore customs, entering Malaysia customs, and boarding the train. The border is very active – lots of people seem to live in Malaysia and work in the factories of Singapore – apparently quite a few – I saw a Micron factory on my way to the station.
The countryside in southern Malaysia is almost one big rubber tree plantation (I have since learned that these were probably palm oil trees.) Countryside changed gradually as we came north with fewer “farms” and more urbanization. Kuala Lumpur is a big city with some large modern buildings (e.g. Petronas Towers which I’ll visit later today) but the general feel where I’m staying is more like a 3rd-world country, pretty grimy, lots of pedestrian hazards, heavy traffic, etc. Most interesting part of it is the Islamic aspect of the culture – most ladies wear head coverings and this morning I could hear the singing of “calling to prayer” (I got up at 5am – long before my 11 young roommates.)
The hostel situation is already a bit wearing – not having a place to lay out your belongings is probably more onerous than not having total privacy. Whenever you need something you must rummage through your suitcase on the floor to find it – needless to say, within a couple of days your suitcase is a jumbled mess – best I can hope for is to keep dirty clothes in a separate bag :-).
This morning I do a walking tour (described here) focusing on the local culture and cuisine – I’m looking forward to it although I probably should be giving my back a little more rest. Later this afternoon I’ll visit the observation deck of the Petronas Towers building and that should be cool. After that, I’m sure I’ll be beat and go to bed long before my roommates :-).
Thanks to all of you for your kind thoughts – it’s wonderful to know that people are thinking about me and wishing me well. I’ll try to answer your individual emails as I have time but being on the move makes it a challenge to find a good chuck of time for working on the computer where I can sit in a reasonable position (forget the dorm rooms!), have an outlet to charge my computer (which in turn charges my phone), and be energetic enough to put two thoughts together.
I know you have all been experiencing terribly cold weather and I have some ‘survivor’s guilt’ at not exeriencing it with Grace. It’s very hot here – temps in the high 80s and low 90’s and with very high humidity. Luckily the hostels I’ve stayed in have AC in the dorm rooms.
Below are a few photos taken on the train and just after arriving last evening…