A World of Color: Malaysia in Gold
Leah Walker January 12, 2014

Given its location near the equator, Malaysia is tropical, humid, and warm. As a result of its geography, the country is filled with a variety of vivid hues. Rubber plantations, palm trees, and assorted tropical foliage provide a verdant backdrop, while pops of red and pink come from orchids and hibiscus. Between the sea, lakes, and sky, every shade of blue imaginable is represented. The landscape is just the beginning when it comes to the colors of Malaysia. Islamic ladies wear colorful headscarves and Hindu women’s clothes are as vibrant as an Andy Warhol painting.

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While in Malaysia there was one color that continually captured my eye–gold. Perhaps it was the timing of my trip, just after Christmas and right before Chinese New Year, but the gilt color was everywhere. Signifying royalty in Malaysia, the color adorns everything from the star and crescent on the Malaysian flag to the domes of Istana Negara to the country’s crest. Flowers, food, clothing, and decor are all awash with the gilded hue. I couldn’t help but capture it with my camera.

People

Malaysia is a diverse country comprised of 60% Malays, 30% Chinese, and 8% Indian. Although the official religion is Islam, citizens are able to worship as they choose. The country is filled with mosques, Hindu and Buddhist temples, as well as churches. An ongoing government campaign entitled, 1Malaysia, emphasizes ethnic harmony and national unity, while the tourism board touts the country as “Truly Asia.”

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Food

Given its diverse ethnic population, visitors can expect plenty of Chinese and Indian cuisine. Less familiar might be Malay food. Similar to Indonesian, Malay cuisine is heavy on chicken, beef, seafood, rice, noodles, and a spice paste know as rempah. Pork is scarce, found mostly in Chinese restaurants. Given the equatorial climate, vegetables are plentiful and found year around. Typical Southeast Asian fruits such as mangoes, lychee, coconut, guava, and the super-stinky durian are popular. Cendol is a dessert made from shaved ice, coconut milk, palm sugar, green jelly noodles. Red beans and the aforementioned durian can be added for the more adventurous eaters.

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Malaysia Egglplant

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Monkeys

I’m not using hyperbole when I say that I saw more monkeys than dogs in Malaysia. Long-tailed macaque monkeys fearlessly roam the country, and famously, the steps that lead to the Batu Caves. These little animals are as mischievous as they are adorable. Since they’re so often fed by people, the monkeys feel very comfortable and can even get aggressive when it comes to getting what they want. I watched as monkeys munched on potato chips and buried their heads in McDonald’s bags. It’s suggested not to carry visible food lest you’re interested in a standoff akin to West Side Story. And as difficult as it might be, don’t smile. Monkeys display aggression by showing their teeth, and if you do the same, they’ll see it as a threat. The good news is they are not camera shy in the least.

Malaysia Monkey

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Malaysia Monkey Batu Caves

Malaysia Monkey Batu Cave

Places

Much of my time in the country was for the Grand Launch of Visit Malaysia Year 2014, which marked the beginning of the “Celebrating 1 Malaysia Truly Asia” tourism campaign. I had time to explore a bit of Kuala Lumpur, including the Petronas Towers, Merdeka Square, National Monument Complex, and KL Tower. The Batu Caves, found just north of KL, is a huge draw for visitors, as well as a religious site for Hindus. A series of limestone caves are guarded by the world’s largest golden statue of Lord Murugan and 272 concrete steps. A day trip took me to Malacca, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Once a Malay fishing village dating back to the 1300s, Malacca was eventually colonized by the Portuguese, Dutch, and English, which gives the city a diverse history and architecture.

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Malaysia Phonebooth

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Malaysia Church

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Having just a week to explore Kuala Lumpur and the island of Langkawi, I discovered that I needed much more time in the country. I want to peel back the layers of history, learn more about the culture, and soak up more of the natural beauty. When I do return, no doubt that more gold will garner the attention of my camera lens.

I was a guest of Tourism Malaysia. In no way was I swayed to write a positive review based on the abundance of mango juice, gargantuan shopping malls, or their picturesque beaches. As always, opinions are mine. For more information on Malaysia, visit their Website.

Leah Walker

Leah's a luxury travel and food writer who has as many stories as she does shoes. She documents her experiences whether that's in the lap of luxury or riding through a swamp in an airboat. Leah freelances and has contributor/editor roles with The Daily Meal, The Daily Basics, Bonjour Paris, France Today, Luxe Beat Magazine, Four Seasons Magazine, Forbes Travel Guide, and is a travel ambassador for Atout France USA. Leah's thrilled to call Paris home after being awarded the coveted three-year Compétences & Talents visa from France, though her talents don't extend to speaking French. Yet.

36 Comments

    1. What takes you to Malaysia? I’m assuming some writing gig. Happy to chat over some coffee when I’m back in Houston.

  1. Such nice and crisp pictures. Nicely done, Leah 🙂

    You are right – a week is not enough for Malaysia. There’s a lot more to do – Tioman, Taman Negara, and perhaps Mt. Kinabalu (to name a few).

    “Hindu women’s clothes are as vibrant as an Andy Warhol painting” – very true. When I read that sentence, I instantly had the image of “Mt. Vesuvius by Andy Warhol” in my mind. We can’t wait to head there in a few weeks. We are in Malaysia only for 4 days this time, but excited at the prospect of devouring all that amazing street food.

    1. Yes, so many islands, so little time. I need to take a trip with the two of you. That would be a great time, I just know it.

    1. Thanks, Ana. I’d say my favorite part was exploring the salt water canals of Langkawi. They meander through the island before opening up into the ocean. So much beauty there.

  2. Wow, you’re right about the gold everywhere. Cendol sounded nice until you said green jelly noodles. I’m just not sure about that. And don’t carry food, and don’t smile at the monkeys? I thought I’d like the idea of running into a monkey on the street. Never mind. And as always, great photos.

  3. Leah, I love this introductory post for Malaysia. In my mind, I was hearing the “Malaysia: Truly Asia” song in the background, with your words as the narration! 🙂 Even though it’s not the same, for me, Singapore was a decent introduction – I must return not only to Singapore, but also I’d like to see, smell, and taste some of the origins in Malaysia and Indonesia the food I sampled in the city state by the equator.

    1. Ohhhh…I heard that song a million times in about a week’s time. Like you, Singapore was my introduction to SE Asia. Malaysia is quite different Singapore because it’s a Muslim country, among other reasons.

  4. Wonderful pictures and a great reflection of a wonderful country. Like you I’ve only been to KL and Langkawi – which I adored. Fair warning about the monkeys, how do you reason with such a determined creature?

    1. I guess the answer to your question is that you don’t! Haha…I guess just heed the warnings and hope for the best.

  5. Hi leah, i feel excited about your describing about Malaysia. Can i or you give permission to put your story and your experience picture in my site in title “experiences about Mlayasia?…hope i can hear from you soon. tq

    1. Hi Rabe, thank you for visiting. Unfortunately, I can’t let you post my story on you’re page. You are welcome to link to my site if you’d like.

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