Malaysia, Truly Asia? Perhaps, depending on how far and wide you've traveled. But tropical, modern, vaguely exotic and multiethnic it certainly is.
Our visit there was anchored by the practical, including numerous trips to the Indian consular agencies in Penang and Kuala Lumpur. Along the way, however, we sampled plenty of street food (hang on for the next post), visited a handful of tourist sights and soaked up a unique cocktail of cultures.
Although Peninsular Malaysia can be astoundingly modern, its Chinatowns, Little Indias and Malay neighborhoods tell a story of the country's colonial history. From the cultural to the religious to the culinary, it's a feast on so many levels.
Penang, our first stop in Malaysia, quite literally gave us our first taste of Malaysia's diversity. In Georgetown, it was almost impossible not to split breakfast, lunch and dinner between Chinese, Indian and Malaysian cuisine.
A stop at Penang Hill and turtle-feeding at Kek Lok Si Buddhist temple reminded us to appreciate the little things; a walk along the coast in the fishing village of Teluk Bahang slowed us down to a tropical pace.
KL (Kuala Lumpur): the place for contrasts. Following an afternoon of the deeply traditional – puja (prayers) at the Batu Caves Hindu temple – we witness Malaysia's modernity cast in the evening lights of the Petronas Towers.
Although sleepy Melaka may not change your life, it serves up its share of eye candy – including a spiffed up collection of European churches and Dutch architecture, giant lizards along the Malacca River, traditional Malay houses in Kampung Morten, and the temples and mansions of Chinatown.
After attempting to piece Melaka's history together, treat yourself to an evening of dining in Malaysian satay heaven at Capitol Satay.