Saturday, February 16, 2013

Kuala Lumpur Revisited

Most of you will be aware that the Chinese New Year was February 10th - the year of the snake. The new year celebrations continue through the following week, so I was fortunate to experience some of the celebrations especially the decorations, lion dancers and fireworks every night. One of the New Years customs is to give you an orange - I was given several and yes I did eat one and it was sweet and delicious.

Decorations at one of the high end shopping malls.

Stylish dragon!

I was born in the year of the monkey - apparently this year is a good year for my career - too bad I retired!

Chinese New Year is also called Lunar New Year, Spring Festival, New Year and is observed by Chinese communities worldwide. Celebrations include Lion dances, fireworks, family gathering, family meal, visiting friends and relatives, giving red envelopes, decorating with duilian (Chinese poetry). You may have heard of the Lantern Festival, which concludes the celebration of the New Year - unfortunately I left Kuala Lumpur before the end of the celebrations.

Chinese New Year is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. In China, it is also known as the Spring Festival, the literal translation of the modern Chinese name. Chinese New Year celebrations traditionally ran from Chinese New Year's Day itself, the first day of the first month of the Chinese calendar, to the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the first month, making the festival the longest in the Chinese calendar. Because the Chinese calendar is lunisolar, the Chinese New Year is often referred to as the "Lunar New Year".

The origin of Chinese New Year is itself centuries old and gains significance because of several myths and traditions. Traditionally, the festival was a time to honor deities as well as ancestors.

Deities are beings natural, supernatural or preternatural, with superhuman powers or qualities, and who may be thought of as holy, divine, or sacred. Believers may consider or believe that they can communicate with the deity, who can respond supernaturally to their entreaties, and that the deity's myths are true.

Chinese New Year is celebrated in countries and territories with significant Chinese populations, including Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius,Philippines, and also in Chinatowns elsewhere.

On my last visit I wrote about the capital of Malaysia - Kuala Lumpur. Here are some interesting facts about the country of Malaysia. Ethnic groups 50.4% Malay , 23.7% Chinese, 11.0% Indigenous, 7.1% Indian, 7.8% Other

The government is federal constitutional elective monarchy and Federal parliamentary democracy. It gained its Independence From the United Kingdom on August 31, 1957 (I was one years olds). Malaysia size is 127,355 sq mi with a population of 28,334,135 in comparison Canada has 33million people and is 3,854,085 sq mi.

Malaysia consists of thirteen states and three federal territories and has a total landmass and is separated by the South China Sea into two similarly sized regions, Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo. Land borders are shared with Thailand, Indonesia, and Brunei, and maritime borders exist with Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

The economy has traditionally been fuelled by its natural resources, but is expanding in the sectors of science, tourism, commerce and medical tourism.

The country is multi-ethnic and multi-cultural, which plays a large role in politics. The government system is closely modelled on the Westminster parliamentary system and the legal system is based on English Common Law. The constitution declares Islam the state religion while protecting freedom of religion. The head of state is the King, known as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. He is an elected monarch chosen from the hereditary rulers of the nine Malay states every five years. The head of government is the Prime Minister.

Evidence of modern human habitation in Malaysia dates back 40,000 years. The first inhabitants are thought to be Negritos. Traders and settlers from India and China arrived as early as the 1st century AD, establishing trading ports and coastal towns in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. Their presence resulted in strong Indian and Chinese influence on the local cultures, and the people of the Malay Peninsula adopted the religions of Hinduism and Buddhism.

In the Second World War the Japanese army invaded and occupied Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak, and Singapore for over three years. During this time, ethnic tensions were raised and nationalism grew.

Federation brought heightened tensions including a conflict with Indonesia, Singapore and racial strife. This strife culminated in the 13th May race riots in 1969. After the riots, the controversial New Economic Policy was launched by Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak, trying to increase the share of the economy held by the bumiputera ( Malay race and indigenous people). Under Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad there was a period of rapid economic growth and urbanisation beginning in the 1980s. The economy shifted from being agriculturally based to one based on manufacturing and industry. Numerous mega-projects were completed, such as the Petronas Towers, the North-South Expressway, the Multimedia Super Corridor, and the new federal administrative capital of Putrajaya. However, in the late 1990s the Asian financial crisis almost caused the collapse of the currency and the stock and property markets.

Well back to what I came for shopping and treatments. Since Malaysia carries a wide variety of products and brands from cheap to designer and the prices are much cheaper than other countries such as Australia, Singapore and Japan it has become the shopping Mecca of the South Pacific - thousands flock here to shop! My hotel was close to the Sungei Wang shopping complex which has over 1000 shops and stalls - shops open at 11am and stay Open every day until 10 pm. The Sungei wang complex is connected to another shopping complex which has about the same number of stores and stalls. The only way you can tell if you have gone from one complex to the other is that the floor tiles change! I spent a lot of time wandering these complexes - there is a guide but it still takes lots of time to browse as you continually are getting lost. The first day I shopped for 8 hours - then it was off to have a one hour foot massage.

View at night from my hotel room - yes those are the twin towers from the movie entrapment with Sean Connery

The food here is fabulous - there is a famous eating street around the corner from my hotel - all outside restaurants (not really restaurants by our standards more like outdoor kitchens with tables). I have enjoyed stingray, four angle beans, salt and pepper calamari, prawns and sweet and sour chicken. It is very cheap to eat here if you stay away from the Americanized restaurants - wanting to experience local food it is easy for me to do that.

Street with all the restaurants
Daytime view from my hotel room - yes it looks better in the dark
The second day I was here I hit the Nose shoe store and they had a sale - I got 5 pairs of shoes for $80.
All these shoe choices - what is a girl to do!
Buy shoes of course! I know I only have two feet but what the heck!
The last few days it has rained quite hard - so hard I got stuck in a bank foyer for over a half hour until it slowed down a bit.
Streets after the rain - driving here would be a nightmare
This is how one directs traffic!
In between shopping and eating I have been able to fit in a few treatments such as a back massage, facial (my pores have never been cleaner) and a hair shampoo and special conditioner. They do the most fabulous hair washing here and you can have a treatment where they put some sort of conditioner on it and then a steamer for about a half hour. Your hair ends up so shiny and soft and it lasts for quite a while. I also did manage to relax one sunny morning by the pool.
I have met a few people - two ladies from England that came here via a cruise ship. One of the ladies was from Winchester and I told her I had been there in September and my family lives close by in eastleigh. Apparently she has friend's in eastleigh and goes there all the time - so perhaps we shall see each other again one day! I told her to look for me in the charity shops with my dear auntie Joan. I met another young man from Kazakhstan - well he was very interesting to say the least. Apparently he came to Malaysia six years ago and could not speak English, does not have a job and when asked how he lives, he says he gets by, but he was staying in my hotel on the 14thfloor. He then wanted to tell me how he could get me half price or less on flights and hotels around the world! yeah right - i got rid of him quickly and will not be sharing my blog address! Yes I have been warned Kuala Lumpur can be dangerous but I have never felt uneasy even being out at 2am coming back to my hotel from my foot massage - but then again it is only a block from my hotel.


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