I’m Dreaming of a Monsoon Christmas

We had heard rumors of this being the rainy season in peninsular Malaysia, but the blue skies made us skeptical.  But today, at about 3 pm, the skies opened up.  No one but the tourists seemed to notice.  It was the first time we’d seen precipitation since China in late October.

Kuala Lumpur is treating us well.  Its cosmopolitan and diverse urban population is a nice change of pace from Cambodia.  It’s a two hour flight from our last stop in Siem Reap, but it truly feels a world away.  We have met up with my friend Noah and he and his girlfriend have promised us an American style road trip to Penang, an island on the northwestern coast.  We’re thrilled.

(While we’re on the subject I should plug Noah’s website and his photography, proceeds of which go to help indigenous rainforest inhabitants. He’s doing some really interesting things and I’m sure I’ll write more about later once I get the full scoop.  But in the meantime, it’s not too late to buy your loved ones a print or three.  Chinese New Year is right around the corner.)

In the meantime, Kuala Lumpur doesn’t offer much to the tourist in the way of legendary sights, although the Petronas Towers are pretty cool to behold.  Most visits to KL revolve around the people and the food.  I’m okay with that.

There are people of Chinese descent, there are people of South Asian/Indian descent, Malays and indigenous people, and maybe some Europeans but we haven’t seen them yet.  There are Hindus and Buddhists and lots of Muslims.  And everyone was an honorary Christian today, especially around the singing, dancing Santa in Chinatown.  We’ve seen a couple of churches too so there are certainly some of the year-round, Jesus-lovin’ variety too.

And the food.  Since CeCe wanted to take the GRE on a calm stomache (she did just fine, thanks for asking) we took a gastronomic pass for the first two days, but we pulled out all the stops today.  Breakfast was a fairly tame affair, but our mid-morning snack was one for the ages.  We had what I guess you would call a Malay snowball (that’s shaved or Italian ice to those of you not from Baltimore).  CeCe’s was mango.  It was a fairly straightforward until she got to the subterranean layers.  That’s where all the gooey, weird Asian jellies and greenish bean looking things started, along with peanuts and red beans.  CeCe was brave for awhile.

The principal component of mine, once I got past the rainbow colored jelly spheres, was durian.   Durian is a giant, thorny fruit reviled by some, loved by others.  Its fragrance is so potent that our hotel and many others have banned it, as has the public transit system in Singapore.  Anthony Bourdain evidently wrote that eating durian makes “your breath smell as if you’d been French-kissing your dead grandmother.”  If you’ve ever wondered what that’s like, and I know you have, go to your local Asian supermarket and see if they have one in stock.

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