Malaysia, Southeast Asia’s third richest country – behind Singapore and Brunei Darussalam – came into the international spotlight in 1998 when two of the nation’s greatest achievements occurred: the XVI Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur and the completion of the Petronas Towers, currently still the title-holder for the world’s tallest twin towers. The formidable former prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, was the man behind the country’s economic boost and mega-project developments. He also set up Vision 2020, a rather ambitious goal to make Malaysia a fully developed country by the year 2020, and Kuala Lumpur as the country’s biggest city is the prominent showcase for this ambition.
For Indonesians, Malaysians are the closest we have to brothers and sisters. Moreover Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Melayu (Malay) – the national languages – share so many common words and grammar which enable us to understand each other quite easily. However, as with other neighbors, problems do persist between the two, from border disputes to overlapping claims over cultural heritage. But that doesn’t stop Malaysians from importing Indonesian television dramas and listening to Indonesian pop bands, and Indonesians from loving Siti Nurhaliza – one of Malaysia’s divas.
Despite all that, one thing is certain these days: Indonesians and Malaysians are now much closer than before due to extensive flights between cities served by airlines from both sides. That was also the main reason why I chose Kuala Lumpur as the place where I had my first ever solo trip abroad back in December 2010 (click here for the stories from that trip). Since then, I have visited the Malaysian economic center some nine times. However most of the time I didn’t leave the Low Cost Carrier Terminal as it would take one hour alone by bus to get to downtown Kuala Lumpur.
Due to my recent trip to Laos, China and Sri Lanka, I had to go through Kuala Lumpur again for several times. Most things have not changed since my first visit, except some new buildings which were previously under construction. One of Kuala Lumpur’s landmarks – Sultan Abdul Samad building – looked shinier than one and a half years ago though. But the Petronas Twin Towers still looked as striking and Pasar Seni as colorful as I had remembered. Kuala Lumpur is not my favorite city after all, but I know I have to learn to love it somehow as it will likely remain the usual city of transit for my future travels.
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