A brief Malay language lesson and a taste of local life

The Malay language uses the same alphabet as English, thanks to the British. Makes it very easy to pronounce or at least point to Malay words and names of places and be understood… At least speaking with a “North American” accent and not a British accent (baaathroom vs. bathroom, as my Londoner friend likes to poke fun at us). I took a day trip out to Klang, and to catch the local bus there, no one understood me until I pronounced it with “proper” North American emphasis – Klaaaang!

One thing that occurred to me is that words borrowed from English are actually spelt the way they should be pronounced! When I was in a restaurant looking at the drink list, I knew that “teh” is tea, and asked the waitress, “What is teh ais?”… Ah, wait, nevermind (say it out loud). My favorite drink here is “teh-o ais limau” – see if you can guess what that is! (Teh-“o” means that the tea is black.)

Some Malay words, all of which I guessed and didn’t need to look up šŸ™‚

helo = hello

teh = tea

kopi = coffee

kopitiam = easily guessed, it’s a coffee house, or restaurant

bas = bus

farmasi = pharmacy

klinik = clinic

nasional = national

But of course, not all Malay words are easily recognizable, though don’t you agree that the spelling of English words makes more sense in Malay?

Continuing my story from Seremban… I phoned the next morning about a homestay very close to Seremban, 9 km away, but no one ever seems to pick up their phone! So it was back to KL to brave the bus station in search of an onward ticket šŸ˜¦ After inquiry at the Nasional ticket counter, they told me to catch a local bus outside the station to Kuala Selangor.

Found the bus without too much trouble – actually, it just arrived and pulled up right in front of me, enabling me to be one of the first ones on! I grabbed a seat behind the driver, which had plenty of leg room for my backpack, and wondered why a few other people passed that seat up. I found out why soon. Lots more people than seats got on the bus, and so two people (would be three if not for my bag) were standing in front of me for most of the long, crowded, sweaty journey. I also chose the sunny side of the bus, so though it was air conditioned, I soon fell asleep from the heat. At one point a woman with six kids got on the bus, and grabbed the seat beside me that just became vacant. Three kids on her lap. Actually, two and a half, as one girl was half on my lap as well. But I didn’t mind too much – this was some of the local life I wanted to see.

Two hours later, made it to Kuala Selangor, a quiet town of about 20,000 people. Checked into the Hotel Kuala Selangor across from the old bus station a decently clean Chinese run hotel.

For dinner, restaurants seem to close early here, so I was left with few choices. I ended up at an Indian restaurant that had a very questionable looking buffet, filled with men that were drinking tea only and not eating. The restaurant made me some fresh roti with an egg cracked inside, which I felt was a safe choice. I made a mistake in dipping it into the satay sauce they provided however, as I discovered partway through, it contained meat. Meat that was probably sitting in a lukewarm container all day long. And of course this morning had my first minor bout of diarrhea in Malaysia. Maybe too much info, so I’ll move on.

Arranged through the hotel to have a driver take me to the firefly park last night, where I took a boat ride on the river lined with trees filled with fireflies! Would be very romantic, except I was there all by my lonesome. And sharing the boat with a bunch of Japanese tourists, as well as a white couple, who all arrived there on coaches from Kuala Lumpur (I’m guessing) just for the evening boat ride. Had a nice chat with my driver, who works at the hotel I’m staying. This is more like how I envisioned my trip in Malaysia should be!

Today, I took a day trip out to Klang, where I got lost and couldn’t find the mosque that was listed in my guidebook. Even after asking several locals, who either directed me to the wrong mosque, or had no idea what I was trying to ask. I don’t think anyone who lives in Klang actually visits the site! Much like anyone in any city around the world – you don’t visit the tourist sights where you live.

After awhile, I gave up and continued on to Shah Alam, where the world’s tallest mosque is located. Quite beautiful. The town or city itself is rather strictly Muslim, as walking around, men would make comments to me (probably something like, “hey baby”) even when my hair was covered at times. The Malay women had pretty much every part of themselves covered in fabric, except their face and hands. But the Indian women and Chinese women didn’t, which didn’t make sense why I was harassed, especially wearing long pants and a short sleeved blouse. In any case, I had a nice conversation with the female who was my guide at the mosque, who happened to come from Kuala Selangor!

Blue mosque in Shah Alam

Me looking freaky, covered from head to toe in order to visit the mosque

I’m back here in Kuala Selangor for another night. Tomorrow morning I’ll do a short walk around the park before heading back to Kuala Lumpur for a few days, then onwards perhaps to Melaka then Singapore!

Lots of monkeys to be seen in Kuala Selangor


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