My name is Marta, and I am Portuguese. I guess you could say that I’m a “newbie” to Kuala Lumpur. I came here three months ago to pursue an internship opportunity; and to be quite honest it was a huge leap of faith. Coming from the other side of the world to work in Asia, I knew well beforehand that this would be a daunting task for a just-turned 21 year-old (I know, I know-I’m a bit long in the tooth). I had never been to Asia before, and I never gave much thought to Malaysia as a destination to work, much less live. My perception of Malaysia wasn’t negative, but my knowledge of the country was close to inexistent, and the little knowledge that I did have was far from accurate. What do you think about Malaysia? How’s the lifestyle here? Well, I can tell you that Kuala Lumpur is much more similar to Europe than what I would have expected from an Asian country. I can also say with certainty that Malaysia has some better qualities than many European countries.
There is one season the whole year. Winter and summer seem to exist only on TV. It appears that there’s a default weather: hot (but not too hot) and it’s common to see rain three/four hours a day. It is true that most of the time the sky is full with clouds. But besides that, this type of weather really fits my personality, and contrary to my initial predictions, I’ve adapted quite nicely.
The local gastronomy is always an important element of my trips. I am really open-minded and flexible when it comes to new flavours and textures. It was a pleasant surprise to discover that Thai, Indian and Chinese food are the kings of cuisine. Due to Malaysia’s heterogeneous population, its gastronomy has grown rich in variety. Though most typical Malay dishes are fantastic, if I had to highlight one in particular, it would be “Nasi Lemak”. It is basically rice boiled in coconut water (with gives it amazingly sweet-yet not too sweet-taste) with peanuts, dried fish, boiled egg. Of course, this dish is accompanied with slightly spicy sauce, a Malay favourite. Typically Nasi Lemak comes wrapped in a banana leaf that at the same time serves as a plate, making it easily disposable. Though at first it was hard to find the right places on your own, I soon exposed myself to the multitude of online resources geared towards bringing people-mainly expats- together. Websites like VibeHero or even the multitude of KL (as the locals call Kuala Lumpur) Facebook groups, have helped me met a bunch of interesting people with similar passions and interests.
I find the lifestyle amazing. Chaotic, congested, and slightly confusing, KL radiates the type of energy one might feel on a restless night. One can find supermarkets, restaurants, and bars open 24 hours. People constantly roam the streets; regardless of what time it is, from Monday till Sunday the city is cluttered with loads of people. The nightlife is also pretty interesting. A lot of western bars make cool hangout spots whenever you’re in the mood to practice a language. But by far the best things about KL are those that cannot be found in Europe: Skyscrapers higher than the eye can see a jungle half-an-hour bus ride away, and beautiful islands that can only be described as paradise just off the coast.
I really could go on and on about Kuala Lumpur. Rather than an undeveloped country, still striving to modernize, I found an exciting, extremely urban metropolis with a lot to offer.
What are your thoughts? Do you agree with Marta? What are your highlights in Kuala Lumpur?