Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia = Diversity

Kuala Lumpur National Muslim Temple

Kuala Lumpur National Muslim Temple.

Feeling as though we were visiting  India, China, and a big modern Asian city all in one, Barry and I recently flew to Kuala Lumpur (KL), so we could renew our tourist visas for Bali.   We love the variety and energy of this Malaysian capital. A city of  many peoples and religions, Kuala Lumpur has beautiful mosques, many Christian Methodist and Lutheran churches and schools, Chinese temples, Buddhist monasteries, ashrams, Hindu temples, and more.

Kuala Lumpur has many churches

Kuala Lumpur Christian churches


The Kuala Lumpur International Buddhist Temple


A Kuala Lumpur ashram that offers Kundalini meditation.

Mosques – some big, some small – are scattered  throughout the city. Islam is the national  Malaysian religion, but the city accommodates  other religions too. KLmuslimTw Streets pulsate with life and variety.  Stalls along Petaling Street,  Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown, sell almost everything. LKChinatown3wAs  in Lin’an, Shanghai, and other Chinese cities, the KL Chinatown market offers much variety – including roasted chestnuts – see the bin on the right. KLChinatownwBargains are to be had in the KL Chinatown. Tall turbaned Sikhs, Muslim women, with their scarves, smiling uniformed school children, sari clad women, dark Africans, young Chinese tourists, and Western business people in suits all mix on the KL streets and in the markets. KLchinatown2wWe also loved KL’s “Little India,” especial the tasty (and cheap) food we could find there. KLindianfoodwThis delicious dinner included two Indian thali plates, a big bottle of water, and bananas for dessert; the cost = $4.00 for two.  :) The Chapatti House, a favorite, was near our Hotel Sentral, nice and conveniently located  in “Little India, it serves buffet breakfasts on the rooftop.  We ate well. KLchapattiw“Little India” also had beautiful saris, gold jewelry, and fragrant  spices for sale. KLlndiawModern buildings of interesting designs line some streets. KLmodbuildwMalaysians line up in a proper cue as they wait for the monorail – most  text as they wait :) KLquewKL is modern in many ways: the water from the tap is safe to drink; the toilets can take tissue; the stop lights have ticking noises and ribbed center tiles on the sidewalks, so the blind can cross the streets safely; the one-way roads are respected—you don’t have to look behind you to cross a street.  The city emphasizes education with many schools and universities, medical centers, and health clubs.

Highlights of our intense few days as tourists include:

- A night in the Bukit Bintang area of bright lights, modern high-end shops and restaurants.  I felt as though were  in a Shanghai high-rise modern mall with its  Cartier watches, Louis Vuitton luggage, $500.00 (U.S.) Furla handbags, and other expensive brands.

A memorable Furla handbag on display -

KLFurlawHot cars -


Barry with his smoothie, a young conservative Muslim couple, and hip youth amble along the Bukit Bintang streets.

KLburka1wIn this modern city, we  occasionally saw a woman in a burqa, a full-body cloak worn in some Muslim traditions.  The young woman above (we could tell by the way she walked) was completely enclosed in black except for the thin strip for her eyes.  The KL temperatures in March when we were there range from 82-93 degrees F (28-34 degrees C) although it felt much hotter since the  humidity is around 84%!  How could she keep from fainting?

We  did see a “Ladies Only” car on a train, but on the monorail and other places men and women seem to mingle freely.

KLwomanonlyw-1“Coach for ladies only” in the KL train station.

A  recent  New Yorker article report from Saudi Arabia tells about women now being allowed to work in some shops there.   These women must wear the full-body cloak, but most, although they don’t have to, choose also to wear the niqab, the face cloth that covers all but the eyes: “Various sales women told me that they wear it to protect themselves from harassment” (Zoepf, K. “Shopgirls” p. 63, 12/23 & 30/13).  Perhaps the “Ladies Only” car is a preference for women traveling alone in Malaysia.

At the top floors of the KL mall, as in China, we could choose from Japanese seafood and noodles, Korean BBQ, Western steaks, Vietnamese pho, or fresh juiced wheat grass and mango smoothies.

  High-end goods fill the  mall.


Another highlight, found in the The Lake Garden area that includes  the largest enclosed aviary, “best in the world” butterfly park, and National Mosque, is The Museum of Islamic Arts.  It has the largest and finest collection of Indian, Chinese, Malay, and SE Asia Muslim calligraphy, textiles, jewelry, silver, and paintings. We spent much of one day there.   Religion permeates much of  what we saw.

KLArt1w This  calligraphy piece by artist  Gholamreza Rahpeyma (born 1959) honors the “Holy Qur’an, the Names of Allah and Prophet Muhammad.” Chinese Islamic art is represented too. KLArt2wOf his piece, Haji Noor Deen Mi Guang Jiang (born 1963) says, “As a Chinese Muslim calligrapher, I have a deep sense of responsibility in promoting, propagating and carrying forward this intricate art form and precious cultural heritage.”

A few women had pieces in this notable Islamic Arts Museum.  Magic Carpet #3 is  such an example by a Muslim woman. KLwomartwThe painter, Ola Hejaziow, now lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.  She  says, “The inspiration for my work comes from many years of travelling over the world, everyday life, and from some of my favourite artists.”

Another section of the museum features illustrated Qur’ans. KLArtQuranwWritten during the Qing Dynasty, this Chinese Qur’an above is decorated with Chinese motifs such as cloud bands and peonies. Among many other examples of beautifully illustrated Qur’ans is the Dala’il al-Khayrat.  The museum describes it as the most celebrated prayer book.   Written by Muhammad Ibn Sulayman al-Jazuli (d. 1465 AD/869 AH in Morocco), it has been copied throughout the Islamic world from North Africa to the Malay Archipelago, Turkey, and China.  While most Islamic prayer books have  illustrations of the holy mosques of Mecca and Medina, this copy  illustrates the minbar (a pulpit) and tombs of the Prophet and his companion. KLquaran3w A guilded leaf reveals beautiful intricacy. KLgoldwSuch guilded and pierced leaves reached the peak of their popularity during the 19th century AD in Ottoman Turkey.  To create this piece, “the leaf was completely dried and flaked leaving only the web of vein-like, skeletal membrane of the leaf to support the calligraphic composition. . . .  ‘He is the most Merciful of the Merciful,’” says the script.  The museum also includes  other  wonderful exhibits.    When  you go to KL, be sure to visit The Museum of Islamic Arts.

- Another good stop is The National Textile Museum in a marvelous heritage building. KLtextmuswInside, dioramas depict  various textiles and how to make them. KLtextmus2w- Throughout the city, the many buildings under construction contrast with the old KL shops: KLbuildw KLchinatownoldw The ethnic Chinese who live in Malaysia  have a reputation as being good business people.  Here in a laundry, for example, where besides getting your clothes clean, you can buy clean water and use the massage chair, the sign welcomes customers in three languages: KLchinatownentw KL, a cosmopolitan city of rich histories and peoples,  did have race riots in 1969.  Estimates between 150 to  600 people, mostly ethnic Chinese, died in those KL riots.  Since then, many efforts including teaching the Malay language in all schools and promoting the Malay economy help unify this diverse population. In 1965, however, because of racial tensions and violence, Singapore was thrown out of  Malaysia.

Influenced by U.S. news, Barry and I were a bit nervous about Syariah law, the Islamic religious rules.  The KL news told of a 30-year-old divorced woman politician who was caught by the religious police in a raid of a hotel at 1:30 a.m.  The woman was fully clothed, but the man with her was married and had on only a t-shirt and a towel.  The two were charged with “khalwat” (close proximity) with a married man.  They face a huge fine, up to three years in prison, or both if found guilty.   The story did not give names and was on page five of the newspaper,”The Star.”  In the U.S., no arrests would be made, but if something similar were to happen, it would be a front-page story in  “The National Enquirer.”

Although Barry and I have been married for 26 years, we do have different last names.  Would they believe us? And although gambling is not allowed for Muslim citizens, KL has casinos, and we saw a very crowded lottery shop: “Dreams Come True.” KLlotterrywAlso Barry took a can of beer with us to the airport where  alcohol isn’t offered in the restaurants.  As we waited for our flight and ate lunch in the KL food court, Barry held his open beer under the table and took quick sips surreptitiously.   A neighboring table was full of Chinese men playing cards, so if the religious police had come, they might have been busy with all of us. KLcardswOf course, alcohol, gambling, drugs, . . . such habits are not good for individuals or society overall, but we are used to making our own decisions (and suffering our own personal consequences).  Actually, neither Barry nor I saw  religious police; they probably don’t concern themselves with non-Muslims, and the woman politician caught in the hotel room was probably set up.  There is much more I need to learn about this diverse, interesting  city–and the country.

Overall, we had a wonderful time and will certainly go back.  We haven’t seen some of the most famous KL sites like Petronas Twin Towers, and the beaches and towns outside KL are supposed to be wonderful. Come visit too.

Aloha and sampai jumpa (“see you soon”), Renée

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Thought for the Day – May the Long Time Sun Shine Upon You

pathwOn this St. Patrick’s Day, enjoy an old Celtic folk song and Irish blessing:

May The Long Time Sun

May the longtime sun shine upon you

All love surround you

And the pure, pure light that’s within you

Guide your way home.


Poem from: <http://www.poetryportal.org/lyric_poetry.html&gt;

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Aloha, Renée


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Thought for the Day – Straws?

Plastic straws contain toxins such as bisphenol-A (BPA).

Kizmet in Ubud uses metal straws.

Kizmet in Ubud uses metal straws.

Plastic straws can’t be recycled; they won’t breakdown to compost the land; the plastic just breaks into smaller and smaller pieces.


Down To Earth Bali uses papaya stem straws.

Do you really need to use a plastic straw?


Sari Organic in the rice fields of Ubud uses bamboo straws.


Plastic straw litter in Ubud. :(

 It’s likely that straws dropped on the road in Ubud will end up in the gutters and be washed out to the beaches and into the ocean.

A “Trash Talker” and co-owner of Bali Recycling, Oliver Pouillon asks, “Have we really forgotten how to drink from glasses?”


Notice Olivier requested, “No straw,” for his drink.

For more about Oliver and his work,  go to: <http://jmnicol.wordpress.com/2013/09/30/inspiring-person-oliver-pouillon/&gt; by blogger Janet Nicol, founder of Bali Inspired magazine.

Options are available if you do want a straw.  Glass straws,  for instance,  come in lots of colors, are toxic free, and can be easily cleaned.  Go to <www.imagineBali.org> to buy glass straws and to help “The Last Straw Campaign” on Bali.

Bali is a small island, so what to do with plastic that can’t be reused is more obviously a problem than perhaps in other places.  But wherever you are, you can help reduce plastic pollution.

Everything matters.  Please make conscious choices – even with straws.

Aloha, Renée

P.S.  If you are here in Ubud this Saturday, April 5, come join The Big Ubud Cleanup. Meet at 9 a.m. on Jalan Gootama #13 – the new Soma’s.  You’ll be able to pick up litter (including lots of plastic straws) for a couple of hours, meet good people, and then hear great music -  organized by Human Ruben.  For more information about the monthly cleanup, join the FB group.

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Thought for the Day: Forgiveness

patternsFlowersw“Forgiveness does not condone unkind actions, but it does embrace the momentary actor whose unskillful ways led to such unskilled conduct.

Bali-offeringswIt does not condone thievery but simply addresses the broken heart of the thief.  It is mercy in action in the same way that compassion is wisdom in action,” says Stephen Levine in A Year to Live (52%).


Aloha and sampai jumpa, Renée

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Thought for the Day – Eating


A delicious meal at Sari Organic in the rice fields of Ubud, Bali.

“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating,” Luciano Pavarotti – (on a menu at Warung Semesta on Jalan Monkey Forest, Ubud, Bali).

Sharing meals with family and friends is a great way to spend time wherever you are -

Eating with Rama.

Eating with children: Rama in Bali.


Delicious spicy Balinese food – cooked by Ayu.


Christmas breakfast at home with Barry and John :).


Eating at Firefly Grill with cousin Elaine and Barry.


Breakfast with Ann and Mark, friends from Vancouver, at Casa Luna.

“One cannot live well or sleep well unless one has dined well” Virginia Woolf (on a Casa Luna menu, Jalan Raya, Ubud, Bali.

Enjoying a book club outing for Denise's birthday.

Enjoying a book club outing for Denise’s birthday: Ren, Gail, and Denise.


Steve, Gail, Clair, Nalu, John, me, and Barry in Paia, Maui.


After a winning Cardinal’s game with Trish and Chuck. Notice the t-shirt on the guy behind us; drinking seems important to him :) .

“Selamat makan” (enjoy your meal) and your friends and family wherever you are.

Aloha and sampai jumpa, Renée

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Bali Glimpses – Beautiful Entrances

In Bali, a country of artists and spirits, the entrances are considered very important.  Dewa, our local friend, explains Balinese design, “We want to treat our eyes.”


The entrance gate is a very important part of the Balinese house because this is where evil influence from the outside can enter says J. Stephen Lansing in The Balinese, p. 26.  So not only should the entrance be beautiful, it should be useful as well.


Even the driveway may have a beautiful gate.

“The main entrance to the house should be a gate in the kelod-kauh corner” of each property p. 25.  “Kelod” means “downstream” or “towards the sea.”


Entrance to a home.


Hotel entrance.


Home entrance.


A new Ubud business with a beautiful entrance.


 The entrance to Dewa’s compound has Ganesha standing guard just within the entrance.

The Balinese often have a half wall or a statue within the entrance.  “Since minor demons are stupid and only travel only in straight lines, the wall can help prevent them from entering,” says Lansing p. 36.


Guarded entrance.


Serpent entrance to a temple.


For special family temple celebrations, lontar palm tree leaves are used to create beautifully decorated entrances.


Home entrance.


Entrance to a guest house.


Ganesha standing guard.


Entrance to Honeymoon Guest House on Jl. Bisma in Ubud.


The family temple roof is near this entrance to a house in Penestanan, Bali.


Barry and I dressed for a Balinese temple celebration at the entrance to Dewa and Ayu’s home compound.

Come visit Bali.  You are sure to notice all the art–even in the entrances to homes, temples, and businesses.

Aloha and sampai jumpa, Renée

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Thought for the Day – Printing Money?

Vine-ripening tomatoes - priceless.

Vine-ripening tomatoes – priceless.

“Growing a garden is like printing your own money.”


Why not put near-by land to use?


Fresh carrots still in the garden.

See Ron Finley and what he does.


Happy growing.

Aloha, Renée

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