Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Teh lemon ais

This was the first beverage I spotted at our 'Tourist Guesthouse' in Georgetown, Malaysia.

Our trip from Hat Yai, Thailand to Penang, Malaysia was fairly easy as far as border crossings go. From the Tollway, Malaysia looks disorientingly like the United States: a divided highway with rest stops?! But the palm plantations and the people scootering in the shoulder give Malaysia away.

Georgetown's architecture is good-looking, old but not in ruin, colonial with a splash of China thrown in. I am not sure I have ever been to a former British colony before... except New England, I guess, but somehow South America and Southeast Asia seem different. One difference with our colonial heritage is that Thais and Malays drive on the 'wrong' side of the road, which makes me wonder if they drive on the wrong side of the road all the way over to India. Myanmar, Bangladesh, I am looking at you and I do not want to look right.

Malaysia's clame to fame seems to be its melting pot of cultures: Little India, Chinatown, Indonesia influences, Muslim food and culture, and of course, Malay dishes. We just ate some delicious streetside Indian food: a little okra, sneak some fish in there, some chicken covered in red sauce, a splash of curry or two thrown in for good measure, all on a giant mound of rice, garnished with some cucumber, and chased with a ginger beer.

Might I add that it is nice to be in a country that uses a familiar alphabet again? Viet Nam didn't count because they use so many different symbols above the letters that things don't sound anything like they look. At least here we can read street signs and we might stand a small chance of not slaughtering the languange.

Malaysia, so far so good. At the immigration desk, there was a poster that stated: "Malaysia - Truly Asia," which I thought was a little risky. Was does that make everybody else around here, hm? But perhaps with its blend of cultures, Malaysia is greater than the sum of its parts.

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