So here we are in Kuala Lumpur! We got in late last night. Our flights were good…Thai Airways continues to astound us with the quality of the food in steerage class. It was genuinely tasty–and it was served all in a 1 hour and 20 minute flight. That included free flow wine. You hardly get peanuts on a flight that short in the US. We also had a nice 45 minute flight from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, although they did not feed us. Malaysian Airlines is very proud that they have been voted "Friendliest Cabin Staff" by some airline travel publication for four years running, and they do indeed have nice flight attendants (and comfy seats, we might add).
We thought that leaving Indonesia would cause us to leave behind all the confusion of trying to do everyday chores. Turns out, that’s not quite right. Case in point, airport taxis. In KL there seems to be some sort of monopoly on airport taxis, but there is no system for finding out where to go to get them. It turns out you have to go to an unmarked desk and prepay for them, and you have to be careful to tell them that you do NOT want the expensive kind. Also, taxis are not marked, at least from the airport. But, we figured this out pretty well and avoided major disaster.
We’ll have to write more later, but suffice it to say that Malaysia is really really different than Indonesia. The most obvious difference is the ethnic breakdown. Malaysia has a Chinese minority of almost 30%, and an Indian minority of almost 10%. Especially in KL, these minority groups probably make up the majority of the people that you see (Malays remain concentrated in rural areas). Moreover, you just do not have to be able to speak anything but English here. In fact, it’s difficult, because Chinese Malaysians and Indian Malaysians probably do not speak Malay. So, we look like idiots because we respond in Malay to questions in English out of habit, when among Malaysians it’s part of the social process to size up the ethnicity and probable language of people with whom you are speaking. The default, of course, is English, which everybody speaks well, although with heavy Singaporean accents. In Indonesia, by contrast, some people did address us in English, but were almost always happy to have us respond in Indonesian and then rattle on that way. We’ll probably get used to this, but it’s hard so far. It’s also hard to get used to seeing currencies that don’t have nine million zeroes in them.