This weekend we acted like good little tourists and did a couple of recommended touristy things around KL. On Saturday we visited the Muzium Negara (National Museum), where Malaysian Tourism Board and Ministery for Tourism, Culture, and Antiquities officials have constructed a clean, simple, and air-conditioned summary of Malaysian culture and traditions. We kid, we kid. It was actually pretty cool to see all of the different cultural materials from the different ethnic groups that have combined to make multicultural Malaysia. We did get to see that the traditional description of Malaysian culture as divided between Malay, Chinese, and Indian is really far too simplistic and inaccurate. Someday soon we’ll take the time to break down all of the major cultural groups that we can think of, which certainly number to at least six, and probably should include more.
The museum also had some pretty cool examples of Malaysian natural history and wildlife. Malaysia, to put it simply, has some pretty crazy tropical beasts, just like Indonesia did. We saw a mounted bat known as a "Flying Fox" in Malay that has a wing-span of 1.9 meters, which is noticeably wider than we are tall. Luckily, it does not have a taste for blood–it likes fruit. We also saw a walking-stick insect that was 12 inches long, not including the legs. That’s a big bug.
The final museum bit was the Museum of Malay Civilizations, which links the Malay racial-type throughout most the Malaysian-Indonesian archipelago to other related peoples from South Africa and Madagascar in the west, south to Western Australia, north to Taiwan, and to Easter Island in the east. Some other time we’ll discuss the very fascinating politics of Malay culture and "race," both comparatively between Malaysia and Indonesia and in the world writ large.
Yesterday we followed the advice of our Lonely Planet Tourbook and did what they called a Chinatown Walk, walking through the areas of KL traditionally inhabited by Chinese Malaysians and their descendants. It was very neat to see. Of course, within Chinatown, you can also find one of the biggest mosques in Malaysia, the biggest Hindu temple in Malaysia, and other good Chinese things. We got some great pictures that we will post as soon as we get our internet situation settled!