Our parents’ generation would save hundreds of dollars by staying indoors, but for me, money earned is money meant to be spent. And travelling is an enriching process, in my opinion. It is important for me to see and enjoy what Cambodia doesn’t have yet, while I can improve myself by gaining new insights and meeting new people. Here are a few of my experiences, so enjoy!
February 27th, 2010 (7am): For God’s sake, this is my first self-financed one-week trip! I am going to Malaysia and Singapore along with a female friend. I am practically stomping my feet at the airport, and I can barely hide my excitement in front of on-lookers.
February 27, 2009 (5 am): The first thing I notice upon landing in Malaysia is the heat and high humidity. It’s the opposite of my first impression upon arriving in Germany (a school-funded trip) where I had smoke coming out of my mouth. Mind you, I wasn’t actually smoking. The second thing I took notice of was that Malaysia is a very multi-ethnic place, with Malaysians, Chinese and Indians, and a few other Asian nationalities. It took more than 40 minutes for my friend, who I consider my godbrother, to reach me on the other side of Kuala Lumpur. So much for our head start.
February 28th, 2010: This morning we are having breakfast at an Indian restaurant near where we stay, Petalling Jaya, KL. I am amazed that the food, which is decent, is even cheaper than the food in Cambodia.
March 1st, 2010: After driving to Putra Jaya, where the seat of Malaysia’s government is located, and then to Malacca, the third-smallest Malaysian state, we are now eating again. This time it’s Hokkien chicken, rice balls and a foot massage nearby afterwards. Malacca is a colourful area, with so much to see. Malaysia used to be occupied by the Portuguese and Dutch, whose legacies still remain, especially in the architecture. Anyway, if you ever end up here, don’t miss out on the London Eye, which takes you up high to see a spectacular view of KL.
March 2nd, 2010: As a tourist, I did not have a hard time asking people for directions in Malaysia. Almost everyone, including the taxi drivers, speaks good English. What I highly recommend for today is Genting Highlands, dubbed “the city of entertainment”, about one hour’s drive from KL. Known as the Las Vegas of Malaysia, it is built on a mountain peak, so wear a sweater if you want to go. The best way to get there and come back is by the cable car. Genting Highlands has everything, from indoor and outdoor theme parks to casinos. People there told me that the Malaysian government has invested millions of dollars building this up.
During my five days in Kuala Lumpur, I had plenty of time to reflect on how far this country has come in transforming itself into a well-organised state. A lot of Cambodians have recently immigrated to Malaysia as labourers or house maids, earning less than US$200 a month on average.
March 4th, 2010: It usually takes 30 minutes to travel from Malaysia to Singapore and vice versa, with plane tickets costing between US$20 and $30. Malaysia has quite a long way to go to catch up with Singapore, where trees and parks have mushroomed over the extraordinarily clean city.
A friend of mine living in Singapore told me that a Singaporean’s annual income will probably rise higher than that of the Japanese. The National University of Singapore (NUS) is amazing to me, with its different blocks of libraries and educational departments. The campus is so huge that students have to almost commute from one block to the other. The preferred transport in Malaysia is a car, while in Singapore it is a bus. “Singaporeans don’t walk anymore,” my friend joked.
March 5th, 2010: It is glaringly obvious that Singapore is one of the fastest-growing countries in Asia. Many high-rise buildings have started to go up, while immigrants from Asian countries like India and Myanmar are flowing in. I spent the last night strolling along the riverside, where I spotted the little Mer-lion and caught a glimpse of the majestic newly-built casino that looks like three big buildings supporting one gigantic ship. A journalist friend said it cost millions of dollars and will soon attract thousands of foreign visitors a year. Singaporean visitors will have to pay before entering this casino, as the government wants to deter domestic gambling.
Cambodia absolutely has a long way to go to catch up with Malaysia and Singapore in terms of education, development and urban management. People there have a high tolerance for people from other countries. Over the years, foreign investments have come into the countries, bringing their economies upward. A lot of money has poured into building infrastructure, as well. And what I cannot forget is the determined look of Malaysians and Singaporeans that seems to tell the whole story.
I can’t wait to travel again! LIFT