Istana Negara

Impressions from Malaysia – From the Jungle, Through the Temples and Beyond

Words and photos ©Sandra Simić

I am still hearing subtle music from my recent first-time journey to Asia. It’s a Stevie Wonder song “A Place In The Sun” which was playing casually on the plane, so tenderly that it entered my heart and remained there. The tune is somehow both nostalgic and hopeful, but to me it is full of hope and joy for the extraordinary experiences I lived through.

It’s the feeling of lightness and freedom that I enjoy whenever flying and travelling, this time from the EU to Malaysia and Singapore.

My inner feeling of justice tells me to cover these two countries in separate articles, to celebrate their uniqueness instead of making comparisons.

Enveloped in gentle early morning heat, I wanted to experience an authentic jungle and tropical rain forest, on the hill Bukit Nanas. Along the jungle trails and canopy walkway, life was booming with flora and fauna, starting fresh after each rain. It was the sound of the jungle, however, that left the greatest impression on me. It was like being somewhere not knowing exactly with whom, as some sounds were not familiar to me. Like there were many magical tiny beings hiding between the leaves, a bit of danger enveloped in beauty. Immersed in nature, with an intense feeling of wildlife, I took pleasure in watching the first sunlight touching the tropical trees as the jungle was awakening. I also saw the second tallest building in the world – Merdeka 118 – raising high above the trees, so futuristic and elegant that it looked like the future was saying good morning to its natural habitat.

Jungle Malaysia

An integral part of the whole Malaysian experience is also the tropical rain, almost every day. It starts in a resolute manner, decisively, becoming more and more gentle as it plays within the heat, from loud to soft. This is genuine music of nature, a constant decrescendo until life begins anew. From the beginning, like nothing happened before. When Sun lights up the trees and paths, life starts again. Sun smiles gently in small patches of water on the road. There is something magical about beginning anew. It’s like making a mistake, asking for forgiveness and moving on. Also, it’s like putting the pain aside and moving on. Beginning anew is hope. And all these thoughts dwell in a tropical rain.

Batu Caves MalaysiaAn abundance of cultural influences is felt in spiritual life, visible through interesting temples. For instance, Batu Caves is the temple built within the cave, a pilgrimage site for Hindus. The whole place is dominated by the golden sculpture of the Hindu deity Lord Murugan which is 140 feet high. I climbed 272 colourful steps in order to reach its top, where I listened to spiritual music while walking through the cave. Dwelling between light and darkness, the bats were flying around as well, while monkeys were running up and down the stairs. It all felt suspenseful in a way, like seeing and feeling elements not previously expected, which all added to a truly unique experience.

I also visited a serene and graceful Thean Hou Temple, a Chinese Buddhist temple overlooking Kuala Lumpur. It integrates Mazu folk culture, Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism.

As Malaysia is predominantly a Muslim country, I wanted to visit the Mosque which attracted me ever since started planning this journey – The Putra Mosque in the city of Putrajaya, some 30 km from Kuala Lumpur. The Mosque is within a walking distance to the Prime Minister’s Office – Perdana Putra, while the city itself is quite calm (not many people around) compared to the bustling capital Kuala Lumpur. The Putra Mosque is notably elegant, especially at sunset when its pink dome looks like embracing the sky and water in similar colours, floating on Putrajaya Lake. It reminded me of a sentence from the Koran which basically says that if God wanted it, He could have made only one community. Instead, He made many in order to see them all doing good works (The Table, 5:49). I feel like the message is quite clear: God wants to see different communities competing amongst each other in good works. I wish this message could be made more universal, communities meaning nations, competing with each other in bringing peace and prosperity to people. Amen.

Old Istana Negara Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur is the capital of Malaysia, where Istana Negara, the official residence of the King is located. Sadly, this beautiful palace was not open for visits like Buckingham Palace or other European palaces. I was looking forward to learning more about the Malaysian culture through the life of the Royal Family representing it, but it was not possible. Only the old palace may be visited but it was closed for a longer period of time. The monarch is chosen from the Royal Families of nine states (Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak, Perlis, Selangor and Terengganu), each appointing a king for a 5 – years period.

Kuala Lumpur seen from the Petronas Towers

Of course, I visited the Petronas Towers, the highest twin skyscrapers in the world. I particularly enjoyed observing its top from the top of the second tower, as it reminded me of a temple. Interestingly, the Post Box is also at the top, so I joined other tourists in writing and sending postcards from there.

As the summer is all year around, indoors are well air conditioned. I particularly enjoyed the corridors connecting some buildings in Kuala Lumpur, where people moved without the need to go out in the heat. One of these corridors was animated with scenes from the jungle on its walls. Imagine your morning walk to work through a corridor, listening to softly playing classical music, while suddenly, you see and hear a tiger trying to come out from the wall, or a huge elephant moving or little birds flying and chirping after tropical rain…a truly enjoyable walk indeed!

Petronas Towers

Just when I thought I left Malaysia, there was another unexpected experience at the KLIA airport (Kuala Lumpur International Airport). After receiving an exit stamp on the passport, suddenly, just a few steps further, dancers started performing. A group of young girls and boys dressed in traditional clothes performed an artistic dance to a song which frequently used the word “Malaysia”. Although I could not understand the words, they conveyed to me emotions of friendliness, joy and kindness, like they wanted to thank me for visiting their country. These smiling faces and gracious dance movements were a beautiful good bye from Malaysia on my way to Singapore. I can only give thanks back with this article which celebrates life in such a special country, where different cultures join together in sharing the past, present and future.

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I am not using AI writing tools, believing that art is an expression of humanity ©Sandra Simić

Article published on 1 April 2024

Sandra Simić Travel Inspires author

About Sandra Simić

Sandra is a lawyer and author currently living in Zagreb, Croatia, EU. Her research interests include social justice, world peace through law, art and astronomy. Travel inspires Sandra to live through unique experiences and learn how humanity connects us all. Sandra is alumna of University of London, Queen Mary & University College London, where she specialised in Public International Law and European law through postgraduate legal studies.

E-mail: sandra_law@europe.com

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