No doubt, Malaysian pirates were, and maybe still are, a reality, but the country is modern and wealthy: for the first time (apart from the obvious exception of Australia) we see tourist locations that are well kept and full of local tourists.
Kuala Lumpur is a very modern town, with a city centre which is dominated by the Petronas twin towers and rivals with Singapore, but we also found city blocks which kept their ancient flavour both in Melaka (the ancient capital) and Georgetown.
Also in this Country there have been subsequent occupations by the Portuguese, then the Dutch and finally the British, each lasting about 150 years, and traces of the three cultures are still visible, together with the influence of the many Indian and Chinese inhabitants.
A cheerfully industrious, kind and discreet people, seldom oppressing the tourists with their offers and taking “no” as an answer (and THAT is seldom found elsewhere!).
Unfortunately, the sailing north along the Malaysian coast has not been very pleasant, with the usual mixture of tropical squalls, head-winds and short, choppy seas.
A radical change in langkawi: change of landscape, with complex, dramatic sceneries, little islands, plenty of anchorages and navigable rivers. Change in the weather, with long periods of very light rain and spells of burning sunshine. Change in the shopping facilities, because the place is a huge duty-free for the locals: if you need a camera, or chocolate, or cheap liquors, there is plenty of choice, but if you need bread…
Change also in the visible percentage of Malay people and also in the percentage of women dressed according to Muslim practices, although this is mostly limited to a head scarf while tight jeans and a t-shirt worn over a long-sleeved black sweater are almost standard. Women do not seem limited in any way, they do drive cars and ride mopeds, they walk in the streets and do work, also in jobs requiring contact with other people. In general, it looks like a fairly relaxed interpretation of Islam.
A couple of days ago, we went with a local boat along a navigable river where we saw sea-eagles, bat-filled caves and a strange-looking crab, called “horseshoe crab” whose upper shell reminds closely that of fossils we have seen so often in museums.
Pity that the many rivers and the strong currents make the waters rather murky and unattractive for diving.
Now we are heading towards Thailand and its hundreds of spectacular anchorages.
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