Saturday, August 20, 2011


Ever since i came back from Brisbane to Jakarta in 2009, i had not had a proper vacation. There were times when i would drive with friends to neighbor towns to see bands, but that's about it. I had been working a dead-end accounting job at the same place for about twenty months. Playing music was the only thing that got me through the days. I was dying from the daily routines.

Thankfully, I and a friend managed to score cheap Air Asia tickets back in late 2010 for August 2011 flight to Kuala Lumpur. The plan was to spend time in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore within just 6 days. I had been really excited about the trip and i felt that holiday was exactly something that i need to shake things up a bit.

I won't go into details about all the things that i did, places i went to, and things i bought during the trip because they're all really predictable and not that all interesting. They're all are normal tourist-y stuff. I, however will share my thoughts and feelings regarding the trip now that i've had some time to think about them.

Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur was an interesting one. It was going to be my first time in Malaysia. And as an Indonesian coming to Malaysia, i had had preconceptions of what Malaysia was going to be like. For those of you non South East Asianers out there, Malaysia and Indonesia share a lot of similar qualities. Both countries speak Malay as the main language, albeit with differences in vocabularies and tone. Most of the people look alike, the cultures are similar, etc etc.

However, it needs to be said that there have been quite a few confrontations between Indonesia and Malaysia in the past. There have been territorial issues, immigrant issues, and so on. I think tensions are bound to happen between two neighbor countries, especially ones with such similar social and cultural environment. There has been a resentment towards Malaysia and its people from Indonesians side. To be honest, the lack of neutrality that Indonesia's media has shown in their reports didn't really help either. I think it all just come down to lack of communication between the two countries. And some Indonesians really need to cool it down with their over the top patriotic attitudes.

The first thing that i noticed about Kuala Lumpur was their city infrastructure. It was head and shoulders above Jakarta's infrastructure. The public transportation was actually reliable and it was quite easy to get to places using Light Rail Transit (LRT). There was one instance where i was taking the LRT and i forgot to grab the LRT card back out of the machine and thus leaving me with no choice but to explain my situation to one of the officers at the station. He actually let me go shortly after. I thought "If this was Indonesia, i would've had to bribe the officer for sure".

Aside from spending time in the City, Pasar Seni, China Town and obligatory visit to Rice Cooker and Batu Caves, we mostly spent our time ha
nging out with the locals. After all, what better way is there to learn about other culture other than to spend some time with people who grew up with it? I also need to point out that we came during the fasting month, which was rather unfortunate because there weren't much anything going on.

I did go to a show there, however. It was at this quite fancy bar in a mall complex. The first band was a bunch of normal-dressed Chinese dudes playing black metal with mandarin lyrics. I shit you not. It was as entertaining as you thought it would. Second band was trying too hard to be Godspeed You Black Emperor. They were okay. The last band of the night went by the name Nao, and it was one of the best live performances i had seen in a while. They were a three-piece playing instrumental music. They were quite technical, and yet never gotten to the point of being too self-indulgent, and they were actually fun!

I had been to Singapore before the trip. But it was a family vacation and i was like 17 or something. I didn't remember much really. But i remembered Singapore being really developed and sophisticated and all that. Well, they were still pretty much the same. Singapore is without a doubt the best South East Asian country, objectively speaking.

There was nothing much to be said about Singapore that hasn't been said before really. It's pretty much the perfect country to visit if you're looking for either of these things : food and shopping. I did those alright. Music wise, there wasn't much to report. Apparently things had been pretty slow in Singapore with venues like Black Hole being shut down and bands breaking up.

Upon hanging out with a few local friends, someone mentioned an interesting point on how he thought Singapore was too "safe" compared to less developed countries like Indonesia or Malaysia and how easy it was for things to become too sterile and predictable. It's always good to hear opinions from the other side of the fence. It's funny how the grass is always greener on the other side too.

Overall, it was a good trip. Kuala Lumpur was more exciting, alive, and unpredictable but Singapore gave us a chance to catch our breath and relax a bit.

Kudos to friends in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Maybe Indonesia will catch up one day.

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