Three days in Kuala Lumpur to break up the voyage en route to Europa. I knew next to nothing about Malaysia (apart from homosexuality being verboten - a combination of Victorian prudery and Islamic fundamentalism makes a lethal cocktail) and I must say I wasn't much impressed. The traffic is horrendous, public transport almost a Mickey Mouse outfit and the heat is tremendously oppressive. It didn't help we landed here in the pre-monsoon heat, but luckily there was a lovely pool in our hotel.
All is not sweetness and light here ("Malaysia, Truly Asia"): there was an opposition rally in town that ended in violence. This country has had the same government for 55 years and one can understand people are a little fed up. The opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, has been accused of being gay so the Government doesn't have to debate the issues, but puts him gaol on those spurious grounds. They must have read their Machiavelli closely.
The National Museum, always a good gauge of how a country sees itself and wants itself portrayed to its own citizens (it was full of schoolchildren on a class outing) and foreign visitors, is slightly self-conscious: the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British all feature prominently but the war time experience with the Japanese gets very short shrift.
I also think that the multiculturalism is a bit overdone as propaganda: hotel staff, taxi drivers, restaurant staff were all non-Malay, and I guess there's a bit of class rigidity mixed in with race going on here.
Flying to Amsterdam tonight.