Lessons from the first inspection tour of Malaysia in 10 years…

Numerous trips to Japan and Taiwan spoil you. Malaysia is a reminder that Hong Kong governance still has a long way to fall.

In terms of wealth, the country is obviously not as First World as (say) Singapore, but not as Third World as (say) Thailand. Rather than aspire to do better, the main city of Kuala Lumpur seems determined to be a Manila/Jakarta-style urban-planning mess. The gritty old neighbourhoods are mostly still there, but increasingly overshadowed by vast, empty, quasi-luxury residential towers and ruthlessly penned in by layers of looping freeways.

This presumably goes back a couple of decades: better not have walkable streets or a proper transit system or no-one will buy our precious ‘national car’. The people behind this make Hong Kong’s transport officials look like geniuses.

The food is still, of course, wondrous – and amazingly cheap.

All this is a recipe for obesity. The people are (almost always) happy and smiling and friendly, but this country is getting a serious weight problem. (Comment from a local: Malaysia doesn’t have a national cuisine, it has a national suicide pact.)

My first visit to Ipoh (of white coffee, noodles, etc fame). Very nice relaxed town, with lots of old fading (and some quite well preserved) architecture. A superbly grimy Little India, with garish sari shops, grocers and incense purveyors, interspersed with classic old-style forbidding-looking Chinese-run parasite businesses like liquor stores and moneylenders.

Unaware that their decaying time-warp is excellent as it is, the municipal authorities want to attract tourists by introducing nasty inappropriate horrible crap. Thankfully, they are failing. A designated trendy hipster-scene district is mercifully small and quite funny (though day trippers come from KL to photograph the mural).

(On the subject of crumbling architecture, this website’s comments and pic upload functions are out of order. No great loss. But the time is approaching to pack up and move.)

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