I just got back from my short getaway-trip to Kuala Lumpur (KL), Malaysia. So, I guess it’s only right that I write about it- this is a blog after all.
This was the first time I was travelling to KL, albeit it being only a 5-hour-drive away. Singapore was once part of the Malaysian Federation from 1963 to 1965. (We are a strong independent nation-state with commitment issues, apparently.) There are a number of similarities between, us, both countries. Having been under the same British colonial rule prior to independence, we have shared history. Our differences mainly ensued from the varying degrees of industrialisation and development under different regimes.
They all look just the same. We are both multicultural societies with a similar ethno-racial mix. We have the Chinese; the Malays; the Indians; the Eurasians; and the mixed-races. But in Singapore, the Chinese are the majority (at about 70% of the population) and for Malaysia, it’s the Malays. (And then you have me – forever representing the minority!)
We, however, do not sound the same. We have our own unique accent when speaking the English Language. In fact, we have our own respective bastardisations of the language – ‘Singlish’ for Singapore and ‘Manglish’ for Malaysia. When in public, I was generally on the look out (or rather ears out) for the ‘Singlish’ speaking individuals. That was the only way I could be sure to meet my fellow countrymen. Although, they all turned out to be cheap thrills as I was too socially awkward for actual interaction.
If you do a little research on Singapore, you might come across these words: ‘arguably the best street food in the world’. You might do a double take when you realise that the same is being said about Malaysia. Yes, it is a competition – or so I thought. Having tasted Malaysian street food for myself, I’m thrusting the title to my counterpart – “It’s all yours. You deserve it. Your food is unparalleled.”
The food choices are really very very similar. The difference is: Malaysia’s is tastier and cheaper, but Singapore’s is way cleaner. My Malaysian friend shared his opinion, “the dirtier the food, the tastier it is.” I cringed – until I tasted it.
I can still taste the mango juice I bought. I have never tasted at anything so wonderful. Sweet sweet freshly squeezed mangoes. And the chicken satays. Oh god. Those fat succulent marinated chicken meat on sticks. Thank you Malaysia, for ruining Singapore food for me!
I want to say it was beautiful, I really do.
In fact, some places really were – like Putrajaya or the City Centre that houses the Petronas Twin Towers.
But for the most parts, I was reminded of modern-slums. They pale in comparison to the architecture and skyline back at home. I do realise that it is very critical of me, but you have to realise that both our countries are economic competitors. Besides, Singaporeans rarely travel to KL for their architecture or scenery.
Singaporeans travel to KL for the shopping – thank you, purchasing power! Which countries do you think are the richest in the world? You would probably mention the United States, UK, or even China. You are probably referring to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) rankings. If that is the case Malaysia will be richer than Singapore (which might not be necessarily true). Our population size, of about 6 million, is immensely smaller than most countries. The fairer comparison of GDP would be when factored in for population size (per capita) and purchasing power parity (PPP). If you do a little google search, Singapore is ranked amongst the top 5 in the world.
And if you look at this article, you will realise that Singapore is currently the most expensive city to live in. So don’t move here unless you can afford it. Importantly, don’t even bother coming here for any form of retail therapy. We may be in the Southeast Asian region, but trust me, we don’t carry Southeast Asian prices.
Hence, the shopping madness in KL. I bought 2.55 Malaysian Ringgit for every Singapore Dollar, ipso facto current exchange rate. The best part was that the goods were generally priced cheaper even after converting to Singapore Dollars for comparison. I bought an authentic pair of Timberland Boat Shoes for 359RM (S$140) from their boutique! In Singapore you will be lucky to find a pair for less than S$200.
Needless to say, 4 very sexually-confident males went on a splurge. Just in time, I must say, for the start of my University life.