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I finally made it to the adventure of a lifetime and now I'm a citizen of the World. Indy author, blogger, in love with being an author - Mom of two grown children and widow of the most wonderful man to ever live - Devon "Pete" Hall.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Staying in the Hoods

Patio at my favorite place, Sunrise Cafe

In Malaysia, I’ve made a point of staying in the suburbs of three towns in which I’ve stayed, at least for a while.  It’s been a good plan. 

Mr. and Mrs. Nu (Miss Quan) at shop
Although, once I’d done my sight-seeing in Georgetown (Penang) and decided it was a very livable town, I had made my reservations in Butterworth, a much smaller town a ferry-ride away from the hubbub of the big city. I’m glad I did that because it allowed me to ride the city bus, visit a small local mall, eat true street food at a place behind my hotel and just talk to the locals. I was the only Westerner in the area – except one for one day – and that made me someone that people were drawn to.
Food and beer copies for funeral rites.
Items from the Nu's shop for burning at funerals

Same thing in Ipoh, I spent 8 days fairly far outside the city core, in a small, very well-run hotel, ate at the food court (a collection of street food stalls) next door and hung out at the mall two blocks away, where there was also a grocery store. I got to see how a very familiar-looking market in Malaysia is laid out and that they have membership cards too, etc. On top of that, I’ve already written about the terrific two days of touring I was treated to by my hotel owner. It was fabulous.
Rex - Hair Stylist & more!

In Kuala Lumpur, I stayed in the heart of Chinatown, and even though it certainly wasn’t a suburb, it was definitely a neighborhood – a complex combination of intense commerce and people living above their shops, family-owned-and-operated restaurants, etc. I got a glimpse of how they live. 
Look close and you'll see my hair salon!

Now, as I linger for weeks in Melaka, my favorite Malaysian city, I’m immersed in a great neighborhood. Yes, I’m living in a hotel, but it’s truly a part of the area, with local families visiting the attached café for family meals.

Additionally, I’m washing my own clothes at the laundromat four doors down (where a new mother cat nurses her kittens in a box in one corner), visiting the mini-mart every couple of days, getting my hair cut by the local bodybuilder/hairstylist/personal trainer and being instructed by Miss Quan (or Mrs. Nu – she goes by both names) about the traditions of Tao.

Side note here: The Chinese Tao in Malaysia (probably elsewhere too) believe that when a person passes on they need all the things with them that they would need in life. So, they burn representative cardboard items at the funeral; clothing, purses, cars, food, iPhones and even cans of beer. Mrs. Nu and her husband carry a large selection of these things in their little garage-like shop.

I’ve walked up and down the main street here a couple of times, but today I wandered a bit into the collection of apartments behind the hotel. It is a well-maintained group of homes and very peaceful (except on Chinese New Year’s and the week following!)
Rizwan, at the front desk.

There is so much to be gained by stepping into the real worlds of the people who live full-time in the countries you’re visiting. Now, I get that most people don’t have that kind of time on their hands, and they are just looking for a beautiful, interesting place to visit and hopefully relax. However, I’m blessed with both the time and the mission to find a place to return to ultimately for full-fledged overseas retirement. I’ve found two such places so far – Chiang Mai, Thailand and Melaka, Malaysia. However, because they are so far from home, I probably won’t return to live – but I could and that’s the point.

When I head to Latin America on the next trip, I’ll continue staying in the neighborhoods to find just the right place and suck up some local flavor in the meantime.
Sweet Nisa at the cafe.
The residences behind my hotel - connected homes.

Enjoy these pictures of what I’ve come to think of as my home away from home!
More of the crew at Sunrise Cafe - FABULOUS!

Lion dancer costumes in KL - Chinatown
Famous neighborhood restaurant - Ipoh


  1. A lot of the rituals you explained, are some of the things that I grew up with. I watched my mom set up offerings in our backyard to honor past relatives.

    1. It was kind of funny because I was wandering around the store wondering what are these? Miss Quan saw my confusion and explained. So sweet! I like the idea of burning offerings. Wherever I go I try to offer a memory to my late husband through candles or incense. My other tradition of floating balloons up to him with messages written on them isn't all that different.