By Tamryn Iyer
Hey everyone! Sorry for the crickets. I recently stepped into the big world of becoming an English teacher & moved to Vietnam. After a month long TESOL course in Hanoi, I now have a job at a really good language center in Ho Chi Minh.
I love everything about Saigon and it certainly has a charm that has worked its magic on me. Although, during Hindu festivals, the feeling of missing home can get extremely overwhelming. To avoid this, I booked a trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for Deepawali.
Deepawali is the festival of lights and among the multitude of meanings, is the illumination of knowledge over ignorance. Celebrated with great splendor in Durban, I was excited to see how this festival would be observed in Malaysia.
This is my third trip to Kuala Lumpur. It feels about 75% Durban and 25% India. So, just by being in the city, already felt like I was back home. It was so refreshing to the airport, malls and shops all decorated (with incredible specials too) for this festival. Brickfields is an Indian area in central Kuala Lumpur and had the Deepawali Bazaar, similar to the Durban Diwali Festival. From henna artists, to selling of Indian clothing and live music. My heart was home. At 12am, the morning of Deepawali, there was a huge fireworks display. I was home…
In Durban, we make parcels of goodies and share with our family and friends on the day and in the evening, hold lamps that celebrate light over darkness. In Kuala Lumpur, all families go to the temple in the morning, to invoke divine blessings and then visit each other for a meal. I say that sentence so lightly. It was the furthest thing from light. We visited three homes and every single home had so lovingly prepared a FEAST. A FEAST THAT TAMRYN IYER FELT LIKE SHE WAS IN A FOOD COMA EVERY TWO HOURS. If you want to eat, go to Malaysia. I’ll explain that in just a second. The evening ended off on a bang, a few bangs and was truly beautiful to see the lights in the sky. (Although a HUGE part of me felt for the animals and the consequences of pollution). Home is becoming an even more fluid concept in my life. Home is where you’re meant to be at a certain time. Kuala Lumpur for Deepawali meant I was home. I met some incredible people and we were amazed at the similarities between the two cities.
The next day I was returning back to Saigon, but only in the evening and I had a few more hours to explore and get some shopping done. Malaysia is a melting pot of cultures which means there’s a great selection of food to choose. From Chinese to Korean, to Chinese and Indian. Local restaurants are SO affordable (like half the price we pay in SA) and so delicious. Remember I said, if you want to eat, go to Malaysia. My favorites were the Indian and Chinese. With so many vegetarian options, it’s a great place for families/friends with different dietary requirements. I then headed to the mall to get some shopping done. With R600, I bought two pairs of pants, a small handbag, two dresses and a shirt, plus the day before I got a Punjabi top, and had my eyebrows threaded. Kuala Lumpur has so many international brands and is affordable for one to go shopping. Even though the Malaysian Ringgit is three times stronger than the South African Rand, we have a good chance of getting value for our money.
Leaving felt a bit sad, but, I was happy to be heading back to my home in Saigon…for only one reason, I knew I’d be back. I highly recommend you guys spend 2-3 days in Malaysia on your travels in and around South East Asia.
And, don’t forget to eat.