Weird or unusual in Malaysia or Singapore?
May 31, 2013 11:20 AM   Subscribe

So the wife and I are heading to KL, Malaysia, and possibly Singapore. What's weird, unusual, or just plain bizarre there?

I've written the book on weird Korea (literally - search Amazon for it) and have several days to enjoy Malaysia. It's intended as a vacation, and of course we intend to make the most of it.

In case you're curious, 'weird' or 'bizarre' means a place with an unusual history, a destination with a twist, a place less visited by tourists, or the like. It (should) go without saying that we'll be enjoying the local food, and are up for getting off the beaten path.
posted by chrisinseoul to Travel & Transportation around Malaysia (9 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Singapore: Haw Par Villa and Bukit Brown
posted by banishedimmortal at 11:48 AM on May 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

Haw Par Villa, definitely. I went ages ago, when it was still Tiger Balm Gardens, and it was fantastic.
posted by PussKillian at 12:30 PM on May 31, 2013

My first thought was one of those pedicures where fish nibble at the dead skin on your feet. But, I've seen it on Anthony Bourdain and The Amazing Race, so perhaps it isn't your level of weird.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:36 PM on May 31, 2013

There are still WWII British pillboxes on the road from Singapore to Mersing, in Johor. They are pockmarked with Japanese bullet holes (and full of bees, be careful.)
posted by lstanley at 12:52 PM on May 31, 2013

Fraser's Hill and Genting Highlands
posted by infini at 1:19 PM on May 31, 2013

I loved Maxwell Hill/Bukit Larut near Taiping, which is a lovely hill station with a handful of bungalows that are reachable by government land rover and so quiet at night, you won't believe it. When the mist rolls in, it's like being above the clouds.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:21 PM on May 31, 2013

I have to admit, I find KL boring as all hell.

I think Batu Caves is pretty cool. Touristy, but cool.

It's my hometown, so I'm biased, but I love Malacca, especially Jonker Street and its surroundings. It has a lot of colonial personality, if you're into that sort of thing. It can be touristy, but the tourists tend to be local, and less Western. Friday and Saturday nights are the Jonker Street night market, and that's a trip. I brought my husband and a friend there a few years ago and we pretty much just hung out, drank cheap beer, and watched karaoke performances on a large stage, complete with middle aged backup dancers with 80s side ponytails. Malacca is about a 2 hr drive from KL.

(thirding Haw Par Villa. that place is a trip.)
posted by sawdustbear at 4:14 PM on May 31, 2013

(I'm feeling homesick so everything back home I feel is especially noteworthy and interesting!)

If you're heading to Penang, Malaysia, you should go to the War Museum. It's a privately owned museum, converted from an old British Army camp, and as such the aesthetics are... individual.

If you're heading to the Borneo side, because the capital city of Sarawak means 'cat' there are literally dozens of cat statues around.

On that note, do bizarre local council 'enhancements' fit the bill? because if so, then there's this thing that the local councils do that you can just passively take in - for KL and its surrounding townships, take note of the unusual street light designs. In fact, it's one thing that amuses me about the administrative capital Putrajaya. I swear that every road or street has a different street light design, for no logic I can discern. One of those 'cannot unsee' things.

In the Klang Valley area (which would be KL and the neighbouring PJ), off the top of my head:

- the flea market at Amcorp Mall on the weekends. The lower ground floor level is chockful of antiques and such, and even in the upper levels. My favourite are the ones who would be selling digitised copies on CDs of old Malayan music that was on vinyls and now out of print. On that note, there's a bit of a Malaysiana fetish that I get to scratch there - things like reprints of national identity cards of old famous celebrities and old postcards and album covers.

- if you go to downtown KL and to one of the many Hindu temples. like for example the one near Jalan Pudu Lama (Old Pudu Road), because they have an active congregation, often (though I'm not sure of the days) the devotees would gather to smash coconuts on the street outside of the temple as part of their prayers. It's an everyday ritual kind of thing, so it's often not part of any tourist brochures, but it's part of life.

- there is a new phenomenon of 'burger bakar' or grilled/barbecued burgers. I don't know where's the best one is, I completely am missing out, so you could ask around ( On that note, here's something everyday, but odd-ish, since it's not sold as a tourist attraction: Ramly burgers - it's a local meat patty company (and for some reason banned in Singapore, so those things fetch a premium if you bring it in, lol). It's not quality meat necessarily, but it's cheap and cheerful and one of those institutions we've not managed to gussy up for tourists. It's usually sold out of a roadside stall/truck set up and while there're basic burger combos (like a special would have Worcestershire sauce), different stalls sells different toppings or combos on them. There's one in SS2, PJ, that's known for having fried onions if requested. These roadside burgers also tend to carry 'exotic' meats, so you can easily get venison, rabbit, lamb or buffalo.

- If you're heading to Malaysia in July, ie this year's Ramadhan/fasting month then the excessive Ramadhan bazaars that take place every afternoon in practically every neighbourhood is worth checking out because of the amount and variety of food. I suspect this is a good resource

- If the KL City Council hasn't painted it over yet, if you take the Light Rail Transport (LRT) Kelana Jaya line towards KL, as you approach the Pasar Seni stop, look out the window as you cross the river. The embankment area is a complete exhibition for the local graffitti artists and they can be pretty amazing, and funny.

- I don't know any leads to provide you off the top of my head, but I do think in old Chinatown there should still be traditional jossstick makers that you can visit.

- Quite literally, at the foot of the KL Tower, there's a forest reserve, the Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve, so there's the heart of the tropics right smack in the middle of the city.

There's more, that I'm sure I'm forgetting. But this is a start (and a long one!)
posted by cendawanita at 6:37 PM on May 31, 2013

For Singapore:

The turtle museum at the Chinese Gardens - it's basically the overshoot of a serious hobbyest, several rooms and a garden filled with tanks of turtles and tortoises - some with very serious warnings about going close. You can feed them, pat the giant ones shuffling around in the garden and be freaked out by the snake-necked cannibalistic ones. They are rescue tortoises, and get switched around frequently so they get to be in bigger tanks and I thought in pretty decent condition. Plus Chinese Gardens is a very beautiful and serene park with almost no-one around.

Changi Beach has a great laid-back vibe and lots of smaller boats and good hawker food. There's a plaque that is difficult to find to the massacre of Singaporeans by the Japanese invading force. I was just discussing with my husband about bringing our kids to see it - the Singapore government walks a tightrope balance between nationalism and downplaying the war crimes of the Japanese invasion. The plaque is bleak, because as a little girl I remember stories about bones washing up on that beach and in so many other countries it would be a serious monument.

Nearby is the Changi Museum which is a good place to visit, although it is overwhelmingly focused on colonial POWs, not the locals.

Pulau Ubin is going to vanish in a few years with redevelopment, but the kampong aspect of it is better seen in Malaysia at actual kampongs. However, it has really gorgeous mangroves and you can kayak around them and see them up close -

Sungei Beloh Reserve is supposed to be amazing if you like birds.

The Bukit Brown cemetary is being paved over for redevelopment and that's led to a lot of passionate local history - - and would be well worth going for a tour to hear the stories collected by the people working to conserve it against the deadline.

I really liked - MINT, museum of toys, which is again from a collector's passion. It's carefully curated and there are some interesting and gorgeous pieces in there. Plus it's in a nice neighbourhood to wander around.

The NEWater visitors' centre might be something for you - it's certainly not on most tourist lists, although every school kid goes there at least twice. You can book a free tour and see how we turn toilet water into drinking water - plus free bottled water on the tour!
posted by viggorlijah at 6:20 AM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

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