Wednesday, October 15, 2008

welcome to malaysia!

Recently the tourism minister trumpeted a statement about something ordinary folk have known for years: Kuala Lumpur is quite a boring city.

The honorable minister went on to suggest that kl's nightspot be allowed to extend their operating hours to 5am, or something like that, to provides tourists [and our own kaki2 clubbing] with something to do once the shopping malls close and kl loses its only appeal for bargain-hungry Singaporeans, Chinese and middle-easterners.

Of course, politicians and opportunists who wanted some media space reacted:

'how can? Sure will lead to social ills!'

'it will destroy the morals of our youth.'

'people will not getting enough sleep and cant work the next day lorr'

'tourists don't come to kl just for the night life!'

…and the bark goes on

Sifting through the crap that resulted from the tourism minister's brainwave, I came across something amusing. Someone actually said longer operating hours are good because drinkers will drink slowly and not try to beat the clock and thereby become too intoxicated in the process. Good one, that. Not original, but it shows someone is thinking.

So I guess the suggestion from Yb datuk seri adnan tengku mansor will go down the toilet. But some other inane efforts by the ministry seem to have garnered support. Bear with me

If I have my chance to travel abroad, say to the uk, I definitely will try to experience the English lifestyle: warm beer, pub grub. I will try to see as many of the cultural and historical sites as I can: Buckingham palace, the changing of the guards, Stonehenge, the moors. When I get the chance to visit the states, I want to try the American way of life: real beef burgers, giant milkshakes, popcorn by the bucket and other x-rated stuffs [oops].

When I spend hard-earned money to travel to foreign countries on holiday, the last thing I want to do is look for nasi lemak or the tarik or ayam percik or dim sum or any of the other things that I can get at home at a fraction of the price. [of course, it would be different if I were a student in a foreign country, or got a job posting to a faraway land; then I'd want to tuck into a bowl of asam laksa or have roti canai for breakfast when I feel homesick.]

The ministry of tourism would like us to believe that Middle Eastern tourists are quite differ. Right in the heart of kl's bukit bintang area is arab square, formerly a children's playground for residents in the area, now transformed into a piece of little Arabia. [poor kids].

Ain Arabia (meaning: source of water) has a gazebo, park benches, feature wall, kiosks and street lights. It features works by uzbek carvers and Syrian painters, a welcome archway, and an Arabian teapot water fountain as a welcome symbol. [ err, didn't somebody proclaim that teapots were bad things when they raided that sky kingdom commune?]

An ex-member of the Yemen parliament, Dr. saalaadeen talib, said, "its very relaxing for both mind and soul and makes an ideal meeting place for the arabs". He was among the guess at the recent official launching ceremony.

In efforts to further woo Middle Eastern tourists to Malaysia, adnan ain Arabia, or the street of arab street, also showcases various middle eastern restaurants and shops.

So, instead of building on the history and the colour and the cultures that have roots in the bukit bintang area, we've embarked on an all-out effrt to create something alien and totally out of place. Sound familiar?

We're told that pre 9/11, the Middle Eastern fliers loved to visit Europe and the USA. Do you think the Europeans and the Americans tried to change their cities or their cultures to tap into the Middle Eastern tourist $$$? Of course not! They know that tourists come to experience the American or European lifestyle. And if they, the arabs, couldn't do that, then they wouldn't visit, wouldn't they?

According to ministry figures, Singaporeans make up the largest group of visitors to Bolehland every year. So how come we don't set up shops selling bak chor mee and other uniquely Singaporeans delicacies? How come we don't dedicate a section of the city to them – lets say, jalan alor – managed with typical Singaporeans efficiency, with all the eating stalls housed in ultra-clean hawker centres with clean toilets? The thais make up second largest group. So lets build lots of big, golden budhist temples everywhere. [am I the only one who smell something fishy here?]

Sigh. I guess bukit bintang is going to undergo a transformation whether we like it or not. Wait! I've got a slogan for the tourism ministry's marketing efforts for the Middle East:


Pretty catchy eh?

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