February 4, 2013


Tags: Travel, Malaysia

Over last last weekend was both Australia Day and Thaipusam. I went to both and saw how they are celebrated here in KL in different ways.

Australia Day appears to be the premier event in the local diplomatic community. The Australian diplomatic mission is one of the largest in town and they aim to impress with their national day celebrations. However, it wasn’t like any Australia Day event I’ve been to before. For a start the invite said lounge suit. My memories of Australia Day are t-shirt optional (because there is a pool) with a BBQ followed by fireworks and the Hottest #100. The event here is far swishier. It was held in a large exhibition hall, with projection screens and unobjectionable Australian music playing.

My first impression was of a school ball. Not helped by the first food station encountered being a chocolate fountain. Although after that the comparison fails, with a large array of excellent food options available, including Waygu beef, lamingtons and a whole fresh tuna flown in specially that day (morning in Australia, evening in KL). All presented on little bite-sized dishes so it was easy to try a wide range of dishes. The audience appeared to be largely the KL diplomatic community with some local VIPs. Speaking to many of them, they were deeply impressed with the event and the cost implied. It seems the Australians set the bar high and dare other diplomatic mission to try topping it. With austerity all the rage in the rest of world, I don’t think anyone else makes the attempt.

Thaipusan is a Hindu festival from southern India, where followers make offerings to Murugan. This may be in the form of a pot of milk or the hair from a freshly shaved head or even piercing the body with needles and hooks. In Malaysia, the holiday is held at Batu Caves with over a million visitors during the 3 day event.

We visited on the first night and rarely have I seen so many people. The caves were packed shoulder to shoulder, as were the stairs upto the caves and the assembly area. Around that was a large expanse of food stalls, trinket shops, shrines, head shaving areas and more. All rammed with more people. Gratifyingly, the large red crescent blood donation area was also completely full. It was a bit overwhelming. There was loud drumming, people hooked (literally) into decorated canopies, and colour everywhere (mainly yellow). It was all quite good natured.