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Visiting Cultural Areas of Kuala Lumpur

Aired April 14, 2012 - 14:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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RESHMONU, SINGER AND PRODUCER: The interesting part of this location is we're at one of the most culturally rich areas in Kay El. We have Chinatown just behind us. You know, we have central markets. To the right of our side down there. I mean, if you want to see what Malaysia and what the Kelites (ph) are all about, it's right here. But until then, I'm dying for a shave, man, so follow me.

So we are actually at the oldest barbershop in Malaysia. It's been here since 1977. And, as you can see, even the chairs - the Takara chairs - the original chairs. You know, they've not even changed the leather - the leather seats yet. The expression is, "Nothing like an Indian shave". And I totally agree with that expression. You will see, when he brings out the blade, you know. It gives you the closest possible shave - the old straight razor. This will probably cost you about 60 cents, yes. Does the job.

I think the trick to getting a perfect Indian shave is don't move. Stay as you are. And there's nothing - you put cream. Believe it or not, it's actually a comforting experience as well. I know a lot of my friends, including myself, you know - when we get on the barber chair - we just tend to snooze, you know. Take a quick snooze and just take a break.

That's it. All of 15 minutes and Mr. Tangeraj (ph), thank you very much.

This is the Carcosa Seri Negara, yes. And it's a very, very historical building. I believe it was built about 150 years ago for a British ambassador called Frank Swettenham. It fits the whole modern complexities of Kuala Lumpur. I, personally, like coming here because of its serenity. As you can hear, it's peaceful. You know, and nostalgic.

I think admits modernization. You know, it's always good to remember where we come from, you know, our roots. And I think that's where history plays an important role. This building clearly symbolizes some important historical moments in Malaysia.

Today, Carcosa Seri Negara is a five-star luxury hotel. More importantly, a little secret about this place is tea - they serve excellent tea. And not many places in Malaysia actually do this. Fresh off the oven, man. No complaints here.

They are always busy, like any other city, right? But it's busy with people from all types of races. You know? All types of religions. And it's so many different stories in here. And the fact that we live under one roof? That makes it special.

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ROSIE MARIE, PHOTOGRAPHER: I do get inspired by everything here. In fact, I feel that I sort of extract a bit of everything from everybody. We are in a Sri Mahamariamman Temple in Luala Lumpur and this is one of the oldest temples in Kay El. There's also a temple of the goddess of earth, also known as the Mother God. This structure up here has about 228 statues of the deity.

According to culture, you've got to step into the temple with your right foot. The reason why you step into the temples with the right foot is to start off on the right foot, which is also what a lot of Asian people do, especially Indians, even in their homes. When you step into their house, you've got to step in with the right foot.

What I like about this space is how it's filled with color. Very fine details on the pillars in the walls and the deities. Everything is done by hand and I find it fascinating that people can actually have the patience to make something as beautiful as this.

Although I am not a Hindu, I have been here a few times, and I actually like the atmosphere. And so this is a very interesting part of the temple whereby these nine statues represent the nine planets. People will go around the statues just to get their planets aligned, or, in other words, lessen their burdens to life.

I think in here, in Malaysia, we're definitely blessed to have all these different cultures and religions and places of worship like this, where everybody can just come in freely and there's no restrictions.

When I first came here, I was really taken aback by the detail in all the pillars and the drawings and the colors that they used for it. The temple - I think it's amazing. When I come here, I feel like I'm at peace and a sense of calmness takes over me. That's why I like coming to places like this. Just spend a little quiet time here by yourself. You don't have to even pray or anything. Just sort of take in the atmosphere.

This place is a place of worship open to everybody to come and experience. For instance, we can see like Hindu people come here. Same with sites to the Goddess. Inside, they're even burning the incense and things like that, which means they are really paying their respects. I'm so glad that we have that here, because then we can show the rest of the world how - what unity is actually about.

I would like to travel and experience other cultures and go to different countries and things like that, but I think that my heart is already here in Kayow (ph). And I will never find another place like home.

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HANA TAJIMA, DESIGNER: I shouldn't really be here, like, I shouldn't really be like a half-Japanese, half-English convert Muslim living in Malaysia, but it's - yes, it's just - it works.

And we're here in the Matsu (ph) Jama (ph) area, because that's a big marketplace for Kay El and then it kind of turned into this sprawling market of like different hawkers and, like, lots of colorful things that you can see and buy and things like that.

You just get so many different colors and, like, so many different types of - as a designer, like, just seeing this kind of stuff is so - you just get, like, a buzz off of it, because it's so vibrant. Being a Hijabi - like, wearing the Hijab - you see all these kind of different things I didn't even know existed. Like different, like, headbands and inner scarves, and things like that. And coming from, like, a rural village, but I was like the ethnic population was just me.

Coming from, like, (UNCLEAR) - like, that's what it is. Like that's the culture here. It's culturally different, but it's amazing. Like, getting immersed in it.

I like it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You like it?

TAJIMA: She is so pretty. I know. This scarf that I'm wearing now is like the Hana Tajima style. And so, I'll kind of see girls, like, wearing the same style. And it's really bizarre to think that they've kind of seen me do it and then they're doing it, and then even more so when it's someone that, like, won't recognize me. They won't know who I am, but they'll be wearing the same scarf style. It's kind of like translated and become theirs. This girl is kind of like - she's kind of wearing one of the styles I do.

When my aunt used to live in Malaysia, she used to send my mom back, like, tops or even just fabric. Like, different colors of these kind of like really vibrant things. And it would just be, like, opening up a present and, like, oh my God, it's like a whole other world in here. So it kind of is very - you get a totally different taste of, like, a part of the world that's very Malaysian. And yes, it's really exciting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I take one picture with you? Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why do you like Hana's designs so much?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because it makes me - I look how I want to look. Thank you. Thanks.

TAJIMA: I couldn't even begin to describe it - it feels like something that's really divorced from me, like I don't - I don't really understand it. It's definitely a culture. And it's really like - it's so sweet, like that little boy is really sweet about it. And it's fine, like, I really like meeting the people that kind of are supporting me by doing what I love. Like, it's an amazing thing. But it's totally weird.

I think, for me, self-expression is like a really important thing. And, like, even in terms of, like, being a Muslim - to be able to express yourself is something like - that's the really amazing thing. And something that we shouldn't just kind of - yes, I think there shouldn't be such, like, a stigma attached to it. And it's - yes, being part of the movement to break away from it is a really, like - because it's a new thing, as well. It's really interesting. It's a really interesting time.

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ZULKIFLI RAZALI, CHEF, BIJAN RESTAURANT: We are in Kampong Baru where - this like a main street where it's the heart of where you can have a lot of Malay food around the street. This is like a mackerel. This is where they catch the fish. This is spring break (ph). It's more like a buffet over here where we can sit down right over there and then we can pick whichever food over here. I probably will recommend a chicken korma, which is like a curry, but it use a different kind of spice.

I do have some rice and some fish and some veggie, like this person has. Most (UNCLEAR) will charge around seven Ringgit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's about two U.S. dollars.

RAZALI: Yes. So, this one is more with the local people. And then I'm going to take you to Bijan where the Malay food has been defined and served in a fine dining mood (ph).

Malaysian cuisine, we use a lot of the lemon grass, turmeric, ginger, and shallot. And also for the Thai chili and red chili. So we mix all the ingredients, and then we put in the blender. So we blend it, all the ingredients to make it really fine. Next, we start cooking.

Then, with the same pot, we just fry some onion, and the one that we blend just now - all the ingredients that we blend. And this is the durian (ph). Just now add the flavor. We add some coconut milk, yes? And we put some sugar, and some salt.

I learned more of the Malay food from my grandma and my mom. So, this is the finished product.

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SARIMAH IBRAHIM, ACTRESS AND SINGER: We are in the Islamic Art Museum in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. I've brought you here because nobody comes here, honestly. Because it's beautiful, it's amazing. We're in the lobby right now - the main lobby. There's a massive dome above. Every time I've come here, it's been quiet. And it's so big. And it's just so beautiful. It's just a shame that people don't know about it.

From what I've read about it, the feel is set up like a mosque, so you feel that Islam is a peaceful, calm religion when you step in, straight away. And then, from there, when your mind is clear, you can start, you know, absorbing the information.

This is the floor that I really, really love. I mean, I don't know if it's a girl thing or what it is, you know. Just looking at small little miniatures of buildings and I'm just like, "Jewelry". Brilliant.

You'll learn the history and how Islam itself traveled throughout the world and how it came to be. We have China - Islamic architecture in China. And then you've got the Taj Mahal.

This is actually the curtain that is used to cover the door of the Kaaba in Mecca. And it's called the kiswah. This one's actually the original curtain cover from 1964 - so the Islamic Art Museum of Kay El managed to get an actual curtain cover - an actual kiswah from the door of the Kaaba, which is a very big deal, because Kaaba is the center of the religion.

I think Malaysia has done a really good job of being modern, technologically advanced and the people have access to the world, now. And they do - they travel and whatnot. And the world has access to Malaysia, which is great. But I do sense, in terms of the clothing of the people - the messages that are sent out from the leaders - there's a protectiveness for the culture and religion that is stronger than it used to be. And that's (UNCLEAR) for sure. That's just my opinion.

OK, so you've seen the controlled, clean, proper side of Kay El. The heart of Kay El - the religious side of Kay El. And I'm going to bring you deep into the melting pot of Kay El so to speak. Here, to a place that we call a Mamak. Mamak is a stall - it's raw. It can be a bit dirty, but it's delicious, it's cheap, it's where everybody eats. And you're just a snob if you don't go to Mamak, OK?

So, I'm going to take you there. I don't know what you're going to see, but let's just go anyway. This is fine.

This is quite a popular neighborhood, called Bangsar. And this is the main street of Bangsar - this is Jalan-Telawi.

So this is Shalisa (ph). I think a family place. Everyone can eat here. Ex-pats, locals. And this is one of the more popular ones. It's actually known to be the best Mamak. Mamaks are Indian Muslim people. They're Tamil Muslims, actually, who migrated here. You can find them in small stalls. This is like a more famous version of it. So, it's like the posh of the Mamaks. So yes.

This is like a really thin version of roti. Roti means like bread, obviously. Anyone who's been to Asia must try roti, roti being bread. Tandoori is chicken that's cooked in spices and it's put in the oven. Tandoori usually is eaten with the naan itself. And this is the basic naan. And when you eat naan, you've got your Dahl. You know, this is not spicy. Yellow is not hot. That's all I can say. Go for yellow if you're not used to hot.

Next to it is an elaborate roti chanai - what we call roti talore (ph), which is egg bread. I probably knew there was a problem - I had to stop. So this is biryani - chicken biryani. Now, this isn't like the biryani in Asia. This is not like your Indian - it's not traditional Indian biryani. It's closer to Iranian biryani. Bet you didn't know that.

Fried chicken, egg, and vegetable. What more do you want in life? Love it. It's not spicy. Yay. It's yummy. We're all going to have to go do gym tomorrow for seven hours.

This is Chanka (ph). Now, it's usually not this busy. There's a party on tonight. But it's early still tonight. And this how it is. In Malaysia, Kay El really can provide everybody with both sides. You can have it as conservative as you want, and you can have it as out there as you want, too.

RESHMONU: They consist of the Malays, the Chinese, the Indians. And the culmination of these cultures, right, and the way manner is - it works together - makes Kay El very nice (ph).

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