You can get in the Christmas spirit with your golf in Muslim Malaysia, too
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA – In the mall next to the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, they’ve got a Christmas tree so tall it’d give the Rockafeller Center tree in New York a run for it’s money. Rest assured, Christmas is celebrated in Malaysian cities and resorts as much as anywhere.
Malaysia is about 60% Muslim, but the country’s very own progressive form of the Islam religion, Hadhari, was introduced by former Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi years back, but religious tolerance in the country is nothing new. In historic Melaka two hours south, there is the “Street of Harmony", where a Chinese temple, mosque and Hindu temple all sit next to each other dating back to the 17th century.
And while Malaysia on a whole isn’t as liberal as say, Thailand to the north, you can still act like the same drunken idiot here as you would in Prague or Las Vegas. There are actually two separate sets of laws here: one for Muslims and one for the rest of us. For instance, if a Muslim is caught drinking alcohol in public, he looks at two years in jail and a hefty fine. Yet I can two-fist bottles of Carlsberg walking down Jalan P. Ramlee Street (one of K.L.’s big nightlife strips) shouting “Oh Suzanna!” at the top of my lungs, and would probably just get a lot of dirty looks.
And so it’s no surprise you’ll hear Christmas carols, see palm trees wrapped with lights, holiday sales in malls and jungle monkeys dressed up as Santa (okay, I haven’t seen the latter, but I hope I do before I leave). Now, you won’t find this everywhere, but you will at any resort or city that caters to an international crowd.
As for the golf, today we checked out Saujana Golf Club just outside the city. They have two stellar 18-hole courses, considered by many I’ve met to be among K.L.’s best (The Mines is also a popular pick as the best area course and possibly the country). We played the Bunga Raya, considered the second fiddle to the Palm, but is still very very good. It’s cut out of thick jungle, where monkeys and flying squirrels cause a ruckus off the fairway, and there is a great deal of elevated tees and greens that makes for a lot of variety in shot-making. It’s also in fine condition and you won’t find better service anywhere, with caddies (both men and women), forecaddies in the fairways, GPS, locker room attendants, a great restaurant with both eastern and western food (like a delicious club sandwich with egg on it) and other staff who seem to just hang around in case you need anything.
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Hey, I've never whined about any possible lack of American etiquette at Valhalla, just about the lack of tagines from Morocco and the fried bananas in Malaysia. Hopefully you'll know where my priorities are for your next trip?
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