Friendly smile greets me
at Shangri-La Hotel.
Malaysia Entices
American Tourists

ALAYSIA intends to make tourism one of the most important industries in its economy. Due to a traffic slump in the wake of 9/11, Malaysia Airlines suspended service from Newark, which it had started only four years ago. Other carriers had dropped flights, too. The traveling public was gripped with a fear of flying.

But now Fred Siems, eastern region vice president for Malaysia Airlines, sees friendlier skies above.

The beauty of Malay.

“We’ll resume service from Newark beginning March 31,” he announced at a reception for the trade held at the Permanent Mission of Malaysia to the United Nations.

To entice travelers further, through March you can purchase a roundtrip ticket to Kuala Lumpur for an incredible $699 from New York, Los Angeles, Washington, Chicago, Boston or Miami. That includes three nights free at any of 80 hotels and resorts in Malaysia.

March is a particularly auspicious time to visit, if you care about saving money. This is the month of the annual Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival, when shops in all urban areas have fantastic discounts and unbelievable bargains. Shopping centers, exclusive boutiques, hotels and restaurants offer attractive prices.

Petronas Twin Towers, world’s
tallest building, with 88 floors.

This is a sure way to revive American confidence in Malaysia as a favored vacation destination.

According to vice president Raja Normala Shamsudin of Tourism Malaysia, last year one million tourists visited each month, 25 percent increase over the previous year. However, most visitors originated in the region, from Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, China and Taiwan.

“The United Kingdom,” Ms. Shamsudin said, “is the only western market where we had an increase. We hope to revive American arrivals this year. We don’t want to see you disappear.”

View from 41st floor of Twin Towers.

I visited Malaysia last August. The minute I stepped inside the magnificent futuristic airport, I had my camera poised to record every interesting native attraction.

I found the people very warm and welcoming. They are a mixture of native Malay, Chinese and Indian, living in harmony. The majority is Moslem, but Buddhism and Hinduism are practiced freely and widely.

Kuala Lumpur, the federal capital, struck me as a very friendly place to explore. The malls and shopping centers rival the best in the U.S. All the major brands are represented: Cartier, Gucci, the Gap. On the street you’ll find Starbucks and Haagen Dazs outdoor cafes, plus Tower Records, McDonalds and Planet Hollywood among other American institutions.

Cops outside mall.

I spent a week absorbed in the country’s August Mega Sale Carnival, when price tags were slashed by up to 70 percent.

I came home with a 24k gold necklace for Nina and a treasure trove of memories on film for my Malaysia album. It was a wonderful adventure in a magnificent urban culture.

I am eager for a return visit to experience the compelling excitement of the cities and awe-inspiring lure of the countryside and jungle. It’s all there. You just have to hop aboard Malaysia Airlines to enjoy it.

Inside one of the magnificent malls.

Cartier lures shoppers during Mega Sale Carnival at the mall.

Boxer visits Meer Habib’s gold factory.

Planet Hollywood adds a touch of home in Kuala Lumpur.

Mideast tourist in burka films her Malaysian experience.

Photos of Kuala Lumpur by Tim Boxer using an Olympus Digital Camera D-490 Zoom, 2.1 megapixel.

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