I said goodbye to Japan from the airplane window, promising to return to fulfill my dream of doing the pilgrimage around the Shikoku island.
Kuala Lumpur (KL) is a city of contrasts, with some of the world’s tallest buildings, such as the Petronas Twin Towers, casting their long shadows over humble neighborhoods hidden from the view of the tourists behind miles of concrete panels and impassable highways. The country is officially Muslim, although all major world religions coexist, not without tensions of religious and racial origin.
A student originally from KL (thanks Foong Ming), whom I met among the foreigners at Nagoya University, had given me the phone number of a friend who, she said, would be happy to give me a tour. Indeed, the day after my arrival, a friendly Malay guy (ethnically Chinese) took me first to visit a modern Buddhist temple of the burgeoning Chinese community, and then to the Bato Cave, a natural grotto turned into an impressive Hindu shrine. Once inside, after climbing the long stairs, you feel the sacredness of the site, like in Covadonga (sacred cave in Asturias, Spain).
Already on my own, I used a full day-trip to visit Malacca, a former colony that passed through the hands of Portuguese, Dutch and British successively, of whom there are still some ruins. What struck me the most was a small cemetery, where I could read on the tombstones the names of those European settlers, men and women who came to live barely thirty years, after such an arduous trip.
I was not tempted by the idea of continuing travelling down through the Malay Peninsula towards Singapore because I already knew it. Singapore is a cosmopolitan and luxurious city, where laborers come in trucks at night from Malaysia and leave at dawn.
However, I’d have loved going a little further south to the island of Java, to visit Borobudur, a representation in stone of the universe, a 3D mandala in the shape of a pyramid, whose reliefs illustrate the journey of Sudhana, the young protagonist of the last chapter of the Avatamsaka Sutra.
I had no time for more. I should go back to KL to continue my journey to India.