"Water, sugar, peach juice concentrate, lemon juice concentrate, and vitamin C."
So reads the ingredient label on a cheap six-pack of juice boxes I bought here at the store yesterday. No additives, odd chemicals, preservative, and no freaking high-fructose corn syrup. I consciously tried to avoid HFCS in the States, but the stuff is insidious. In everything from crackers to soft drinks, you'll see it.
My "housemate" (the friend here with whom I'm staying) and I went to the Carrefour store nearby. It's a French-based company with locations all over the place, and it's called a hypermarket, a huge shopping edifice that shames any Super Wal-Mart in size. It's the same philosophy, though. I've been to the Carrefours in Bali and Jogjakarta, Indonesia, but hadn't yet visited one in Malaysia.
My conclusion? The weekend is not the optimal time to go to a hypermarket.
My god... there were hundreds of people there, a veritable tsunami of Malaysians jam-packed into the aisles and around the produce, seafood, meat market, etc. We were there for about two exhausting hours... it will take some time for the novelty of being in a different country to wear off, but for now, I still convert prices to dollars and occasionally marvel at the vast price differences. I bought a bag of medium-sized shrimp so I could make dinner (mind you, there are no headless shrimp sold here... that's an American luxury, so I spent ten minutes before dinner beheading a bowlful of shrimp). The cost was about RM9 per kilo, which works out to just a bit over a dollar a pound. For shrimp. I bought a basketful of stuff -- produce, seafood, spices, oils, some plastic containers, etc. -- and the total came to about RM55, barely $16. I also bought a Philips blender thing, this 3-in-1 device that has a blender, a food chopper, and a juicer. It was on "promosi" for RM99, which is just under $29. I need it to grind spices and make sauces.
So for now, the cost of living here is a bit of a novelty, and although not everything is cheaper here, most things are, and I'm constantly comparing in my mind. I suspect (and hope) that tendency will fade away in time. Sometimes, the comparison is unwarranted, too. I was getting a package of buffalo meat, and was surprised at the low price, as usual, since buffalo in the States is pretty spendy. However, what we call buffalo is actually bison, not buffalo at all. Here, it's real buffalo, as in Indian water buffalo. I'll be sure to report back later and let you know how the meatballs I'm making with it turn out.
Here's the view from where I'm living now, taken this morning a bit before sunrise:
Not bad, huh? I'm in the northeastern part of greater KL, in a large suburb called Ampang. The more specific area is called Bukit Antarabangsa, which, literally translated, means "international hill." Don't ask me why. I'm definitely on a big hill (and on the 7th floor, to boot, hence the great view), but I don't understand the "international" part. There's a Bukit Nanas preserve in the middle of KL, which means "pineapple hill," but I didn't see any pineapples there. I suppose it's not much different than Denver -- think about it: have you ever seen any hills or cherry trees in Cherry Hills?