The Illusion of Separation: My Malaysia Trip Report

By Zack Sanders

VP of Security – APconnections

Traveling is an illuminating experience. Whether you are going halfway across the country or halfway around the world, the adventures that you have and the lessons that you learn are priceless and help shape your outlook on life, humanity, and the planet we live on. Even with the ubiquitousness of the Internet, we are still so often constrained by our limited and biased information sources that we develop a world view that is inaccurate and disconnected. This disconnection is the root of many of our problems – be they political, environmental, or social. There is control in fear and the powerful maintain their seats by reinforcing this separation to the masses. Having the realization that we are all together on this planet and that we all largely want the same things is something that can only be discovered by going out and seeing the world for yourself with as open of a mind as possible.

One of the great things about NetEqualizer, and working for APconnections, is that, while we are a relatively small organization, we are truly international in our business. From the United States to the United Kingdom, and Argentina to Finland, NetEqualizers are helping nearly every vertical around the world optimize the bandwidth they have available. Because of this global reach, we sometimes get to travel to unique customer sites to conduct training or help install units. We recently acquired a new customer in Malaysia – a large university system called International Islamic University Malaysia, or IIUM. In addition to NetEqualizers for all of their campuses, two days of training was allotted in their order – one day each at two of their main locations (Kuala Lumpur and Kuantan). I jumped at the chance to travel to Asia (my first time to the continent) and promptly scheduled some dates with our primary contact at the University.

I spent the weeks prior to my departure in Spain – a nicely-timed, but unrelated, warmup trip to shake the rust off that had accrued since my last international travel experience five years ago. The part about the Malaysia trip that I was dreading the most was the hours I would log sitting in seat 46E of the Boeing 777 metal I was to take to Kuala Lumpur with Singapore Airlines. Having the Spain trip occur before this helped ease me in to the longer flights.

F.C. Barcelona hosting Real Madrid at the Camp Nou.

My Malaysia itinerary looked like this:

Denver -> San Francisco (2.5 hours), Layover (overnight)

San Francisco -> Seoul (12 hours), Layover (1 hour)

Seoul -> Singapore (7 hours), Layover (6 hours)

Singapore -> Kuala Lumpur (1 hour)

I was only back in the United States from Spain for one week. It was a fast, but much needed, seven days of rest. The break went by quickly and I was back in the air again, this time heading west.

After 22 hours on the plane and 7 hours in various airports, I was ready to crash at my hotel in the City Centre when I touched down in KL. I don’t sleep too well on planes so I was pretty exhausted. The trouble was that it was 8am local time when I arrived and check-in wouldn’t be until 2:00pm. Fortunately, the fine folks at Mandarin Oriental accommodated me with a room and I slept the day away.

KL City Centre.

I padded my trip with the intention of having a few days before the training to get adjusted, but it didn’t take me as long as I thought and I was able to do some site seeing in and outside the city before the training.

My first stop was Batu Caves – a Hindu shrine located near the last stop of the LRT’s KTM-KOMUTER line in the Gombak District – which I later learned was near the location of my first training seminar. The shrine is set atop 272 stairs in a 400 million year old limestone cave. After the trek up you are greeted by lightly dripping water and a horde of ambitious monkeys in addition to the shrines within the cave walls.

Batu Caves entrance.

Batu Caves.

Petronas Towers.

This was the furthest I ventured from the city for site seeing. The rest of the time, I spent near the City Centre – combing through the markets of Chinatown and Little India, taking a tour of the Petronas Towers, and checking out the street food on Jalan Alor. Kuala Lumpur is a very Western city. The influence is everywhere despite the traditional Islamic culture. TGI-Fridays, Chili’s, and Starbucks were the hotspots – at least in this touristy part of town. On my last night I found a unique spot at the top of the Trader’s Hotel called Skybar. It is a prime location because it looks directly at the Petronas Towers – which, at night especially, are gorgeous. The designers of the bar did a great job implementing sweeping windows and sunken sofas to enjoy the view. I stayed there for a couple hours and had a Singapore Sling – a drink I’ve heard of but had never gotten to try.

Singapore Sling at the Skybar.

The city and sites were great, however, the primary purpose of the trip was not leisure – it was to share my knowledge of NetEqualizer with those that would be working with it at the University. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. This was definitely different from most locations I have been to in the past. A lot of thoughts went through my head about how I’d be received, if the training would be valuable or not, etc. It’s not that I was worried about anything in particular, I just didn’t know. My first stop was the main location in KL. It’s a beautifully manicured campus where the buildings all have aqua blue roofs. My cab driver did a great job helping me find the Information Technology Department building and I quickly met up with my contact and got set up in the Learning Lab.

This session had nine participants – ranging from IT head honchos to network engineers. The specific experience with the NetEqualizer also ranged from well-versed to none at all. I catered the training such that it would be useful to all participants – we went over the basics but also spent time on more advanced topics and configurations. All in all, the training lasted six hours or so, including an hour break for lunch that I took with some of the attendees. It was great talking with each of them – regardless of whether the subject was bandwidth congestion or the series finale episode of Breaking Bad. They were great hosts and I look forward to keeping in touch with them.

Training at IIUM.

I was pretty tired from the day by the time I arrived back at the hotel. I ate and got to bed early because I had to leave at 6:00am for my morning flight across the peninsula to Kuantan – a short, 35 minute jaunt eastward – to do it all over again at that campus. Kuantan is much smaller than KL, but it is still a large city. I didn’t get to see much of it, however, because I took a cab directly from the airport to the campus and got started. There were only four participants this time – but the training went just as well. I had similar experiences talking with this group of guys, and they, too, were great hosts. I returned back to the airport in the evening and took a flight back to KL. The flight is so short that it’s comical. It goes like this:

Taxi to the runway -> “Flight attendants prepare for takeoff” -> “You may now use your electronic devices” -> 5 minutes goes by -> “Flight attendants prepare for landing – please turn off your electronic devices” -> Land -> Taxi to terminal

The airport in Kuantan at sunset.

I had one more day to check out Kuala Lumpur and then it was back to the airport for another 22 hours of flying. At this point though, I felt like a flying professional. The time didn’t bother me and the frequent meals, Sons of Anarchy episodes, and extra leg room helped break it up nicely. I took a few days in San Francisco to recover and visit friends before ultimately heading back to Boulder.

It was a whirlwind of a month. I flew almost 33,000 miles in 33 days and touched down in eight countries on three continents. Looking back, it was a great experience – both personally and professionally. I think the time I spent in these places, and the things I did, will pay invaluable dividends going forward.

If your organization is interested in NetEqualizer training – regardless of whether you are a new or existing customer – let us know by sending an email to!

View of KL Tower from the top of the Petronas Towers.

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