Day 16 – Visiting Dutch ground

Today was the day that we arrived at Kuala Lumpur! KL, as it is called by the locals. Is the capital and largest city of Malaysia with about two million people living in the city, and over seven million people living in the surrounding area?

Our first day in Kuala Lumpur started earlier than expected. It was scheduled that we arrived at the Grid 9 hostel at 07:00am, but the bus driver got us there at around 04:00am. Those of us who were awake at that time, were quite surprised! The bus driver turned on all lights and wanted to get us out. However, there weren’t enough beds available for us all to sleep. Therefore, the bus was parked elsewhere and we continued sleeping in the bus until 07:00am. After we were assigned our really nice looking rooms, just like the rest of the hostel, we had sbreakfast consisting of either eggs or cereal with toast.

Today’s schedule started with a visit to the residence of the Dutch ambassador, located close to Kuala Lumpur’s city center. Because of the large size of our group, we couldn’t be accommodated in the Dutch embassy itself, which apparently wasn’t that big. That wasn’t much of a shame, since the residence was a large villa with a nice view at a large golf course. We even saw a few monkeys passing the garden! Here we were received by Marco Winter and Maayke Mannaert.

The visit started with a presentation by Marco Winter from the Malaysian Dutch Business Council (MDBC). We started with a global introduction about Malaysia, its inhabitants, its culture and its history. After that, the MDBC became the main topic. The MDBC is a non-profit organization that wants to stimulate bilateral trade and investments between the Netherlands and Malaysia. Since its founding in 1996, over 200 countries have joined the council that organizes activities such as seminars, company visits and social events.

After a short break we continued with a presentation by Maayke Mannaert from the Embassy of the Netherlands in Malaysia. She gave us a good insight in what is done by the Dutch embassy in Malaysia. The embassy focusses on economic diplomacy mostly, but also does the typical consular work. For example, the embassy helped the Dutch ‘stripper’ that was arrested a few weeks ago because he was posing naked on a mountain.

The program at the ambassador’s residence ended with a social gathering with local treats, which were tasty! After a quick photo session we got to our bus and went to the second destination of the day: Sensata technologies.

Sensata technologies is a company that specializes in sensor technology. The company was founded in 1916 as the General Plate Company and nowadays it sells over one billion (!) products every year worldwide. We visited their Malaysian facility where over 1000 people work. The program started with a presentation about their sensor technologies and the manufacturing process of the sensors. Since production lines were operational in the facility, we visited those. The group was divided and we visited places like the warehouse, several assembly lines and a clean room. However, to be able to walk there, we had to put on special ESD (electrostatic discharge) protection. This meant we had to put on a dentist-like suit with a face mask that could’ve been a carnival outfit. After a nice tour along all places, the program ended with a short closing presentation, a group photo and yet again some local treats. Then we got on the bus again to our next destination: the Petronas Towers.

The Petronas Towers are probably the best known landmarks of Kuala Lumpur. Being 452 meters tall, it once was the highest building in the world. After paying about 80 ringgit and a strict security check, we got ourselves taken a green screen photo and went up in the elevator. We got out at a height of 170 meter to walk at the sky bridge that connects both towers. The view was nice, although there was a lot of smog that came from Indonesian farmers that were burning their lands (a local cab driver actually called this the haze season). After 10 minutes of photos and enjoying the beginning of the sunset, we had to go up further. We went up to a height of 375 meters and that was the highest I had ever been in a building. The view was even nicer than just before. However, as we got closer to the edge it was a bit of an anti-climax. The smog was quite thick. Not only that, but the windows were very dirty and there were a lot of strong lights on the towers that made it hard to take nice photos.

After 15 minutes it was time to go down with the elevators. We were just in time to watch the KLCC music and light show just located behind the towers. This was a nice show with fountains, lights and music. Since it was getting late and because some people were tired after the long day, the group split up. Those who had enough energy left decided to take a walk through the park near the towers, including me. Following, we went to the Trader’s Hotel across the park and went to the skybar over there with a fantastic view of Kuala Lumpur’s skyline and the Petronas Towers. After a short stay there, we went to our hotel by monorail, which was quite an adventure. I had never seen that many people in such a small place. We literally had to squeeze ourselves inside! After three stops and paying just 1.60 ringgit, we arrived at the hotel again. Some of us thesn relaxed in a space with large bean bags and a pool table, although the last one wasn’t working.. Too bad.

Since it was getting late and we had to get up early yet again, I got to bed. The first day in Kuala Lumpur was great and I’m looking forward to the rest of our days! I can’t wait to see what Kuala Lumpur has to offer!

Noël van Peijnenburg

Day 15 – Expensive toys

This morning we had to get up at 6 o’clock, because we had to get to the USM, the third university to visit this study tour. The bus however did not show up on time, because the bus driver parked in front of the Red Garden, which is the local food court that kept us alive the last couple of days, instead of the Red Inn hostel… This is the same bus driver that drove us to Jerantut. Many people start to fall asleep again in the bus immediately after we take off. As we cross the bridge back to the mainland it’s pretty hazy, as we can not see the other side yet. Apparently this a usual thing here this time of year. As we arrive at the USM we notice the strong smell of fertilizer as they are planting several trees in the gardens in the courtyard. A group photo is requested soon after everyone got out of the bus, sometimes still half asleep. We get a presentation about the university and the different campuses around Malaysia and a collaborative one in India. To our surprise the computer still ran on windows XP and had a floppy drive in it. USM started as a research university only 7 years ago and gets it’s grands from the government by collaborating with the industry. The next speaker was Dr. Ing. Razi who gave a small talk about how he was surprised to get a visit of 30 students from Eindhoven, as this could be either very good or bad. Michel then gave a small presentation about what we wanted to do here in Malaysia and Singapore. A lab tour followed through the aerospace and mechanical labs, which we did in two groups. Two students showed us the projects they were working on: a detection system of tremors due to Parkinson’s disease and a fairly strong but accurate actuator similar to a speaker. After that we headed to the micro fabrication lab, which was when the discussions among the students started. Then followed a tour through all the labs containing increasingly more complicated machines and detectors. We however would like to hear more about the usage of these expensive chromatographs, mass spectrometers, scanning electron microscopes and laser confocal microscopes instead of the specifications of them… After the tour we had a very nice lunch provided for us, with many tasty foods and fruits in abundance. All well fed we headed back to the bus to continue to Teleplan. They are a third party integrated supply chain and service provider. When your cell phone of hard drive breaks within the warranty, chances are good that one of their employees fixed it for you, as the manufacturers of these electronic devices are among Teleplan customers. A non disclosure form had to be signed and several precautions against ESD, electronic static discharge, were taken. We had to wear a special lab coat and but did no special shoes and or wristbands. Touching any products however was not allowed, which sounds reasonable. We got a tour through the processing line of one of the products and headed to the e-waste management after that. One could not imagine the amount of broken and disassembled hard drives we encountered! A treat of local dishes and a mini donut awaited us after the tour. Again quite full we headed back to Georgetown by bus to get some leisure time. Most people in the end headed back to the same place where we started our day, the Red Garden food court, to top off our stomachs to get ready for the long night in the bus to Kuala Lumpur.

Maurits van Mook