I Never Knew Much

Malaysia Add comments

I never knew much about Malaysia, but that didn’t stop it from building a very modern capital city in Kuala Lumpur, including the tallest twin towers in the world, the largest shopping center in Asia, and hundreds of upscale restaurants and hotels. The people here are friendly and due to British influence circa WWII, almost everyone speaks at least some English. The traffic I’ve seen is less insane than in Thailand, but still has a wildness too it.

I took a high speed, high tech, high class train from the airport into the city. Flat panel TV’s scrolled through tourist targeted ads, while fields of farmland passed by.

From Kuala Lumpur Station Sentral, I opted to take the monorail and walk option as opposed to taking a taxi to my hostel door. The difference in price was only about $8 and after walking around sweat soaked looking for an overhead train, which I figured would have been easier to find, I almost gave in. It’s taken some serious effort to force myself into budget travel, but I think I’m finally getting there.

The hostel I’m at is great. I’m in a room with beds taken by Taiwan, Thailand, Australia and two others who I haven’t met yet. There’s air conditioning, but it’s only on from 8pm-8am, so sleeping in is a struggle. A cornflakes and fruit breakfast is included in the $6 per night charge here. When I arrived, Bee said “Hi, You must be John!” and asked me to take off my shoes before she showed me around.

I’ve spent half my time with two Germans and two Aussie’s. Last night we braved the night markets and today the massive shopping centers. For $10 I picked up about $2500 worth of photo, video and web development software. The store was actually in a mall! I have no idea how they get away with it, but I wasn’t about to ask any questions. Stores also sell every DVD you could want for RM5. At USD $1 = RM 3.81; $1.30 for a crystal clear, wide screen edition of Jurassic Park is a hell of a deal.

The Malaysians I’ve had conversations with have been helpful and nice. On the monorail a guy noticed me using the map in my Lonely Planet guidebook. He pulled a nicer map out of his bag and gave it to me, wishing me luck and telling me to watch my pockets.

Downtown today, a woman approached me complimenting my camera. She was excited to practice her English and even more to hear about America! Without making it obvious, I tried to inspect her face while she talked. Eventually I realized she was wearing the makeup I’d heard about this morning. In Malaysia and probably elsewhere people like this lady wear makeup to make their skin look whiter. It sounded crazy at first, but then again I know plenty of people that wear blush and go tanning.

So she precedes to tell me about her sister who is moving to San Diego and about her mother who’s nervous and about how if her mother and sister could just talk to me and I could tell them about America how her mother would not have to worry so much and how if I could come over now and talk, she would make me dinner and that it’s only a 20 minute walk or she could pay for a cab.

I thought about the invitation for dinner preceding a gambling scam, which is posted on the hostel bulletin board. One nice thing about people not speaking great English is if they don’t quite understand what you said, you can very easily just say something different. Using this to my advantage, I gave her a few different excuses as to why I had to get going, finally settling on repeating “Nah…that doesn’t sound too safe” until it registered.

While walking around the city today, I picked up a sandwich and slice of pizza for lunch. There must have been something strictly Asian in it, because on my ride up the super heated elevator ¼ mile to the top of the tower, my stomach spun my mind around and pushed sweat through my pores. Luckily I kept my no puking in the new millennium record. One visit to the ¼ mile high toilet fixed me up good.

The Malaysian attempt at catering to westerners is funny sometimes. When I first opened the bathroom stall door, I saw the hose next to the toilet and hoped there was at least soap to wash my hands. Once all the way in I was pleased to find the usual tools as well. Also, to please us western folk, a great big dispenser of soft-for-your-backside, soluble toilet paper was screwed to the wall just above the sink and next to the empty soap dispenser. Can you imagine why the guidebooks tell not to greet or give with your left hand in southeast Asia?

Tomorrow some more sightseeing, Saturday Thaipusam Festival and Sunday off to Bangkok.

One Thought on “I Never Knew Much”

  1. -eric- Says:

    You #@$%!! You should have gone to dinner with the Malaysian woman. I can’t believe you backed out!! Take it up a notch man!!

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