19 December 2009

Kuala Lumpur - 2009 December

In warm relaxed KL, 13Dec09. The people here are of a very different temperament, life moves in a different, smooth rythem. It brings out a different aspect in me as well, (is this why I travel ? to meet diff aspects of self ? "Keep traveling Grasshopper, keep travelling").
It is the kind of place where one can just talk to people on the street without that initial film of suspicion and defensiveness I'm used to within myself and others i.e. ("is this a psycho asking me the time of day, or is he really just asking the time ? or does he want money ? " -- sometimes asking the time is really just asking the time says Dr Freud, although I think he was talking about cigars in the original I think... . )

What struck me too: It's a very child friendly society.
Kids are everywhere and part and parcel of the scene, for some reason parents don't seem to be engaged in constantly 'shushing' them or trying to stop them from embarassing the family or arguing with the about why they can't have this or that nick nack. They just float along with whatever is going on without much fuss.

Watched "the Matrix" again on the plane: great stuff. We live in Matrices within Matrices.... now how to figure out the jumping bits equivalent in real life ?

In Melbourne we were about to take off at 13:30, but something did not pass the final tests. it was 18:00 by the time we got away and 2am before I hit the bed in a hotel near Sentral Station in KL.
The lady of the hotel did reverse bargaining: Original price was 100 Ringgit (AUD $30) and the closer we go to the room the more the price dropped without me saying a word, it ended at 80 RM and when I paid she said 70 because it was 2am already. Definitely not many tourists come to this area, love it.
By the time I stumbled out of bed brunch was in full swing. The mainly Indian area here, Brickfields, has all a traveller needs within 100meters: food, barber, internet cafe, IT gadgets, antique pocketwatches and a lively street scene.
Indian music is playing in the background, kids play computer games in the cool shady aircon upstairs internet shop.

Mum & Dad: thanks for your christmas present: a selfwiding 1990's good quality pocket watch from KL ! this is YOUR present to me - thank you :-)

It seems short and sweet missives more often is better than long and rambling, so I'll close this here.
If you want off this list just drop me a line.
All the best for Christmas.

'dance me to the children who are asking to be born....' - Leonard Cohen

One often meets one's destiny while trying to avoid it. - Anon.

Today (Sunday the 13Dec09) I set myself the challenge: treat the city as a jungle:
take train to Petronas twin towers, and then walk back to the other end of the city, in Brickfields, with just a simple Lonely Planet map, and a magnetic compass to guide me.
4 hours later, with a detour to the 425m TV lookout tower, I was back in my hotel, hot & smelly.
Close to the hotel I bought a local SIM card, for my phone and when I opened my old leather bag I had to take out bottles of juice, apples etc.... the guy asked me (in Jest ???) are you sleeping anywhere ?
"Huh !!! Yes I am, I just did my shopping and and have 3 liters of juice and apples and stuff crammed in". Hummpfff said Eyeore !!!.

Impressions from trekking across KL:
- The place is NOT as big as it seems on the map, if you know where you are going the city is actually manageable even on foot.
- There are some really "NOICE" areas, tasteful restaurants, Thai and Vietnamese, stylish areas, bizzare and artistically built, architects dreams.
- Parks, with lawn, ponds, HUGE old trees, even a forest area, of original looking vegetation, old trees and mosquitoes.

- the CAR is KING !!!. Long live the CAR ! Prepare ye the way for Zee CAR, make ye straight the path of the CAR !!! here cometh the CAR !!! tada... Let nothing stand in the way of ZEE CAR!!!
- Result of the above: trekking accross KL sometimes means negotiating clover leaf flyover after clover leaf flyover. If you are in a car or train it's all easy, but no one walks more than a 300m radius circle of their immediate neighbourhood.
Certainly not any major distances.
Sometimes footpaths run along the freeways and just suddenly peter out or have a fence. Not sure why they put a footpath there in the first place, its a nice idea though. No real thought to how a pedestrian would actually move around. Well that's not really true: pedestrians just have to dash across the freeway when it is safe to do so. Takes some strategy to work out how to get across a huge system of ramps and multilanes. Usually there is a shortcut or even an under/overpass. Other times you just have figure out the flow and work out how to position yourself so you cross the minimum number of lanes.
But anyway: the only ones using footpaths are mad dogs and Englishmen...(or these days: Australians,...Germans...etc...i.e. falangs)
- Traffic lights for pedestrians are set on "miserly", you gotta dash around between the flow of those things for which all this was built in the first place: CARS.
- I'll be taking trains from now on.
- as a result of the trekk: I now know how the key things in the city are laid out. Where PetronasTowers are in relation to Chinatown, & to Puduraya bus station, to the old Train station and all of them to Sentral station.
Now the maps make a degree of sense.

THis is about the right length email at this point for the short version.
All those readers who only "paid" for the short subscription and do NOT want a
rambling LONG missive inflicted on them, please exit now.

Exit now !
DO not read any further, time to stop.

Readers with small children and infants may abort reading anytime.
Business class and first class readers may read at their whim.

what??? ............. are you still reading this ?

ok - well you asked for it: more "fascinating" stuff below: you were warned, read on at your own risk.
Please tick the box [] to show you absolve me of all responsibility and you have read the terms and conditions.

Are there any Bicycles in KL ?
Bicycles ?
What are they ?
"Bi" - meaning two and "cycles" - meaning repetitious, round as in wheels.
Oh you mean those funny things with two wheels you have to precariously balance on, where you might fall off, and where you use your MUSCLES to push YOURSELF along by your own strength...OMG.
Not cool, might actually break out in a sweat.
Saw ONE cyclist, and it was a foreign/falang looking person. Expat type.

I would not want to cycle in KL, car drivers are totally NOT expecting a bike, even motorbikes are an endangered species.
I guess a bike would be ok if it was expensive and you wore all the right colourful lycra gear, but for just getting around ? No!
It seems to me riding a bicycle in KL would about as exotic as saying "Hey watch me fly my hang-glider" in Australia.

It strikes me KL is at the stage regarding cars, that Melbourne was in 10+ years ago.
Quite liveable and very nice but cars were the undisputed first preference, no traffic calming, no bike lanes, etc... .

Oh and one more thing: Malaysians seem to LOVE, really really LEEEERVE, shopping centers.
I walked into KLCC shopping center (just because it was there, next to Petronas Towers). inside it was ritzy and glitzy just like the best of them in Australia or anywhere in the world.
Ok, I have to be honest: 4 mins was not a long time to assess this, but there was really nothing different to KLCC from any international standard glitzy ritzy super brand name shopping center.
It made me think though: There is one thing that always intrigued me: Does shopping not mean spending money ? and does this money not come from the ones who shop ?
Now I could really get into shopping if it meant spending someone else's money on things for myself, but spending my OWN money ? I was brought up to try and hang onto it. I'm not that good at it as it is. But shopping centers make that 10 times harder.
That one has always puzzled me.
Perhaps it's a bit like Ulysses: who wanted to hear the song of those deadly alluring sexy Sirens, so he ordered his men to tie him to the mast of his ship and not to untie him no matter how much he yelled and threatened them.

However I'm quite happy to admit that I'm shopping-ly challenged and miss the necessary DNA.
My first thought is always: "But I can get this much cheaper outside!"
Then again perhaps I'm just a mutation: I DO Love shopping for pocket watches in strange places, like tiny little alley shops run by bespectacled old guys who fix and repair old spring driven clockwork.

Speaking of which: perhaps it is all just a matter of taste, and each to his own. Some people get their jollies from shiny ritzy shopping centers, I get mine from chaotic shopping streets, mixes of restaurants, butchers, tailors, jewellers, fruit sellers, mobile phone shops, watch repairers, crazy parking, shiny lights. The smells of sandalwood, incense, piss, and exhaust funes. In short: a chaotic quirling mass of humanity. A swirling about of young and old.

If anyone would like to donate money to rehabilitate me to see if I can manage to like high class shopping centers, please send donations .... he he he .

STOP PRESS: I figured it out (about the shopping centers): I'm a male, I'm an Engineer !!! OF COURSE that explains it all.
Tomorrow I'll explore one shopping center that DOES sound interesting: a cybercenter, IT, technology place.

14Dec09 MOnday,
The lady managing my Hotel, would be perfect for Charles Dickens to characterize. She is a middle aged Indian with an offbeat sense of humour, and seems like she can deal with whatever is thrown her way, (even a Heiko and worse). I get a very nice sense of Indian culture from her.
The hotel I discovered by "chance", happened to see it from the airport bus as we got close to the final stop in the city at 0100.
It's a totally non-tourist area here. The Indian restaurants serve meals on big banana leaves.

If you have ever looked closely at a trail of ants, you'll see that ants move along very narrow trails. Some ants move in one direction, some in the opposite. Every now and then some of the ants going in different directions stop and wave their antennas at each other. They are talking, exchanging info in 'ant-language'. then they hurry on for about 3 to 10 centimeters and stop and do the antenna waving thing again.
That seems very similar to how us tourists and backpackers follow very narrowly defined trails. Everyone goes to the same general Backpacker area. Or if you are Biz traveller or 5 * traveller, to the same general top class Hotels. Before the internet people did have to actually hang out and talk face to face.
After the internet: the same still happens, only it happens online, on a few key websites.

17:00 hours: back from the Guanyin/KuwanYin Temple, next to the Petronas Tower, (by train this time, both ways).
The rain bucketed down thunder raged and everyone waited indoors for an hour.

Devi the lady who runs the Crescent Hotel in this small little Tamil enclave near Sentral Station keeps a vigilant eye on things. She greets her customers when they come in, smiles and asks what they did in the day and generally chats amiably.
As I was sitting in the lobby, this evening watching the street scene through the glass doors. Suddenly she got up like lightning and dashed to the front door as one of her guests was coming in, saying "NO".
HUH??? I was puzzled for an instant.
"No prostitutes, allowed in my hotel"
The guy just turns around without a word, his girl never made it inside.
She goes back to her spot on the front desk.
"he paid for one person, he can bring his wife, or his girlfriend, but not a prostitute", she explains to me.
I giver her a thumbs up.
"I don't run a brothel here " she is indignant.
She may be the Madame of the hotel but is not "A Madame of an 'Establishment' "
She can be sweet as anything but she ain't no pushover.

enough rambling for this time....
Busy Christmas coming up...

Aswan, Egypt, Tombs of the Nobles