Kuala Lumpur, Liverpool FC, fish and chips, and a random man saying he loves me
The Malaysians are doing something right; Kuala Lumpur is awesome. Finally a city that I can get behind, could potentially live in, and not lambast the fuck out of with consummate ease. Bishkek it is not. There’s 1.5 million odd people here apparently, and in truth it does feel like a big village, but added to this, it’s simply got bags going for it. My first venture is to one of the many botanical gardens and green spaces.
It’s simply beautiful – and there’s nobody else about. It doesn’t feel like you’re slap bang in the middle of a metropolis as you wander round the vast space, barely encountering another humanoid. In spite of this, there’s still the obvious traffic problem – but that comes with the territory in any big city. However Kuala Lumpur excels in public transport – and it’s a joy to use. Simple, efficient, clean and safe; most of the network is above ground – and the sky-train monorail is especially fun to ride as it zips between skyscrapers.
Unlike say, New York (which I feel is blacker than night), KL (as it’s locally known) doesn’t ever feel like it’s “coming in on you”. It feels light, airy and spacious; and very, very green and clean. Buildings are not crowded together, often separated by lush, tropical roots and leaves, and you can see the sky in spite of having some impressively tall structures. The most renowned of these – and world-famous symbol of the city – is the Petronas Towers.
Argentine architect Cesar Pelli designed the iconic twins, stars of film, TV, popular fiction and the impressive KL skyline. Until 2004 it was the tallest building in the world – and still the tallest twin towers. Standing beneath them one might be surprised at this statistic, but a quick check of the facts reveals it is indeed taller than the likes of the Empire State Building. Recollecting the moment I stood on the viewing platform of that aforementioned construction and nearly fainting from the height – and I still can’t believe it. Perhaps it’s got something to do with the towers’ position. It – like the city – isn’t crowded out. Walking around the purpose-built “city within a city” is as comfortable as breathing.
I opt for the viewing platform at the Sky Bar in Traders hotel. The famous sky bridge on the 77th floor was closed on the day I visit – but I’m not too concerned. It’s 15 quid just to go up, and of course you can’t actually see the towers in their entirety. It reminds me of the urban legend of the tourist who – while standing on the Eiffel Tower – complained that in the view of Paris she couldn’t see the Eiffel Tower. I’m guessing she was American…
Pricier than most bars I frequent, instead of 15 quid on a sky bridge, I spend it on a fish supper and cheesecake in the Sky Bar, and boy was it worth it. Malaysian food is supreme – fantastic fusions of east and west, Asian and European available everywhere – usually for rock bottom prices. You can have the best curry of your life for about a buck fifty. However – and especially in my delicate condition – it’s not a good idea to pound back the spice on regular occasions. Opting for fish and chips (one of the things I miss most about living in the Oban area on the west coast of Scotland), it’s possibly up there with the best I’ve ever had. And in continuing my side mission of finding the best cheesecake in the world – they could well have a contender there too. Best meal I’ve had since my last meal in Malaysia – and worth every penny for the view alone. But although I’m still learning and adapting to my first ever smartphone, I refuse to take a picture of food. You can have one of the kind of stores that dominate the tower complex:
I have something of an unnerving experience while sauntering around the towers prior to my epic feed. A young, twenty-something man approaches me and asks if I speak English. He then informs me he has to get something off his chest – he’s bursting to let something out. He then tells me he loves me.
It’s more than a little uncomfortable. Especially when he asks if I love him too. He’s gazing intently into my eyes when I tell him I love him too – and he asks if he can put my response on a Youtube video, to which I politely decline and make my escape.
Now I imagine it was some kind of social experiment, and not just some wacko stalking the public in a park. Or maybe it was just some wacko stalking the public in a park. Either way I was out of my comfort zone and beat a hasty retreat – but I hope he found whatever he was looking for.
I also pay a visit to the world’s largest aviary. The KL Bird Park is a big tourist attraction here, and being something of an ornithologist, I decided to check it out. However I had mixed feelings when I do. Is it a zoo? Is it a sanctuary? Is it good for them? Certainly the gazillion free-roaming ( and predominantly flightless) birds looked like they were having the time of their lives, but seeing any bird in a cage just feels wrong. I felt a sour taste in the mouth that I’d supported the venture – but took some solace in knowing they are very well looked after and they appear happy as larry.
I did tell one brat off for running around after a peacock screaming “SHOW! SHOW!” and stamping his feet – obviously his mother having no input or control over the demonic little shit. In trying to get a peacock to turn for a selfie, one dundering imbecile actually tried to pull it around by the feathers. In my shame I didn’t say anything here – because her boyfriend was decidedly bigger and harder than that kids mum.
Walking through the botanic gardens and the sky begins to rumble. There’s not a sinner about in the vast park, the sky is blacker than night, and the rumble of thunder crescendos into the loudest I’ve ever heard in my travels. A shotgun is discharged right by your ear, and I’m getting the distinct feeling something bad is about to happen. A giant bolt of lighting damn near blinds me, as the finger of god stabs the horizon. Then someone turns on the water.
SE Asia is infamous for the rainy season, and it’s clear that I’m in it. I thought the deluge I experienced in Thailand was bad – but this is insane. I take shelter with some workmen under a construction site, as a wall of water pours from the heavens. The reflection of lightning on the skyscraper opposite is as impressive as it is intense, but my error was not finding cover in the park – and I’m forced to stand for about an hour until the monsoon stops. When it finally subsides, the street resembles a flash flood, and I squelch back to the hostel to dry off.
There’s still so much to see and do in this city. People are super friendly, engaging and talkative. Everyone speaks English like a native, and it’s so easy and accessible to get around. It’s a shoppers paradise too – you can get anything you want, anytime you want it. The only downside (on a personal note) appears to be the price of a beer. While not even close to the cost back home, a mug (not even a pint) of grog will set you back about three quid. It adds up – especially coming from countries where it’s a fraction of that. Most places also close at 2am, which means for the time being at least, my all-nighters are on hold. But then this is nothing but a good thing and I’m actually getting shit done.
The large percentage of Malaysian religious practice belongs to Islam – but it appears much more relaxed than previous muslim countries I’ve experienced. I applaud the decision to wear the Hijab out of choice and not necessity – and the fact that ladies who do so are decked in bright garments – as opposed to the monotonous black. It makes for a very colourful city indeed.
I make plans to hitch to Singapore in the next few days, when something quite astonishing happens. I’m perusing the Liverpool FC website as I’m want to do on occasion, when an amazing coincidence catches my eye. LFC are currently touring a fan experience world-wide, and yes – you’ve guessed it – they’re coming to KL next! It’s unbelievable luck – and an opportunity to meet Liverpool legends Patrick Berger, Vladimir Smicer and Robbie GOD Fowler, as well as take part in games and experiences all geared towards die-hard red fans. The tour is booked in for the 13th to the 18th December (I’m only going to be able to manage the first day), so I’ve got plenty of time to bounce around seeing cool stuff until returning to the city then. I’ve even contacted the club directly regarding my charity hitchhike, with the hope I can get a 5 minute photo shoot with the lads, my team shirt and flag, and my INDIA hitchhike board. Who knows? It might just net me more traffic to the blog, and more importantly some extra pennies for a worthy cause – especially if some multi-millionaires dip into their deep pockets! YNWA!
So that’s us all but up to date dearest readers. On the morrow I undertake hitch leg 56 (I think) heading straight down to Singapore – and country number 60. A young man from Bangladesh has just this minute offered me his home and a guide should I make it to his country – and I’m super stoked to continue the hitch such is the ease and friendliness of people in general here. I’m looking forward to coming back up so I can start using my INDIA sign again and not confusing everyone that I’m going the wrong direction. But as I always say – it’s about the journey and not the destination. Onwards!