Kuala Lumpur is a fun city, but one thing is sorely missing to make the 90F temperature and polluted humidity bearable — water! (and sand)
I just purchased a ticket for an overnight bus to Kuala Besut on the coast tomorrow, where I hope to catch a boat to the famous Perhentian Islands. “Perhentian” means “place to stop” because it was a big stop for traders in the old days. I think the only trading that I will be seeing there is backpackers trading lots of money for food and accommodation.
Like on any other island in the world, you pay a “paradise tax” to be someplace beautiful — hopefully the snorkeling and beaches are as sublime as the image I’ve constructed in my head.
No matter how nice a city is, when I get too far away from the sand, I start turning pale and irritable. Besides, I have pretty much eaten everything on my long food itinerary here other than Italian (too expensive) and Chinese jiao-tse dumplings…which strangely I can’t seem to find in Chinatown anyway!
Days are spent hiding from the humidity in the hostel, taking advantage of the wireless and talking to interesting people. When the sun takes a break, I hit the streets and walk for hours without realizing how far I’ve gone. Strangely, no matter how hard I try, I just cannot get lost here! With the big KL Space Tower as a prominent landmark and an easy city layout, a blind man couldn’t get lost.
That’s too bad, the best things always happen to me when I am lost.
I did manage to not find an exit in one of the baffling shopping markets for nearly four hours. I pity the shoppers if they ever have a fire one day. Finding a $6 Banana Republic shirt (and avoiding doing laundry for one more day) made all the blundering worth it though.
Some nights are spent at the Reggae Bar here in Chinatown. The sign boasts “as seen in Lonely Planet” which might explain why the mostly Arab staff are as friendly as rusty nails. Even still, when you are traveling alone, you have to do what it takes to socialize a little — otherwise you will go a little mad and become the bearded, reclusive hostel dweller with crazy eyes that people shy away from.
Even though I always travel alone, a great quote comes to mind that I saw on a friend’s blog: “Solitude is dangerous to reason.” — Samuel Johnson.
I have to admit though, dancing to the reggae and sharing sweat with strangers in a place too packed to move was fantastic fun, at least until all the ladyboys homed in on me and wouldn’t leave me alone. Why do they always choose me? Who knows how many beautiful local women I have ran from on the dance floor in fear because it’s too dark to see if they have an Adam’s apple or not.
Last night, I met up with Ruth, a German girl that I met briefly in China while studying Shao-lin. We ate some good Thai food in one of the food courts and sat on the busy Jalan Bukit Bintang just watching hordes of people from all nationalities mix and buy things they really don’t need. As we sat there, a new Lamborghini even rumbled down the street turning heads with two very proud looking young Chinese guys inside.
The owner of the Reggae Bar.
Around 2 a.m. that night, I stopped off for a bowl of Singapore Noodles in Chinatown when three people I met in Sulawesi, Indonesia, came strolling down the street with their backpacks. It seems the longer I travel, the smaller the world actually gets — and I love it. After 14 months accumulated in Asia, I can pretty much count on seeing people that I know in every country now, and it feels great!
If you happen to be in this part of the world (or Thailand / Indonesia) drop me a line — I love converting “internet” friends into flesh-and-blood friends.
Ruth gave me some traditional medicine for the coral cut on my ankle, which has improved very little over the last five weeks. It went from being a mere scratch to a gaping, draining hole. I have tried every remedy for sale in the pharmacy, clean it out religiously with alcohol (which really makes my day, let me tell you), but with no success. The same thing happened to me in Egypt in 2006 and I eventually had to have the doctor in the U.S. take a sampling of it. It turned out to be a nasty marine bacteria….everyone worries about the big things like sharks in the sea, but it’s the little things that can really make you hurt!
Do or die, I am going to wrap it up the best that I can with gauze and duct tape (goodbye leg hair) in the islands and do some diving. Getting back under the water is worth sacrificing a little skin and hair, as long as I can still get the fins on. Besides, those lady boys will really go for my newly smooth legs.
I definitely feel like it’s time to get a move on, so I’m anxiously awaiting the bus tomorrow night. Like usual, I am probably trading island paradise for proper internet access (if I ever find a place that has both, I’m buying a bungalow!) so I’ll check back in when I return to KL next week…hopefully with some sunburn and fresh coral cuts to keep me busy.
Life is good!