12/11/09: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
When you think of Kuala Lumpur, what do you picture? Before yesterday I pictured a city full of koalas. I suppose this was by default, as I really had no idea what to expect upon coming here. Let’s just say the city has shattered my non-existent expectations.
KL, as the lazy people call it, stretches as far as the eye can see, and from the Sky Bridge spanning the 41st floors of the Petronas Towers the eye can see quite a ways. We have stuck mostly to the high-end metropolitan areas, most notably the Berjaya Times Square shopping mall. Zhou and I have both deemed this mall as unfit for America, as no one would ever leave it if American architects were savvy enough to build such a monstrosity. It was hard enough prying us away from the 48-lane bowling alley, the massive cineplex, the unlimited fast food options, the eleven stories of shops, the 350,000 foot indoor theme park complete with what looked to be an exhilarating roller coaster – the list goes on and on.
Through all of the glitz and glam though, it is the little things that we’ll remember most about KL. So sit back, relax and enjoy a short story from today (one that I will turn into a long story because that’s what I do).
This morning’s excursion was to Batu Caves, just a half hour’s bus ride outside the city. First let me explain that the bus system here is a bit over our heads. There are no maps or signs or indicators of any sort at the bus stations. You simply have to be a good guesser or know a local to wind up at the correct destination. In this instance, our hostel gave us the directions.
Once we apparently reached Batu Caves, the ticket guy on the bus began yelling frantically at everyone, “Bah 2K! Bah 2K!” (Side note: This harkened me back a little to the conspiracy theorists in late December 1999.) We all hurried out the doors before they slammed shut, leaving us in the middle of a busy intersection sort of close to the caves. The main problem though was that in the melee Zhou left her 750 rupee polarized Puma sunglasses on the bus. After a failed attempt to chase down the bus a la any number of good action heroes, I sulked over to the caves knowing that a good pair of sunglasses had met their early end.
After finishing our sightseeing (a worthwhile stop if you’re ever in KL, especially since there is no entrance fee), we headed back to the bus stop. Along the way Zhou asked me what I thought the odds of getting on the same bus were. I thought to myself that the odds were pretty similar to the odds Mary Swanson gave Lloyd Christmas in Dumb and Dumber, but simply replied “not good,” knowing that Zhou would not have appreciated the reference.
As luck would have it, sure enough we wound up on the exact same bus we had arrived on (there is a chance, Lloyd!). Zhou sat in one of the last empty seats, directly behind the one we had sat on earlier, and the guy next to her moved over a stray pair of sunglasses so she wouldn’t sit on them. Wait, were those Zhou’s sunglasses? It was almost too good to be true, then it was too good to be true, as they weren’t hers. I wasn’t about to give up hope though.
I sat down in the last available seat, right next to the driver, and began scanning the area. A pair of old flip flops, some trash, a Coke, some cigarettes, nothing useful. Then, out of the corner of my eye, and on the corner of the driver’s eye, I spotted a familiar Puma logo. I ironically took off my own sunglasses to get a better look. That was Zhou’s Puma! Those were Zhou’s sunglasses!
The second-to-last thing you want to do on a crowded bus in a crowded street in a crowded city is distract the bus driver. But the last thing you want to do is let the bus driver take your wife’s sunglasses. So I took my chances. I don’t believe he spoke English so while he was weaving in and out of traffic I explained the situation through some sort of faux sign language. He finally understood and gave me Zhou’s glasses back. I’m guessing it wound up being an expensive day for him, because anyone who wears polarized glasses knows that once you go polarized you can’t go back.
Anyway, the point I was trying to make with this story is how it’s the little things that make our world trip what it is. It’s easy to get caught up in the “big ticket” tourist sites like the Nile and Serengeti, but the small daily interactions with locals can sometimes be even more memorable.
Puzzles for Postcards
Rhyme Time! (Solve two of these three triple rhymes)
The area (perhaps #7G) where Steven Spielberg’s guard works
A slow drip coming from an unpredictable, erratic cucumber after being put into the brine
What the religious man does when he offers grain to the gods on two different occasions
Thought of the Day: Darwin’s Survival of the Fittest must have dictated that all claustrophobic Asians died out when claustrophobia was invented.
Picture of the Day: Pigeons (and consequently running at pigeons) are surprisingly not all located in New York City.