Kuala Lumpur : 5 Ringgits, Two angels, Dostoevsky and Me.
Kuala Lumpur Travel Blog› entry 110 of 268 › view all entries
A brief tale about kindness.
A couple of days ago I took out what I swore to myself would be my last 50 Ringgit note (£10). Absolutely the last. No matter what happens. Even if it means hitting the red line and beyond on my Malaysian funds. Skipping a meal. Or two. I was determined to practice hard line budgetary planning for the first time in my journey.
With all my transport and accommodation accounted or paid for, a gluttinous overspend on an 8 Ringgit gorgeous fruit platter breakfast at Voyager Café in Melaka and I’m back now in KL for one final evening before my flight back to Bangkok tomorrow morning. I have 5 Ringgit (£1) left to my name. I had Oreos for lunch. I’m starving! I start out along a familiar street here in Chinatown. My pal Dostoevsky for company. How much for your clay-pot chicken and rice? “Ten Ringgit”. Darn. How much for your duck with ginger? “18 Ringgit!”. Woah, I shoulda known that would be the case. Eyes bigger than my wallet. I reign in my dreams and settle down at a street side restaurant and order 1 plate of egg-fried rice. Nope, no drink thanks. (I can’t afford it today).
The plate of rice is devoured mercilessly. Too painfully swiftly. Every last grain. Even those fallen to the tabletop. Not a grain to spare my pal Dostoevsky. My stomach rumbles in protest. I stare dejectedly at my plate. 1 Ringgit now to my name. “Excuse me where are you from?”. I turn to the sound of the voice from behind me to be greeted by the vision of a middle aged couple. “Oh um, England. The south of England. Yourselves?”. “Well Elvine and I are from Australia, although Elvine, she’s from India originally. Come and join us here. What’s that you’ve been eating?”. “Errr, egg… fried… rice” I utter a little bashfully. “Are you a veg-ee-tarian? Would it offend your religious beliefs were you to be kind enough to join us and help us with our dinner? We’ve ordered far too much, but then you never know how much ya gonna get now do ya!”.
There’s no refusing them. Plus a rule of travel survival I’ve learnt: only decline an offer once. So I swivel my chair and sit to join the wonderfully interesting and kindly couple of Ian and Elvine. He orders me another plate of egg fried rice, probably thinking this will make me feel more at home. Tiger beers start rolling my way… there’s no saying “no”. Ian I think glad of the male company as a reason to keep on suppin’ the Devil’s liquid himself knowing his wife can’t “tut” too loud. And the meal…oooooh the meal!… just about the best I’ve had on my travels! A large serving of perfectly cooked sliced ducks breast in a delicate orange sauce. An elevated silver platter with a faultlessly steamed fish swimming in vegetables and a spicy ginger sauce. Further fried vegetable platters, and I swear, Ian and Elvine both protesting to having tiny appetites force me to eat probably more than twice as much as their portions combined. We chew the fat (whilst chewing the duck, the fish, the veg and the rice) about geography, history, culture, language, politics, travel and happiness. It’s a perfect meal. One more Tiger Beer? Well, why not if you’re offering. Elvine glowers.
What an incredible turn of events! At precisely the first and only moment I’ve forced myself into a real tight corner of privation, two angels appear over my shoulder to show me the mind boggling kindness of strangers that can occur and sustain you on The Road. And my situation couldn’t have been more radically turned on its head! I was so, so touched. And will visit them when I eventually get to Melbourne.
The best of it is. I didn’t even have to pay for my original egg fried rice! Ian clocked the lot. So I still have 5 Ringgit to my name. A coffee in the airport tomorrow morning maybe? Another small pleasure gained. We part company under a barrage of profuse thanks from myself. I turn and head back to the Red Dragon hostel, bloated and smiling all the way. I sit and write and then go back to the company of my friend Dostoevsky. A man who wrote much which people consider (too exaggeratedly) to be of a depressing or hope-forlorn nature but on the contrary is often about the enduring and extreme potential for kindness, goodness and selflessness in our fellow man (in the ones I've read anyway)… even though these virtues must often wallow amidst our many failings and tragedies. A man who died starving and near penniless despite fame in his own lifetime, but who I’m sure experienced too, occasionally I hope, the kindness of strangers.