Malaysia (S.E Asia trip part 1 of 3)
Malaysia Travel Blog› entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
17th November 2009
Malaysia (S.E Asia trip part 1 of 3)
Current Mood: Anxious!
Category: Travel and Places
Boarding the plane for my 13 hour flight I was greeted by these stunning Malaysian air stewardesses.
Arriving at the Backpackers hostel in Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur I dumped my bags in the dorm and along with Canadian Destin and German Nicol went straight on out to explore some of Kuala Lumpur (KL).
The next morning we visited the Petronas Towers which are the highest twin towers in the world and is home to a petrol company. I just know you’re going to be telling this fascinating fact to all your friends over the weekend. Anyroad, it has a sky bridge some 40 odd stories up linking the two towers together, which we walked across. There, that’s that story out of the way. At the Lake Garden Park you’ll find Stonehenge. That’s right, another one! After seeing the UK’s big collection of rocks, to having Sanja trying to convince me the Stonehenge we saw in Belgrade (see Serbia 2: New Years blog) was the original Stonehenge, I was now staring at KL’s very own version of the stones.
Getting harassed in KL to buy stuff is pretty much the norm, but nowhere more so than Chinatown’s night market. It was here one night I came across a group of guys who after getting to know each other went and tried to sell me something that wasn’t on display at their stall:
Locals: Where is your girlfriend?
I say: I’m here KL to enjoy myself, experience the country and mostly to have fun – that means leaving the girlfriend at home!
Locals: Would you like a girlfriend?
I say: Are you able to get me a girlfriend?
Locals: I have contacts! I can get you a girl, 17, very nice.
I say: I’m on a really tight budget – I can’t afford very nice. I can only afford really ugly women. And I mean REALLY ugly.
Of course, nothing came of it in the end. No ugly woman came to tell me she loved me long time and I got to leave with enough money in my pocket to buy lunch with.
Some 13km north of KL you’ll come across the Gombak district, home of the Batu Caves and in what I like to think my now novice opinion, the most worthwhile site visiting in KL. So what the fuck is it then, you’re asking. It’s several networks of big, old caves which has been converted into one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside of India. The first thing you notice when approaching the main cave is the statue of Murugan, a Hindu deity. You’ll notice this cos it’s over 42 metres high and painted with real gold - and here’s me standing in front of it without my paint remover I usually carry. After having a butchers at that and all the wild monkeys running around it, it was time to move on to the main cave which is over a 100 metres high and home to several shrines. Trouble is to reach the cave I was going to ascend no less than 272 steps to reach the entrance to the thing. Less time making fancy temples and more time inventing escalators I say! And inside it was bloody big, if a little empty looking. It did have its shrines though they were somewhat small – not that I know how big a Hindu shrine is supposed to be. It was cool though, both in the appreciation and climate use of the world ‘cool’ and after taking a few Kodak moments of some temples, shrines and monkeys I was ready to go. Leaving the Batu Caves I was having a bit of trouble finding the bus stop to take me to KL, so I haggled a taxi to agree a 20 ringgit fee. I hate getting taxi’s, but I was tired by his point and couldn’t be fucked walking around in the sun anymore. Anyroad, the taxi driver hops behind the wheel, I hop in the passenger seat... and some other dude hops in the back. Hello, I say – I’m nothing if not nice. He introduced himself as the taxi drivers brother, which I knew he ain’t cos if he was then their mother is holding a terrible secret from them involving their local milk man. Quick small talk tells me he’s going to KL for some ‘boom boom’ with his girl. Great I say, he’ll be able to split the cost of the taxi fare. But he has other ideas don’t he – like not paying his way. And not only that, he tells the cab driver to pull over so he can go grab some flowers from the stall – which the cab driver duly does! The cheek I tell you! I say to the driver, ‘Hey, you and him taking the piss or what? I’m the guy paying you and you’re listening to him? Who the fuck is this guy anyway?’ His brother again he replies. ‘I couldn’t give a monkeys who he is, I’m a nice guy and of course he can share my cab, but there is no fucking way I am paying for him to get to KL to plonk his girl. If she’s good enough to buy flowers for she’s good enough to share a cab fare. He pays or I’m out of this cab right now.’ He comes back, says he doesn’t want to pay. Ten minutes later I got a result by finding the bus stop to take me back to KL at a much cheaper price.
Like many areas of SE Asia KL has its fair share of prostitutes and I was curious to know what the going rate is here. Not for personal use, but it’s a tourism thing ain’t it – like we all check the price of a McDonalds value meal to see how it compares to Britain, even if we don’t eat there. Anyroad one taxi driver was offering a brass for 200 ringgits, something like 40 quid, and I asked how young – again purely out of interest and I was surprised to learn I was offered a 20 year old, surprised cos Britain is becoming a nation of paedophiles and I expected I’d be offered younger. Incidentally by the way the McDonalds had a sale on here and I picked up an extra value meal for a credit crunch busting £1.40. The bad news – it’s McDonalds.
Eating at a Hawker food centre one afternoon I got chatting to a guy sat at another table a few feet away. Once I asked him to join me he started talking about himself, me about me, so on so forth until he introduced himself as Nelson. That was it, I don’t know if it was the humidity of KL or all the strange spices in the food but once he introduced himself as Nelson his head ballooned into a yellow cartoon and I was now talking to Nelson from The Simpsons. Stupid I know. He was talking about doing tours and stuff and he wanted to take me to where he lived, some 30 minute bus ride away. As he was talking to convince me to go I was half expecting him to break out into a ‘HAR HAR!!’ Part of me wanted to go and he kept repeating, ‘You trust Nelson, you trust Nelson’ That’s right, he couldn’t say, ‘You trust Nelson’ without saying it again immediately afterwards. The thing is he was trying to tempt me with a trip to his area with a visit to the supermarket – not the sort of itinery to make the Lonely Planet Guide anytime soon you’ll agree. Asking him what else his area has to offer he replied with nothing much else, so I passed and he went away.
Walking in Chow Kit and its market area a woman in her 50’s passes me and says hello. I pretty much got used to this on the first night and cos I’m still new to the Kuala Lumpur I enthusiastically shouted back an almightily ‘Hello!’ 30 seconds later she’s back up behind me and grabs my arms insisting I follow her and, what with me aiming to say ‘Yes’ more often, I duly accepted her offer for an umbrella to shelter me from the rain and a walk out of the market. On our way to somewhere she asks me my age, I ask her about living in KL and from the way she described in very bad English I thought she was taking me to her shop. ‘Food?’ as we headed across the road towards a restaurant, ‘Yeah I could do with a little food’ But we past to food place and continued towards a motorcycle garage. I’m not a betting man but I was pretty sure she wasn’t going to try and sell me some motorcycle oil, though all I could see after the garage was a woman in a skimpy vest and hot pants standing outside an entrance to apartment blocks. Surely she didn’t mean.... but bloody well did! She brought me to a brothel and starts banging on about ‘nice nice massage, good rates’ and I say, ‘Nah nah nah.... actually how much??’ And this is the weird bit – I couldn’t understand her English after this. I’m thinking to myself if you’re going to learn any English, start with the bit where you try to sell something. I left her there mumbling to herself as I made my way back to the market.
At the hostel I met a nice fellow from Indonesia called Buyoo. We were slowly chatting away and he was talking about his family, but with his broken English and my bad hearing I thought I was hearing him wrong when he was explaining his wife is ill is a Netherlands hospital – her stomach looks like she’s pregnant, but she’s not pregnant. And he was doing the whole hand gently caressed over his stomach manoeuvre, usually that’s done to explain when someone is pregnant. So anyway, at first I thought it was a tumour, but quickly dismissed the idea – until he showed me photos of his family using his trombone (mobile phone for you uneducated cockneys). The first photo and there it was – a 5kg round bubble of a tumour cut out from his wife and now resting peacefully on a plate. A plate of all things! The only things missing from the picture was a knife and fork either side of this grotesque lump. Moving onto photo number two and we see the tumour being tied into a bag. Meanwhile I’m thinking, ‘What next? And he’s me placing the tumour into a rubbish bin’ It was like seeing some twisted holiday snaps from a weekend away in a hospital operation theatre. Photo number three was finally a picture of his wife – laying unconscious after the op with about half a dozen tubes going into various holes in her face. Probably not her best side I imagine. Whatever happened to showing pictured of your family enjoying themselves in a garden or something? Thankfully his wife is making a good recovery and being such a cool dude we swapped numbers and plan to meet up in Jakarta the following week.
Chatting one night in the dorm to Australian Byron we were abruptly interrupted by a man who looked like he was pushing 134 years of age. He de-mummified himself from his lower bunk and, imagine this in the most stereotypical American accent, says ‘God damn son of a bitch, don’t you guys know what time it is?’ before storming past us and switching off the dorm light. This bloke, whose name I later learned was Sarge, was so skinny that for a good hour I never noticed him sleeping under his bed sheet, so when he jumped up I became so frightened I actually performed involuntary excrement in my pants.
Waking up Friday morning met I German Nico who offered us to come along with him, Swedish Johanna and French Cami to a place over 200km north of Kuala Lumpur called Cameron Highlands. Sure I said, and leaving later that day on what was supposed to be a 3 and a half coach journey we arrived 7 hours later at the 2000ft altitude village of Cameron Highlands. Don’t quote me on this one, but they probably call it the highlands cos of the 2000ft thing. We checked into the hostel and monged out for the evening enjoying the much cooler climate.
In the morning we fancied a jungle climb and had decided to take on a jungle mountain top standing 6666ft tall called Gunung Berinchang. How that oversized ugly alien looking creature in the movie Predator made jumping through the jungle look so easy is a mystery, but hey, I guess if you can become governor of California then anything’s possible, ha! Though after 3 and a half hours of climbing vertical tree routes and sinking in mud pits we finally did it, even stopping for a break near the top and staring into a cloud that had settled in front of us. For me it was amazing. Now all we had to do was get down the bastard thing. Thankfully some Kuala Lumpur’s holidaying in the region took pity on us and offered us the trailer to their pick up and gave us a 9km ride back to the nearest village, stopping along the way to take in the scenery of the tea fields. The tea fields took up the whole mountain sides and looked like they went on for miles. My mother, who’s a massive tea drinker, would have had a screaming orgasm if she copped an eyeful of that lot, though I wouldn’t imagine it taking her long to drink her way through a field or 6. Once dropped off at the village we hitched a ride on another pickup who took us a far as they were going before we finally were in a civilisation where we could grab a cab to complete the journey to the hostel. Without these lifts we were looking at a 15km walk. Blimey! We crashed for another day at the hostel before Johanna and I made our way back to KL bidding farewell to Nicol and Cami and a few other we met along the way.
In Kuala Lumpur there’s a region called Little India, but what I found out on my first night here is that come next year Little India will have moved to the south of the city. The hostel fellow circled in on my map and Johanna and I decided to check it out before all the tourists swarmed there. It’s certainly better than the original Little India, most notably cos every single shop isn’t an exact replica of the one next door, and it was here we met Mr Ram. Mr Ram is also known as Mr Ramasomething or other and is also known by yet another name, David. That last one was given to him by a Priest whilst he attended church one day. Why the Priest decided to give him the name David was never explained. Anyroad, Mr Ram aka whichever name you want to use was a really friendly chatty brilliant guy who was eager to let us know about him and to learn from us. We met his Brother and Auntie and he even went as far as arranging Johanna and I to get married and have 3 children. His brother and Auntie, whose stall we were standing outside, would organise the food buffet for the guests. Now I’m all for embracing culture but even I have my limits and arranged marriages are one of them – even if my wife to be is a Swedish hottie. We eventually bid our farewell and told him we’d mail him the wedding invites in a few years.
KL was my first experience of Asia – and what an experience! The food, the way of life, climate was something that was far away from what I had experienced before, which was only to be expected. I mean it’s not like I’d get all this in Rome, or any other European city. There was one aspect I didn’t enjoy as much though, through no fault of KL’s mind you, and that’s all the tourists. There’s way too many of us ‘white folk’ for my liking – and fuck knows how the locals feel about it too even if it does boost local economy. The city has become a tourist town, but I already had a remedy for this problem. What’s this remedy called? That was easy – it is called Jakarta, and I was going to have to fly to Indonesia to find it...