When thinking of Kuala Lumpur the image of Sean Connery and Katherine Zeta Jones in Entraptment comes to mind. I imagine a sleek city with high end everything; especially huge skyscrapers like the Petronas Towers where they walked across a wire between the two buildings.
I did stay in Kuala Lumpur for ten day because it was one of the cheapest flights
out of Bangladesh to a place I could visit on a normal tourist visa. I’d also heard the food was out of this world with its own take on lots of Southeast Asian, Indian, etc. dishes. Its true – Kuala Lumpur is another major melting pot of cultures and for that its become well known for its Malay dishes. On the same block of my hostel was a Ramadan food market which became my go to place for lunch and dinner.
Back to the infrastructure; Kuala Lumpur is really built up in many parts. Its a mall culture, even more-so than suburban America. At the bottom of the Petronas Towers was one of many high end malls. No matter where I stayed I was within blocks of one complete with high end clothing stores like Gucci, Prada, Burberry, and others. While I wanted to refresh my limited wardrobe the heavy import taxes make it worth the wait to purchase all these things for 2/3 of the price back in the United States. All I could do while escaping the heat was window shop and eat in some nice restaurants. While staying with a Couchsurfing host for a few days I snuck myself into Pizza Hut for a stuffed crust pizza. Delicious.
Speaking of Couchsurfing, my host and his apartment were wonderful. A younger Filipino expat opened his apartment for a handful of days. He was busy working most of the time so I took the opportunity to also work from his studio apartment on the 33rd floor with views of the city. On my off time I made use of the apartment facilities. I spent a few hours by the pool, sauna, and steam room. The apartment opened out right to a mall and metro station. All for under US$600 a month.
Another day I met with for drinks with a Malay girl. We had been trying to meet for over a week but had been unable each try because one of us would botch it. I took the commuter train for quite a few lines where she picked me up and we drove to….the mall. It was her last night in Malaysia because the next morning she was on a flight to London for a 6 week backpacking trip of her own. The idea was to drink a lot until I really saw the prices of about $10 for a small beer. They tax the hell of alcohol. Its mostly a Muslim country so figure it out.
We went to a couple bars and at one I insisted we go for a drink at the ice bar. They opened the freezer and we walked for a quick shot of Smirnoff before reaching a state of hypothermia. If I had a bucket list a shot in an ice bar would be on it. It was really cool.
Afterward I struggled to unfog my glasses, ultimately giving up. Instead I embraced my new look for a couple of snapshots.
Alright, well besides Couchsurfing I also stayed in one of the more social hostels on this trip.
The first weekend I met a few buddies to hang out with. One was a soft spoken but really nice guy my age from Macau and another equally nice but more frat like student from the U.K. We were an odd combination but we went the guy from Macau took us out for Chinese one night, ordering his favorite dishes to share.
If you’re reading this and have been to Kuala Lumpur this is the time where i’ll mention the English guy insisted on visiting The Beach Club. Its really well known but most don’t seem to mention that its a club to meet working ladies. In this place I had fun meeting creepy expats and Saudi Princes. I left my friend there later on and walked back to the hostel myself. On the way I crossed several highway like streets. There were very few people out at this time on the deserted streets by one of the big malls but a man did approach me.
Excuse me, do you know which way is the Petronas Towers?
I used my judgment and stopped because he seemed harmless. He was. He introduced himself as Iranian and was so eager to talk with me despite the time. I got the sense that he was interested in going setting up a date with me but honestly, I really can’t say for sure because the few Iranians I met have been so friendly. I gave him my email rather than cell phone and a day later had an email from him in the inbox. It’s one of those situations where I just can’t tell if he’s a friendly guy or wanted something more. On a side note a few days later I met another Iranian woman on the metro who was just as friendly. If visas become easier to obtain Iran is a country i’d like to visit. Despite the horrendous government, the people seem worth the visit.
Now back to the hostel folk there was one interesting character who stayed. An American expat in Malaysia for a visa run so he could return back to his cheating Thai bar girlfriend. He had balding but curly hair and a slight English accent which made no sense. From the moment I met him something was off. He was sarcastic enough to frighten even the hardest person. I am struggling to fully describe his behavior. In the first seconds of speaking with him he asked me if my parents are funding my vacation trying to find some way to make fun of me, until he would burst out his usual i’m just messing with you line. He openly mocked the guy from Macau for his limited English confusing him whenever he could insulting him and pushing him as if he were going to start a fight. Then he laughed and said, “chill i’m just messing with you.”
Never without a beer in his hand we became accustomed to his weird behavior as the days passed, avoiding him whenever possible. One day no later than 5pm he returned all with a bloody face and hands all cut up as if he had climbed a barbed wire fence. He was sober this time which made the situation even more unbelievable.
When drinking with a new group of hostel buddies from Spain, Slovenia, and Croatia that night he found us. When we declined on giving him any alcohol he became irate. These guys were new and didn’t understand how unpredictable he was. Not knowing this, the Spanish guy stood up to him and a fight almost broke out. He then left and I never saw him again.
I’m writing this all out of order but skipping forward, the hostel was pretty great. The location could not have been any better. Located in between Mcdonalds and A&W Root Beer fast food chains it was only a block away to Starbucks. Alright while true, I was also next to the metro station, food markets, and shopping.
If sightseeing in Kuala Lumpur its always recommended to check out Chinatown. There is a huge Chinese population in Malaysia which is supposed to make the Chinatown pretty special.
Many of the shops looked like that and along with some counterfeit clothing being sold.
All in all Malaysia was never boring and certainly more comfortable after two weeks in Bangladesh. Next stop – Hong Kong!