I wake early because my body is still on Brisbane time. My clock shows that it is still 5am here in Kuala Lumpur. Breakfast won’t be available for another two hours and I don’t really fancy heading out into the morning darkness so I download some 10 minute HIIT route apps for my phone and do an exercise session followed by an hour of work.
7:30am seems a more reasonable time to exit my room so I make my way to the common area for breakfast. I have a choice of nasi lemak (white rice with sambal and a mix of peanuts and dried fish) or toast with peanut butter or jam. I opt for the wax paper wrapped nasi lemak.
The wifi cuts out when I try to do some work after my breakfast so I take it as a sign that I need to get out and see something of the area where I am staying. Google Earth has already alerted me to the fact that there are no tourist attractions anywhere nearby. There’s just housing estates and palm oil plantations. But I am not deterred. After-all, this is what real life in any country is like, isn’t it: the world away from the tourist attractions. This is how real people live every day and that’s partly what travel is all about: learning how real people live. So, without a destination in mind, I set off on foot following a wide boulevard lined with trees and purple flowering shrubs.
I learn pretty quickly that you need to be careful when walking along the footpath here in Malaysia. Walking with your eyes on your phone might end in a trip to the hospital (or worse) if you don’t see the gaping holes in the path. Each of these holes is 2-3 meters deep. Essentially, the footpath is just a cover for the storm water drain. And the storm water drains here are epic. Even the ones in the middle of the road are deep chasms that drop 2-3 meters. I guess that’s probably a good thing though if yesterday afternoon’s rain was anything to go by. Without deep drains this area would probably have the same problem we have at home with storm water causing flooding.
Another thing I notice is that you probably can’t go hungry here in Malaysia. There are multiple restaurants in every set of shops, located just a few kilometres apart from each other. The restaurants appear to be a mix of Malay, Thai and Indian cuisines. Some advertise Western food but that holds little interest to me because it’s still early in this trip and I’m not yet tired of Asian food (I deliberately haven’t eaten any Asian foods while at home the past six weeks). It’s now too late for breakfast and too early for lunch but all the restaurants have patrons. Perhaps the Malaysian people are like the Indonesians: lovers of food who will eat at any time of day or night without restriction to Western mealtime patterns. But it’s not just restaurants. There are also many small stalls along the road where you can buy food served in plastic bags. The stalls are mostly set up across the road from schools so maybe their target customers are school children who need to buy lunch. The stalls have no cooking facilities; they are just tables set up under marques where food is stored in plastic containers awaiting customers.
Men in bright yellow tops work on the roadside clearing dead branches and cutting long grass. It would be quiet were it not for the hum of their whipper snippers. They are covered head to toe in fabric to protect them from the sun. As the day warms up, I see more and more of the roadside workers sitting under the trees; their bicycles and scooters parked nearby. Some have picnic blankets on which they have some food laid out while others are squatting on their haunches to avoid sitting on the grass. Most have mobile phones and are staring at them intently.
My walk takes me past the Masjid Kuaters KLIA. The mosque is large and casts a strong outline on the skyline. It reminds me a bit of the strength and elegance of some European castles. I haven’t yet heard any mosques calling for prayers here on my first day in Malaysia. I wonder whether they are as loud here as they were in Indonesia or whether the mosque is just too far away from my hotel for me to hear it. In any event, the blue dome and turrets look great.
I stop at a supermarket to wander around and escape the heat for a few minutes. I’ve walked 4km (2.5 miles) in sweltering heat and the air conditioning feels amazing. The shop is surprisingly large given its relatively small frontage. I buy some necessities: clothes hangers so we can hang our clothes in hotel rooms to dry after washing, a notebook and pens so I can scribble, tissues to use for runny noses or as toilet paper, an orange and a pineapple. I think I should eat some fruit while here in Malaysia, especially when it is so cheap (the whole pineapple was RM0.99 or 35c).
The supermarket also sells spice in great big open containers. This is probably why the food here is so flavoursome. There’s no tiny jars of spices on the racks like at home. There’s just a lush array of colour and texture displayed for customers’ purchasing pleasure.
But probably my most intense impression is that I am definitely in the tropics now. An urban creek is lined with dense jungle greenery.
Palm oil trees dominate the landscape.
Even the roundabouts are decorated with palm trees.
And when I saw a snail it was the biggest snail I have ever seen in my life.
But oh boy are the flowers pretty. I love pretty tropical flowers.
A country only gets one chance to make a first impression. Malaysia has made a positive one. So I am looking forward to getting out there and exploring in some more depth from tomorrow morning when Paul arrives.