It’s 4:30am and we’re disembarking from our eight hour red-eye. We’re finally back in Asia – we’ve been gone too long. We explore our options at the airport. The container hotel is fully booked out so that blows a catch up sleep and shower. We have hotel booked for tonight but check in isn’t until 2pm, some ten hours away. What to do? A taxi to the city costs 112RM, a train is 55RM per person but the bus is on 12RM per person so the bus to KL Sentral it is.
The 45 minute bus trip gives us time to sleep some more. We think we’ve booked Flora by Crossroads near the KL Tower. It looks like it’s only a few kilometres away and it’s still early so we set off on foot.
Walking allows us a fine reintroduction to this magnificent city. It’s a visual delight of colour and chaos, a cacophony of scooters and construction, and the ever present smell of cheap cigarettes and pollution.
We find ourselves at a Hindu temple but don’t enter because prayers are in full swing. The outside is brilliantly detailed and the scent of incense wafts through the street.
Behind the temple we follow a riverside cycleway. The homeless sh*t in plastic bags without privacy. It smells and I realise rivers are places of contrast all over the world. The rich buy waterfront views while the poor eke out their survival under bridges. It’s humanity at its core – desirous of pleasure but always at risk of doom.
It turns out we’re not staying at Flora by Crossroads but at Crossroads Hotel. It’s another 2km further up the road in Chow Kit. The lady at Flora organised is an early checkin at their sister hotel for an extra 50RM ($AU17). She’s shocked to hear we walked from KL Sentral and that we want to walk to our actual hotel instead of taking a taxi. But taking a taxi would mean missing out on the sights we see along the way: like this cat on a hot tin roof and our delicious breakfast (cost 5.40RM or $AU1.80 for two including tea and coffee). We arrive at our hotel around 8:30am, check in, shower, wash our flight clothes and lay on the bed for a couple of hours. This is worth every single ringett.
Refreshed but still fatigued we walk to the Sunway Putra Mall to catch Doctor Strange at the beanie (beanbag) cinema. I love the casual seats but they are not made for tall people so it’s less comfortable for Paul. At least we’re continuing our practice of seeing movies everywhere we go. And this time it was in a unique cinema style. The movie was entertaining and engaging too – our 28th movie in less than six months.
We both have or second wind so set off on foot to explore more of what Kuala Lumpur has to offer. But not before I have a bit of shopping centre fun with some of the displays. (That’s how I know I’m feeling good again – I’m being playful and spontaneous).
Paul has seen a reflexology shop on our walk to the cinema so insists we stop. Walking upstairs I can’t help but hope we’re not walking into another front for a brothel. It wouldn’t be the first time we’ve been tricked by a legitimate looking sign. The car seats say it all really – as does the television blaring in the corner. The ugly ladies (they genuinely were physically ugly) try to entice us to have more than a foot massage but we strongly decline. Mine keeps trying to work up past my knees to my groin and I push her firmly away each time. We pay for half hour but don’t get any extra foot massage for the ten minutes they have allotted to the happy ending. I don’t begrudge the women their living not judge them. But I do wish we wouldn’t get tricked by legitimate looking signs.
Then we find ourselves on the wrong side of the river in KL’s suburbs. The juxtaposition of old and new is so stark here. Locals go about their lives as we meander through the streets and lanes on our way to the next river crossing some two kilometres away. And no we didn’t buy any durian – I can’t understand how anyone can eat it.
Crossing the river we enter a massive hive of construction activity. High tide apartments and office towers are going up all around the Twin Towers. We were here in April 2015 and already the area is so different. I can’t imagine what the next five years will bring to KL. It’s already 3pm and we haven’t eaten anything but some fruit I bought at the market. So we settle on the food court for some Malaysian rice dishes. Downstairs on level C there’s an amazing massage place we visited last year so Paul decided we’re going back. It’s genuine, professional and relaxing. 150RM ($AU48) buys 90 minutes of reflexology, back, hand and head massage. That’s good value for us Aussies.
Our day is not over yet though. We watch the fountain show along with thousands of people from all over the world. At a time when the media and governments of the world are focused on encouraging people to hate, it’s amazing to be in a place where people come from all over the world to enjoy the simplicity of music and colour. No wonder our government at home wants to discourage funding and valuing of the arts – because it is the arts that bring all humans together as one. And bringing people together as one is the only thing that can prevent the war that we are on the brink of enduring. So I pray the artists, musicians, writers and other creatives of the world keep on doing what they do to create art, music, stories and other opportunities for humans to come together in awe.
We finally end our day walking back to Chow Kit where we have dinner around 9:30pm at a street stall. It’s no surprise to me that I am asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow. We’ve crammed a truckload into our first day.