Paul is sleeping peacefully so I head out for a short run. Bukit Bintang is quiet and peaceful as I jog through the streets towards the Petronis Towers. Day has only just cracked her head out of night’s darkness and already it’s hot and sticky. I find my way to the KLCC Park. There’s other joggers here making rounds of the dedicated running track. I do a lap before heading back home. No phone. No camera. No music. No distractions. Just an easy jog.
Paul is awake now so we chat a while before hitting the streets. I saw a busy local restaurant on my run and it doesn’t disappoint. We order Chinese chicken noodle and wonton soup, fried noodles with pork, and Malaysia style tea and coffee. It’s the breakfast of champions. The bill comes in at 13RM ($AU4). That’s less than a single dish at the food street and this meal was fantastic. Paul asks whether the restaurant is open tonight. The lady looks at him blankly. “Buka malam?” (“Open night”) I ask. Ten o’clock she signals with her hands. We’ll try something else on the memu tonight.
Bukit Bintang is Kuala Lumpur’s most modern commercial hub. Think neon signs, glittering shopping malls and suited up businesspeople. The shopping malls are connected by air conditoned subways and overpasses that save pedestrians from mingling with street traffic or the city’s humidity. It’s the easiest and most scenic way to walk from Bukit Bintang to the Petronis Towers. You can also shop in the most vast array of specialty stores along the way from dedicated Marvel Comic stores to Michael Korrs’ high end sunglass shop. You can stop at a shop that only sells brownies or a shop at which you can indulge in popcorn. It’s all still so Asian in style despite the American influences.
We promenade in KLCC Park. It’s an oasis. A rest from the busy streets, construction work and retail marketing noise. A place where children can swim in a man-made lagoon or play on a huge playground (security didn’t like me doing same). A place where banyon tree roots plait into knots. And couples sit close together deep in conversation. At night the fountains will dance with lights and music as tourists flock to photograph the famous twin towers.
The heat starts to become more oppressive as we end our promenade. Continuing our international cinema habits seems quite sensible. The Mummy is about to commence at the TGV Cinema Suria. We settle in. It’s 21RM ($AU7) per ticket. The screen is massive – far larger than at home – and the surround sound really does surround us. The movie is great and I leave satisfied with the whole experience.
We meander back to our guesthouse to refresh. It’s sweaty work exploring Kuala Lumpur on foot. Not that I’m complaining.
Before long the massage street calls us. We decide to go back to the same place as last night with the uniformed staff who show no inclination to offer unwanted extras. That’s the thing about being a man in Asia – it’s not a question of whether you will be offered “ladies” but when. I hate it. It makes me feel cheap and dirty. I don’t care that prostitution exists nor that people use these services. However, I do hate that old men sidle up and offer ladies while bent over old women blatantly offer sex. Particularly in a country where one third of the women are covered. It plays into the fundamentalist stereotype.
It is a little late when we return to Restoran Beremi Meng Kee where we ate breakfast. We eat fried rice, noodles and stir fried vegetables. It’s the simple honest food I love most. It’s the flavours of my childhood: garlic, ginger amd sweet soy sauce. The flavours Mum cooked with at home from the flavours my Javenese grandmother must have cooked for her.
It’s only 9.30pm. We walk some more and find ourselves at Berjaya Times Square. It’s peak hour now as thousands of shop workers head home for the night. It’s like 5pm rush hour at home but just later. Streets are clogged as shutters descend on the day’s toil. Despicable M3 is playing at the Gold Screen Cinema. We buy tickets and create some minor chaos by sitting in the wrong seats. Allocated seating in KL means allocated seating. Even when there are other vacant seats one row in front or behind people actually want their seats. They don’t ask. They glare until you move. We just moved to one of the sixty odd other free seats. Note it depends on culture too: we noticed Chinese Malaysians had no difficulty asking people to move. A faux pas perhaps but what’s travel without a little cultural learning.
And so, it’s after 1am by the time we’ve navigated our way home, declining countless offers of “ladies” on the way.