Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Travelling Hopefully - KL on the Bounce Edition

Travelling from Penang to Kuala Lumpur gave us our first taste of Malaysia’s intercity bus service.  I’m not sure whether it was the road or the suspension but we bounced down the motorway like a kangaroo.  Still the seats were reasonably comfortable, the air conditioning was first rate and the bus was large enough to shrug off a collision with anything smaller than an eighteen wheeler.

Armoured thus against the world we bounced into Kuala Lumpur mid afternoon and were promptly deposited in front of another Travel Lodge.  Darkness fell upon the faces of the people and loud was the wailing but this one seemed in less danger of imminent collapse than the one in Penang and better cleaned as well.  Pleasantly surprised we hurled our luggage to the far corners of our rooms and set out to see KL’s tallest building, the Petronas Twin Towers.  This is pretty much obligatory in Kuala Lumpur.  Not to see it would be like going to Paris and not being robbed by Romanians on the Champs Élysées.

It is actually worth a look, especially at night when it’s all lit up and looking it’s best.  There’s a nice park surrounding it through which people insisted on jogging despite the heat, humidity and prevailing air quality.  I hope jogging is good for your health because simply participating in the act in KL must shave six months off your life expectancy.

Eventually after the excitement of looking at a really tall building began to wear thin but just before we started rioting our tour leader took us to the Chinese market where we had the opportunity to haggle for stuff no one would ever want and to pay full price for some truly amazing food.  I and a few others went to a Malaysian fondue shop, it was the best meal I’d eaten in Malaysia so far.  The next day it would face some pretty stiff competition.

The next day we went out for breakfast, which is to say we went on a walking tour around the Little India section of Kuala Lumpur and stuffed ourselves silly at the local street vendors we were taken to.  By the end of it we weren’t walking any more, we were being rolled through the streets of KL like barrels.  Our local guides provided us with interesting details about life in their community to all of which we listened in an advanced state of food coma and made helpful comments like, “more curry puffs”.  Eventually they gave up and just tried to murder us with food.  We all survived but it was touch and go for a few of us.

Later to aid digestion (or possibly because we were incapable of walking) we had ourselves hoisted onto a hop on/hop off bus that wandered around KL traffic permitting.  I got off at the National Museum accompanied by a Transylvanian German of my (rather brief) acquaintance.  The National Museum is actually very well laid out and quite interesting.  Also it’s air conditioned a not insignificant selling point if you happen to be in the area.  The main part of the museum is divided into four parts (Gaul only managed three).  There is prehistoric Malaysia, with bones of really old things whose descendants would evolve into humans.  There was the Golden Age a period of self rule sufficiently far in the past so that nobody can dispute you when you call the age “golden”.  After that was the colonial period when the Portuguese, the Dutch and (coming uncharacteristically late to the colonial exploitation party) the British all attempted to make a buck out of Malaysia whether the locals liked it or not.

My companion became quite upset upon learning the tale of greed, violence, ruthlessness and duplicity which collectively can be defined as the Golden Age of the British Empire.  I didn’t attempt to defend the actions of my notional forebears (because they were indefensible).  It was pure diplomacy on my part that prevented me from mentioning that without a certain amount of colonisation “Transylvanian German” would be a contradiction in terms.  Well diplomacy plus the fact that she announced that she shared a birth place with Dracula with such lip smacking relish that I decided not to push my luck too far.

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