V Day in K.L.

DSC01890petronas.JPG

This blog entry about the events of Sunday, February 13, 2005 was originally posted on February 16, 2005.

DAY 484:  Huh?  Where are we? I wondered, all groggy-eyed when I woke up on a motionless train in my sleeper berth.  Everyone was getting off the Kuala Lumpur-bound train at 6:40 in the morning.  Are we there yet?  We’re not supposed to get there for another half hour.  The train continued its state of inertia, and so I just disembarked.  We had in fact arrived at KL Sentral [sic] station ahead of schedule.

KUALA LUMPUR, WHICH EVERYONE JUST CALLS “K.L.” (like the way people call Los Angeles, “L.A.”), was a city I was really looking forward to visiting.  For some reason, it wasn’t just another big modern Asian city to me; it emitted a certain allure, a je ne sais quoi, since I had seen it on The Amazing Race, 24, and, more prominently, in the movie Entrapment.  Yup, the streets of Malaysia’s capital metropolis had been graced with the presence of Sean Connery and — even better — Catherine Zeta-Jones.  Ah, Cathy Zee… If you only knew how many guys like me paused the DVD in that laser beam training scene to bask in the glory of your Spandex outfit…

I had no real agenda in K.L. despite my attraction to its cosmopolitan vibe — that is, until I checked my e-mail at the internet cafe of the Red Dragon Hostel in K.L.‘s Chinatown, where I had snagged a room that morning. 

From Vivian (former SBR):
Any chance you might be in KL? How long will you be in M’sia for?  If you need any help, just email me.  It’ll be great if I can see you in person! Hope to hear from you soon.

How about that? I thought.  I’ve been in K.L. for only about an hour and already I have people here.  God bless the Blog.  I wrote her back, informing her that I had just arrived in K.L., and asked for her phone number so that we might get together that night for dinner and/or drinks.  It was February 14th — V Day — and I had a potential date for Valentine’s in K.L.

It wasn’t until late afternoon that I got a reply from Vivian, but in the interim, I spent the day seeing the sites of a city I had an infatuation with, from modern towers to old temples and the things in between.


THE MAJORITY OF BUDGET ACCOMMODATIONS in K.L. were in and around Chinatown, a culturally rich neighborhood that was conveniently right next to the long distance bus station and two intracity LRT (Light Rail Transit) stations.  It was also the place to get the best Chinese food in town, some of which had evolved into “Malaysian food.”  Before heading out to see sights, I filled up at Restoran Nam Heong, a local culinary institution serving “the original Hainanese Chicken Rice since 1938.”  My Let’s Go book said it had “an almost historic reputation for having the most authentic chicken rice in town (it sells out by mid-afternoon!)”  With that said, I skipped out on the humble food stalls and gave it a whirl, and it definitely lived up to the hype — definitely the best Hainanese rice (rice steamed in chicken broth and ginger) I’d had to date, served with roasted chicken pieces and a cup of broth

Chinatown had no shortage of temples, from the Chinese Kuan Ti Temple and Sin Sze Ya Temple (both over a century old), and even a Hindu one, the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple, “the center of Kuala Lumpur’s Hindu community… in the heart of Chinatown.”  Chinatown’s main drag of shops, Petaling Street, was covered with a huge block-long awning for protection from the rain — although it wasn’t necessary that sunny afternoon for the Chinese lions and their accompanying drummers who were marching and dancing around Chinatown for more of the 15-day Chinese New Year festivities.


ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE SUNGAI KELANG RIVER, which hugged west edge of Chinatown, was a less Buddhist and Hindu, and more Muslim.  It was home to the Islamic Arts museum; the proud, modern-looking Masjid Negara (National Mosque); the Moorish Sultan Abdul Samad Building (now the High Court building); and the Masjid Jamek, a grand mosque on the delta where the Kelang and Gombak Rivers meet, built in 1909 by the same Moor/Arab-influenced British architect who did the Old Railway Station.

Nearby was Merdeka Square (Freedom Square), a former cricket field-turned-symbol of Malaysian independence.  It was there that in 1957 that Malaysia declared its independence after a centuries-long history of colonization and occupation from the Portuguese, Dutch, British, and Japanese.  Numerous Malaysian flags waved in the air, including the huge one atop the tallest flagpole in the country. 


SPEAKING OF TALL STRUCTURES, no visit to K.L. is complete without seeing the iconic Petronas Twin Towers (picture above), a modern double skyscraper modeled after stupas.  It was just four stops away on the LRT to the KLCC stop, where I got off and was immediately dwarfed by the 452 meter-tall structure — the fourth largest building in the world.  It was here that in 1999’s Entrapment that Catherine Zeta-Jones and Sean Connery masterminded a heist during a Y2K computer routine, traveling between the two towers via the SkyBridge in between.  Unfortunately it was Monday, the day the SkyBridge was closed for maintenance, and so I could only wander the posh Suria shopping mall at the base of the towers.  No matter, at least I got to see Catherine Zeta-Jones there — sort of.


“HELLO, IS THIS VIVIAN?” I asked through the pay phone across the street from the Red Dragon Hostel that afternoon.  She had finally replied to my e-mail with her mobile phone number.

“Is this Erik?!  Oh my God!” said the voice on the other end more excitedly than one coming from the hundredth caller on a radio call-in contest.  I love it when my reputation precedes me.  Vivian was ecstatic to hear from me — a definite TGTG (The Global Trip Groupie) — and couldn’t believe her ears.  She wouldn’t believe her eyes soon enough after we planned to meet up that night.  Score.

“Do you have any plans for the night?” she asked me.

“No.  I’ve got nothing to do.”

“Any friends here?”

“Nope, you’re the only one I know in K.L.”

“Any plans tomorrow?”

“Nope.”  I’m all yours.

“Oh, maybe my dad can show you around.”

Dad?  Did my potential Malaysian Valentine live her parents still? I wondered.  No matter; it’s common for Asians to live at home much longer than Westerners.  Vivian was thrilled to meet up with one of her idols — a “celebrity” if you will — and planned to meet me in front of the hostel at 9:30 in a couple of hours.  “Are you going to wear The Global Trip shirt?” she asked, wondering how to pick me out amidst similar-looking people.

“Yeah, I’ll wear it for you.”


THE DOWNPOUR THAT CAME DOWN THAT EARLY EVENING cleared up just in time for 9:30 and soon I was waiting around by the curb.  Many cars passed and I looked at each one, wondering which one would be for me.  There was definitely a sort of blind date anxiety there — you never know what you’re gonna get.  Is this her?  Is that her?  No one was recognizing the blue and green swirly sphere logo on my chest — until I heard a voice call my name from a pick-up truck.

“Erik!” cried the voice of the girl running towards me with a wide smile.

“Hey!”

“Oh, let me give you a hug!”  The young Malaysian woman wrapped her arms around me and I reciprocated.  I hopped into the cab of the truck where her father Geow was at the wheel.  It was always great to make a local connection wherever I went, and Vivian and Geow were it in K.L.  What I didn’t expect was that Geow was actually playing chaperone, as I soon found out.

“So what do you do?” I asked Vivian as we rode down the city street.

“I just finished school,” she answered.  School, huh?  So she’s a college grad then.  She continued, “I’m just bumming around [until university in Thailand].”  Oh, high school. 

Further down the conversation I learned that she was seventeen — “jailbait” as they say in the States — but was definitely in the exception to my philosophy that everyone born in and after 1981 was annoying.  She was excited that we had common interests (i.e. travel), interests that most of her friends didn’t share.  For example, when she showed off the “Would You?” trailer to her friends, they wondered, “What’s so good about this?”  Most of them were homebodies, staying in Malaysia for university; Vivian was in the minority of people yearned to get out and see the world, even if it was just in the neighboring country.

“Oh, how’s your leg?” Vivian asked, remembering the operation I had in India.  An avid reader of The Blog, she recalled different episodes of “The Trinidad Show” and explained them to her father.  She recognized the wallet that I used in my experiment in Tokyo

“What are you going to do when you get back?” her father asked me.

“I don’t know.”

“You’ll just go where the winds take you,” Vivian said, quoting me again.  She was a true TGTG, just a bit on the young side — not that there was anything wrong with it, just that my “V Day” would most likely not end with a certain encounter with a female body part starting with that letter.


OUR V DAY EVENING FESTIVITIES took place in Bangsar, the trendy neighborhood outside central K.L., filled with clubs and bars, two Starbucks within a block of each other, and guys in sports cars driving around the block trying to look cool.  “It’s where many of the expatriates go,” Geow mentioned.  “They have many international food here.”

“Oh, like McDonald’s,” I joked, pointing to the golden arches at the corner.

“The American embassy,” Vivian said, quoting me with the nickname I gave the American fast food chain.  Wow, she really knows her TGT Blog.

We circled around and looked for free parking, which presented itself after only two rounds.  We parked and walked passed K.L.‘s trend set of ex-pats and native cosmopolitan K.L.ers.

“It’s the place to be seen,” Vivian added.

However, we skipped out on the fancy bar and clubs playing the standard American club songs, not only because Vivian was under the legal drinking age, but to have a more authentic Malaysian experience.  “Malaysians love to eat,” Geow said.  “You never go hungry here [with the 24 hour service.]”  We ended up snacking at one of many 24-hour eateries with chicken satays, Indian dosais and chais, and got to know each other.  Vivian was still in awe to meet me in person, and it felt pretty cool.  I was happy to oblige a Blogreader, regardless of age. 

As she mentioned in a previous comment, I had inspired her to take the bus by herself to Singapore — something she might not have had the courage to do if not for reading about my going around the world solo.  She told me all about her first “big trip” to Singapore, where she went to the premiere of The Spongebob Squarepants Movie by winning tickets in a contest.  This event was only followed by her first club experience in cosmo Singapore, which will remain a secret as long as this Blog is public.  Ah, the new experiences of adolescence.

For Vivian it wasn’t exactly a school night anymore, but we called it an early night anyway, for I was invited by her father to wake up bright and early at “stupid o’clock” (5:30 a.m.) the next morning to visit the Genting Highlands outside K.L., where he worked as a horticulturalist at some fancy resort.  It amazed me that he had taken me in and trusted me so quickly — Wasn’t I just a stranger off the internet? — but Vivian said that she had always raved about me to her friends and family, always showing them the photos I took, and tried to get them into the Blog.  However, I don’t think any of them was as enthusiastic about it as she was.

And so, my V Day would be extended another day.  V for Vivian, that is.

SAVE THE DATE; DAY 503 IS COMING.  MARCH 5, 2005, NYC.
CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE TRAILER. 
PLEASE R.S.V.P. WITH YOUR HEADCOUNT BY POSTING A COMMENT HERE.






Next entry: In-Flight Entertainment

Previous entry: Like A Frog With No Limbs




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Comments for “V Day in K.L.”

  • the pic of Hainan Chicken Rice makes me want to catch the next flight out to Malaysia/S’pore just to go pig out.

    Cheers.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/16  at  05:54 AM


  • Oh wow, it’s so great to hear about it all over again…. How’s Melaka treating you?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/16  at  06:06 AM


  • I could deal with that shopping mall - looks swank!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/16  at  07:30 AM


  • VIVIAN:  Yup…  V Day part two is coming up next…

    Melaka is great; met a lot of locals today!  Details to come…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/16  at  10:33 AM


  • Erik, I’m so glad that you were able to encounter a TGTG live at least before Day 503!  I picture you entering on Day 503 like they do on Extreme Makeover….everyone waiting around anxiously to see you and you entering in a huge dramatic fashion from behind closed doors and when you enter everyone screams and shouts and starts to cry!!!! 

    Ok, now I’m living up the name TGTG that I so aptly gave myself a few countries back!!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/16  at  12:02 PM


  • Erik, I’m so glad that you were able to encounter a TGTG live at least before Day 503!  I picture you entering on Day 503 like they do on Extreme Makeover….everyone waiting around anxiously to see you and you entering in a huge dramatic fashion from behind closed doors and when you enter everyone screams and shouts and starts to cry!!!! 

    Ok, now I’m living up the name TGTG that I so aptly gave myself a few countries back!!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/16  at  12:03 PM


  • Anyone have those “inside cover” reviewer comments yet?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/16  at  12:16 PM


  • Still working on mine!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/16  at  12:49 PM


  • that’s write Y2K bug in entrapment!  haha…. i did this whole y2k project for Mrs. O’s class back at THS….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/16  at  01:00 PM


  • Hey Erik, err.. If you’re still in the country… This weekend.. I could show you around a bit if you wanna.

    Uh, don’t follow your blog that frequent, so I didn’t know you were heading here… Otherwise would offer you much earlier..

    Oh well, mail me if you got time for a drink or two.. or fireflies.

    Cheers,
    SleepyAngel from BootsnAll.com

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/16  at  01:06 PM


  • Erik, Any guidlines for the “inside cover” like a word count or something?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/16  at  01:50 PM


  • Vivian - nice to put a face to a name smile Malaysia looks nice ... another country to add to the RTW itinerary…

    Posted by Liz  on  02/16  at  02:57 PM


  • LMAO @ the 503 / Extreme Makeover vision.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/16  at  04:23 PM


  • Yes, the extreme-makeover syle entrance sounds just about right!  haha!

    Yeah,  that’s what reality TV does to you.  Dramatic entrances, rose ceremonies, etc….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/16  at  05:48 PM


  • but i already got the host of amazing race to come and some bum off the street to say “welcome to new york, bitch”....

    and…i’ve already got the extreme makeover home edition bus to cover up the house when he gets home and ty to yell “bus driver, move that bus”....

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/16  at  05:56 PM


  • all good ideas, but we have to work Pimp my ride in there somehow.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/16  at  06:18 PM


  • TdOt - isn’t Pimp My Ride a Canadian Show?  I may be wrong, but I think the American version is Overhaulin’....correct me if I am wrong!

    Markyt - I love it “Welcome to NY bitch”.....can we all jump on the mat and when we arrive, and if Erik arrives last he will get, “I’m sorry Erik, you are the last to arrive and you are eliminated from the race”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/16  at  06:53 PM


  • Hey there, just a fan of the blog and I am planning my RTW trip at the moment! I had a question, will you be visiting Kuching (Sarawak) while you are in Malaysia or Tioman Island?
    Just wanted to recommend both to you. I used to live in Kuching (I am American though, now back in the USA) and it is an incredible place, lots to do there too, not far from the jungle as well! As for Tioman, great scuba/snorkelling and nice people…not as touristy as a lot of the other islands in Asia (although last time I was there was 2000, so it might well have changed since then).
    Sipadan Island is also a beautiful place!
    Well, great blog! You’re an inspiration!

    Posted by Kailani  on  02/16  at  10:34 PM


  • Lisa - I think Pimp My Ride on MTV is hosted by Xzibit, who is straight out of Detroit…..Is there a Candian version? Americans love to adopt shows from other countries (American Idol, Whose Line is it Anyway, Who wants to be a millionaire and on and on and on).

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/16  at  10:40 PM


  • ANGELINE:  Nope… I’m already here to sing a song in Singapore.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/17  at  06:05 AM


  • RINA / SARA / TOMM:  Wow, those are pop culture references I am out of the loop of… more reason to come home and “recharge.”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/17  at  06:13 AM


  • KAILANI:  Sorry, skipped out on those… I’m a little “beached out” after the Philippines and Krabi… plus I’m running out of time!  503 is just around the corner… come on down!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/17  at  06:16 AM


  • Hainanese chicken in Malaysia…....I am going to the island of Hainan (which is part of China) on Sunday.  I will definatley try some of their most famous dish!  Those grand entrances for day 503 sound great…......really wish I could be there.  Now you have to have videographer to tape it all and I will surely buy one!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/17  at  12:08 PM


  • Sorry- I can’t party on in NYC!

    I have missed months of the blog—but everytime I look at it for a few minutes I can’t stop reading- it’s really amazing- you should get the whole thing published verbatim.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/19  at  08:43 PM


  • JANICE:  I’m told that they don’t have Hainanaese rice in Hainan…  is that true?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/19  at  11:03 PM


  • Hi, missed you already! Gotta get a few things sorted out before I leave for Bkk tmrw.  Haven’t even packed yet! Hope you’re having a great time in Jakarta.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/20  at  02:49 AM


  • Here’s a stupid question, and mighty late in the game to be asking… How are you “connecting”?  did you get that uber-chip for your cell phone?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/24  at  06:10 PM


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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today, RickSteves.com, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.


Next entry:
In-Flight Entertainment

Previous entry:
Like A Frog With No Limbs




THE GLOBAL TRIP GLOSSARY

Confused at some of the jargon that's developed with this blog and its readers over the years? Here's what they mean:

BFFN: acronym for "Best Friend For Now"; a friend made on the road, who will share travel experiences for the time being, only to part ways and lose touch with

The Big Trip: the original sixteen month around-the-world trip that started it all, spanning 37 countries in 5 continents over 503 days (October 2003–March 2005)

NIZ: acronym for "No Internet Zone"; a place where there is little to no Internet access, thus preventing dispatches from being posted.

SBR: acronym for "Silent Blog Reader"; a person who has regularly followed The Global Trip blog for years without ever commenting or making his/her presence known to the rest of the reading community. (Breaking this silence by commenting is encouraged.)

Stupid o'clock: any time of the early morning that you have to wake up to catch a train, bus, plane, or tour. Usually any time before 6 a.m. is automatically “stupid o’clock.”

The Trinidad Show: a nickname of The Global Trip blog, used particularly by travelers that have been written about, who are self-aware that they have become "characters" in a long-running story — like characters in the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show.

WHMMR: acronym for "Western Hemisphere Monday Morning Rush"; an unofficial deadline to get new content up by a Monday morning, in time for readers in the western hemisphere (i.e. the majority North American audience) heading back to their computers.

1981ers: people born after 1981. Originally, this was to designate groups of young backpackers fresh out of school, many of which were loud, boorish and/or annoying. However, time has passed and 1981ers have matured and have been quite pleasant to travel with. The term still refers to young annoying backpackers, regardless of year — I guess you could call them "1991ers" in 2013 — young, entitled millennials on the road these days, essentially.




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