I don’t know if I read the bus time tables wrong or if the bus was just so much faster (the driver DID drive like a maniac. Try going 130 km/h on bumpy roads. It’s like losing your virginity all over again), but I arrive in Kuala Lumpur at 1 AM, not 7.
All I have in my pocket are S$5. Which no one will accept here. Did you know that in Malaysia the ATMs shut down at night (sort of defeating their whole purpose)? The friendly guy in 7/11 explains to me. So, what am I gonna do to get Malaysian currency?
“I’m having the same problem”, a gentleman behind me laughs.
But at least Starbucks is open for another 5 minutes, and they do take credit card. I’m buying a tall Latte and sit in their outdoor area while I’m trying to figure out what to do.
“I was looking all over for you”, the gentleman from 7/11 calls out behind me. “You said you can’t check into your hostel until morning, but it’s dangerous out here. Come, stay with my family.” He, his wife and daughter have a room in the huge hotel just above Starbucks, and they are kind enough to let me spend the night on their couch.
When he shows me the brightly lit Petronas Twin Towers from the living room window on the 27th floor, I have to hold back screams once again. I can’t wait to wake up in the morning and explore this city!
In KL (yup, we call it KL here) I slowly begin to transform. First it’s just the open toed sandals that I’ve refused to wear during every German summer my entire life just because I hate feet and especially my own. Then it’s the Aladdin pants which turn out to be so comfy and airy. Jeans really are unwearable in this humidity. Then it’s the Pashmina scarf gently draped around my shoulders whenever I enter highly air-conditioned facilities (which are all facilities). I end up with a Henna tattoo on my right hand. And last but not least: when the lady piercer in the Times Square Mall only asks for RM 8 for a nose ring, I totally go for it (her tiny shop looks clean enough). Spur of the moment thing and all. I am slowly turning into the thing I hate the most: A hippie.
You know how sitcoms always depict their characters like that? Coming back from an exotic place with braided and beaded hair. Well, you really cannot understand until you’ve been to one of these places yourself. It totally make sense now. Sure, to the locals I am sticking out like a sore thumb, looking like a brightly colored idiot dressing in cheap garments that none of them would actually be caught dead wearing. But that’s what we think they wear. And that’s not what I would wear back home. And I came here to be and do different.
I only have a couple of days in the city, so I try to make the most of it. The Petronas Towers are quite breathtaking, when I finally get a chance to stand right in front of them. I’m not big on architecture but somehow, I think they are beautiful.
I am checking out all the malls and shopping places KL has. My favorite being Times Square. It’s just so freakin’ cool with the piano stairs and its own theme park including rollercoaster inside. Not that I would ride it. I did, however, sit in the McDonalds right below it. Same fucking thing.
A train ticket from Sentral to the Batu Caves only costs a ridiculous RM 2.
When I get off the train and see the huge golden Murugan statue in the distance, I feel this sensation coming up inside of me again. That’s what I came to travel for. Tomb Raiding (appropriately, I am wearing my hair in a braid).
But: Watch for the monkeys. Vicious little thieves they are (even in Tomb Raider III they keep stealing your Medipacks), one stole an entire bag of chips right out of my hand before I even realized what was happening. And do not even think of touching them. Of course I did, because if it’s furry I wanna touch it, and I’m lucky I got out of there with all my fingers still attached to my hand.
I am gonna be honest here and I hope Malaysians will not hate me (I have at least one Malaysian friend on facebook so please forgive me): I find KL a bit boring.
On my third day I don’t even know how to pass the time anymore. I take yet another stroll through Chinatown where the shopkeepers already hate me because I’ve been getting so annoyed with their pushiness that I keep throwing in their faces I don’t want their fake crap and if I did, I’d get it at the mall for one third of their price – I guess I was in a really bad mood that day.
Everything is always “under maintenance” – coffee machines, bathrooms, ATMs, info boards, monorails …
Can be a pain in the ass to find some of these in the first place, and then finding it closed, is especially painful with bathrooms.
What makes KL is its people, who are so friendly and helpful that even though they probably think you are the weirdest person alive, they would never show it. It’s a shame I can’t explore other parts of Malaysia, as I am sure there are remote places worth seeing that aren’t big touristy cities, but time’s ticking.
My plan is to travel to Bangkok by train, not realizing how far it actually is, but I’d rather spend two days on a train than flying anyway. This means, I have to switch trains once close to the border to Thailand. When I board the train at KL Sentral, I get to share the department with a bunch of Malaysian soldiers. Which is in itself not a problem for me, but all of them are carrying heavy sniper rifle-looking fire arms in their laps. I am not sure if I should feel safe or be afraid of getting shot. For the next three hours, until they exit the train, I am trying to pretend I don’t exist.
When I arrive at Butterworth station (Penang) at 10:30 PM to change trains to Bangkok (in exactly 16 hours from then), I find everything abandoned. No hostels or hotels open. This is what I get for not planning much in advance. For wanting to be adventurous and spontaneous. Everywhere I try to sit, people tell me to go somewhere else because either it’s not allowed or it’s too dangerous. I walk to the temporary train station (because the permanent one is – surprise! – under maintenance) contemplating if the chances are higher of me getting raped or getting mugged.
At the station I find three older gentlemen who introduce themselves as a Police guard, a KTM employee and a “Vietnamese guy”. Initially they kick me out of the train station but allow me to sit on a hard stone bench outside. After a while, though, they seem to feel pity for me because they decide to join me as bodyguards (their words). At 2 AM they even let me inside the station. I suppose it’s because they are tired of the mosquito bites.
The KTM employee takes off on his moped just to come back 10 minutes later with a bottle of coke and two bags of cookies and nuts for me. “Sleep, sleep!” he says then, but I am scared to close my eyes because despite their niceness, people have told me so many horror stories about stolen luggage in Asia that I don’t want to let my backpack out of my sight. But eventually my tiredness gets the better of me and when the night shift workers start going to sleep in the waiting room, I figure it’s safe to close my eyes as well.
At 5 AM, the KTM employee wakes me up by slapping my face. He tells me I need to eat and drink, and fetches me more snacks and coffee in a plastic bag before his shift ends.
I stash the snacks in my backpack, knowing I’ll be on a train to Bangkok for another 23 hours. Then I play the waiting game once again.
As I sit in that temporary train station, I keep feeling the tears building up inside. I can’t even explain why or where exactly they’re coming from. All I know is I can’t cry because I don’t want to show weakness in front of other people. And it’s not easy right now. There are only a handful of people that have ever seen me cry and I prefer to keep it that way. Maybe it’s the lack of sleep. Maybe it’s because I finished the last half of the Hunger Games trilogy in one go while I am waiting and I hate Suzanne Collins for ruining Katniss’ and Gales’ relationship because they belong together – and it’s just a very upsetting story in general (seriously, do not read it if already in an emotionally fragile state). Maybe it’s because I’ve never felt this lonely and abandoned in my entire life. And this is a bold statement for me.
I’ve got my adventure, alright. But instead of fixing something, it just rattles me even more inside. Yes, traveling did help me figure out a lot of things that I wasn’t sure of back home. But I see no way these things are gonna change. But, isn’t figuring out the problem the first step of the solution?
And for everyone who was wondering: Day 9 of the nose piercing – still no infection.