There is an underlying smell that pervades everything in Kuala Lumpur. It is not necessarily a bad smell, just an unusual one. I suppose it is due to the local vegetation, something to do with one of the trees. This has led me to wonder, does every place have its own smell, unique to the conditions at that location? Will I return to Sydney and be overwhelmed by “Sydney Smell”?
We are staying in the Heritage Station Hotel, which is basically the Colonial railway station converted into a hotel. It is very grand, if somewhat dilapidated. The lift has a manual door and still posseses the old lever switch, which unluckily is inactive, electronics having replacing the old system. Our room is clean and comfortable, air conditioned with TV, and is cheap (although not by Malay standards). The shower is just a hose with a sprinkler on the end, but luckily there is a normal toilet.
Speaking of toilets, the most common type of toilet i have encountered is simply a porcelain lined hole in the ground, at floor level. There is a tap with a 1.5m hose next to it, for cleanup. I hope that I will never have to use one.
Anyway, back to the narrative…
After our breakfast of a hard boiled egg, some toast and some sweet paste, we decided to walk to Chinatown which is <1km from our hotel. After 30 mins of walking the wrong direction a helpful man alerted us to our error and we got in a cab. Mental note: the sun is in the South here, not the North.
Chinatown was my first real introduction to Asia. Dirty, with paint peeling off the buildings and dark stains everywhere like mildew. Smelly. Coo.
We went into a covered market, like a low maze in an alley. This was some kind of fresh produce market, with vegetables and meat. By fresh, I mean slaughtered on the spot. There were live chickens and fish under the table, and chopped ones on the top. I saw a fish get decapitated, some of its blood flew onto me. There were pig pieces of all kinds everywhere, no live pigs though.
We wandered through another market (actually an alley with tarps) and it is here that we had early lunch. I ate a delicious chicken laksa whilst Kirsten feasted on pork ball mee soup and a barley juice. Total cost of meal: under AUD$3. Awesome.
Although the temperature in KL, at around 30-35C is not uncomfortable, the humidity certainly is, and in my thick tshirt I was certainly noticing it, so I bought three new thin cotton shirts from a street hawker in Jalan Petaling for less than AUD$20. They are “Timberland”. Sure. Much more comfortable than the tshirt, anyway.
The fluid loss made us thirsty, so we stopped off in a drink place?, Kip got a cold tea and a sweet food thing (pastry?), whilst I enjoyed a Thai Red Bull and a 7-Up Ice, which is mentholated and I had the freshest throat for some time afterwards. We decided at this point to do something ‘touristy’, so we went to KL Tower. This is a communications tower similar to Centrepoint in Sydney and offers you the same sort of panoramic view from its observation deck (although Petronas Towers is taller, its observation area is lower and has a narrow field of view). The view was of course spectacular and very helpful in getting our bearings, although we could not see to the horizon due to the tick smoke that blankets the city.
I got hungry after this and went in search of satay. Being Malaysia’s most famous dish I assumed it would be everywhere, but after 45 minutes of walking we found every food but satay. I saw my first Kenny Rogers Roasters, right next to Starbucks. Unsuccessful in our quest, we drowned our sorrows with a pint of Tiger, turning to 3 pints after a heavy downpour trapped us in the bar.
We went to Little India for dinner, I had a great meal with 4 dishes for only about AUD$2.50, including drink. We wandered around the area soaking up the atmosphere for a while and came upon an impressive looking mosque. The signs outside forbade us from entering due to our dress, but a helpful man (our second of the day) offered that they supply head scarves and robes to cater for such a situation. Unfortunately we were not allowed in anyway due to Prayers taking place then. Tomorrow we will go to the National Mosque, a breathtaking monument located about 150m from our hotel. It is 13 acres large and has very very very high ceilings and a massive main room, from what i saw it reminds me of the Jedi Temple.
Back to the hotel for a “shower”. Whilst waiting for Kirsten to finish I flipped on the TV and watched a very informative documentary on how to kill small animals. Tonight’s methods were: killing squirrels with blowguns; and clubbing rats to death. Malaysian TV is different from Australian TV.
[Update]: I just saw a small street vendor making satay. On my way there now.