“The feeling of being alone, the world at my discretion. I think I love it. Another contrast from the company and the love I was shown in Perth, now it's just me, the road and vague plans. The lingering of thoughts in my head will soon be traces of thoughts, then only fossilized thoughts to be discovered later. No phone in my pocket, just a few Malaysian Ringgit and a camera.” This is what a typed into my iPod touch while people watching and enjoying my first morning coffee in Kuala Lumpur. It reveals that the emotions of Perth are behind me. All the nervousness and anxiety about adventuring without much of a plan and a lack of research plus the emotions of the hard goodbyes that had to be said are now past tense.The feeling of freedom is liberating.
I did know that many of the cheap accommodations here in Kuala Lumpur can be found in the Chinatown area, my guidebook told me so. So this is where I found myself in search of a hostel. It didn't take long to find one. A small middle aged man with a large cigarette checked me in at reception. The keys
were all attached to a huge labyrinth of a keychain and it took sometime before key 133 was found. I was greeted in room 133 with a little bed with a matching pink teddy bear linens (the teddy bears are holding gifts).
I chose to make Kuala Lumpur my first Asia stop for a few reasons. One being that it was a cheaper flight then my original plan. Secondly, I thought it would be a good welcome to Asia kind of city. A place where I could get used to the pace, sounds, smells and just get into the Asia vibe in. Thirdly, I remember a Gourmet magazine article I read during my young chef days that was about the amazing melting pot of street food on offer here in KL. I have an acute love for the honesty of street food and well the feelings that accompany comfort food. Malaysia is a Muslim country but has a large amount of Malay, Chinese and Indians which all add to the street food scene and make the streets alive with a rainbow of smells.
Being located in Chinatown one can just watch the traffic from the front steps of
the hostel or from the broken windows in the upsstairs lounge, the motorcycles, the buses and the cars with there generous use of their horns. A short walk would lead past food stalls offering noodle dishes, satays, barbequed duck, curries, teas, desserts, roasted chestnuts and many other things. Petaling Street is filled with a bustling market both during the day and evening. Here you can find your knock off brand name t-shirts, bags, sunglasses, colognes and anything else someone might buy.
Now there are things I am learning to do here. Like crossing the street. After a few street crossings of jogging across a busy street when I had a window of opportunity, I studied some of the elderly people who lack the limberness to quickly cross a busy street. They start out with one hand in the air to signal the oncoming cars to slow, and it works. So now I use a hybrid of techniques, I either follow an elderly person or use them as a human shield in case something should go wrong. Ordering food also had a learning curve. At times there can be a language barrier, sometimes it looks like no one is working
there and then to recognize what you are scooping onto your plate. But so far so good. Also upon my first visit to the toilet I found a a hose beside the toilet and an absence of toilet paper. I went toilet paper shopping soon thereafter. Then there is the bucket in the shower, I cant even guess what that is for.
I've found myself wandering through as many little alleyways as I can find. The alleyways are home to a bee hive of activities. The butcher, the fishmonger, the veg suppliers, spice traders, the chicken dealers, flower stalls and loads of little open air restaurants all fill the narrow intersecting alleyways. I witnessed two men armed with large machetes slitting chickens throats and throwing them into a large barrel of water, just behind the chicken stall. I was also shocked at the cats in cages, it seemed like a street of food related items so why where cats on display in cages?
I set off on foot to explore the central area of KL. What I found was large, well air conditioned shopping centres. The large Petronas twin towers, with their large shopping mall on the bottom
5 or 6 floors. I visited the KL Tower but neglected to go the observation deck cause it was a cloudy day. In fact I haven't seen the sunshine yet in this country, but have been dealing with the humidity by drinking plenty of water and doing plenty of complaining. The city seems to have been developed out of a dense forests, where forests are found in the city they are junglelike. I find myself admiring some old, rough looking buildings then only minutes later I am admiring beautiful up to date high rises or shopping centres. The city seems to have a bit of old and new, east and west.
The word from other backpackers that I have met is that Kuala Lumpur is kinda quiet and less exciting then other Southeast Asian cities. I'm sure the night life doesn't compare to Bangkok nightlife but I've been enjoying my time here. I wander the streets with my nose leading the way. I leave the hostel hungry but it stills takes me sometime before I settle down for a meal (too many places to glance at). I usually enjoy a Chinese or Malay meal and an Indian meal each
day plus the addition of maybe some street food snacks. I've really been enjoying the amount of available tasty, cheap eats here in KL. I am a sucker for the little hamburgers, chicken or beef, they sell with egg and chilli sauce One observation I have noticed is that Indian dudes really like to stop me and shake my hand (maybe I look like a famous Bollywood actor), smile and just be friendly. Indian dudes drive by while I am waiting to cross the street and smile and wave or shout some mumbo jumbo at me. Maybe they are mocking me, don't really know, don't really care, they seem friendly.
Some my first few days in Asia have been going great. Adjusting to the crowds, noise, the markets and the cheap food. I do however find myself being a loner. Maybe I am all socially spent from social bingeing in Brisbane and Perth and hey with all this food to consume and observe I'm busy anyway. It's a good town to be in as street food junkie. Anyway, my introduction is over and the real adventure is to begin.
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