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Published: December 30th 2011
Bright luminescent lights pierce the darkened sky highlighting crowded streets packed with Christmas shoppers. Giant promotional bill boards tower over us swarming like ants protesting their items are unsurpassed. Red and white taxis whizz past ferrying veiled women back to their five star hotel suites before it gets too late. Enthusiastic little faces peer skywards, backwards, forwards trying to capture as many of the thrilling activities encircling them. Their eyes reflect the dazzling lights of those towering billboards promising them an experience they will never forget. Amongst it all, I stand motionless, another onlooker peering upwards lost in a sea of multi-coloured faces, stunned by the luminescence, the excitement, and buying in to empty promises.I’m in Kuala Lumpur and I am enthralled.
After four or so months of travelling in developing countries and hungering for the most desolate of areas – to get as far away from the tourists and western influence, I have stumbled upon a western metropolis full of brand names I recognise which typically line the little English streets at home. It’s a sad state of affairs as English towns have started to blend into one; Debenhams, McDonalds, Zara, H&M, Topshop creep in and each town adopts
these huge outlets for its instinctual survival. But here, I am relieved. I didn’t realise how much I wanted a piece of home; I miss home. I have one day before my boyfriend arrives and I cannot wait. So I fritter my time wandering these busy fluorescent streets, gazing at the multitude of faces passing me by. And yes, I shop. I have no money but I window shop and I try clothes on and I pretend I am in Canterbury on a Saturday. It’s strange but it brings me a little bit of peace; home. I do really miss home.
I conquer Zara, Debenhams, Quicksilver and my eyes settle upon the distance; a giant brightly lit Christmas tree in the expanse. There is a commotion, definitely busier there than here. Why am I still standing on this street and not already over there?! I head towards the hubbub and I encounter The Pavilion: a mall. A huge, massive, gigantic, humongous shopping complex. I have never been to or seen anything like it. Outside is what attracts my attention. The streets are paved with 6ft bears, their arms raised in the air palms facing the heavens. I pass each
one; they are differently decorated by an artist from different countries around the world. Immediately I am struck by the sheer beauty of some of this artwork stretched over the bulging bellied bears. It’s beautiful. It appears that each country has participated and contributed a canvas with a unique design supposedly representing their country within the world. The Middle Eastern countries and African countries win hands down, maybe Sweden gets runner up. England and America’s contribution is sadly an embarrassment compared to the skill, creativity and flair these other countries have artistically shown. The crowds intersperse between the bears hugging them, having their own memento taken with their favourite and it is great fun to watch.
I leave the bears and their fans behind me and enter the mall. Tall evergreens heavily adorned with bulbous baubles dominate the centre entrance, these too are crowded. Little children gaze at their distorted reflections, fathers pretend to steal the candy canes from the trees and mothers adjust their infants ready for that picture perfect photo. The real delight is further in to the mall where steep steps decline in to a spherical vicinity positioned in the centre of the complex. Here I
find more leafy greens, a Santa, flying reindeer, fake snow, and children’s theme park rides. In a mall!! I can do nothing but gawk at the extreme festivities lining every surface, every face and every mind. I cannot escape the fact that in a few days it will be Christmas. No matter how beautiful and exquisite it all is it makes me miss home more. I love Christmas with my family, it’s my favourite time of year. It’s the one time we all get together and spend the entire day together (well nearly, some of us have girlfriends, boyfriends and fiancés families to make time for too), old acquaintances come back to town to share the holidays with their families and we meet for a drink or two. For me Christmas starts when I put up the decorations in my classroom. I go overboard with flashing lights contouring the white board dazzling students to oblivion, silver stars smothering the ceiling but the pupils love it, or so they tell me. Then there is Christmas Eve when I meet with friends and my Mum and Dad might come for a drink at the pub. Finally, we stumble home, fall in to
bed, sleep like a baby until six or seven and then wake my Mum up, unless of course she wakes us up first. Did I mention we like Christmas at our house? The six children (now adults whose age ranges are from 30-21) and boyfriends and girlfriends line up either in age order or height order or whatever ridiculous order my Mum or Dad can think of then we enter the lounge where we are met with sacks heaped with gifts from Santa. You see, he still hasn’t forgotten us even in our late twenties. Christmas lasts all day. We share gifts, we eat, we snack and we laugh a lot. Being here in this mall observing the families shopping and marvelling at the beautifully decorated trees makes me think of how much I miss home and my family. I wish I was at home.
I don’t have to wait too long before Carl; my boyfriend turns up at KL international airport. After two months it is so good to see him and be with him again. My little bit of home here in the crazy Kuala Lumpur. As soon as I can, I march him off to see
the teddy bears and the Christmas trees at the Pavilion mall. He also really liked it. It’s good to share these moments with him. One of the hardest things about travelling alone is you don’t get to share wonderful experiences with the people you love.
Kula Lumpur is very different to anywhere else I have been on my travels. West meets East and each complement each other in the most exciting, delicious and tasty ways; the food is good. It is also refreshing to be somewhere where the people are decent, kind, helpful, and honest. At first I assumed the taxi driver wanted to rip me off, but eventually found out I was undercharged: this would NEVER happen in Vietnam. Items have labels and prices, the food is delectable, kitchens have certification of cleanliness and I don’t feel afraid at night time alone here. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Vietnam and I am going back but it is easy to tire of the continuous dishonesty and aggressive nature.
After pacing the streets, the endless malls, and mosques Carl decided to take me to the KL tower which soars above all other buildings. It is the 6th
building in the world and there is a restaurant at the top which revolves in a circle so that the entire city can be viewed without you having to move. We didn’t plan on going to the restaurant at the top, Atmosphere 360, but did so A) because we were hungry, B) it was all you can eat (which is a challenge Carl cannot turn down) and C) it was only six pounds extra to eat at the top than the ticket price for going one floor below to the viewing deck. There was no debate, we bought the tickets and went straight up at 11:45, and we didn’t leave until 2:30. The views were unrivalled; we revolved twice in the time we were there. We could see the brightly coloured domed mosques, central market, the Petronas towers, China town, Little India, the palm oil plantations stretching off in the distance, the rise and fall of the land, the pool at central park. The buffet food was incredible, we could eat as much or as little as we liked for as long or as short a time as we wanted. We didn’t need dinner, lunch was enough.
you do go to KL and have a day to spare or even half a day over a long lunch then you should really check out Atmosphere 360. The views are incredible, the windows seem much cleaner than the viewing deck below and for a mere 6 pounds, which is approximately 9 dollars, you can eat an incredible feast of western and eastern delicacies. When we head back to KL to spend our last few days together before we go our separate ways we are dropping in on atmosphere 360 again, we have already planned one day in KL just for that.
There is so much to see and do in KL, for the three days we were there we didn’t get to do even half of it. We spent our time walking through the narrow streets of China town and little India; we visited the Islamic cultural museum and mosques, took train rides on the sky trains out and ventured back in, listened to call to prayers wailing out of speakers high on the minarets. We sat drinking beer or tea watching people go about their daily business and soaked up the hustle and bustle of KL. I
like it here. It’s a mish-mash of people from all over the world, different cultures, different religions, different colours, different beliefs within those systems, and it’s beautiful to see. The only time you glimpse this blend of cultures is in the cities but KL was most stunning, even London pales in comparison.
On our last day I receive an email...from Carl...it’s an early Christmas pressie: flights to Borneo. Looks like Christmas will be spent with the long armed orange fellas.
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