Down from the Cameron Highlands we raced, Kuala Lumpur was waiting, and we’d stayed too long again. The road was gnarly and fun, it was good to be moving. Buses whizzed past.
He gave us jackfruit in breadcrumbs (it tasted a lot like apple crumble, comfortingly) and we merrily meandered on.
The kids on the path looked at us with huge wide eyes, and hesitated before breaking into big grins and waving. An old guy looked up at us and seriously thought about fainting.
We had to turn back. The person whose garden it was just grinned.
A few hours of dull motorway driving to the city followed. This is hard work on the back of a motorbike, and you have to try really hard not to fall asleep, usually by singing songs to yourself.
Our arrival was pretty spectacular though, with two hours of total confusion on the massive ring-roads and one way systems. I was very nearly in tears, and sorely considered ripping up the stupid map. The skyline was incredible, and the twin towers were impressive even from the road, but we were Seriously Lost.
It felt like we’d arrived in the future. There were sky trains overhead, and big shiny buildings. There were Starbucks and McDonalds, KFC and Burger King, Borders bookshops, Topshop and Accessorize.
Our hotel entrance is reminiscent of a particularly lowly crack house, but the hotel lobby is more like the Acid House. It has Chinese lanterns and millions of fake flowers clambering up pointless trellises. A giant stone waterfall lurks in the background.
There are snake-necked turtles with sharp teeth in tiny tanks, and fish in cases so small they look like they have been stuffed, unable to even turn around.
The owner came to greet us. He was a middle-aged Malay man with shoulder-length orange hair, a giant belly, nine gold hoops in each ear (I did actually count), including one attached on a chain to somewhere else.. He carries a pet monkey called Jojo who wears a nappy and follows him around. His wife is a transvestite with enormous feet and a penchant for loudly patterned kaftans, who controls the money with a grimace. In the corridor an old Indian gentleman with a long ponytail sits cross-legged, looking wise.
On Christmas Eve we spent the night eating a great free buffet on the rooftop, talking to an old Dutch man with big bottle-end glasses that magnified his gloopy eyes. He was an ex gambling addict, and got drunk as he told us how he’d lost EU 150,000 on Texas Hold’Em. The young Swedish couple we were sitting with looked petrified and we haven’t seen them since.
There are tiny cameras everywhere, and the room next to ours is full of monitors which the man carefully keeps locked away...
Monkey brain is very good for rheumatism...
Christmas Day saw us on top of the highest tower in Asia, (‘Highest Tower in the World Situated In a Forest Within a City‘- Malaysians love their world records…). It was stupidly high, and we ran round it, spying on all the passers-by with binoculars.
We wandered about under the Petronas Twin Towers, and jumped off things. I tried to find a Christmas hat, but failed.
To get onto the Petronas Skybridge you are first herded into a 3d cinema screening on the wonders of the Malaysian petrochemical industries. We photographed ourselves in the daft 3d glasses. It is possible we sometimes fail to take our cultural touristing seriously enough…
In between we looked at things. Mosques, old buildings, the first flag of independence, the old colonial cricket ground and Independence square…
It was all a bit clean and bland. Chinatown suited us better with its strange lanterns, fake goods and smoking roast chestnut stands.
We met up with a British guy we had met for much drinking in Laos. It led to an impromptu session of messiness, with tequila shots and daft dancing, that eventually ended with our friend slicing impressively into his finger whilst trying to open a vodka bottle to drink in the crack house stairwell with Arly the hotel guy.
We took the bus to Batu Caves. The orange-haired monkey man had told us to. It was a Hindu cave temple, bang in the middle of a huge industrial estate, on a roundabout. It wasn’t quite what we had pictured, but we dutifully climbed the 272 steps.
Personally I am fairly sure it was all down to sugar. They had a fairly normal modern diet of Coke and biscuits, left lying around the whole area by compassionate tourists. One monkey got very angry when he ran out of Diet Coke, and threw the can across the courtyard. I can understand. Its hard to get that stuff round here.
We got a new tyre for the bike, and spent a happy hour chatting to the guy at Sunny Motorcycles, who had met loads of fools like us. (He was very good, and cheap too, his details are here for any tyre seekers. )
We went to the National Aquarium, (‘Reputedly the Largest Aquarium in the World’) and wandered through the shark tunnel. The tanks there were depressingly small in many cases, and we felt guilty for paying for it. It was the National Aquarium, we thought they would at least have decent-sized tanks. I found a miserable snapper turtle with no room to snap.
A few of us marched across town to the Twin Towers with sneaky bottles of spiked Coke and the drunken guesthouse guy. Just before midnight we lost everyone apart from Arly, who by this time was sweating profusely and leering drunkenly at the young Malay girls. The city was packed with people, and our lot had all somehow disappeared into the throngs in different directions. We watched some spectacular fireworks nonetheless, and wandered back through the streets shouting things at people (good things, not bad things..).
So that was New Year, and now it is 2010 and we are all in the future.