I blog when I go abroad, and occasionally when I do stuff in the UK too. There's a nicer interface over here.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A bewildering array of acronyms

So maybe I was a bit jet lagged after all. Fell asleep about 8.30am and had 7 hours interrupted kip - as happens the world over, putting a "do not disturb" sign on your door guarantees a disturbance, as housekeeping phoned my room at about half midday to query whether I was actually there or not. I've had this happen in San Francisco and Sydney too. For fucks sake: DO NOT DISTURB.

I should probably have been thankful, and got up to go touring the city, but instead just fell back to sleep and eventually got up about 3:30pm. Exactly UK time, in other words - I'd slept from 0030 GMT to 0730 GMT. Not that I was bothered; I'm in KL for not long and very much tourism a la darrenf: the flights are as important as the destinations, I'm not fussed by immersing myself in some deeply authentic and western-romanticised version of mingling with the real locals nor cramming as much as I can into my time. No, I'm collecting passport stamps en route to my brother, staying in a decent hotel next to a big train station in the country's biggest city and, even though it's Asia, about it find it a relaxing change from the madness of London.

Also it's too fucking hot.

Went out at 4pm. Ever since Rome on GCERC I have been trilby-free, and I forgot to hunt out any baseball caps, so to guard from the sun I put my beanie on. This, plus long sleeves and trousers, ensured I garnered a lot of "aren't you hot?" looks from lots of the numerous westerners I encountered on my trip. Yes, I was hot. Happy now?

One of the guides I'd read on how to navigate KL said that at Sentral I would be confronted with a "bewildering array of acronyms".  As with most scare stories so far on this trip, I mistakenly took it at face value only to subsequently find nothing of the sort. I guess in this instance it should have been obvious I wouldn't be bewildered or intimidated, what with having been chatting to a few folk about this trip in advance in terms of it being "CDG-KUL in MH J, KUL-DPS in. MH Y, DPS-SIN in VF Y, SIN-SYD in BA J, ..." anyway. So yeah, there's the LRT and KTM and I needed to get to the KLCC station, not a big deal.

My first, and pretty much only nailed on, destination was to go gawp at the Petronas Towers, the biggest twin towers in the world and previously the tallest buildings full stop, until Taipei 101 was built. The journey was a breeze - KL Sentral is simple to get around and the train network tiny and easy to navigate. Street level, a bit less so, but at least they drive on the left. On the train I felt tall, as all the holding handles were at about nose level.

KLCC station comes out in a shopping mall. Shopping malls are big tourist attractions here, but this was ... just a mall. I walked all the way through it and found an exit by the orchestra's home, which took me out to the postcard picture frontage. It was a bit cloudy, but they are undeniably impressive buildings, very starkly designed. Grabbed a couple of photos and turned down the offer of a smartphone off some bloke wandering around hitting up tourists. Took a gander around the streets and found precisely nothing of interest, so went back indoors and tucked into some spicy chicken Burmese food which was pretty decent. During the meal I got accosted by some legit seeming charity collector - he had an ID badge I couldn't possibly understand, and a laminated catalogue of ill/poor/deformed/orphaned kids, each priced up. I didn't really want one but handed over 50RM to get them some medicine or food or summat. Aren't I courteous?

I'd got the normal "welcome to $FOREIGN" text when my phone had locked onto a network. except it wasn't the normal one at all - it just said "calls cost, texts cost, there's no data". Well OK then. Since I was without data, couldn't find any wifi, and of course I didn't have anything like a map or owt on me, I was a bit lost. My technique is to do a bit of research in the hotel over a coke light, then go out and do stuff from memory. In this instance, my memory had said "this area is where all the pubs are" but I couldn't find any. So I resorted to plan B, which was to text Mark - who by my reckoning should have just about been getting to work - and get him to tell me how to get a Guinness in Central Kuala Lumpur.

Mark found basically nothing. Bah. Some hotel bar at the Hyatt was not what I was after. During the conversation I'd stumbled across the KLCC park, with its jogging track and unkempt grass and Traders hotel little train thing and, oh, some place apparently called MALONE'S, written in Celtic script, and full of white folk. I wonder if I can get a Guinness there...

After twitching with annoyance at the rude "I'm not bloody used to waiting" guy giving the barman a hard time for pouring drinks only as fast as the taps poured them, I got my pint. Jesus, it was horrid. The second one too. Why did I even have a second? The Heineken in between the two was much better. Originally I'd intended to just have one drink but, well, that rarely works out. And besides, time was ticking and in my book (literally), sticking around until after dark in order to see the towers all lit up 'n that counted as legitimate tourism. and, honestly, it was worth it. They do look very very cool. As do the coloured fountains in the park. Grabbed some photos, though they won't be as cool as the Buddhist monk selfies that were being taken in abundance. Very incongruous to these prejudiced western eyes.

For a brief while in Malones I'd been mentally transported back to the mid 80s, as I sang along in my head with the 12" mix of Chaka Khan's "I Feel For You" that came on. One of two songs I remember impressing my school mates by knowing all the lyrics (including the opening rap), the other being the Um Bongo advert.

Wandered back to KLCC station and jumped on the LRT back to Sentral. It was all too simple. No bustle, no crowds of hawkers, no one trying to get me into their shops or brothels or restaurants, just...easy. Though the train was crowded, it wasn't yer stereotypical Asian chaos. Mostly I felt like I was in a London suburb with a large Malay contingent and no iPhones, only giant comedy Samsung phablets. Sadly I failed to get a photo of the sign on the train about the priority seating, which says "we give up these seats for elderly people, pregnant ladies, and disabled. AREN'T WE COURTEOUS?" Superb passive aggression there.

As everyone knows, all people in distant countries are absolutely guaranteed to look EXACTLY like the prettiest and most famous example of their gender and nationality combo. So before coming to Malaysia I was sure I would fall in love while here, because all the women were going to be Michelle Yeoh lookalikes. But there's nothing quite like actually visiting a place to both indulge and, unfortunately, dispel this idea.

Back at the hotel, I grabbed my free drink voucher and headed to Latitude '03, the bar it was valid at. Well, I would, if I could have found it. The lift, literature, and Internet all said it was at the lobby but all that's there is a thing called ArtCacao, a coffee bar, and I hate coffee. I sat at a few different seats trying to find somewhere I liked until settling at a table near some people who had booze. I'd barely sat down before a man came and asked what I wanted to drink, and while he was getting it I realised I'd lost my phone. Fuck. Did a circuit of the seats I'd tried out, couldn't find it, did another circuit with the waiter and he found it...on a seat opposite the one I'd sat on, and pretty much camouflaged. I was a bit panicky about having no phone for a bit there, but at least I had a beer.

Drank slowly, got more beer, drank slowly. People disappeared, some lights went off, the bar (which I was nowhere near) got roped off. Just past midnight I went over and in, to try and sign for the drinks. The staff were very confused by this and I had to explain it 3 times: I'd been at the seats just outside the entrance, and I hadn't paid. Could I pay please? They seemed insistent that it wasn't necessary, until finally a woman went "oh, there's this bill for two beers at one of the outside tables, is that you?". Well, duh.

Stumbled back up to my room feeling contentedly sloshed, and with no plan at all for Tuesday.


Unknown said...

You'd be hard-pushed to find a bar in Malaysia that doesn't sell Guinness. They've been brewing it there since British colonial times. It's made to local habits - read, very strong and sweet and bottled.

There's something vaguely heretical about Guinness adverts prominently featuring semi-naked busty Asian girls.

auswomble said...

They drink it in the Congo. The BELGIANS I assume.