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

Friday, February 21, 2014

Ogdenville, North Haverbrook, Brockway and Kuala Lumpur

For over 10 years, watching CNBC has been one of my go-to activities in foreign hotel rooms. The whole channel is a manic hypnotic relentless cavalcade of financial information with seemingly 4 presenters on every show and interviews with random people from companies I've never heard of every 10 minutes. I barely understand a word, usually, but my faith in the fact that whatever they're on about must be important was shaken on Tuesday morning, as first they had a brief moment where they seemed to consider bitcoin a legitimate financial instrument, and then had some ridiculous primary school-esque segment with one presenter "solving the 747 problem" by drawing some dreadful diagrams on the back of napkins. What?

Breakfast. I was there early enough on Monday to take advantage, but didn't. On Tuesday I fixed that, getting down there for 0730 or so and queuing to be seated at the enormous buffet restaurant. In the queue I was given an "eye-opener" morning shot, which may have been alcoholic. Wait, I already wrote about this stuff at the start of the other day's post. Did I mention the bacon was made of cow? Because it was. Cow.

I'd decided on a few things to do that day. Of primary importance was taking a trip on the monorail, the form of transport which really legitimises a city's existence. As with sundry other forms of transport, it went from KL Sentral just over the road...well, sort of. Actually the signs pointed up some fenced off escalators, with temporary signs directing me through some building works, down stairs into the indoor bus station with people trying to shepherd me onto an AirAsia bus to the airport. Leaving the bus station and walking past some more building works, then crossing two roads, past a parade of shops, and FINALLY there was a monorail station. Christ. This had best be worth it...

It wasn't worth it. Not looking anything like so space age as an HDR photo of Sydney's monorail, it was a hot and uncomfortable ride a few stops to Bukit Bintang, a district on the "must see" list comprising... building works, shops, and malls. A pretty uninspiring area, I found not one but two shops which only sold DC comic book hero merchandise. What? And I wandered through a mail which was staggeringly reminiscent of Westfield, Shepherds Bush, only without the burrito stall. Lots of people taking selfies though. We Londoners are so spoilt. People long for this stuff, while we're cynical about it. Ah whatever. It really did look like Westfield though, especially as I made it outside to a pedestrianised walkway flanked by bars (including another branch of Malones, with its easy to resist Guinness) and restaurants and coffee shops. Snagged some wifi before taking the bridge walk to KLCC, all covered, some parts surprisingly steep, and security posted at most corners. Came out right next to where I'd eaten on Monday, stormed through to KLCC and I made my way to Kuala Lumpur.

Yes, yes, I know I was already in Kuala Lumpur, but listen. KLCC LRT to KL Sentral then KTM Komuter - on whose platforms I misguidedly wandered all around the women only bit, oops - one stop takes you (well, took me) to the actual train station called Kuala Lumpur. A grand old overground station, historic building, and also the nearest station to the walk in aviary I was thinking of going to. It's also a stop on the way to Batu Caves, which I'd considered going to just to take a photo of a massive Buddha but screw climbing 272 steps in 33°c. Anyway, it took long enough just to get to Kuala Lumpur as the trains aren't right often, and very very briefly I actually thought about getting the international service to Singapore just to see what it was like. Instead I just wandered around the station inside and out, failing to find much worth taking photos of and not finding any directions to the aviary nor anyone who knew. I did very much enjoy the smell of the plants on platform 1 though.

Back to the hotel for a shower and change of shirt and back out, I made a second attempt to get the hop on hop off bus service which I'd narrowly missed pre-monorail. Only waited about 2 minutes, got on to discover their commentary system was mostly broken so it was speakers only, English only. That suited me, or would have if I could have heard it over top of the endless chattering mob I was sharing the top deck with. There's nowt of huge interest near Sentral so the first impressive thing I saw was a truck full of goats.

My plan, sort of, was to get this either to the aviary, or do a circuit and the on the second time round get off at the most interesting thing. In actuality, it ended up being an uncomfortable 3 hour bus ride through crazy rush hour traffic in the pissing rain. Just in case I was missing London. Though plenty of it was interesting and informative - I didn't know Malaysia was so new overall, let alone so recently independent (1957 or so, iirc). We drove past a whole bunch of green belt stuff, to museums and an unmentioned henge I was intrigued by. The bird park was terrifyingly popular, and actually by the time we reached it only open for another hour or so, so I skipped it. Also the entrance sign put scare quotes around 'welcome', which worried me.

One park was mentioned as being "approximately 48562 square metres", which I thought was a bizarrely specific number to use as an approximation. There was also a fairly interesting monument to some kind of emergency anti-communist thing which had briefly flourished in the 50s. I've also written down "6000 butterflies!" so I assume we went past the butterfly park too.

It occurred to me that Mark Steel should turn his "Mark Steel's in town" radio/comedy show into a series of bus tour commentaries as well. I might even visit Birkenhead if he did.

The rain and traffic jams coincided perfectly, both being stereotypically intense. The stops became ever more distant in time terms, and I gave up any hope of a second circuit or getting odd anywhere other than back at the hotel. One couple still took photos of basically everything - shops, bars, traffic, clouds, malls, etc - but I was just commuting now, and to ram that point home the people in front of me started playing music through their shitty phone speaker. Though there was still the odd bit of interest left - the telecoms museum, and learning Kuala Lumpur means "muddy confluence". As my flight wasn't until 3pm the next day and my ticket was valid for 24hrs from purchase, I thought I'd try the aviary or telecoms museum in the morning.

They ended up dropping us off on a side street near Sentral, still in traffic, with no pavement. Ladies and gentlemen, we're done for the day, everyone off. Nice. I had my bearings but the couple behind me were mortified, "this isn't the stop!". Weaved through a lot of bikes and up to my room, get the free drink voucher I'd failed to redeem on Monday, and perched at the bar. Turns out it wasn't valid there, as the mythical Latitude '03 really was just the coffee place not called Latitude '03, so my free gift was fucking pointless. Bah.

Had some meatballs. They were ropey. Had some Asahi, which was nice. The bar sold it in "towers", which are gumball/bubble gum dispenser style things with taps on. Neat.

Towrads the end of the night I had a long chat with Chris and Mark online about my depressing bachelorhood. Random encounters on GCERC notwithstanding, I've barely spoken to any lass that isn't a colleague, friend's other half/ex, or serving me beer/food/tickets, in almost a year - last March-May, when I had an all too brief friendship with a gorgeous girl off okcupid, who had contacted me originally just to say "thanks for being honest" after I'd updated my "what am I doing with my life?" essay to say "honestly ,I have no fucking clue". As with my previous successes (measured by whether I saw the girl more than once, regardless of if it was as friends or bf/gf), I managed to get some female interest while in the grips of pretty bad depression. Yet now, when I'm in pretty good mental shape, not to mention physically half decent, have quit my crappy job, and am back in the saddle of doing and enjoying what I like when I like regardless of being single, rather than moping around all, like, I'd do x, y, z but it's no fun on my own emo etc - ie, when feeling pretty good about myself and in the mood to share it all, not find a crutch - I seem entirely unable to even strike up a conversation with anyone on a dating site, let alone get an actual date. Sigh, ho hum. Chris kept telling me to take up night school or join drama class or whatever, but I was pretty insistent on not wanting to fake an interest in something just to meet small groups of strangers who aren't actually there looking for a fella. Honestly, I'm pretty much already doing all the things I'm really interested in, can't really think of any skills I'm desperate to learn ... meh. MEH.

Ahem. Anyway. Left the bar a split second too late to share the lift with the astonishingly drunk girls stumbling over their heels. Classy. At the room shoved the tv on and watched as much as I could bear of SPG TV, the channel devoted to the hotel's loyalty scheme. It's worse than it sounds and I lasted just a couple minutes until bookending the day by reverting to CNBC, on which Mort Goldman from Family Guy seemed to have become a human called Barney Frank, and oddly for the channel was claiming that income inequality is a bad thing. He surely should have said oh it's just awful, terrible.

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