There were zillions of languages spoken all over. Many people in the Malay peninsula, and on Java, and other places, spoke different dialects of what might be called the "Malay Language". They managed to standardize it all in the twentieth century, to the point where Bahasa Malaysia (the Malaysian Language) and Bahasa Indonesia (the Indonesian Language) are about as close to each other as British and American English. I spent a lot of time before I left trying to learn a foundation vocabulary of about a hundred words. (I didn't really learn it, though, until I went through Sulawesi, where they didn't always speak English.)
Kuala Lumpur is a Malay phrase that means "muddy estuary". Really it's a big city. It's got one of the tallest buildings/towers in the world. They have two distinctions like this, I think it's the fourth tallest tower, plus the tallest double building. I dunno. I went up the tower, long story.
They're very competitive, you know around the pacific rim, Malaysia is sortof like this adolescent saying "Hey, Me Me Me!!!" a lot. They're not as developed as Singapore, but they're in hot pursuit. Singapore was one of the Four Tigers, they weren't. Watch this country, they're coming up fast.
On the train up to KL, I talked to this Chinese guy. You know, probably lived in Malaysia for three generations, but one of the Chinese. Smart guy with his family, like the guy I met in Tioman Island on the snorkeling trip. We got onto the topic of the twin towers in KL. At the time I didn't realize that there was any difference between this twin towers thing, and the tower I visited. I didn't even know they were twin towers.
Anyway, he's saying that it's really stupid, how Malaysia is going to have the distinction of the tallest twin tower buildings in the world, for about three weeks, and then some other project in Shanghai, China will suddenly steal that distinction from them. The People's Republic of China is also an underdeveloped Asian nation vying for attention in the global economy these days.
I think I do vacation the way I did my business. Fast and barely enough time for everything. These cybercafes are sortof part of it - not all of them work, not all of them exist. But I'm making it work anyway.
In two days I'll be leaving for the Malaysia equivalent of Yosemite. This jungle has gone like 130 million years without ever having any frost. I'm staying in a resort in the middle of it. Dorm style. You don't even drive there - the only way to get there is to take a boat for the last half of the trip.
I think I lost one of my charge cards. I had thought I put it away for safe keeping. But I haven't seen it for a week or more, not sure. I'll have to call them up, I dunno, tonite late. This is after one of the other cards turned out to be an ATM instead, with just a few hundred dollars in it. I may be limited in my spending for the rest of the trip. Limits how crazy i can be. I guess it's going to be pretty third world so maybe it won't be a problem.
It's just that I'm pretty much limited now to one card. I arrived in Kuala Lumpur last nite, and you know that's the scariest time, when you arrive, because you have NO local cash but everything costs money. Taxi, hotel, food. They just don't want to mess with singapore dollars or whatever the hell.
There's always a way to get money in these airports or train stations. Maybe not an economical way, but a way. Cuz they know there's suckers like me with no cash. These days it turns into atm machines in the evening because it's not worth it to staff a booth. At first it was REALLY scary because the train arrived at like 8pm. Not too late, but I wandered around and it seemed like the train station was like way too small. The money change booth was closed, the tourist agency was closed, nada. I started panicking. Then I calmed down and realized that there must be the real part of the station, you know this is a big town. Turned out I was on the FAR side of the train station, and if I just took the subway (the walkway underneath the tracks) i got to the main station and I was ok. For a few minutes.
So I go in and my main card (sortof the last viable one left) didn't work on either of the machines. I could have been in trouble. Fortunately I used the ATM card and got out like $100 to tide me over. It was the only card that worked anywhere.
Today I went to HongKong bank (i've grown to like them - they seem to be in every town, including San Francisco) and I got big bucks. Fortunately my lucky charge card has the highest credit limit. Unfortunately Hong Kong, the citystate, sucked a big chunk out of it - the hotel alone was like $1600 or so. I was afraid of not getting a room so I allowed myself to overspend. The result was a really excellent room, with a great view, but at a cost.
Last night after I left the Kuala Lumpur train station, I started walking into town. Having a backpack, everyone treats me as a poor Western tourist, looking for the cheapest place to stay. But usually I'm more flexible, and this time I'm sick of staying in cheap places, I stayed in a cheap place in Singapore that was depressing.
I finally settle on this place called the Hotel Malaya. It's kindof like, it used to be an expensive hotel a few decades ago but has since slid downhill. So the price was good but it still had a pretense of luxury and nice services. I stashed my stuff and took a shower and went for a walk.
Right a half block away, the street was taken over by street market. Teeshirts, watches, food, lychee fruits, it's all there. I was in too much of a hurry to linger, I'll be back later. Mainly, I was looking for a drinking establishment to sit down and talk to some tourists; something like an English pub.
I started walking in a direction that looked promising, but everything was closed. I was in the city, and somehow I ended up in an area designed more for cars than pedestrians. Cars were wizzing by, behind concrete barriers not unlike those in the US. Almost nobody walking around here.
But there seemed to be very little open; much less a pub. As I was walking, I saw a couple walk by in the other direction. And, they were ... gasp... Caucasian.
I figured I'd ask them - probably they speak English. "S'cuse me!" They didn't hear. "Excuse me! Hello! Excuse me!" I had to try several times before the guy turned around. "Oh, I'm sorry, I thought you were trying to sell me something." They were good to talk to, but they didn't know of a good place. They gave me vague directions to a place they thought existed. I tried to find it but couldn't.
Finally I flagged down a taxi cab. I asked the driver to take me to a pub. He wasn't really sure what I was talking about. He started talking about this one place, but it was expensive. Sure, I decided, just take me there. So he drives me way across town and we show up at this place that's a big disco. I decide, what the heck.
This place was really not what I was looking for, it was for well dressed locals. I was feeling out of place, but I decided to go with the flow, see what happened. The inside was very big and very cool and rivals anything I'd seen in the states. They had lasers. They had good music (although I didn't recognize any of it). They had glass and stainless steel. They had multiple bars. Everybody was better dressed than me, even though I was reasonably clean and my clothes were a step above teeshirt.
English wasn't really big, but with the music like that, all there is to say is something like "Tiger Beer", which is sortof language-neutral anyway. I ended up wandering upstairs, where there were some rooms separated off from the main area by glass, so you could escape from the loudness a little bit.
There was this tall Chinese guy talking to the bartender, with what I would assume was his girlfriend and some other friends at the bar. All of a sudden he threw this switch, and, in the corner of the room some lights lit up, and there was a basketball hoop, and a basketball. He started dribbling the ball and shooting baskets, and he was really bad. I don't understand how it happened, but the next thing I knew, I was playing basketball with him. And I'm just as bad as him. I think I had had a few too many Tiger beers by then.
I took a tourbus in KL. It wasn't that bad, just ignore the fact that every place you go to has their hand out.
I went to a pewter company. It's pretty but heavy in the luggage.
I managed to save this picture with photoshop. This is real live rubber dripping from a rubber tree with real live score marks for the latex to drip down, at a time in the day when the exposure conditions required something better than the disposable camera that I had.
We went to a butterfly place - they mounted butterflies of all kinds. Actually a lot of beautiful things there, just a bit strange.
I'm trying to dry out. I started out taking the afternoon bus tour through the city. Well, the monsoons set in. OK if you are in the bus.
Then we went to the Batu Cave. This big hindu temple sort of thing. Spectacular cave, really high ceiling, stalagtities. BIG inside. Really spectacular. Gotta see it. That's what I'd heard before. It's actually a big Hindu thing, like people come from India to go here.
There's 272 steps going to the cave. He said they used to have some lift or something but then the hindus decided that if you wana do the cave, you gotta invest in the steps, and the only way up is by foot.
But it was raining out. Serious rain. Monsoon in the full sense of the word. (These photos taken by other people and ripped off via web.) The bus was parked in front, with the door opening right next to a tent where they serve food and stuff. (This is a tourist thing in addition to a religious thing.)
The guide guy said he gives us 30 mintues, 10 to go up, 10 to be there, and 10 to go down. He said he could go up in 3 min. But he wouldn't be doing it today hehe of course because of the rain.
The challenge was overwhelming. I had to do it. I was the only one who dared in the whole bus. Or the only one stupid enough to do it. We're talking cats and dogs, the rain was coming down. I put on my Tevas (high-tech sandals designed for rocky riverbottom wading). I took off my pack, took stuff out of my pockets and put on my Viet Cong hat. As if that was going to make any difference. I guess I wanted the rain out of my eyes. I was going to be soaked one way or another.
I jumped out of the bus and ran like mad for the bottom of the steps.
There were rivers of water pouring down the stairs. I would run up the left side, and then the right side, trying to avoid the main river of water cascading down the stairs. Taking two steps at a time, I made good time, I'm relatively good going uphill. It was like a Teva commercial, and I was wearing Tevas.
It's not cold! It's the tropics, just a little north of the equator. It's kindof messy getting all wet but somehow I was in the mood. You dry out after six hours or so, without even trying. When you're there, it's obvious and you're not that afraid of getting wet. It's usually so hot anyway, it's refreshing.
About 2/3 of the way up I was winded and started going up single steps instead of double steps. Then I figured out it would be less energy to take the bigger steps, just slower, so I did that. The steps were big! They were a little higher than normal steps, just making it ever more grueling.
One staircase before the end, the rain suddenly stopped. I looked up and, way way up, stalagtites looked back. The overhang started. It was still raining just as hard, I had just crossed the threshold.
I could see the fringe of spray splattering off of the edge, with all the indescribable rock structures hanging above, all in offwhite. I was in the cave. Just inside the mouth. There was still a tiny drizzel right where I was standing, and I could see the droplets spraying down on me.
I got to the top and it's just big. And cosmic. This is a place to pray allright. You go in further, and there's little installations on the left and right where there's a hindu figure and some places for incense and stuff. Not much time. Ten minutes. Keep walking.
I did a counterclockwise traversal. A really cool mini temple to the right at the top of MORE stairs - no time. But it s so cool...
I went further, and there was more rain. I looked up and there was a big opening in the cosmic ceiling. Actually there were a number of openings, twinkling columns of spray, wavering in the wind, the hundred or two hundred feet to the ground. I could have stood there for a half hour, just watching the rain coming down. But can't stop, gotta keep moving.
Towards the back there was another set of stairs. Off to the side were some hindus hanging out. I asked them if the 272 stairs included these too, apparently not. I went up and there in the far back was the last temple, on a platform, with some figure statue toward the back. I raced up the steps in front.
There was a guy there, drawing something. He pointed at me. I gotta remove my shooes, just like in all the mosques and pagotas everywhere else I've been. I pulled off my tevas, out of breath. Made a contribution, maybe five ringgits from my pocket, totally soaked. Didn't really know how to pray there. Can't stop, gotta keep on moving.
I followed the left wall back. There was an asian coouple near the entrance, waiting for the rain to stop. They looked like they'd been there since the afternoon monsoon started, and they weren't going back until it ended.
Then there was me, the crazy American nerd tourist. Well, somehow the front of my shirt seemed still dry. Maybe because I was leaning forward to run up the stairs. Or maybe that was just relative dryness.
I started down the stairs. I'm not good at going downhill. Either on stairs or by foot. In Hong Kong I had some real problems with my right knee. But I figured out how to twist my leg and pop the right thing back into place. Yuck! I'm not getting old.
I started out taking single steps, but then I slowly graduated to double steps. The steps were high! I was holding on to the railing, but it was all enameled and a bit slippery, with water flowing all over it. I just didn't want to start falling, that would be a big big big drag. Big big big drag. I took each two steps carefully and i noticed for the first time that the steps were painted, red and white and red and white, alternate steps. Maybe that was for the left and right feet? I guess I was defeeting the purpose. sorry couldn't resist.
So I got back to the bus and I'm like marco polo. Wow, you made it all the way up to the top! That's an achievement! Everyone was impressed but few people envied me but I have no regrets.
On the way back the bus got caught in the perpetual KL traffic jam. I had some time to dry out, that is, to get to a place where most of my stuff was damp rather than soaking. Fortunately there were lots of empty seats in the bus for me to leave wet. And there was air conditioning so the dry air would dessicate. But the flip side was that I got really cold. In a land where you don't dress for warmth. It was the air conditioning. The first clue that air conditioning is inherently evil.
I guess I can zip on my pantlegs. These pants are great. Thin nylon, the kind it's hard to sweat in. Well, you're sweating all the time anyway. And the pantlegs zip off if it gets really too warm.
So the tourbus guys were dropping off people at their hotels on the way back; they were so late. The 3.5 hour tour took like 7 hours because of all the traffic jams. And, this concept that in Indonesia, they call "jam karet". Rubber Time.
This one woman almost missed her plane, but they got a taxi to pick her up, like, on the road we were on. She just had to climb up the stairs to the ped over pass, and then walk down the stairs on the other side, to get to the cab. The cab was right there on the other side, we could see it, lodged in its own traffic jam on the other side. What a mess.
I was the last one they dropped off. And they dropped me off in this place... like freeway ramps. They said to just keep on walking in that direction. That direction. Well I walked for five or ten minutes and decided I was nowhere.
Remember now I'm still totally wet from running in the rain. The rain had stopped though, and it was warm outside, just funny being all wet and not feeling particularly clean. Well, I guess rain isn't that dirty. But it wasn't like I was particularly presentable.
I was going to go back to my hotel, shower and change, and then go to cybercafes. But I decided to just get a taxi. Point A to point B. Beam me up scotty, those tour guys suck.
I got this taxi cab. I had my cybercafe printout with me, and I showed him an address of one. He spoke very little English. I spoke very little Malay. He was asking me questions but I couldn't answer. There's the fucking address, what's the problem? He go, get friend. He made a phone call on his cell phone. I understood about 5% of what he said. We went to some neighborhood. His friend got in the car. I could understand this guy, he spoke broken English. English is supposed to be a second language in this country, you know the British.
The address I sought was in a shopping mall. They dropped me off out front. The guy told me that the second cybercafe on my list, POEM, was nearby. We were out in the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur. I went in the mall, it was pretty much the same as an American mall, except there's a young Chinese woman in a slinky black dress talking on a cellphone in the corner. And a lot of the things are in Malay rather than English.
So here I am. A good cybercafe can't be beat.
Anyway I'm going off into the woods. There's the Malaysian National Park, like jungle, and I'm going to spend three days there. Then I'll spend about three days snorkeling oin Pulau Tioman, Tioman Island, off the east coast of the maylay peninsula. Then I fly out of Singapore on the 19th, so I'll log in then. There's one cybercafe left in singapore I haven't visited, I hope to hit that.
The time zones are a pain out here. Business hours in california pretty much overlap sleeping hours here.
This is actually a pleasant place. Sitting here drinking a beer. A sucky beer, but a beer nonetheless. Actually this isn't too bad. Anchor Beer, Archepellago Brewing Co, Selangor MY. Hey, that's the same suburb I'm in right now!
KL has burbs, just like we got burbs. Traffic is very similar, just mirror image because it's a former british colony. So are we, by the way. But the taxi drivers are not guaranteed to speak English.
welcome to america in malaysia. You go to Bangsar Shopping Center, and it's a mall like any in america, except they also speak Bahasa and probably Chinese. There's two atriums, about four stories apiece. Go to the one on the left as you come in the front. Go up the escalator. Look to the right and you can't miss it: the cybercafe.
I kept on having this deja vous situation. You're in a mall area or airport or drinking establishment or someplace with new wood, stainless steel and glass interior. And off to the side there's a slender, bitchy looking asian woman talking on a cellphone. Every yuppie-oriented place I went to seemed to have this same prop.
I could see how Malaysia was catching up quickly in the economic situation - the wealthy places were almost as good as the US, in some cases nicer. Large parts of the country are still in the third world, however.
I went to the Malaysian National Forest.
I also went to the Tioman Islands.
>what's the weirdest thing you've seen this week, haven't been in bali long enough. Hmmm... well, your hiking along and it's hot and your shirt is wet. You grab the middle and twist it and wring it out and fluid drips out. Yuck! Well, guess what it's only 8am, you've only been hiking for 1 hour, and the sun hasn't even hit you net. That was ... weird. I dunno. Monkeys in the jungle in Malaysia. They can be really cute. Saw some great fish snorkeling. I know. I was walking through some neighborhood in a town that exists because it's the ferry port for the ferry to a cool island (tioman, east coast of malaysia peninsula). Mersen or something. So I'm just walking around and there's this iguana on the road, and he wanders off into the gutter (they have open air sewers here). Like in the US there's local raccoons. Here there's local lizards. Whipping forked toung, the whole bit. fuck.
To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: global villiage cybercafe This one was a total bitch to get to. It's way out in the burbs and the taxi driver wanted a fixed fee of rm$20 = $8us to get me there. THen when I got here I noticed directions on how to take the bus here. Oh well. Very quiet place. I guess it's tuesday nite. All these cybercafes are quiet places, except for boatquay on saturday nite. But everything seems to work. Well, the first machine I got on had a problem so I'm on a different machine.
> Hey! How's your trip going? Just wanted to send you a short note > saying we're having a party for my parents' 60th wedding anniversary in > Plattsburgh on August 8. We'll send an invitation later. Hope you can > make it. > > Sheri Hi, I'm in KL as they say around here. Kuala Lumpur, that's bahasa for "muddy estuary". Touring cybercafes. Maybe I can write this off my taxes. Currently windows is breaking on me. I don't think I'll make it to your parents party. I may still be in indonesia, wearing a grass skirt. Netscape is acting up. Not sure how many of these emails you're getting. You know southeast asian cities are huge. Today I was on top of the 4th tallest radio tower in tehworld in KL, malaysia. The third is the CN tower in Toronto. All these cities are shining skyscrapers, with little grubby curry places on the street level. I wish I was fluent in chinese.
malasia: KL: I'm doing this from Global Villiage CyberCafe. Very nice place, these people are warm and helpful and understand enough english. The machines mostly work and, hey, I'm here right now. Unfortunately it's way out in the burbs, but if you take the bus like they say, it should be pretty easy. Will check out the others in KL if I have time. Wish there was some cybercafes somewhere other than KL, like in the places I'm going to. Selamat Tidur!
Irene Hauke wrote: > > Hi Allan, > are you still traveling. How long will you be out of the country? the humidity suffocates. Almost certainly by aug 1. Yesterday morning I went for a hike in the jungle and found a stream with fresh water, pouring over rocks. Not a big enough place to actually dip all of myself in, but it was very peaceful. There's monkeys playing around in the upper trees. Today I'm in Singapore, big city. > The last time I have Emailed you I have told you that I will deposit your share > auction cheque to your account at the Canada Trust account but I could not do > it. > The cheque was not sign by Sue since we do not know when we would be getting > the payment for the Health insurance. > I'm waiting to hear from you if you need private Health insurance coverage > starting July 1/97. Should you need private coverage we could apply the amount > of the cheque to the premium for June and maybe for the next couple of month. > Please let me know ASAP since I would have to make arrangements with the > Employers Health in Green Bay. > Take care > Irene > Waterloo Maple Inc. ok, sounds ok, deduct the $600 or so for july from my check. And whatever else is needed. We can figure out the paperwork later.
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