Before Passport Control, we were alarmed to discover the walls pasted with terrifying warning posters and throngs of mask-clad guards patrolling the area. We dutifully and nervously lined up and passed under the stern, impassive gaze of the heat-detecting camera. After it became clear we would not be bundled into black sacks, sealed in boxes and probed in unmentionable places, we passed through the rest of the airport and managed to snatch a taxi after waiting in many agonising queues.
We arrived at our hotel, the Impiana, and were ushered inside. Nick and I were suddenly horribly conscious of how out of place we were, standing in the middle of a sparkling marbled, chandeliered lobby in our shorts and (dirty) sandals, flanked by immaculately suited staff while a three-piece live band tickled their instruments, showering the room with music. We muttered our agreement to sport jeans for the next few days. After being led to our hotel room and marvelling at the masses of more marble and fine furniture, and a quick trip out to the local food market where we dined on Malaysian cuisine, we collapsed into our respective beds to hibernate our minds in preparation for the morning.
Masses of marble.
The next day invited us to wander the city. As we wandered, I was struck at the sheer scale of the city. The countless skyscrapers and towers reached skywards, and looming above them all, the renowned and iconic
The towers are a testament to the booming and rapidly expanding Malaysian economy: while walking around some areas of the city, it was impossible to ignore not only the smell of wealth thick in the air, but also the stench of open sewers by the pavements, and the feeling that
Following the inevitable photo opportunities in and around the
Walking to the monorail, I had a disturbing experience. This experience materialised in the form of, believe me…a monk. Shaven headed, bespectacled and draped in grubby yellow robes, resembling a discount Dalai Lama, he bounced in front of me, eagerly shook my hand, and, reaching into the depths of his shawl, produced a small, gold-coloured plastic card imprinted with a Buddha. Grinning widely, he pressed the card into my hand and whispered: “Peace!” I blinked. He repeated. “Peeeace!” I smiled politely, thanked him for his kindness and attempted to edge around him. His brow furrowed and he whipped out a tiny book, rifling through the pages before cramming it into my other hand. I looked down, sweating. I was beginning to grow hot and embarrassed as I saw the list of first names scribbled down the page, each one declaring “peace”, followed by a number hugging an unorthodox amount of zeros. Deciding upon a policy of appeasement, I followed with my name and the beginning of a number before realising suddenly what this was. Money. The numbers were donations. I frantically scribbled out my line. “Oh no! No, no, I can’t, I don’t have that much money!” I spluttered. His smile vanished. His expression darkened. He snatched back the book and card before storming away, leaving me, caked in shame and embarrassment and guilt and sweat, to wrap my head around the fact that I had almost been robbed by a monk.
The metro provided the most convenient and cost-effective means of finding our way around the city. At the astonishingly reasonable price of 1.60 Malaysian Ringgit (30 pence) per single journey, it was the ideal means of transport to ply to my tight, inflexible frugality. It was also rather pleasant to find ourselves surrounded by everyday travellers; teenagers with bags slung over their shoulders, beshawled and beveiled women perusing their shopping lists, elderly ladies with their mouths and noses wrapped in pollution and swine flu masks, and the aforementioned portly businessgentlemen, one of whom wedged himself into the packed carriage, crushing the air from my lungs and forcing my face to press up against the glass.
The next few days passed casually; Nick and I stalked the city, visiting various sites of interest such as
Menara Kuala Lumpur (
On the final day, we had saved the best until last; the Towers themselves. However, when the alarm screamed at and I crawled out of my nest of bedcovers, sobbing, and cursing and damning everything in the universe, I began to seriously question whether it was worth it. I was still questioning as we waited in the queue, a queue stretching from the ticket desk down several corridors, long before the opening time of . We were clearly not the only adherents to the “first come, first served” policy. It paid off, however, as we managed to procure free tickets for the perfect time of .
A quick breakfast later, we were standing inside the Towers’ skybridge, watching a daring window-cleaner buff and shine the metal beams, hovering hundreds of metres over the soaring landscape. Disappointingly, access to the peak of the towers is, for some insignificant reason, disallowed, despite both of us agreeing that we would have happily paid to be shown the very top.
When the day of departure arrived, we packed, bade farewell to the Impiana, and took a taxi to the train station, the mode of transport which would whisk us to