Kuala Lumpur

Once more I find myself lying on a hard bunk in a concrete room, sweat pouring down my chest.

The rain started suddenly. An advance party of drops announced the downpour’s imminent arrival and by the time I reached the hostel I was soaked and thunder crackled across the leaden sky. Back in the dorm I discovered that the AC only functions at night, so sat resignedly in the heat thinking about a beer.

I tried attributing the melancholy to the weather but it wasn’t that. A familiar malaise, a result of not enough sleep, jetlag and a touch of homesickness. All morning I tested the hypothesis that now I was on the road again I was single. What about that girl over there? Just imagine it. I didn’t want to. What was I doing halfway across the world, thinking about a girl I had just left, very deliberately, after a six year relationship? I hoped the feeling would depart with the jetlag because it was too late for a change of heart.

Kuala Lumpur had the familiar hallmarks of South East Asia. The humdity of course, noted from before I even stepped off the plane, the accompanying sweet smell of decay, sometimes durian but just as often something less savoury, the cracked pavements, the dust, the street stalls. There was a certain order too, not unwelcome. Aspects entirely western, less traffic, haste and hassle than Bangkok maybe, Saigon or Phnom Penh certainly. The ability to walk the streets unmolested was appreciated.

Reaching the hostel after midnight had been a challenge completed with surprising ease. Stepping off the plane was like greeting an old friend, the humidity enveloping me in a sweaty hug. I left the kiwi guy Scott in the taxi we had shared. I had recognised him at the airport from a politics tutorial years before and we chatted politely. At the hostel I was expected, as per my booking, and was shown to a bed in a dorm, sometime around 1.00am. Stretched out on the thin mattress, sleep was elusive after so many hours of dozing on the plane. I got up with the dawn and climbed the stairs to the roof where I ordered breakfast

By mid-afternoon it was clear the 800 ringit which I thought would be so ample when I withdrew it at the airport would be insufficient for 10 days. I had gone shopping with a Scottish guy who was on the last day of his trip.

Andy left me with a some clove cigarettes and a collection of Conrad short stories, both of which I immediately started consuming. When I was alone again I finally took a shower, and started sweating again as soon as I stepped out. In a clean t shirt and pair of underpants I went out to find somewhere to eat. Over a bowl of claypot noodles I evaluated a group of Indian woman sitting in the restaurant. By their affected manners and overt preening I wondered if they might be prostitutes, or perhaps ladyboys. Then again maybe they weren’t. I felt uncharitable for thinking otherwise. Either way, they were not unattractive, but in a lumpy sort of way. I expected to be the object of some curiosity myself, being the only westerner in the restaurant where everyone else appeared to be regulars, but I wasn’t, and only caught the eyes of one of the women once, when I looked up from my book. I finished my meal and went to finish my day by finding a beer.

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2 Comments on “Kuala Lumpur”

  1. Grace Blanks says:

    Hey Campbell, your blog is awesome. You described KL exactly as I remember it – right down to the clove cigarettes. Keep it up!

    • nzcampbell says:

      Hey Grace, thanks so much for the positive feedback – I really appreciate it. I honestly had no idea if anyone would have the slightest interest in reading what I had to write so when people tell me stuff like this it really makes my day.


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