Back in April I went to Kuala Lumpur. I’ve always had this thing about KL: a uni friend had family from there; they had a Grand Prix even back in the day when I was really into Formula 1; and I dated a guy from Singapore for a couple of months when I was 23 and he was really anti-Malaysia, and I’m petty like that.
My flight was at 6am (it’s a five hour flight, so I wanted to go as early as possible) and I packed the day before, which meant I could get drunk, go to the cinema and sing along to (the edited) Bohemian Rhapsody (much to the annoyance of the lady sitting next to me), then stumble home and sleep on the sofa for three hours. At 3am I got up, got dressed (including grabbing my coat – more on this later), called a taxi and slept all the way to the airport. I was a little hungover but felt fine until I was in line for the baggage check and passed out, coming to with a security guard offering me a mint polo. It was very embarrassing but they looked after me (though my bag had to be scanned a second time, as I’d forgotten about my power bank).
I snoozed all the way to KL, and was somehow the first off the plane. I legged it to the bathroom before everyone else got there, and freshened up a bit. Once in the city, I tried to take the metro but got on a suburban train going in the wrong direction and ended up in the middle of nowhere and missed the twice-hourly train going back to where I’d come from. I left the station and went to another station next door (confusing) but the lady there refused to sell me a ticket as she said I had to use the machines – but I didn’t know where to go to. I stalked off, bought some crisps, asked someone else for help, bought a ticket and was soon back in the city centre. I found myself almost immediately in Chinatown and enjoyed wandering about and particularly enjoyed a vintage store where everything was less than a pound (I had to remind myself I only had hand luggage… but still bought three dresses).
I was quite hungry, and HOT, because I had my sheep-like coat with me. Yes, the coat I took to Seoul in January, the coat I took to the UK in February – somehow I had decided that this coat was appropriate for 30+ degree, tropical Malaysia. I went to a cafe with lovely air conditioning and stuffed my face with curry and cake (separately). I thought I spotted a girl I used to work with but decided that would be ridiculous and chastised myself for thinking that all Chinese people look the same.
As soon as I left the cafe it started to rain, and by the time I made it to my hotel I was slightly damp. It soon stopped and I went up to the rooftop to check out the view.
I checked my WeChat Moments and saw that my old colleague was in KL, the one I thought I’d seen earlier. I messaged her to say I was in town too, and she replied saying she thought she’d seen me but had assumed it couldn’t be me. Small world!
I set off for the Twin Towers, and got slightly lost (and waylaid in Marks & Spencer). Outside the Twin Towers was small lake with dancing fountains.
I meandered back towards my hotel, had a pedicure, then bought a falafel and ate it in bed while watching Jurassic Park on TV. Solo travelling is brilliant!
The next morning I woke up feeling strange. I hadn’t slept more than five hours a night for the previous few weeks but had managed a full night’s sleep. I felt… refreshed! I made some tea and danced about my room for a bit, before heading up to the roof to do some work.
Once the work was finally done, I headed for Masjid Jamek, a mosque, near Merdeka Square. Although the mosque was just off a busy road, it was a peaceful enclave and I enjoyed reading the boards explaining the history of the area, people watching and (of course) drinking kopi, Malaysian iced coffee. I walked along the river for a while, enjoying the architecture.
From here I walked to the National Mosque. I wasn’t allowed in, which meant I couldn’t see the building very close up, but it was still interesting.
Next I went to the Museum of Islamic Art. This was brilliant. From the moment I walked in, greeted by friendly staff (living in China has acclimatised me to terrible service, so I spent most of my time in Malaysia being astounded at how nice people were), to the building itself, the well curated displays, the range of objects on display (fabrics, books, pictures, maps, etc)… it was an extremely enjoyable visit and I’d recommend the museum to anyone with even the smallest interest in art, Islamic or otherwise.
I walked over to Chinatown and went to a restaurant recommended by a friend, then to the Central Market. An awesome thunderstorm started up, and at first it was “just” deafening thunder, but before long it was raining heavily and I got so soaked on the way back to my hotel that I had to strip off the moment I stepped into my room.
I lay on the bed eating M&S snacks, watching youtube videos (yay, unblocked internet) and checking out Tinder. I matched with a guy and we agreed to meet for a drink later, so I carried on watching youtube and ate more snacks. Finally I felt bad about all the snacks, so I went to the gym, where I jogged on the treadmill looking out at the stormy sky.
Tinder is funny. If someone matched with me and they were only in my city for one day, I wouldn’t bother to meet up with them. But I was glad that we met up, as we had a great time drinking (inauthentic) pisco sours and then eating (very authentic) Malay food in a preserved part of town.
The next day I had thought about going to Batu Caves, but the logistics seemed rushed and I was mindful of the fact that I would have checked out of my hotel and so would have my very hot coat with me again. Instead I walked over to a temple near the Twin Towers (of course, picking up a milk tea on the way) and after being accosted by the man outside who was keen to explain something (but I couldn’t work out what) to me, I spent a peaceful half hour listening to the sermon (a female monk double act, both reading from MacBooks).
Next I went to two more temples: one a Hindu temple, and the other (100 metres up the road) a Chinese temple.
Finally I went to a vegetarian restaurant for lunch before taking the train to the airport. The airport was a bit of a disaster. I printed my ticket from the machine, but had to get my documents verified at a desk, which wasn’t apparent until I tried to enter security. I then got in the queue for passport control, and I began to get worried about missing my flight when I was still in the queue 45 minutes later. Eventually I got to the front, and of course, the immigration officer was friendly and polite (like everyone – so refreshing). The bag check was thankfully very quick, and I headed for the gate, which of course was far away, so I walked quickly. But then – what’s this? Another bag check?! I pushed my way to the front, waving my boarding pass, and ran through the terminal to my gate, making it just at the time the gate was advertised to close. Luckily almost everyone on the plane had a similar issue, but it seemed crazy that I’d arrived at the airport more than two hours before my flight and had still nearly missed it. I was relieved to finally sit down and gaze out the window at, first, a rainbow, and then, a sunset.
Arriving back at Pudong was as awful as it always is, and I got home late. The only good thing was that I finally had a use for my coat when I cycled home from the bus stop.
In hindsight, book-ending the weekend with five hour flights was slightly insane, but I had such an excellent time so my only regret for the weekend was taking my coat with me.