Here I am sitting in an air-conditioned chamber on the ground floor of the hotel/apartment block I’m currently staying at in KL. I’m here because it is the only place within spittin’ distance where there is wi-fi. Not surprisingly then I am joined here by others surfing the net quietly in their bubble, some looking like students catching up on homework, others with earbuds listening to their favourite music as they type, and a table of men speaking some middle-eastern language enjoying the cool.
Yes, I’m in KL again. I’m here because it’s convenient to be here. I’m here because I had a flight credit I had to use inside 3 months. I’m here because with mum’s house now on the market I’m better off away. I’m here because it’s good to get away from a few of the things bogging me down in Melbourne. I’m here because it is good and oddly heart-warming to meet with friends again. I’m here because there is work to be done here. I’m here because I’ve got to be somewhere.
I arrived yesterday. I set out from Melbourne early in the morning, dark still, no-one about except the odd crazy walking the dog, standing in the street in the damn cold waiting for a taxi to take me to the airport. About 10 hours after that I emerge into a bright and warm country far from home. I walk along the concourse feeling hot in my Melbourne clothes weaving my way through the swarm of tourists and taxi touts and people just standing about. I drag my bag along with another slung over my shoulder. I ask directions and eventually find the Skybus I had booked from home. “Bus?” they call at me. I nod my head, begin to explain that I had already booked but they wave me on board unconcerned, as if they had been expecting me. There are people everywhere.
The bus fills and then sets off. Next to me is a woman in a headscarf. Everyone bar an elderly Englishman (I don’t know that he’s English, but he looks it) and me, are locals. The bus careers down the freeway, turning now and again so that the hot sun shines in one side of the bus, then the other. The air-con is feeble and the curtains are swiftly pulled across the windows to keep the sun at bay. After sitting in a plane for over 8 hours reading and listening to music I do nothing but sit there.
Just short of an hour after we reach the terminus, KL Sentral. I ask about, looking for a train to where I want to go. Everyone looks at me blankly. I scan the boards myself then think fuck it, I’ll just get a cab. I find the same problem though. The girl I buy my prepaid taxi voucher from knows where Avenue K is, but the taxi driver somehow doesn’t. KLCC I tell him, Petronas. He shrugs his shoulders, his English as good as my Berhasa, and heads vaguely in the direction of the Twin Towers.
In the end I have to show him the way, going by scratchy memory and vague sight. That way, I tell him, left now. He goes left as I tell him, but when he reaches a place I know across the street from where I aim to be he keeps on going, as if he now knows better than I do. I have to direct him back in a large loop persisting through his dull doubt. Up ahead, I say, then left at the lights. But he wants to turn left everywhere now though, into the driveway of one grand hotel after another. No I say, keep going, to the end, the intersection, the lights...my voice trailing off in futility.
I’m obviously loco, a dumb gringo, or whatever the local equivalent of that is, but finally he accedes. As we approach Avenue K I point it out to him triumphantly as if to say there, I was right wasn’t I? He eyes the large sign depicting the place and then says slowly as if it all makes senses now, ah, Jalan Ampang!
Civilisation at last.