Filed under: travel versus unravel
The place you don’t get to know
KL for only one day, and weary from the journey. We’re not going to be staying here. We’re moving on to Vietnam, our serious destination. No point:
– learning our way around
– visiting anywhere but the most obvious tourist stops
– getting more than a taste of the place
– learning the language.
But my smattering of Indonesian, a similar tongue, keeps coming back. And I’ve finally figured out where our hotel is and we’re leaving it tomorrow. And the tourist stops are either as predictable as shopping malls or as inaccessible as the Petronas Towers climb was because the Grand Prix crowd booked it out early this morning. And the place’s flavour includes street scenes crowded with men on busy corners where Donna, clearly a western woman, felt uncomfortable and hot and vulnerable.
I think we’ve learnt some important things, mostly about our own personalities: for we are buggered and in a foreign land so things will necessarily give. The 13 year old needs frequent refuellings and rests. Donna doesn’t like heat unless there’s frequent relief. The 15 year old remains cheerfully laid back but does act as the group’s emotional barometer: it’s only when he says, Dad, I think we should stop, in his barometric way, that I know it’s really time to stop. And I, the leader, the only one with the local currency, or the map, or the leadership skills to lead such a rudderless group, the decision-maker, the planner, the king, the one with the inadequate photocopies of Lonely Planet KL guide, possibly won’t be allowed to be in charge of the map any more. Thanks to me we keep going in circles.
[Note: this has been a pattern of travel with me since I was 30 and re-writing a guidebook to Estonia. Carol and Mark will recall our walk round Riga twice.]
And since I’m the only one I trust to lead, I guess I’m the one who has to proudly relent. I will do it. I will allow the 13-year-old to have the map, when we get to Hanoi. Donna says he’s the best choice because he will choose the minimum number of steps to any point, the exact opposite of my philosophy of cartography. The kids also say I have to slow down so Mum can keep up.
Things aren’t that well signposted here. To get to the arrival lounge and baggage pick-up from your landed plane, you have to take a brief train ride. No one tells you that, even once you climb onto the train having exhausted all other options of finding your baggage. To climb the Petronas Towers, or even just to find out there are no more climbs available today, you have to get lost both inside and outside the shopping centre at least four times. Despite the numbers of tourists and the tourism economy that accompanies it, the country seems to barely notice its visitors once they’ve arrived.
Tell you what was great: the exterior of the Petronas Towers; the Textile Museum, the air conditioning once you manage to get to any; the lovely cab driver we met named Rodzi, the sudden change of weather as rain arrives with warm fresh winds and lightning outside the hotel right now.
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