It’s in Malaysia, that little country south of Thailand and north of Indonesia. KL as it’s known is a throbbing tropical city of about 3 million. It’s a wonderful hodgepodge of Indians, Malay, Chinese, Bangladeshis and Indonesians that more or less get along. Unlike smiley Thailand, KL is edgy and swarthy showing its underbelly. Corruption is formidable. Taxi drivers will take you for a ride (literally and figuratively). People scowl at you and stare as you pass. The Chinese will shove you aside. Indians will spit on the sidewalks in front of you as an expression of territory. Toothless pimps sit on stools guarding the entrances to their dark whorehouses which I’m sure are nothing more than a mattress on the floor where migrant workers from Bangladesh seek comfort away from their women back home.
And yet with all that darkness, I have to say I really liked Kuala Lumpur. I might even say I loved it but I have to go back and spend more time to be certain. It has all that Thailand lacks: great public transportation, reasonably clean air, and authentic people. The “Land of Smiles” can get on your nerves sometimes. I statements only, please. OK, “Thailand gets on my nerves sometimes.” I appreciate that Thai people are generally speaking, gentle folk. But I find them to be silly and emotionally vapid, intentionally missing the chance to connect deeper. Much of it is a language problem. A lot of it is class and poverty related. And yet Thailand has a strange pride about itself. I’ve never met a Thai person who was like, “Get me outta here!” Bangkok is a city of over 6 million and in my opinion a dreadful place choked with traffic and exhaust. And the Thai people love it.
Not so in KL. Many people I spoke to said they were just there for a short time to save money and leave. They think it’s a rat race. And I think it’s wonderfully civilized with its museums and monorails. The traffic and pollution is nothing compared to Thailand. Malaysia has the benefit of being an former English colony and so nearly everyone speaks some English, many quite well. (I didn’t see one goofy “Engrish” sign. Not one.) As a result they are taken more seriously on the global economic stage and have a higher standard of living. They are more likely to complain about quality of life issues…because they can. Thai people are mostly grounded by poverty and immobile because they can’t get visas to travel.
The net result for me as a tourist in this country was that I had more deep and interesting conversations and deeper connections to the people I met in 4 short days than I have had in all my visits to Thailand, combined. So I will be going back to explore it more. My instincts to find an English speaking Asian boyfriend in Malaysia were right. I think he’s here and we haven’t yet met. I came very close with an extraordinary Sri Lankan man. We had the nicest dates together, dressing up and going out seeing the town. He was gentle, educated, warm and kind. Alas, he has a boyfriend and so I stepped back. Meeting him though was like Cupid’s arrow was fired across my bow. An angel had come down to me and said, “Daffyth, here’s what’s possible for you. You don’t get this one but your man is close so don’t give up the good fight.”
Here’s a little video compilation of my quick visit:
And here’s a little photo compilation. You can click on an image and scroll through them.
I was apprehensive about traveling to a new country all by myself. But I talked myself into it and took the leap and in the end I more than just survived. I had a blast.
I was grateful for the time there and for the lovely people I met. I think there’s more to come for me in Malaysia. Thanks to Brian the Lion for the photos.