Posted by: facetothewind | August 17, 2014

Around town: KL and Ipoh


If I have any doubts about living in Malaysia, let this photo remind me. I met these guys in a park, just hanging out on their motorcycles. They’re all Indian-Malaysian and spoke perfect English. They warned me about some shifty looking dude walking around who they know to be a mugger. Apparently they’ve witnessed him snatching purses and bags. Nonetheless, when he walked by, they shared their giant bottle of Coke with him. I asked them why they would share their drink with a criminal. One guy replied, “Well, he might have been thirsty.” Wow. I was fascinated by that statement. Is it generosity of spirit on the part of the boys or just acceptance of all things: that guy’s a mugger but we don’t hate him…it might very well be his karma that in this life he’s suffering from something he did in a past life. But he’s still human and he’s thirsty. I noticed that when the mugger drank from their bottle, he didn’t touch his lips to the bottle out of respect for the boys’ hygiene. Something about this exchange was a key to understanding Asia. Mugger man went back to his bench waiting for some unsuspecting passerby — almost like his visit with the boys was an aside in a play and now he’s back to assume his role as criminal. But there was no police intervention to interrupt the play. You’re the town mugger. And we’re the town’s Indian students.

This is the sort of thinking that can make you love Asia. It’s an acceptance of one’s position and fate in life. It’s also what can drive Westerners mad. Everything just is. It’s not a culture of efficiency and getting to the bottom of things or getting shit done.

One is out for prayers…


Or one is out for lunch…


In fact sometimes there’s no IN at all. And you must just accept this…or go crazy pounding desks and complaining. In the words of Lao Tzu: “Nothing is done and nothing is left undone.”

* * * *

Meanwhile, if I am ever disillusioned with all things Asian, all I have to do is watch some American TV over here…


This cooking show from America where the point was to try and stump the pig.


He stuffs his face full of disgusting food until he either vomits or can’t finish in the time allotted. This would be the Gluttony part of my 4G reasons for leaving the States. This clearly seems like a dispatch from a declining civilization and the Asians watch it for sport and I’m sure in horror of the excess.


Meanwhile back in Kuala Lumpur, I’ve discovered that a lot of Malay folks eat with their hands. This of course would be considered extremely bad manners in the West, but not here. It’s perfectly acceptable to see adults digging around in their food with their whole hands and mushing it into their mouths. I sit spellbound by my own propriety.


And speaking of eating, a friend of mine and I went to Brickfields for some fantastic north Indian food served up by an adorable Indian man in bow tie…


A R O U N D   T O W N

I discovered the wonderful KLPAC…


Caught a great dance performance there and enjoyed the first time I’ve experienced peace and quiet.


Seems like Europe and Portland. Delightful! Alas, not really accessible by public transportation. And that’s KL.


This is inside Barlai, my favorite bar/speakeasy in Bukit Bintang inside an old British colonial house.


Des and I went to the National Gallery which is a great space but disappointing exhibits of fairly amateurish artwork. Perhaps it might be better with a different exhibit. Will try it again.


Here’s Des having a gadget break from the bad art…



Outside the gallery was a Muslim man doing free calligraphy for passersby and selling his works.


I thought he had the most amazing hands. He wrote out my name on a piece of paper in purple ink and gave it to me. Purple is my favorite color.


Clearly, the best part of my life in KL so far is that I actually have a social life for the first time in years.


Above is Brian who brought me a colossal Asian pear and other gifts for the house from Korea. How sweet of him!

And below is the staff of Pink Triangle, the HIV prevention NGO where I am volunteering. We’re out for a little Indian buffet lunch. Great folks running a heroic organization in this religious climate. Frederick from Iran (left) Raymond from Malaysia (center) and Supreet from America (right). Suepreet is training me to be a safe sex outreach worker at the sex clubs. So I get to interview gay men and hand out safe sex packages and give them advice — but no demonstrations!


And here’s a dinner outing with Gabriel and some of his friends, Australian and Malaysian…


 O N W A R D   T O   I P O H 


Des and I took the wonderfully fast and efficient KTM train to Ipoh — a small city about 2 1/2 hours north of KL.


The train achieves a top speed of 135 km/hr = 84 mph. Impressive for Southeast Asia. The roundtrip ticket was $23 USD.


Ipoh is an old British colonial town that is all about eating and lounging in cafés. My kinda town.


Here’s a little gallery of photos from Ipoh. Click on a photo and then advance by hitting the arrow.




  1. Interesting, insightful, as usual. Good you are thriving in KL! Would you consider living in Ipoh?

  2. That’s a great anecdote about the Indian students sharing their drink with the hygienic mugger. That’s the kind of travel writing I like best.

  3. As always, David, I am captivated by the lens with which you view and share your world, your travels. It is as it is as it is…lots to unfold in me, thanks!

  4. Beautiful pix, David! And great stories. You look so happy.

    At this moment I’m sitting in the Metropolitan Lounge at Union Station in Chicago, on my return journey from Santa Fe, waiting to board the Capitol Limited home. Train from SF was only 30 mins late. As you know, that’s pretty effing fantastic! Already have my dinner res on board and am looking forward to a nice glass of Pinot Grigio (overpriced though it is).

    It was a wonderful trip, I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, but I’m also looking forward to getting home. Funny — just as on the ship, I still feel as if I’m on the train — I’m a little wobbly!

    Oh, and had lunch with Ben and Joe at their house. It was great all around.


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