Posted by: facetothewind | November 11, 2014

Changing my view of KL

DSC03029 I believe one’s life has a limited repertoire of experience from which to draw. No matter how hard you try, you end up repeating things. You’re older now than you were the last time you did this, hopefully the characters have changed and maybe the scenery has changed as well. But in the course of one’s life, there’s very likely going to be a handful of scenarios that get replayed over and over. Never mind that I dealt myself a wild card by moving someplace so random as Kuala Lumpur, my life has indeed come full circle once again. In a way, it’s a return to my life in San Francisco in 1994 when I lived high on Castro Street in a modern apartment. It was the happiest apartment I can remember. I sat in the living room for 2 years just watching the fog flow over Twin Peaks and down into the toy village below. I hosted fantastic piano parties, I had a nice group of friends and lots of social engagements. Days came and went I never left the place. For groceries I would walk down to Noe Valley and then make the hike back up the windy hill. There on that hill, I had everything I wanted. DSC03098 Welcome to my life redux…twenty years later. Here, like in San Francisco, I sit perched in my little aerie of an apartment overlooking KL from the 30th floor and am happy as a clam. (Just out of curiosity, what does an unhappy clam look like?) DSC03033 My last apartment in KL was really getting on my nerves. It was a tiny shoebox studio with crappy furniture and surrounded by nonstop traffic which was jammed up all the time. All day and night it was the sound of cars, buses, trucks, and motorcycles. To get in and out of the apartment I had to brave 4 lanes of Ampang traffic. I feared for my life just crossing the road. In addition, M Suites, where I was renting, was just one of those buildings where they got everything wrong from the get go…the hallway floods when it rains, the view is of the other building, your knees hit the microwave when you sit at the counter, the floor was high gloss white which meant my part time job was picking up my boyfriend’s black hairs off the floor, my phone and broadband didn’t work there – an Internet dead spot. On top of that it was ridiculously overpriced.


The muddy river I walk along to get to the elevated train.

So I searched KL high and low for a place that didn’t face a highway choked with traffic and that was near public transit. I kept coming back to this one building called Regalia in the Chow Kit/Putra World Trade Center area. It’s a 2-year old, 1,100 something unit building that is located a short walk from 3 different modes of transit: monorail, elevated train and commuter train. And most remarkable of all, it doesn’t face a highway. It faces a river and the elevated train (LRT).


The LRT train that lumbers along 30 floors below.

There is definitely some noise from the train but to me, public transportation is a happy noise. It’s the sound of infrastructure. And they don’t honk or belch out diesel smoke. And miracle of miracles, I have one room that isn’t standard issue glossy white floor. My boyfriends hairs just gather in the corner in a cute little dust bunny to be collected in a pinch. DSC03101 The reality of KL is that it’s a big, noisy, dirty, traffic-choked city. The way to survive it is to have your home be sanctuary. In my last place, the street noises were inescapable. Here at my new place, there’s a beautiful terraced fern garden, little cascades and a footpath that leads to the sky pool. Now doesn’t everyone need a fern garden footpath to the sky pool? IMG_0479 So a little bit about the sky pool on the 37th floor. A picture says a thousand words…


Click to enlarge panorama.

It’s more of a photo opportunity than a swimming pool. IMG_0474 To swim laps, you have to photo bomb the tourists’ photos and swim through a gauntlet of cameras. (A third of this building has been turned into a hotel, so there are lots of tourists on the roof.) By nightfall, it’s even more spectacular. And in a monsoon, it’s a religious experience with lightning striking around the building tops. DSC03089 So Chuan and I actually prefer to go to the 5th floor pool… DSC03092 There it is way down there. Usually no photographers or drunk parties going on down there… IMG_0508 This building would not be ideal for anyone with vertigo, by the way. On the 4th floor, there’s a nice big gym and a grocery story that carries essentials and some non-essentials. They even have some organic foods to cater to the expat clientele. Currently the building is at 68% occupancy which is great. Usually I’m the only one at the gym. IMG_0505 Now, a little bit about the neighborhood. Regalia sits right in the middle of an older Chinese neighborhood called Chow Kit where there is a fantastic market every day of the week… IMG_0518 That’s my building in the background and some seriously good potatoes in the foreground. I’ve actually never had such moist and delicious potatoes as the locally grown ones… IMG_0523 This basket of veggies cost me 7.40 Malaysian Ringgit, so that’s about $2.50 US… IMG_0488 Okra, which they call lady’s fingers here, is a favorite. Chuan pan fries them with garlic slices and some chili flakes and then serves them with crispy onion bits sprinkled on top. Ginger and limes are cheap and plentiful. Tropical tomatoes are tasteless. Dry climates are necessary to make for a tasty tomato. Avocados are completely absent from the market for some mysterious reason. IMG_0254 Pineapple is typically about 80 cents and my all time favorite. Dragon fruit is a close second for my affection. They’re usually more like $1.75 each. Have you ever seen the inside of a dragon fruit? It’s a fantasy in fuchsia. IMG_0522 I was thinking about bringing home a cow’s head but thought it might not fit in my tiny fridge. The “wet market” as they call it is not for the weak constitution. It smells of everything from fresh chicken blood, to dried fish, to burning cow’s fur. I often hear the sounds of screaming chickens as their necks are bent back and slit before being thrown flapping into a bucket to bleed out. It’s a grisly process but if you want fresh chicken, that’s about as fresh as it can get. Buckets contain muddy things slithering and crawling on each other. I’ve become even more of a vegetarian as a result of seeing (and smelling and hearing) all this. I can buy a nice big packet of fresh tempeh for 30 cents and a bag of tofu for about 75 cents.


Click to enlarge panorama of Chow Kit wet market.

Though the wet market can be an assault on one’s senses, I am drawn to it. It is fascinating and reveals a glimpse of the old Asia that I’m always on the lookout for. It’s not in a mall. It’s not air conditioned or sanitized. After a morning at the market, I head home and try to cook in my pitiful kitchen. It’s barely functional and a bit like cooking in an RV. But elaborate gourmet kitchens are more of an American thing and so I’ve just adjusted my culinary endeavors to making simpler meals, stocking up on less and eating more fresh foods — which isn’t an entirely bad thing. What’s missing in most Malaysian kitchens: hot running water, an oven, a garbage disposal, and a dishwasher. DSC03103 Watching TV here is pretty much a lost cause (outdated, censored, or sophomoric programs dominate the channels) so after dinner entertainment is usually reading, playing the clarinet, or a visit to the sky pool with some ice cream from the 4th floor store. DSC03099 Or just staring out the window — something I do a LOT of… DSC03067 Then each morning after a night of sleep undisturbed by midnight Malay motorcycle racing, I throw open the curtains to find some marvelous meteorological sunrise surprise… DSC03081 Each day is a little different. And each day is just as enchanting. DSC03005 My perspective on Kuala Lumpur has changed dramatically for the better now that I am somewhat removed from the traffic that chokes this city, and that I can find shops and markets when I walk out the door instead of honking cars and barbed-wire embassy walls. I got the boyfriend I always wanted. I got the apartment I wanted. I can afford the medical care here. DSC03042 I’ve returned to where I started, high in the air, with simple routines, but this time in a new and exotic place. Things are looking pretty good from this lofty perspective. As the slogan for the World Trade Center in New York used to say, “It’s hard to be down when you’re up.”

This, at last, feels like home.


  1. Wow. “Spectacular” is too tame a word. What gorgeous views.

    Re tomatoes, nah, a dry climate isn’t necessary. It’s humid as hell here in Maryland (except for this past, highly unusual, outrageously beautiful summer), and we grow great tomatoes. Especially heirlooms, of which Purple Cherokee are my favorite.

    And your kitchen looks perfectly fine. In fact, it looks bigger than the one I had in my first apartment in Baltimore, and I still managed to have dinner parties. (Even now, in the much bigger kitchen in our house, we don’t have a garbage disposal or dishwasher. When we renovated, I chose not to install them. Waste of time and money in my book.)

    So glad you’re enjoying life in KL!

    • Thanks, Lisa.

      Well, I¹m used to a much more extensive kitchen. I can do without all the items but I splurged on a counter-top oven with a rotisserie…for my tempeh.

      I¹ve never had a good tropical tomato. They sucked in Hawaii and Florida as well. Maybe it has to do with the length of the growing season to concentrate the sugars. That would make sense if in B¹more you¹re getting good tomatoes. Here they¹re just red bags of water. Same in Florida.

      I wish I could figure out why there are no avocados. I wonder if it¹s some stupid Muslim thing. You know Muslims don¹t do dogs, right? It¹s wonderfully absent of dogs here. I¹ve not heard or seen a dog since I arrived here which has been GREAT! But then my apartment faces a Chinese neighborhood and guess what I hear? Ugh. At least it¹s far enough away that I can close the windows and successfully tune it out.

      On 11/11/14, 9:16 PM, “Field notes from a noticer” wrote:


  2. I’m so happy that you are enjoying your life in KL. Yes, I agree that our situations usually do repeat during our lifetime. For me, the one thing that repeats is my poor choice of men! no matter how hard I try. Well, them days is over anyway.

    Is being so high up advantageous regarding the pollution? Did your apt. come furnished or did you buy your own? It looks beautiful! BTW, I’ve seen fairly large table-top ovens in CM if you have space for a table.

    I was in CM last week. I made a big mistake not taking into account holiday of Loy Kratong. Tri-Gong could put me up for five nights, not the seven I wanted. So I stayed for five nights, then switched to B2 near Pansa’s school. But I hadn’t anticipated that there would be no school on Friday. So there I was stuck in nowhere land. At least my friend Jean came and we went for lunch and shopping.

    Although Adam apologized to me every morning for his dog’s barking in the middle of the night, it did not take the place of a good night’s sleep. it was EVERY night so I am determined to stay elsewhere next time. CM was incredibly crowded, noisy and polluted. I was glad to get back to Pai. Every day has been beautiful here, not too hot with breezes all day and bright sunshine.

    There are quite a few guests staying here. I don’t know how many but I do know a couple of them from previous visits. At night, I hear someone playing a soft guitar. I’m loathe to go into town because of the tourist crowds and the dirt road is worse than ever since it was given another layer of mud a few months ago.

    I think Deb is due to be back in CM this week, and I’m looking forward to seeing her. She is one of the rare people around here that is astute, thinks logically, and not waiting for the mother ship.

    Keep your beautiful photos coming. They are lovely.

    I hope you and Chuan will continue to enjoy a happy life together. Is Chuan liking his job?

    Love, Dianna

  3. So I went back and re-read your “Where the Heck Is Kuala Lumpur?” post. Totally prescient!!! And in a good way! More about today’s lively, joy filled post later. Love to you both, Jean xoxoxo

  4. Finally read this through…so glad for your gladness! So grateful for your eye, heart and art in the world!

  5. Glad to see you are having a great time!!!

  6. […] up as I, the only white person to shop there, waded through the flies, stepping over fish parts.  You can read my original posting on it by clicking here. Someone wrote this (not me!) on […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: