Thursday, April 19, 2012

Kuala Lumpur again

I'm sat in an internet cafe surrounded by kids playing World of Warcraft wasting time before my flight back to Japan. This is the end of the little trip which has been fun.

I went to Melaka which is the old capital of Malaysia which was filled with Dutch and Portuguese traders and then British colonialists long before KL was even a city. It also has Chinese and Indian influences as well which makes it full of history and culture with grand old European buildings serving package tours to bus loads of tourists. For some reason amongst all the history and grand old architecture somebody, somewhere decided that the best way to experience all of this would be on a trishaw (a bicycle with a side car for two) which are then coloured pink or yellow or red or every colour there is. And decorated with plastic flowers and lights and umbrellas. And music. Dance music. Loud Dance music. So, there you are walking amongst old Churches and colonial villas and independence memorials to be greeted by Boom Shake Shake The Room rattling your ears as three or four of these luminous bicycle taxis roll past with some tourists on them. It's all a bit incongruous. A bit like been shown around Stonehenge by a clown. Fortunately Melaka also has some fantastic night markets, amazing food, friendly people, a very laid back style and an outdoor, open-air, cheap-beer-serving, big screen Saturday night football venue.

I got a bus from Melaka to Singapore. Well, i thought i got a bus from Melaka to Singapore but i guess the driver was in a rush as he just left us at the Singapore side of the border after we'd cleared immigration. With no Singapore dollars and no idea i ventured out into the rain storm. Welcome to Singapore.

I'd heard mixed things about Singapore. Some say it's the best city in Asia. Some say it's dull and bland. It's neither. You can tell it's a planned city from the moment you start walking down the streets. In fact, at times it feels planned to the point to being stage managed. As if the taxis and pedestrians were meant to be in those places at those times, being directed there and following orders. It's not very organic. All shiny and new and engineered. There's the CBD area which could be anywhere in the world with global banks, global shops and global people all working and playing by the river at the quays. And there were lots of fat western people jogging around the quays as well for some reason. Then there's Little India which is a wonderful place to get lost in with its knots of streets and smells, sights and sounds making it almost authentically Indian. All that's missing is some cows ambling down the streets holding up traffic. Chinatown, with it's usual Chinatown shops and restaurants and coughing men and haggling women, seemed to complete the centre of Singapore. The West, China and India all in one city but all separate and engineered for your own personal flavour and preference. Outside of that is the rest of the place which seems to be filled with apartment blocks, shopping malls and people speaking a weird indecipherable language that is a mix of English, Chinese and who knows what else. If Singapore was a person it would probably have some kind of multiple personality disorder or at least be seeking therapy for an identity crisis.

I got back to Malaysia last night content at seeing a brief glimpse of an interesting little country. I've walked down streets here that have Hindu temples, Buddhist temples, Mosques and Churches. All on one street and everybody's fine about it. How do you do that, Malaysia? And why do you insist on outdoor karaoke at sights of extreme natural beauty or historical significance? Who designed the Melaka Independence Memorial and can you get you money back? Which idiot decided to completely privatise your bus network? Turning up at a bus station to be greeted by 10 different bus companies going to 25 different destinations at 4 different prices at various different times isn't better for anybody, is it? What makes your taxi drivers so happy and chatty? And how can we convince the rest of the world to use as much cucumber in their cooking as you do?

I'll be back in Tokyo tonight hopefully finding more unanswerable questions that nobody gives a toss about. Keep moving.

No comments:

Post a Comment