Just as I’m finishing up my meal on Jalan Alor, a street lined with restaurants – tables and chairs set up in the street – I feel a few drops, and then I see umbrellas being set up around the tables. I finish my beer, pay, and start walking. Within five minutes, it’s pouring. It’s that kind of downpour that you knew would come, that you even hoped would come, when it’s still hot and humid when the sun goes down.
Walking under overhangs and ducking under tarps strewn over kiosks, I pass a number of restaurants, shops, and massage parlors in the Golden Triangle: the tourist district of Kuala Lumpur. The women soliciting for massages are all done-up, and make me suspect that there are other services available if requested.
I decide to walk around town a bit, and I plan poorly. Outside of Chinatown, Little India, and the Golden Triangle, KL isn’t really a walking city. You’re best on the LRT (light rail) or bus. My little walk impresses me with the scale of the roads here. There are massive highways and roads going every direction. Grand avenues, which are pretty tricky to cross without crosswalks, intersect more large avenues. In their infinite wisdom, city planners installed wide city streets to accommodate plenty of cars. The traffic situation does not bear the fruits of this miscalculation. Lucky for residents of KL, there exists plenty of refuge within city limits.
Batu Caves, a Hindu shrine built into caves north of the center of KL, and accessible by a short ride of the Light Rail, is one of these welcome escapes. Inside there are colorful statues, cool temperatures, monkeys, roosters, and a mix of tourists and pilgrims. The people there for spiritual reasons aren’t too keen on the monkeys running around, stealing food, flowers, and whatever else they can find. The tourists, though, can’t get enough of them. One clever guy decides to give one some crackers, and is promptly joined by ten new friends that grab at his clothes when he runs out.
I decide to give it one more try walking around the touristy parts of town. I’ve seen a few temples and mosques, and the old train station. Minarets, statues, arabesque designs, pretty colors, and no shoes. All that stuff.
I visit Blue Boy Vegetarian Center, a place that pretty much describes itself. It’s situated in an alley on the ground floor of a tenement building. I get a big plate of Chinese/Malay food with rice for what is probably white person prices, but still really cheap and delicious.
The streets of the Golden Triangle are filled with shoppers. It is a long row of malls, or one big mall, whichever way you want to look at it. I consider going into the Rolex store, which has a total of four items displayed, but think better of it. I wonder over to the row of bars that advertise their happy hour deals. This is where you get your Guinness and Pizza in KL. I’m unsure what a “tower” of beer is, but I’m assuming it’s for a group of people considering the price. Apparently, they’re a good deal.
On the deck of the sports bar that I settle down at, an approaching middle-aged white guy is having a beer with an Asian woman of about the same age. My first instinct tells me this guy is a sex-pat. But I try to give them both the benefit of the doubt. On the deck of the bar next to ours, the exact same situation is unfolding. I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. I’m just being judgmental and cynical. It’s just a coincidence. I wish I had more there, but that’s it.
KL has its draw. It’s got the Petronus Towers (just talk it into your pillow-sized phone), great food, and plenty of rain. That sounds good, right? I’m being cynical again.