Update 3: Butterflies and Foreigners

Thursday January 26th, 11:04pm MYT, 2:04am 27th AEDST

Today was, well, long. We resolved to leave the house by 7:00am, and were held to it by Jacop’s offer of a lift in to the nearest train station. It’s still dark at 7am here! Pre-dawn. It looked like an Australian 5:30am, it was bizarre. Regardless, we crawled out of bed, showered, climbed into the car and hurled ourselves into the wonderful world of the local public transport.

We spent half an hour on what we considered an incredibly crowded train. Good joke… We realised exactly how wrong we were when we were coming home during peak hour. Chaos. After reaching ‘KL Sentral’, we hesitantly changed trains and headed out to KLCC to visit the top of the iconic twin towers. We wandered around the shopping centre for a bit (and discovered the Discovery Centre! …which was closed) before decided to pass on the towers until Saturday. Personally I’m more excited for the Discovery Centre than the towers; for science! We’re thinking we’ll go back on Saturday morning, after we leave the orphanage and stay a night or two in the city.

Unsurprisingly, nearly everything in the neighbouring shopping centre was closed (Chinese New Year strikes again) so we grabbed the nearest taxi and headed over to Merdeka Square (AKA Independence Square) where in 1957 the Union Jack was lowered for the last time. Or so we hear. We came into the middle of a “celebration for the king” in Merdeka stadium; we know very little Bahasa, but our helpful taxi driver described it as such. We saw a marching band — twice — and spent some time in the Kuala Lumpur Gallery, from which stems our bountiful knowledge of its foundations. We got a lot of “Welcome to Malaysia! Where are you from?” from the people with whom we crossed paths — surely we’re not that obvious…? The warmth communicated by so many strangers definitely shows up Sydney.

After the museum we took a meandering stroll through a nearby park/garden — think Botanical Gardens, but bigger, more rambling and less manicured. After much deliberation at one fork in the path (do we want Bird Park and ‘Deer and Mousedeer Park’ or the Butterfly Garden?) we decided butterflies were more worthy of our time (and Ringgits). Brilliant choice. Basically a giant greenhouse filled with, in ascending order of volume, lizards, frogs, fish, people, turtles, butterflies and humidity. We felt like we were wading through the air, but it was worth it. On the way out there was a bit of a museum section full of terrariums/tanks/display cases containing various wildlife, both alive and preserved, as well as the obligatory gift shop (Aladdin pants: check). “A little shop! I love a little shop.”

After deciding we’d had enough of butterflies and damp air, we retired to the air-conditioned cool of Central Market, north of Chinatown. Lunch was a mixture of crispy bread with banana and chocolate, toast, iced drinks and soy noodles, as well as a distinct lack of Internet… The free wifi is almost always a lie. It’s rather disconcerting not having the Internet at my fingertips to check maps, trading hours, train times, etc., but it’s so much more enjoyable being thrown into an unknown world without any help; I learn so much more about where I am and how to get around when I’m not asking Google to tell me what I’m supposed to do. After lunch we navigated the twisting corridors of the markets, finding little to buy but much being sold and much to observe.

On our walk from Central Market to Chinatown (similarly directed by an overly helpful taxi driver), we were approached by an Australia guy asking if we were lost — we weren’t, but he was nonetheless lovely — and got caught for over twenty minutes in a conversation about travel; the best and worst airlines, the quickest routes, the most stunning Greek islands. He recommended a few hotels which we investigated later in the day; if all goes to plan we’ll have accommodation in an attractive hotel in the middle of Chinatown. At the moment we’re planning on leaving the Shepherd’s Centre Foundation lunchtime Friday, so we might stay Saturday and Sunday night in KL, and then head up to Penang on Monday, and then maybe Phuket. We might travel up the west coast of Thailand… Holly and I want to spend some time on Thailand’s beaches; I can’t remember the last time I went on a beach holiday as a tourist. What a novelty. Jas is keen for Chiang Mai, by which time we might fly back to KL to fly home. I’m glad we decided to come for the full month; it gives us so much more freedom to casually move around, instead of having to stick to a schedule.

Chinatown was thoroughly enjoyable, albeit a tad sweltering. Streets upon streets of shops and stalls, piled high with unreasonably cheap stock. The later it was in the day, the more persuasive the hawkers became; their sales pitches often sparked a few interesting conversations. We met a Dutch couple over dinner at a street stall selling roti, on their fifth of seven months of their worldwide backpacking trip, who are staying a street or two over from where we’ll be next week. When we went to check for vacancies at the hotel we’d decided upon, we met our travel-obsessed Australian friend Ian in the lobby, which amused both parties. If we ever feel like travelling to the Greek isles, I suppose he’ll come in useful.

The train trip back was unbelievably crowded; the train we were planning on catching filled to bursting point almost as soon as it pulled in, leaving about a third of the hundreds of people packed onto the platform to wait for the next one — the train was full to the point of doors closing on the people on the outer edges of the crush inside the carriages. We, bemused trio, waited it out for fifteen minutes, but it wasn’t too much better the next time; standing room only, amidst a crush of bodies and heat the struggling air conditioning system couldn’t handle. The humid air never felt sweeter than the escape out into the night air of Kajang.

Tonight we spent a little while working on the website, with hopes to finish as much as we can by tomorrow afternoon. We won’t be able to get the site live until we get back to Australia due to the appalling consistency of Internet here, but we want to get as much content proof read and approved as we can, to minimise lengthy email communication when we get home. Apparently Michael’s going to take us on a bit of a tour tomorrow evening, so we’ll be staying until Saturday, rather than Friday as originally planned. The Discovery Centre will just have to wait until Sunday… I probably won’t miss the Chinese New Year crackers — which, apparently, are illegal? You’d have no idea from everyone’s behaviour — but I’m going to miss this friendly little village.

We’re all curled up in bed now; Jas and Holly watching Jumanji (of all things) and me typing away. I’m loving it here; the freedom, the differences, the sheer number of possible plans. Splendid.

P.S. Feel free to email me! I enjoy updates from home. I hear it’s flooding on the North Coast? Surely everyone is surprised and no one is prepared, right…

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2 responses to “Update 3: Butterflies and Foreigners

  • Coop

    Hello Favorite Daughter! It has stopped raining now, last couple of days, and so the water has receded and the valleys reappear. Had Craig Callum and Millie come visit! They missed you. Love reading your words – you’re a good writer. Love to Jas and Holly.

  • Lois

    Love the way you write, Shelley. So clever. Keep it up, please.

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