|On Tuesday I left Bali sadly for Kuala Lumpur once again, thinking I would have an easy time of it with Malaysia Airlines' lenient 20 kg baggage policy. Instead, I encountered the one asshole who works for Malaysia Airlines who was determined to make an example of me. He decided that my new batik bag (which I was calling my carryon) and my very small purple day pack BOTH constituted carryons and that was "not allowed". Fine, I said. I will stuff one into the other and then it will be one piece. Are you happy now? Nope, he was not happy. He then weighed my batik bag and determined that it was 1.5 kg too heavy. By the way, almost no one who works for the airlines who is not also a member of the Nazi party would bother to weigh people's carryons. Fine, I said. I will take a few books out of the fucking bag and put them into the bag I am checking in which is not over the weight limit. Are you happy now? It's 7.3 kg now. Is the extra 0.3 kg more than you can tolerate??? Then he decided that the few wood pieces I was carrying which weighed a few ounces each constituted "carry-on" as well. By this time I was in a sweat. I asked what had I done to make him so unhappy and what it would take to make him happier. Checking in those wooden pieces would absolutely, definitely, break them. I could understand his making trouble for me if he was pocketing the extra fees he would have liked to charge me, but no! Finally I resolved the issue to some satisfaction after begging his supervisor to treat me like a human being.|
Compared to all that buildup, the flight was a boring noneventful 3 hours to Kuala Lumpur. Then a heinous hour waiting in immigration behind a huge number of people in red-and-white jackets saying "New Life". I shuddered to ask, since I am not terribly interested in salvation or reincarnation. Anyway I guess the Malaysian officials had a lot of questions in their minds too, so the process was godawfully slow.
After an efficient ride on the KL Express train, my host Siew Cheng (from CS) was waiting for me at Sentral. She is a lovely person originally from Johor Bahru living in the Maluri area of KL and teaching in a school for tourism and hospitality management. Her hospitality is a good example, I'm sure!! She has a master's and is actually thinking of doing a Ph.D. project about the Couchsurfing phenomenon. I think it would be fascinating.
I was exhausted and crashed early that night (probably from the ordeal with the baggage check-in). However, I awoke early the next morning and Siew Cheng gave me some great advice and guidance about taking the public bus to Batu Caves, a 45 minute ride away from KL downtown where there is a huge cave system and within it a Hindu temple. Oh, but first you must climb 272 steps to get there. It was really impressive, and I wanted to do something Hindu-ish since I had missed Deepavali which ironically they don't observe in Bali though Bali is Hindu, it's its own special brand of Hinduism. At the uppermost part of the cave, I both realized that the SD card in my camera was stuck in a locked position and I could not take any photos, and also that there was a large family of maybe 12 macaques who were playing around amusingly. One level down there were roosters wandering around -- I couldn't figure that one out!
For more on Batu caves, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batu_Caves for a terrific discussion. One of the most impressive things is the huge 42 meter tall statue of Lord Murugan, who I've never met before yesterday, but he was very golden ;-)
Halfway down the 272 steps I realized I did indeed have another SD memory card I could delete some photos off of in order to take photos, so then I climbed up the rest of the steps again! Sadly the macaques were gone by that point and some staff told me they were "resting" -- but at least I had gotten to see them, and take photos of the other aspects of the temple and caves.
I then went to one of the nearby Indian vegetarian restaurants at the foot of the caves where it was absolutely mobbed at 11 am plus I was the only non-Indian there, so I figured (and rightly so) that the masala dosa would be lovely!
On the way back on the bus, some Nigerian guy started trying to chat me up while totally ignoring my body language that was busily shouting "leave me alone!" I told him I was leaving the next day, which was true, but he still wanted to get my phone number. I had to tell him "that only really would make sense if both parties were equally interested, which is not the case" and he finally got the message and got off the bus without my number.
Once back in town with my daily cultural exploration needs met, it was time for some last-minute *shopping*, involving a special Deepavali shoe sale at Sogo, a number of products I deemed necessary to buy at supermarkets, and stocking up on two more 8 GB SD cards so I would not have memory storage problems again in the near future. Overall, a success. In the middle of this it started absolutely POURING rain (a little spillover from the typhoons in the Philippines??) and I started to think yes, perhaps now IS the time to leave Asia.
Siew Cheng met up with me and we went for a lovely dinner at a really nice restaurant near Jalan Alor featuring her "hometown" Hakka cuisine. Ultra yum. There was a great vegetable named Kailan -- or perhaps it's the way it was prepared? :)
This morning I caught up on internet stuff, haggled with a taxi driver, took the taxi to the train to the plane, saw the nice Deepavali display,
then took the plane to Taipei, and I am now in Taipei using the copious and generous free internet and waiting for the plane to San Francisco. Oh, and free massage chairs in the Zen relaxation center.
Sad to be coming home, but I have had some terrific adventures and met some absolutely wonderful people. I will find it hard to readjust to work and to the wasteful, "throw-away," often-entitled culture of the US, but very very easy to readjust to high quality toilet paper and the lack of mosquitoes ;-)
Hopefully soon after getting home I will upload some photos to this site to make it worth looking at again :) Also look out in the future for the addition of my past travels which will be easy to cut and paste from their original text form.
I would love to hear from people once I'm home! Hope you've enjoyed this almost as much as I have :)