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Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur

The muddy confluence which gives Kuala Lumpur its name
This is the muddy confluence from which Kuala Lumpur takes its name

After exploring Melaka, I jumped on the bus for Kuala Lumpur. Kuala Lumpur is the capital of Malaysia, and in the local language the name means 'muddy confluence', an apt description of the two rather brown rivers that meet in the city centre. Despite the name, Kuala Lumpur is a very smart place; it's a far cry from the large conurbations of Indonesia.

The Petronas Twin Towers from the top of the Menara Kuala Lumpur
The Petronas Twin Towers from the top of the Menara Kuala Lumpur

Monsoon Confluence

The Petronas Twin Towers
The massive Twin Towers dominate the KL skyline

Arriving in KL on Thursday, Franco1 and I found a place, wandered around town for a while, and ended up eating in a steam café. A steam café is not unlike a fondue, except you dip your meat into boiling water rather than oil; it's a pleasant way to eat, there on the sidewalk, watching the world go by. And it's a great place to be when the rain kicks in.

Exploring KL

The Selangor Club in Merdeka Square
The Selangor Club in Merdeka Square

The next day, with Franco occupied with his new arrival, I wandered the streets of KL alone. The scorching sun shone on streets of choking traffic and gleaming buildings, and it wasn't long before I found myself falling for KL's charms. It doesn't have the insanity of Indonesia2, but it does have a depth of character that is increasingly hard to find in slick Singapore. The Chinatown area, where I was staying, is just like any other Chinatown in the world – noisy, bustling streets with millions of shops, restaurants, stalls, people and smells – but KL has character beyond Chinatown. The buildings are the main attraction; with everything from colonial architecture (like magnificent Merdeka Square) to local (the many mosques and temples) to ultra-modern (the skyscrapers), KL is a great place to walk around. I spent two days just exploring.

The Menara Kuala Lumpur reflected in a skyscraper
The Menara Kuala Lumpur reflected in a skyscraper
The Sultan Addul Samad building in Merdeka Square
The Sultan Addul Samad building in Merdeka Square, central Kuala Lumpur
Merdeka Square
The greenery of Merdeka Square

In some societies, a wife's hospitality included her sexual services. She had no right to refuse such arrangements. On the Aleutian Islands, southwest of Alaska, etiquette required that men should place their wives at the disposal of guests. Among the Eskimo and other societies that practised wife exchange and wife hospitality, the wife had no right to volunteer herself to another man. Such a liaison was adultery and the Eskimo husband would assault the lover, or challenge him to a song contest.

A song contest? Aren't museums wonderful places...

1 An entertaining Italian whom I met in Melaka, Franco was meeting his girlfriend off the plane the next day and was hoping to use the travelling experience to keep her off the heroin she'd been hooked on until recently. I hope it worked.

2 I've started to encounter a larger diversity of travellers, now that I'm on a real backpackers' thoroughfare, but most of the people I've met haven't been to Indonesia, either because they have yet to go there, or because they've skipped it on the way north; and absolutely nobody I've met has been outside of Sumatra, Java, Bali and Lombok. On the other hand, those who have been to Indonesia and who have also travelled through Southeast Asia are quite adamant that Indonesia is the hardest and most frustrating place to travel in the area, and in the rest of Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent, only India is more challenging. This reassures me quite a bit, especially after the frustrations I felt in the outer reaches of Indonesia; I hope reality bears this theory out.