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We're Not There Yet

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Arriving in KL (Malaysia) | We're Not There Yet

You know you’re really traveling when the diarrhea begins. We arrived in Malaysia only a day and a half ago and I am already worried about shitting my pants. Of course, the prospect is pretty horrific, but it announces that we are traveling again and back in a world that is not so well laid out and sanitized. Emphasis on that last bit.

For me, traveling is about seeing new sights, experiencing new cultures, eating new foods, sometimes being uncomfortable, but in all this is a sense of discovery. Nevermind that we are not so intrepid that we ever find ourselves more than a day or two away from a banana-pancake breakfast and a reggae-themed hostel. But even if we are not the first backpackers to touch the soil in a place, the sense of newness is just as powerful. This- as opposed to our experience in New Zealand where we were more likely to meet a German while checking into a room for the night and few locals could work up much enthusiasm for meeting yet another pair of touring cyclists (that really took away some of our thunder)- is why we are here.

They look pretty cool from the ground for free

We arrived in Kuala Lumpur (KL) after 10pm, still lugging around armfuls of panniers, which don’t fit nearly as well on the human frame as they do on a bicycle. Arranging cheap transport to the center of town was a breeze and we were dropped off in the heart of Chinatown around midnight. Juggling our collection of bags and wandering through the mostly shuttered street where we would eventually find our hotel, the first thing that hit us was the heat. The second thing to hit us was the fact that we would be feasting on Asian food non-stop for the foreseeable future. We were more than willing to put up with the one for the other.

We had budgeted two days in KL to see the sights and get over jetlag. We declined to go to the top of the Petronas towers, which our guidebooks had said we’d be able to manage for free, but actually cost $17 per person (it took us 9 years of living in New York to finally go up to the Empire State Building on a whim; maybe we’ll revisit the towers in a decade or so). Still, we saw the uber-modern KLCC downtown area, then wandered from there to Kampung Baru (the Malaysian, as opposed to Indian or Chinese, part of town). That’s all we really did for sight-seeing. Our book tells us that we could have done walking tours of a half a dozen neighborhoods, visit as many museums, see some shows, shop for designer handbags (or, more aptly, knock-offs). We skipped all that. The truth is, once you get past the surface, many big cities feel familiar pretty quickly. We felt comfortable right away and, while we’re sure that there is a ton to do and see that we passed on, it seems to be an itinerary better suited to someone with a full week to fill up. We were content just to be in Malaysia, to eat good, cheap (if vengeful) noodles and get ourselves together so we’d be ready to head out to see the rest of the country for a few weeks.

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