Let me start this by mentioning that I’ve always had big plans for me and Malaysia. I do this, you see, have grandiose fantasies about myself and the places I’ll visit. They say to always visit places with an open mind and an open heart, which is precisely what I never do. I don’t start with a clean slate, I start with wildly romantic expectations. I’m nostalgic about the place before I even land.
The thing is, I don’t love Kuala Lumpur. Not at all. The truth be told, I’ve never actually enjoyed myself there. The heat is sticky and the air is filthy (and not in the exhilarating way Bangkok seems to be) and it’s gritty (and not in the edgy way Hong Kong seems to be). It just seems to be a bit grotty and a bit boring all at once. The taxi drivers, intimidating and rude. The streets eerily abandoned or nauseatingly abrupt. The whole place just seems to hover somewhere between worn out and blandly pretentious. It’s probably my own fault, for not giving it the chance it truly deserved, for delegating it to the place of convenient stopovers and, in that year I spent living in Thailand, a place of handy visa runs. On my last visit, the time I officially broke up with Kuala Lumpur, and Malaysia as a whole, I was on the back end of a week of food poisoning and delayed flights and insurance companies that were less than cooperative. Elements that no doubt, monopolised my regard for the place, but the fact of the matter is that each trip there was an endurance.
Though now firmly settled back in Australia, those familiar pangs of nostalgia are starting to kick in. I’m home and I’m restless and I’m bored, and anxiously awaiting a chance to jump on a plane and explore somewhere far away. Wanderlust has effectively manifested itself as illness to the point that it hurts, and I’m starting to appreciate all the beautiful things in Kuala Lumpur that I so flatly dismissed last time.
Things ike the hauntingly beautiful call to prayer, and the little shelves of bonsai trees hidden down lost alleyways. Things like those soft, green pandan cakes, steamed inside bamboo, swirled with sticky palm sugar caramel and dusted with coconut (Putu Bamboo Tradisi makes the best ones). Things like those balmy nights on Jalan Hang Lekir, with confetti lights and whole fish barbecued over hot coals, dressed with a smattering of fresh herbs, eaten on plastic card tables that spill out onto the road. There’s times like when that sweet old man that wouldn’t accept money for the handful of fresh dates that I had chosen. There’s the reassuring smell of roasting chestnuts wafting everywhere. There’s sticky mango hands and things wrapped in pandan leaves. There’s those nutty little redbean pastries. I suppose what I’m attempting to say, is that whether by hindsight or homesickness for the road, KL is really starting to grow on me.