Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Kuala Lumpur

Three weeks ago Fabio mentioned to me in passing that his Spring Recess was coming up and that we should plan a trip. Excited, I asked when it was exactly. February 29 to March 4. Okay, so in two weeks? Yep. I looked all over for vacation deals, but nothing was coming together with flights on such short notice.

You know what doesn't get more expensive last minute? Bus tickets. So we packed our bags and our four-month-old into a taxi and then to the bus station to catch a "luxury coach" to Kuala Lumpur. Six hours later we were in the "Garden City of Lights." It was definitely a riskier travel strategy, but it worked out really well. There were only a few moments where I thought, "What am I doing?!?" Not the least of which was when we were finally in KL and the bus just stopped in the middle of a random street that was under construction and the driver announced we had arrived. We awkwardly unloaded everything onto the sidewalk at 10:30 pm with absolutely no idea where we were. Fortunately Fabio is 6'7" and has lived in a developing country, so he grabbed us a taxi, negotiated the price down, and we were at our hotel in no time. We stayed at the Marriott, so thankfully we didn't have any surprises there (we aren't completely crazy, you know).

As last minute and ad hoc as it was, the trip was absolutely fantastic. (After all, with Fabio anything is fun--especially when it's last minute and ad hoc!) I can't even begin to describe it, but here are six moments I hope I never forget:

1. Watching the mist rise off palm plantations as far as the eye could see. We rode a double-decker bus on the way there, and we made sure we got the four front seats on the top deck. It was like riding a roller-coaster through the Malaysian Peninsula! Jonathan's mind was blown, which was so funny to watch. The views really were amazing, and completely worth the trouble of taking the bus.

Best seats on the bus!

2. Monkeys--oh, the monkeys! I'll just apologize in advance for all the pictures of this one, but I can't help myself. The world's friendliest wild monkeys may live in Kuala Selangor (a more rural area in Malaysia). Three or four clans of silver-leafed monkeys live on a hill near the coast, and they love humans. They climbed all over my mom and me while Fabio magnified his paternal protective duties and kept them far away from Jonathan (something about diseases, I guess). We brought fifteen Ringgits worth of green beans and so the monkeys especially loved us! It was incredibly fun, but it was more than fun. At one point I looked down at one of the monkeys and I reached out my pointer finger to him. We made eye contact, he grabbed my finger with his hand, and swung onto my shoulder with only that one finger for support. I fed him some beans, and he stayed on my shoulder for quite a while as I walked around feeding his friends. There was something profound about being so personally connected to the wild for just a moment, it was almost as though time slowed down a little. Definitely a lifetime highlight, to say the least (even if Fabio made me turn my shirt inside out and practically shower in Purell before I held Jonathan again).

3. The river cruise. After the monkeys we stopped at a little restaurant by the river to have some of the most perfectly cooked vegetables I have ever had. Then we waited for our river cruise to see the world's largest concentration of fireflies that live just a few km further down stream.

Then it started to rain. Please understand that when I say rain, I mean Southeast Asia rain--which unless you have lived here you cannot comprehend its intensity. I am not exaggerating when I say buckets-full fall in a matter of minutes. It rained and rained and rained and I could watch the water level rise. It slowed down a little bit, and our really nice boat driver (I'm not sure he should be called a captain) suited us up in our life jackets and loaded us up on the boat. As he pulled away from the dock, the rain started to pour again. I thought about asking the driver to go back, but I was pretty sure he wouldn't understand me and the last thing I wanted to do was distract him. This was definitely another one of those "What are we doing?!?" moments on the trip. Thankfully the boat was covered otherwise I'm sure she would have taken on too much water. The best part is that the fireflies don't come out in the rain. We still saw way more than I've ever seen before, but nothing like what they apparently usually are. All we could do was laugh and laugh--it was just too crazy to do anything else!

As it started to rain on the boat we took a picture for posterity, just in case. 
Thankfully Jonathan was sound asleep through most of it.

4. The dizzying view from the 86th-floor observation deck of the Petronas Towers. Fabio has a affinity for tall things, and so of course we had to make time to see the fifth tallest building in the world. I have to admit, the idea of seeing something just for its virtue of being tall seemed kind of silly, but these buildings were incredible. Fabio's excitement was entertainment enough, but the views were spectacular and the towers themselves were beautiful. I stand corrected.

A life dream fulfilled--he finally met the "Fabio of buildings"
(very tall, but not the tallest)

5. How grateful I felt when I saw rows and rows of homes made of plastic scraps and pieces of corrugated metal. It felt wrong to take a picture, so no visual for this one. As we drove out of KL and into the countryside I felt a wave of gratitude for what we have here in Singapore. I was so ashamed for thinking my life was hard because I have cockroaches in my drains, geckos in my kitchen, and white tile floors that are impossible to get clean. Our apartment is fantastic. It has air-conditioning, and plumbing, and hot water (sort of), and electricity, and windows, and doors, and a sound roof just to get started. Sure it's a pain to take a taxi to the grocery store and hope they have what I want, but I can take a taxi to the grocery store and buy whatever I want! I promised myself that I wouldn't just be more grateful when we got home, but more generous too--because we are too blessed for words.

6. Malaysian Baby Star. Everywhere we went, people were CRAZY for Jonathan. Men, women, teenagers, children, locals, tourists, it didn't make any difference. They all loved J. There aren't a lot of Westerners in KL like there are in Singapore, and a white baby was a true novelty. People would stare at him from across restaurants, play with him in lines, stop us in the malls, markets, even the bathrooms! When they realized he had blue eyes they would squeal with delight and call their friends to come see. I stopped counting at 15, but I think if we had a dollar for every person who took their picture with him we could have paid for Jonathan's portion of the trip.

Just two of the dozens of random strangers who approached us out of the blue 
with their cameras asking us to take their picture with Jonathan.
(I think these men said they were from Saudi Arabia.)

I'm probably biased, but with peepers like these who can blame them?

All in all, I was definitely bit by the travel bug while we were there. I'm already searching for travel deals to our next adventure in hopes that some planning ahead will make for an even better trip (if that's possible)!


  1. I hope it's not weird that I found your blog, but I'm so glad your trip went well! I wish we'd done the fireflies too...and the Cameron Highlands. All the more reason to go back I guess! Isn't funny how much everyone LOVES white babies?

  2. You guys are so lucky to be able to see all that stuff, I'm jealous! Also, I miss you :) P.S. Jonathan is adorable