Saturday, January 15, 2011

Broken yet again

Rain, Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur is a strange city, particularly so when you arrive from Hong Kong, God's own experiment in how much concrete you can put in one place before the inhabitants go mental and start choppering each other to death. KL was hacked out of a jungle that keeps threatening to return, so swathes of the city are green forest, with the occasional random enormous building that appears to have teleported in from the 25th century. Perhaps because it's only been a city for a few decades, rather than a loose collection of villages, the transportation hasn't been quite worked out. If it rains, all the traffic stops (and there's a lot of traffic). When all the shops shut at ten, all the traffic stops for an hour too, as everyone tries to drive home at once.

To make me feel at home, all the LRT trains were chilled to a similar glacial temperature to Hong Kong. I was glad my fiancee had made me pack a wool sweater, which is a strange thing to say when you're holidaying in a tropical city that's at 28 degrees. This morning I spent struggling with a hangover from last night's beer, and then plodding through three hours of martial arts training.

Then, this afternoon, I kicked somebody ineptly and did something awful to my left big toe, the same one that I broke two months ago, when I was last inept, hungover and exhausted. It's swollen up and turned a different colour again. (I'd say a funny colour, but when it's your extremities that are involved, you tend to lose your sense of humour.) So I spent the remaining hours of the training session with my foot in a bath of ice, hoping that it wasn't broken again, and it was just the results of not exercising my toe for two months, and then putting it through its paces again. We'll see - I won't be training tomorrow, anyway, or until it stops giving me twinges of pain and is a colour match for my right foot.

Afterwards, I went back to the hotel and had a hot bath (the first time I've had a bath that I can remember since 2009), but this was so hot a bath that I needed to have a shower afterwards to clean off all the sweat, and then, because we were in Kuala Lumpur, we went to Nando's for dinner. Ah, sweet, sweet fried chicken that I can't eat because I'm a vegetarian. At least I could have the peri fries (which didn't have enough peri peri on them, but then they didn't seem to have been properly fried either, so perhaps that evens out), and a bean salad that never materialised on the table, while my accomplices dined well on vast amounts of fried chicken. (Sadly the vegetarian burger hasn't made it outside Nando's UK, so my hoped for treat was denied.)

It started to rain. (Rain is quite organised in Malaysia, and occurs at about the same time every night, for two hours, then stops again. A bit more organised than the traffic, a ruder tourist might suggest.) We ate some sub-par frozen yoghurt at Tutti Frutti Yoghurt (which should be expected, seeing as Tutti Frutti is a flavour of ice-cream, frozen yoghurt's mortal enemy) then headed over to yet another of the enormous shopping malls that fill Kuala Lumpur's empty spaces, where the locals were utterly thrashed on beer by eight p.m.

I understand why though. I know that in the UK there's a problem with binge drinking, but the local authorities wouldn't let bars get away with the 'Whisky Beer Challenge'. At the Sanctuary in KL, every Friday night, the first 3 people to drink 3 Whisky Beers (I assume a beer with a whisky in it, let's not try to be too imaginative) win a cash prize, and the fastest one to drink five more wins a bigger prize. I'm not sure what it's a Sanctuary from, apart from needless sobriety, but you would think that a bar that was offering a prize to whoever got shitfaced the fastest might be looked upon somewhat harshly by any licensing authority with any sense of responsibility. Or not. Drink on, Malays!

One good thing about Kuala Lumpur, at least from the vague impression you pick up as a tourist, is that religious differences aren't anything to worry about. Yes, you have lots of women walking around with headscarves on, but you also have lots of women walking around with pelmets that have been hastily adopted as skirts, and a couple of handkerchiefs to keep the rest of them warm. Yet there's no any sign that either group are enraged by the other, and in fact everyone just seems to get on. Which seems to be in contradiction to the waves of paranoia that I get whenever I'm daft enough to read the Daily Mail and discover that waves of Islamic immigrants will shortly be Ruining Our Precious Way Of Life, or House Prices, or Prince William's Wedding, or Something Something Something. Now, that is only my vague impression from wandering around here for two days, but that's something, isn't it?

So, what have I learned:

wear a jumper when it's hot outside
don't kick people
KL may be a model of religious tolerance, or at least everyone-trying-to-get-along, but it hasn't figured out responsible drinking yet
... and Hong Kong has better frozen yoghurt.

Off to bed then, with these momentous discoveries ringing in my ears.


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