The year is 1995. It’s only a few months before I turn 15 years old. My weekends primarily consist of having my dad drive me to meet up with my 3 girlfriends and spend close to an 8-hour day sitting around in Bellevue Square (“Belle Square” as we called it) or Southcenter mall. I rarely buy anything. The 4 of us mostly just hop between McDonald’s and cafes, buying as little as possible, just so we’d have a place to hang out. This was my one and only, brief encounter with life as a mall rat and I gladly left that life behind by fall of that same year.
Kuala Lumpur is unlike any other major city we’ve been to. Maybe it’s because I had seen it in movies before and it seemed so exotic and modern that I had such high expectations. It’s been well documented that I love a good city. I always knew that I’m, at heart, a city girl, but it wasn’t until this trip that I realized how much.
We stepped off the bus and quickly gathered our belongings and made a run for the station. It was another downpour. We grabbed a cab and found our way to the fancy-ish hotel we had booked for our 4-night stay in KL. Winding our way through the tree-filled hills near the bus station, I wondered when we’d finally hit the clearing and see the iconic Petronas Towers, of which our hotel was supposed to have a clear view. Ten minutes later, we finally hit the clearing and got our first glimpse of the city. Now, maybe it was the haze of grey clouds and rain, but my first thought was, “what a dump.” The mall across the street from our hotel was in the midst of being demolished to make way for a new mall. It felt like our hotel was once upon a time the place to hold your convention or major event. It once boasted close proximity to a modern, new shopping center. Now, it’s starting to show its age with cracks running around the doorways, a worn looking pool, and early 90s decor.
Granted, we weren’t staying in the city center. We chose to save some money on our splurge hotel and stay a little further outside of the city center, but we knew there was a light rail, so it didn’t seem like a big deal.
It was a big deal.
Thankfully one of our choices was a good Indian restaurant
There were approximately 3 restaurants near our hotel (counting the 1 in our hotel) where it looked safe to eat. I’m not usually down on street food or local cuisine, but I hate buffets. I’ve hated buffets since I was very young (ask my parents). What you usually find when it comes to street food in Malaysia is equivalent to a buffet, only there aren’t any chafing dishes keeping anything warm. That left only a couple of dining options in the evening if we didn’t want to spend the whole day out in the city center.
Here’s what there is to do in Kuala Lumpur – go sightseeing or go to the mall. We were done with sightseeing and as I’ve mentioned, I tried to leave my mall days back in the 90s along with my flannels. But, we had to make an exception to our usual “no malls” rule and explored mostly because, like in Bangkok, there is a treasure trove of food options in the basement. And in 95 degree heat with 75% humidity, the air conditioning lures you in with its icy breeze.
A sampling of the variety of delicacies you can find in the mall food court
We miss you fruit smoothies!
This pretty much sums up how I feel about being in a mall
We eventually tore ourselves away from the hotel and malls to see some of the sights in KL, including a glimpse of the Petronas Towers up close. Considering our apathy toward Asia at that point, the heat and humidity, and the 25 minutes it took us to get into town on the crowded monorail, I’d say we did pretty well in KL.
Our flight to Paris didn’t leave until late at night – it was a 13-hour red eye, but it was direct. I had been trying to get some exercise in at the hotel’s gym and ended up with the beginning of a terrible cold. My entire body ached and my head filled with gunk, we made our way via train to the airport. As ready as I had been feeling to move on to Europe, I suddenly got a pang of sadness. Granted, it could have been the body aches, but I think it was a bit of sorrow to be ending that chapter of our trip and saying goodbye to a continent that I had grown to love so dearly. Despite the little annoyances, the heat, and the need to always be flexible and ready to adjust, it was a tough goodbye. We don’t have a plan to return right away, but I left knowing my heart that we’d be back. I’ll make sure of it.
Cheers to you, Asia! Love, the Montgomerys and Steve Squatch