Tuesday, July 6
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
A mini-drama unfolded today. I lost my hat! That may not sound like much to you, big guy, but it was a big deal to me, because it's a safari hat especially for trekking, made out of fabric that is light and breathable with sun protection and a Coolmax headband to keep the sweat off of my face. I'd most likely not be able to find a similar replacement down here, and any other thick safari-type hat would be oppressively hot.
I checked all of the places I stopped yesterday--7-Eleven, the Old China Cafe and even a juice stand where I bought a really sweet strawberry yogurt drink. No one saw it. Then I remembered that I may have tucked it between my backpack and its rain cover. Sure enough, that's where it turned up. I was so stoked, I felt like doing the happy dance.
I then walked straight out under the sun and into the edges of the Muslim world of Kuala Lumpur. I shot a bunch of photos in an area a few blocks South of Chinatown, dominated by a stunning, stark white, minimal Islamic skyscraper called the Dayabumi. I almost got rained on by the downspray from a building washer way up near the top of it. Ironically, the area all around there was pretty weathered and trash-filled. Across the street was a rad-lookng Islamic fountain that didn't look very old, but even it had already been neglected and fallen into ruins.
From there, I spied the Menara Kuala Lumpur, and schlepped well over a mile to its location in the Golden Triangle. Informally known as the KL Tower, it's the fifth tallest communications tower in the world, and, at 276 meters, offers the best 360 degree view of this enormous metropolis. (Although the Petronas Towers are taller, their observation deck is only on the 41st floor.) I spent over an hour up at the top from 7:00 to 8;00 p.m. which was the perfect time to watch day turn into night and see all of the pretty lights come on. Unfortunately, the view was somewhat obscured by large, cylindrical supports that crisscrossed over the windows; and the benches, which were made of narrow tubes, were insanely uncomfortable.
The tower featured an elaborate tourist complex, complete with myriad souvenir stands and snack bars, a small animal park, a Malaysian cultural village featuring facades of traditional kampung houses filled with more souvenirs, and a plain white performance hall downstairs, where I watched a traditional Malaysian music and dance performance. Oddly, the musicians played first, offering up a half hour's worth of melodic tunes, then, unfortunately, the dancers performed to canned music! (Obviously the emotional impact would be much greater if they would combine the two.)
The first number featured a lovely traditional Malaysian dance with beautiful performers in colorful outfits, followed by a slow, mesmerizing fan dance by Muslim girls wearing all black, and ending with teenagers dancing in t-shirts and jeans. The latter seemed more like an informal rehearsal, as they oddly started practicing again after the music stopped. I was really sleepy, so I power-walked my way through some really dodgy-looking streets back to the Red Dragon hostel in Chinatown.