MALAYSIA – part 1 21 February 2018

Kuala Lumpur (the capital of Malaysia) was one of my dream destinations. I fell in love with the country from a documentary; also the towers appeared in every travel book. For me everything starts with something small. I see something or hear a story about a place, and it’s enough to form a dream to pursue. Same happened here. When I watched this documentary, I liked the capital Kuala Lumpur very much. It seemed exotic and distant and, most importantly, an interesting place. It was enough to start drawing plans how to get there. And here came the summer when I left for Thailand. It was a good reason to visit Malaysia as well. When you are an avid traveller, you inevitably become a good geographer. I think if I were to study geography now, I would be an A student. So, I started preparing. Studying the destination starts from the Internet. First I see the photos on Google images. So I get to know the main sights. Then I study what it costs. Whether it’s an expensive country, and so on. I draw my own programme and mark the places where I want to go, how to get there, what local food to try, is there a popular national dish.

We arrived to Kuala Lumpur from Singapore by bus (at that time I visited also Singapore and Cambodia, but I’ll tell you about these trips another time). A very luxurious bus with comfortable beds and an unpleasant air conditioner that maintained temperature of 17-18°C, just enough to die from the cold. Upon entering the city, Petronas Towers, the twin towers in Asia, could be seen from afar. They were seen from all points of the city. I assumed the orientation in the city would be easy. When there is a building or a hill that can be seen from everywhere, you cannot get lost in a strange city. For a first time I decided not to book a hotel in advance. I wanted to see if you can find a great hotel in a big city without booking. An experiment. It turned out a very difficult task. I was with Yavor and Lak (my friends, Yavor Vesselinov is an actor and Lak was his girlfriend from Thailand). It took me a long time to persuade them it wouldn’t be that difficult. We went to Kuala Lumpur’s central bus station. The crowd of people spread very far. We had big bags without wheels. We shouldered the bags and started to make our way through the people. We tried to find a currency exchange desk. We didn’t find any. It took us about an hour to get out of the station on the street. Ok, and now? Where to? Is this the centre? Do people understand English here? I asked a person something, he shook his head incomprehensibly … So, well, they don’t understand English! Then I looked at Yavor and Lak. They were furious. I forgot to say that all this happened at 1 pm in scorching heat and 100% humidity.

I began to convince them that I have a good nose and much luck and that we would be in a hotel within 20 minutes. These 20 minutes became a good 6-7 hours. It turned out we were a long way from the centre; and we didn’t catch a taxi because we didn’t know where we were going, and we didn’t have much money. Finally, exhausted, we found a hotel that looked good. We didn’t think over and booked it for a night, because the next day Yavor and Lak were leaving for Bangkok, I was going to be alone, and I wanted to find a more central hotel somewhere near the life of the city. We had a shower, changed, and I was eager to get out and start sightseeing. That’s why I lied that I was very hungry and we had to leave immediately. So we did and we got to Petaling Street.

In the documentary I watched on TV, this street was mentioned a lot. This is actually the largest market for fakes in this part of Asia. And what a fakes – watches, bags, clothes, purses, DVDs and more. There is no chance of recognizing what is real and what is not. In the documentary I watched, it seemed super interesting, colourful and, above all, the top of the gipsy land. Shopping there is raised into a cult. And they succeed, really the best traders. I’m quite confident in my bargaining and I even think I’m pretty good. I couldn’t wait to try myself. Besides the fakes on Petaling Street, there are also small pubs and people selling any Asian flavours in stalls. Well, we’re already there, and I’m going mad with excitement. I want to buy everything, and everything seems very cheap and high quality, even though it’s fake. I started planning how I’ll buy from my heart gifts for all loved ones, and then we’ll dance the Asian horo. For my mother – a bag, scarf, purse and something else. For my brother – a bag … My brother is more difficult, he doesn’t like anything, so I’ll take a closer look at what to buy him and surprise him. For Julian and Zachary – a super cool fake watch each, and I won’t tell them they’re fake or I’ll tell them, but a month after they wear them and have gotten used to them. Wow, Zippo lighters, and I can’t tell by anything that they’re fake. At each booth there is one original to compare that they are just the same. I get the original Zippo and the fake one, well no – there’s no difference. And so I decide, in addition to the watches I’ll take them also a cool lighter each. For Julian – a purse, but of a cool brand. Maybe something else as well, we’ll see. The crowd was all around me. Everyone was bargaining.

The noise was loud and a strange mix of shouts, music, tunes from nearby mosques, crying children. Asian atmosphere, exactly the one for which I really adore Asia. And suddenly someone knocks me on the back and starts pulling my arm. At first I didn’t pay attention, but it continued. I decided to see what’s going on. Seems like this has been going on for quite some time, and for quite some time I haven’t been paying attention. Who can call me and knock me in Malaysia on this beautiful street-market filled with incredible fakes? I don’t know any Malaysians! I turned and saw … Yavor and Lak. I have forgotten they’re here and they’re with me. I was so lost in dreams of the many future bargains, of marking presents for my relatives, that I completely forgot who I am and where I am. Yavor asked me reproachingly: “I thought you were hungry, there’re so many things to eat here, why are you looking at these nasty fakes, let’s sit somewhere”. I thought, “Right, nasty, but you’ll leave tomorrow, and you’ll see nasty fakes”. We headed to a small restaurant, which was crowded. We saw a table was just getting available. Always sit in restaurants that are full, it means they are good. And just before I sat down I glanced at a mini model of Petronas Twins – just for my collection of models. They brought menus and I wasn’t looking at what to eat but thinking about how I want to go immediately to bargain for my first trophy. I don’t know if you’ve felt what it is to bargain. The feeling is a mixture of excitement, concern, doubt as to whether you are winning, something like a heavy drug. I said I want some dish with chicken, but without neck and head. There, all chickens and ducks are sold raw or roasted with a good long neck and a perfectly preserved and intact little head. Don’t know why, but I prefer our half-necked and headless chickens. So I ordered something with chicken and I blurt out that suddenly I need to go to the toilet. I got up and instead of going to the toilet, I went straight to the stand with the tower models. And I started a very fast bargaining, briefly and hastily, so to say. For a few minutes, I managed to get it at a good price. Restful and satisfied, I finally returned so the dinner can start. It was very tasty and pleasant.

I asked them to finish faster because I wanted to find a hotel near the Malaysian market. So it’ll be close and comfortable and I’ll know that my shopping is one step away. I didn’t suspect at all that at this moment I was making my biggest mistake. While eating, I managed to convince them that there were good quality stuff and that it would be nice for them to buy something interesting and cheap before they leave. I succeeded! So we headed back to the market. I bargained for a t-shirt for me, some discs for Yavor. Right before I left the market I noticed a little ugly hotel on the opposite street. I thought to myself, if it’s even the worst hotel, I’ll take it. I went in – yes, one of the most miserable hotels, but it’s ok, at least it’s very cheap. It looked a bit like the “Tsura” hostel at the Lion Bridge in Sofia. We agreed that the next day around 11 am I’ll get the room. That’s how this day ended.

To be continued…

21.02.2018                                                                         Vladimir Karamazov®