Initial Impressions
in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on 1st February, 2012


I left Dubai on a high. I had spent my last afternoon there walking around Dubai mall and taking in the water fountain show outside the Tallest Building on Earth and I enjoyed a coffee next to a man-made waterfall. I caught a flight to Qatar but with only ten minutes to spare, I didn't get a chance to spend the Qatari money I'd bought off ebay seven years ago.

I've been collecting foreign money since 2002 and on this trip I'm going to spend some of it. I love the designs, quirks and officialdom you find in bank notes all around the world. But with all material possessions, at some point you need to let them go.

I didn't get a chance to sleep between Doha and Kuala Lumpur. I spent most of my time reading the economist, the lonely planet guides for the parts of Malaysia I'm visiting and playing games on my iPad. The girl next to me was kind enough to offer me her dessert as she wasn't feeling hungry.

I arrived and got through immigration as fast as I could hand over my passport. The only unnerving thing was seeing soldiers in camelflague walking around with large machine guns around their necks. I was suspecting this trip would have themes which included: Scary airport security, strange toilets and logistical nightmares one after another. Thankfully I haven't been ticking too many of those boxes so far.

The first thing I noticed about Kuala Lumpur was the dense jungle. I'd never seen such short but densely packed palm trees. On the first day it looked like it was about to rain at any given minute.

I was staying in Chinatown. There was a lot of tightly packed street markets and street food which smelt more like open sewer than anything consumable. For the first 36 hours of my time there I thought this was what the whole city was like. Some streets smelt so bad I had to walk down them with my nose in my shirt. I ate at one restaurant and really had to push myself through the meal. I was worried that if I couldn't get used to this quick that my trip is not going to be the dream I was hoping it was going to be.

Turns out Chinatown is unique in Kuala Lumpur. They have cheap and cheerful restaurants that smell like nice food everywhere else in the city and you can buy pretty much everything in air conditioned buildings. When I took a taxi to head out to the Batu Caves and to a Waterfall I saw that this city and this country is a Jungle Paradise. Absolutely amazingly beautiful and peaceful.

I'm amazed at how many iPads, iPhones and MacBook Pro's I'm seeing everywhere. It's nice to know these items aren't special and everyone gets a chance to use them.

I walked around some of the city's parks. I'm a big park fan, a trip to any city usually includes walking around in the parks they have on offer. The parks here were something else. Amazing insects, really diverse trees and flowers, interesting man-made structures and the places were pretty much void of other people. I walked around one for 20 minutes before I saw someone else.

There were also some surprises. I was visiting the Petronas towers when I saw Michael Schumacher's F1 car from 2010 was parked outside.

The balance of nature and urban areas is well calculated in Kuala Lumpur. Back in England in the area where I lived there were hardly any trees or grass anywhere for miles. Here, you don't forget that we live on a beautiful, green and blue planet.

For some reason, I keep being reminded of my teenage years in Canada growing up while walking around. The humid weather reminds me of when it was about to start raining in the spring time in Calgary. The palm trees on an overcast day remind me of the first three levels of Doom. When I was taking the train from the airport into the city I thought "I've completely escaped everything else in life and no one knows where I am" - which would have been the best feeling on earth when I was 13-16 years of age.

For the first time in 5-6 years I don't feel under pressure to accomplish anything or try and take advantage of opportunities in life. This feels wonderful to just not worry about any little thing at all.


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