26 November 2011


It was 8:30 p.m. Sunday. I was packing for my 6 a.m. flight to Kuala Lumpur and realized I was missing something – my passport. Of course, my passport had to go and lose itself about 10 hours before I would be off to another country. Not cool.

Paul made fun of me because my first reaction to losing my passport was that I would lose the best ID photo I had ever taken. My second horrified reaction was that if I lost my passport, I would lose the two stamps that I had waited 29 years to obtain. My heart sunk and I frowned at Paul with this realization.

We searched for about an hour, turning our house upside down and moving everything around three times. We said lots of prayers, talked about how maybe I was not meant to go, wondered if I threw away my passport with a stack of magazines I had tossed days prior and finally, I gave up. I said to myself that I was going to stop looking and just rest.

Thirty seconds later, I followed Paul into the spare bedroom. I leaned up against Paul’s back, tilted my head on his shoulder and noticed my wristlet, which had also gone missing, on a closet shelf. I picked up the wristlet and found my passport. Crisis averted.

The flight was short, a mere 45 minutes at most. My time in the immigration line was almost as long as my flight. As I stood in the sea of faces, ages, skin tones and dress, I found myself once again counting white people. There were three besides me at first, and then some more joined the line after a while.

I saw older men in long linen pants and tunics that were almost down to their ankles. They had fuzzy beards, darker skin and wore flat linen hats. I saw one girl wearing three shirts – two verifiably long sleeved – and a long skirt over a pair of jeans. I didn’t get that one.

Our hotel
Kuala Lumpur was, in my opinion, hotter than Singapore, though today I might have changed my mind. It was a city unlike any I have seen to this point. KL is Malaysia’s capital city so I was excited to see the metropolis. Within hours of arriving, however, my excitement dwindled immensely.

I originally thought that our hotel was simply in a semi-depressed part of the city. Upon exploring, I realized that most of the city looked run down. Buildings were old and dirty and some were falling to pieces. Poverty was evident; we saw a man sleeping on a sidewalk and I am certain I saw a man relieving himself in a vacant lot.

Cabs were horrendous. Even though the cab doors read, “This is a metered cab. No haggling,” more than half of the drivers we encountered refused to use the meter. One cab driver told us it would be 15 MR for a trip downtown. Not knowing what the fare should have been and realizing that the fare was relatively low, we accepted the rate. On the way back to the hotel, we hailed a cab and discovered that the actual fare was only 3 MR. We could not believe the guy charged us five times the actual fare!

My 75 MR fare from the airport to the hotel was pre-paid through a cab company at the airport. The cabby outside our hotel the morning I left set a 90 MR rate and then charged me 100 MR upon arrival. I did not want to fight with him but I did give him a stern “Really?!” look as I handed over the bill. The cab, by the way, was falling apart – the trunk had a bungee cord holding it down (not closed) and the seat belts did not work. 

After walking the terminal from one end to the other and back and not seeing my airline at any of the check-in counters, a concierge told me that I was in the wrong building. No cabs would take me as a passenger because the area was designated drop-off only. Luckily, a woman exiting a cab next to where I was standing told me where to find an available cab. I may have pouted in frustration. I ended up paying an additional 45 MR to get to the other terminal. Thirty minutes after I arrived, I was finally where I was supposed to be.

Traffic was thick at all hours. One afternoon we racked up a 25 MR fare before our driver was able to push the gas pedal for more than three seconds.

Malaysia was not all bad. I did really enjoy the drive from the airport to the city of Kuala Lumpur. The grass was green, there were short, fat palm trees that made me laugh. I saw a herd of cows lounging beside the road. I was excited to see mountains – ok, hills – in the background.

We walked around the shopping Mecca for a while and wound up at a place called Times Square. In a country that is 99 percent Muslim (I may be exaggerating but that has to be close), we were quite surprised to see the mall all decked out for Christmas.

We had lunch at Papa John’s and picked up some Krispy Kreme next door on our way out. We felt right at home.

There was not a lot to do in KL (even the hotel concierge had no afternoon recommendations) but we had some fun exploring. The number one thing on my list – Batu Caves.

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