Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
January 31, 2020 was the expiration date on my 6 month Indonesian visa. To get a new one I was required to leave the country. Previously, I had 2 visa runs to Singapore, this time I wanted to go to a different place so I chose Kuala Lumpur and booked my flight for January 29 early in the morning.
From the beginning the plan has been to be touring for several years and because I'm not rich I cannot have the luxury of paying for accommodation, it would cost me a fortune if you add up all the money spent just for lodging. So, every time I'm going to a new place my routine is to find a host or hosts. My first option is to look for members of my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which has a global presence. Amongst them is when I feel better, safe, secure; they are like extended family abroad.
My second choice is a global organization called Warmshowers.org, created by cyclists for cyclists touring around the world. As a member I contact them ahead of time and they respond with a yes or no to my request for hosting. They know my needs and most of them go above and beyond.
When these 2 fail I have different approaches to find a place to crash depending the location, mainly:
Wild camping if I'm out in the open, I look for a safe place on a field to set my tent out of view.
Stealth camping if I'm in an area where I'm not allowed to spend the night.
If I'm in a residential area I ask people at their homes if they would like to host a world traveler.
Or, if in urban areas, I look for hidden places in or around public areas like libraries, beaches, parks, gas stations even boat, bus, train and air terminals.
About 2 weeks before departing I sent messages to members of the church in 3 different congregations with a potential reach of dozens of members, not a single one replied. At the same time I sent 18 messages to Warmshowers' members, only 6 replied and none could host me due to the Chinese New Year happening during those days. It was very strange, the fact that not a single host was available never happened before. Also, this time was different for me because I wasn't touring with my bike and I was going to fly with only one check-in bag containing my clothes and my photo/video backpack as carry-on. Camping would not be possible, I wouldn't have camping gear at all.
That morning I got up early and rode my scooter to the Lombok Praya airport, this was the first time I took Meteoro with me, I thought it would be cheaper and definitely more convenient to park it there and have it handy when I come back. It was a cool morning with some patches of mist lingering. The check in process is always a breeze in this small airport, I love it.
This is a good view of the island of Lombok while taking off. Notice how the rice paddies dominate the landscape, they are everywhere and they are beautiful.
Few minutes later we passed by the island of Bali with the spectacular presence of Gunung (Mount) Agung, an active volcano, the highest point on Bali, and to the right is Gunung Batur another volcano. In the horizon you can see other volcanos from the neighboring island of Java. The Indonesian archipelago is covered with active volcanos.
We were landing in Kuala Lumpur before 10 am. It was raining and unfortunately the rain on the window prevented me form taking a good shot of how predominant are the palm plantations in Malaysia. I have read so many negative articles about its impact to the environment as well as its product, the palm oil. I was looking forward to see the plantations up close. Since 1980, palm oil production has increased tenfold with estimates that production will increase 50% by 2050. Indonesia is the largest producer of palm oil, followed by Malaysia - both countries account for 84% of the worlds palm production.
So I landed in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which is the 19th country I have walked on, pretty neat, huh?
After going through immigration, customs and my luggage retrieved, I did a final check of my inbox, no host replied.
Do you believe in destiny?
Believe it or not, and unbeknownst to me, I had an appointment with destiny in Kuala Lumpur, the appointment was set 3 years prior.
I had the name of a local person, Matthew John or MJ. And here is where destiny played a major role. I met MJ 3 years ago at my business in California. He and his family were visiting his brother Tom. I had known Tom for several years, he was one of my suppliers and we became good friends. In this particular occasion I called Tom to place an order and when he delivered the materials he came to my office accompanied by his brother MJ and son. During our conversations MJ learned I was planning on touring the world so he shared his info with me.
I wondered if he would remember me and would be able to host me.
At the airport I purchased a SIM card and called him, there was no answer, I left a message, sent him a text and also a WhatsApp. I kept calling him every hour until 2:30 pm when I decided it was time to break my rule of not paying for accommodation and find one. While waiting at the airport I searched different sites and I found a very nice studio close to the Petronas twin towers at an excellent price, I booked it. Walked to the exit and requested a Grab car which took me to the tower I was going to spend the next 5 days.
This is the ground level of the building, I liked the sculptures. I took the elevator to the 15th floor where I met the manager of the studio.
Once settled, I took the elevator down to the street level and went out to take a walk with no specific plan, just to get something for dinner. I was lucky to find a place that seemed very popular full of local people with an incredible assortment of edible options, most of them Indian, exotic and attractive to me.
Because I was hungry, I was very excited to be there, I was happy. I walked the whole establishment and asked many questions. There were plenty of waiters ready to take my order, I chose one that seemed friendly and he helped me get my wishes fulfilled. And this is what I had for dinner that night.
Needless to say, I left the place with a big smile, a full tummy and very satisfied. The place is open 24/7 and I knew I would be coming back.
I continued strolling the neighborhood, I saw the Malaysian flag moving with a soft breeze.
And all of the sudden I saw their reflection on a building and my heart jumped with content.
I kept walking in that direction with a faster pace and Voilà!
There they were, majestic.
I'm a sucker for icons. Wherever I go I want to see and experience the icons of the world. They are part of my emotions. First when I read about them or see them on TV or movies. Second when we meet in person, and third when I see them or read about them again because then we have met and have a personal connection.
Later that night MJ called me and apologized for not being reachable since he was coming back from Dubai. We talked for a little bit and he invited me to go out for dinner with his wife and son the next night, I accepted.
They picked me up and took me to a centric Indian restaurant where we had a delicious feast. How different is when native people order the meals, they knew many strange dishes I never heard of before.
They dropped me off and I expressed my gratitude for the invite and their generosity.
It was a lazy day for me. Got up late, fixed a light breakfast in the kitchen, watched TV, checked FB and my inbox until afternoon. Took a shower and spent the second part of the day exploring and taking photos and video in and around the twin towers, the most iconic landmark of the city and probably of the whole country.
The afternoon was a warm, overcast and cloudy. I was there during the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak and I was surprised to see so many people wearing masks everywhere.
I reached the towers, spent a good time taking many pictures from the NW entrance. I went in and took the tour. Then I exited through the SE access and explored the adjacent KLCC park. After strolling the area and a bunch of pictures taken it was time for dinner and I remembered seeing a well placed restaurant with outdoor tables right in front of the Petronas with an awesome unobstructed north-west view of the twin towers. A perfect place to get myself in the picture having dinner I thought.
I turned around and headed to the restaurant in mind when I felt a fine drizzle on my face. This misty rain accompanied me all the way but then, when I was about to cross the last street the rain began.
I was mesmerized by the view in front of me, the drizzle and mist combined gave the towers a magical ambient almost ethereal. This is the last picture I took that night at 8:44 PM, untouched, the colors are original, isn’t beautiful?
Satisfied with the shot I turned around and... I lost my footing, I had nothing to grab onto and found myself in the air falling. Not realizing the floor was lower than the side where I originally climbed on, my brain miscalculated the impact. I landed on my feet, I heard a weird noise and immediately I knew something was damaged. I remained standing but I felt a jolt of pain coming from my left heel, I tried to walk and I couldn't. Every try resulted in an unbearable pain. Hopping on my right foot I climbed the few steps up the stairway, went around the planter and sat down by my backpack.
The pain kept increasing by the second and in less than a minute I was in such an excruciating pain that I began to hyperventilate and to sweat so profusely to the point that my clothes were soaked in a couple of minutes. I felt I was going to faint.
I called the only person I knew in the whole country, I called MJ. He was in the middle of his father in law's birthday celebration but at 9:26 PM he was on his way to succor me.
The wait felt like an eternity. Every second dragged and the pain was the worse I have ever felt, I was loosing my mind. I remembered that He is just a prayer away, I closed my eyes and pleaded to God for strength. I didn't complain nor asked why as in other times. All I needed was divine intervention so I could endure the suffering without fainting, all I wanted was to be strong. My prayer was heard and my wish was granted. Little by little the pain began to subside, it became bearable while being idle. The hyperventilating and sweating stopped completely.
By the time MJ arrived I was collected and relatively stable. He helped me get in the car. Once he was aware of the situation he decided it was best to take me to a hospital close to his home. We arrived, got ahold of a wheelchair and push me to the emergency area, got registered at 11:03 PM and waited to be called. When my number was up and went to meet the doctor I removed my sneaker and this is how my foot looked like.
My ankle was so swollen that looked abnormal, freaky actually.
The bad news
The doctor in charge ordered X-rays. I had to be wheeled to another part of the hospital to get the X-rays done and back to the emergency waiting area. My number came up on the screen again and went to the doctor's cubicle to hear the news. "Your calcaneus bone is broken, here you can see 3 fracture lines" he said while pointing to the monitor showing my foot's X-rays.
Up to this point I was hoping to hear that my bone got dislocated and somebody will put it back in place. The diagnosis was shocking. It meant my life was about to change drastically Not to mention my finances were also about to get a big punch in the gut. But what can you do? Nothing! I spent the rest of the night going form one place to another within the hospital, a couple series of X-rays, blood tests and MRI in preparation for surgery. Eventually I was sent to get a cast to stabilize it in the meantime.
I didn't sleep all night. I was coming and going from one place to another and the waiting time for things to happen. By the time I got admitted and brought to my room was the morning of February 1st.
As a side note. The last time I was admitted in a hospital was a decade ago when I passed a kidney stone in California. I was in observation for several hours, they didn't do anything to me and let me go later the same day. I'm not used to be in this environment, it was new to me.
Because it happened on Friday night and it wasn't considered an emergency I had to wait in my room until Monday to be checked by the orthopedic specialist. Funny fact: I didn't get a robe to put on, I got a button down shirt and a sarong as you can see here.
It took some time for me to get used to it but I ended up loving the experience.
The hospital name is Universiti Malaya Specialist Center (UMSC). Being part of the university it meant students were trained there so every day in the morning a bunch of doctors and students up to 12 people made their rounds checking every patient.
The day came to have the surgery done, they wheeled me on the gurney from my room to the operating floor. I wasn't anxious or nervous, all I wanted was my foot fixed. I was impressed when I went inside the operating room, it was more impressive than what I saw in the movies.
The only time I had surgery and inside an operating room I was 5 years old, I don't remember a thing.
They put me the oxygen mask on, she explained to me what was going to happen regarding anesthesia, a smell I have never registered before came through the mask, I felt weird and went from awake to ZZZZZZ in about 40 seconds. Something strange happened during my time asleep. I went in with my undies in place and came out with undies removed, why? If you know the answer let me know, I beg you.
Apparently everything went well. After the accident and before the surgery I felt that something was out of place inside my heel, when I woke up that feeling was gone but new feelings took place instead, like numbness and I could say they implanted me an alien in my calf, look at this!
My foot was swollen from the day I fell, for that reason it was kept wrapped with an ice cold boot as you can see here. But after the operation it was huge!
I was kept in observation until the 7th when I was discharged. MJ offered to host me for as long as I needed, it was a big relief for me not to worry about that at this time. So he took me to his home. They prepared a tiny utility room with a small bed and I was lucky to have an air conditioner, score!!!
At the hospital the nurses did everything, checked my temperature, pulse, blood pressure and antibiotics regularly and changed my dressing every day. Now it was my turn to take over those duties and at the same time to learn how to walk with crutches. When they changed my dressing I didn't get to see my wound but now I got the chance to take a peek.
I was surprised to find my skin dry and dead. Could it be that my foot was kept always over pillows above my heart to diminish blood irrigation and minimize swollenness together with ice compresses?
When I explored my entire foot I noticed a big bruise that made me wonder, if it looks like this, 8 days after the accident, how bad must have been right after?
Being cared for
In situations like this we all know the best thing you can do is to be with your family. Unfortunately, in my case, that was not an option, but I was blessed to realized why Divine Providence brought MJ into my life 3 years in advance and some 14,000 kms away from his home. Laying down on that bed, with all the time of the world to think and ponder, it became clear in my mind that this accident needed to happen, for whatever reason. A loving Heavenly Father introduce me to the only person that would prove to be instrumental in my wellbeing while going through this trial in a foreign country away from friends and family.
MJ's career is in the healthcare industry. During the whole ordeal he was able to call many doctors within his network to get advice and direction for what was best for my needs. He knows the hospital I stayed in personally, he lives close by and his schedule during those days allowed him to take care of me when needed. Even though they are from Indian descent, the entire household are strong fellow Christian brothers and sisters. Between all of them they managed to satisfy all my needs.
Elizabeth, his wife made sure I was fed properly and never skipped a meal. When she found out I'm accustomed to eat fruit in the morning, the next day the fridge was stocked and I never lacked fruit while under her care. Their children are all adults and assisted me whenever their parents couldn't.
They took time out of their day to help me, providing the help I needed not expecting anything in return. They were polite, considerate, generous, affectionate, patient, understanding and loving. They went out of their way to make me feel special, to make me happy. They were sensitive of my feelings. They cared what I had to say. They voluntarily served me, even when they didn’t necessarily had the time. They are good people and make choices that correspond with their beliefs. MJ understands that the things we collect and the money we accumulate are not worth anything without people to share it with. He is open and generous to those less fortunate in a time of need, just like me. To me, that's family.
My last day in KL
I was invited to have one last meal together before departing, another delicious new experience. In south east Asia is common to see people eating with their hands, at least that has been my experience in Indonesia and Malaysia. Notice I'm the only one with cutlery on the table.
I'm immensely grateful to MJ and his family for all they did for me while in KL and even when I left. They arranged with a neighbor to take me to the airport because none of them could drop me off. How awesome is that?
If I hadn’t met MJ 3 years back, right before I started my tour this whole experience could have been miserable, way more expensive and traumatic. It wasn't.
And that's how my little trip to Kuala Lumpur went.