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.