Welcome to KL!

by Tabitha Kidwell

Even though it’s right next door, I’d never really thought about coming to Malaysia. It’s like Canada – a widely-rumoured-to-be-better neighbor to the North. Why go there when you already live in the slightly-inferior-but-still-just-fine version? It would just foster resentment, right? In fact, when my sister (who is coming to visit in May) brought up the idea of going to Malaysia for a weekend, I was kinda like “Yeah, I guess, if you want to…”

And even after I got asked to come here to do the Fulbright ETA teacher training, I was still so focused on finishing up my semester in Salatiga that I didn’t think much about it. I literally didn’t even think about the possibility of needing a visa until I was waiting in the immigration line! I knew almost nothing about Kuala Kumpur – I basically pictured it just like Jakarta.

And I was right – KL is just like Jakatra… if Jakarta didn’t suck so much! Ok that’s harsh, I really like The
Big Durian
, but Kuala Lumpur is a much cleaner, nicer, and more cosmopolitan version. Granted, I’ve only seen like 3 blocks, and that was on a quiet Sunday afternoon, so I may be way off, but I love it here. It reminds me more of Australia than Southeast Asia.

I checked in to the hotel at about 3 PM. I keep thinking that the US government has housed me in the fanciest hotel they can, and then they keep upping the ante. The Royale Chulan pretty much blows the Sheraton Bandung and the Onmi Shoreham out of the water. See?


As always, I jumped on the bed, then completely unpacked. I hate living out of a suitcase, but I love packing and repacking. I’ve often surmised that is why I like to travel so much. Anyways, I pretty much skipped lunch, so then I was starving. The doorman directed me to the mall just down the street. I intended to grab lunch then walk around the city exploring, but I was sucked in by the artificial charms of the Pavillion Mall. At first, I pretty much just wandered around gawking at all the wonderful things at the mall. There was every ethnicity of cuisine I could ever want – Mediterranean, Turkish, Tapas, Mexican, Irish, Italian, TGIFridays, etc. I settled on Tapas after I saw that they had a cheese plate/bottle of wine special. They told me I could take the bottle home if I didn’t finish it, and I was sold. I also ordered a smoked salmon salad, prompting the waiter to gesture to his stomach, give an I’m pregnant type gesture, and say “You often eat the big food?”. I was a little insulted – is a salad and (individual!) cheese plate that much food? I’ll concede that the bottle of wine was excessive, but a salad and some cheese? Cone on, dude! Nevertheless, I pretty much just parked it there for the next two hours sipping wine, nibbling on cheese, and reading my new Kuala Lumpur travel app. I also ordered the tiramisu. Yum!

After that, a little bit tipsy from my half-bottle of wine, I pretty much just wandered around the mall. I found a magical section of the mall that had Nike, Aisics, AND Speedo stores, and almost peed my triathlete pants. I swung by Subway for the free smells. I stopped by the free candy store (okay, I think they expected you to buy some bulk candy, not just try one sample of each, but they didn’t seem to mind) and the free perfume store (same story, but I only tried one). I found a grocery store and bought some Cavendish bananas (ironic that the plain old only-kind-available-in-America bananas now seem exotic and foreign to me). And now I’m back at the hotel and intend to spend the evening taking a bubble bath and watching Mad Men. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this is the best day of 2013… so far!

And my time in KL has only just begun! Tomorrow I get to begin one of the best professional opportunities I’ve ever had – I’ll be training the 75 recent college grads who have been awarded Fulbright grants to go teach English in Malaysian primary and secondary schools. And, I get to do it with the two senior fellows in Indonesia, from whom I have so much to learn! And, I’m only 10 minutes away from the free candy store! This might even be the best week of 2013!

One Comment to “Welcome to KL!”

  1. Oh my gosh, congrats on the terrific opportunity! So jealous! Miss you, darlin!

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