Saturday, December 3, 2011
New York in Asia and the Biting Monkey
Last weekend the Diplomat, Son and I flew to Kuala Lumpur for a brief, three-day weekend away. I am happy to say that the trip started well and it just kept getting better! For some reason, we got upgraded to Business Class. Now, honestly, was Business Class all that it is cracked up to be? OH YES, YES, YES! From the warm, fragrant hand towels, the lamb satee, the champagne, the service, the blankets, the reclining chairs, the lounge, everything was just fantastic. How can we go back to coach now???
Kuala Lumpur is truly what everyone kept telling me it is—a giant luxury shopping mall. There are designer shopping malls everywhere, all of which showcase some rather ludicrous prices compared to the United States. And for that precise reason, we did not buy anything, but certainly enjoyed eating all the fabulous international food. To me, Kuala Lumpur was like an Asian version of New York City. Not too polished or sterile like Singapore, or too ethnic and hippie like Bangkok, it stands somewhere in the middle. It houses many different cultures and all that comes with those—restaurants, shops, colors, places of worship, people. Speaking of which, two days in a row we tried to go and see the famed Mosjid Jamek (the Jamek Mosque). Firstly, we were not admitted as it was too late. The next day we came in too early (the afternoon Friday prayer had just ended and a seemingly endless stream of people was pouring outside). Finally, we arrived for a third time right on the dot, and thankfully were let in. I was given a fetching hijab and a sprawling, billowing dress to cover myself and allowed to walk around and take some pictures. The mosque has a beautiful, tranquil space for payer and contemplation, as well as some web browsing, as we learned. At least two of the revelers inside were surfing the net on the laptops! Talk about progress...
Then, while waiting for Son to go “poopy” (as Son loudly announced in the deafening silence of the mosque area) along with the Diplomat, a rather loquacious mosque worker chatted me only to realize with obvious horror that I was a Christian and my husband—Hindu. He told me that there is still hope for me, and gave me a heavy pamphlet on Mohammad to read on the plane. That seemed to cheer his up considerably.As I said, KL reminded me of NYC very much also because of its night scene. The Diplomat and I were fortunate to discover the Sky Bar at the top of the Trader’s Hotel, which offered impeccable drinks, mesmerizing views of the brightly-lit Petronas Towers and excellent music. The bar is located around the pool area on the top of the hotel so the venue is even more dramatic. Not surprisingly, we managed to run into two Americans there-a NJ native working in Hong Kong (there for the weekend) and a U.S. Marine from Dubai (there for the weekend) who had just gotten married to a Palestinian girl. Let’s just say that it was a good party.
The following day, we went to see the Batu Caves, famous for the Hindu temple built in and around them. While the temple itself was a rather, shall we say – touristy affair, right next to it was the real cave which offered a 45 min trip inside the complete darkness. Not ones to miss the cool stuff, we quickly headed over. Now, to reach the temple/cave area, one must climb almost 300 steep steps. Son ran up them with the ease of a monkey, which is ironic given that the steps were full of local monkeys. Let’s just say that it is terrible what tourists can do to the local fauna. The monkeys were constantly looking for food, generously given by the unaware and delighted tourists—peanuts, sugar, even bottled water (?!). Rather amused, I began taking pictures, while Son was pottering around my legs. All of a sudden I heard a burst of crying from below—Son was screaming and crying and the Diplomat, who was a few steps away, was frantically yelling that a monkey had bitten him. Indeed, it had and he had the bite marks to prove it. To add insult to injury, the biting monkey and a giggling friend were already moving quickly away, each one carrying one of Son’s cars which he had dutifully clutched in his hands up to that moment. Apparently, while I was taking pictures, the monkeys approached Son and being like children themselves, tried to pry the cars away from his hands. As Son was refusing to give them away, one of the monkeys bit the child and then both ran away. My first instinct (sorry!) was to grab one of the cars from the monkey’s hands and try to get it back. So, there we were—a mid-sized, not-joking, rather strong monkey and a sweating, short-skirted female American diplomat tugging a bright red car while a crowd of cheering people and monkeys stood on the sidelines and watched. I won. I am not proud of it. I am just saying. Sadly, the second car (a firetruck) was lost irretrievably to a much larger and faster monkey, who perched himself on a high fence and proceeded to chew the Chinese toy with enviable assiduity and perseverance. Thankfully, the State Department had given Son a series of rabbies and tetanus shots, so the monkey bite was not dangerous. But Son has surely developed a whole new level of appreciation of monkeys. So did I. Otherwise, the cave tour wa great - we learned a whole bunch of vastly unnecessary information on cave spiders, centipedes and cockroaches.We left KL with heavy hearts and stomachs.