Letters for my kids to read in the future, from around the world now

Kuala Lumpur: back after 7 years


Dear George,


I first visited Malaysia with your mum in 2002 as part of our tour of the world. We’d all but run out of money by then and arrived by bus from Singapore into Kuala Lumpur bus station quite unprepared for the squalor and chaos that greeted us. We were disorientated by the noise and mass of people, lack of any signage and pure contrast to Singapore and our luxury air-conditioned bus that had delivered us with smiles from ear to ear. The one-lmbed beggar shuffling towards us, the heat and the uncertainty of where we were going stressed us out a bit. We eventually found our way out of the dusty station and called a guy who picked us up and took us to his ‘hostel’ (his spare room in a leaking tower block in a fairly dodgy area). Suffice to say that I didn’t have fond memories of KL and we left after a couple of days to explore the Cameron Highlands.


My next visit was in 2005 for a work trip and the contrast to my first experience couldn’t have been greater. My boss flew me business class with Emirates, I was picked up by a hotel limo and driven to the club floor of the mandarin oriental hotel, overlooking the Petronas towers (one time tallest buildings in the world, setting for the finale of a heist film with Sean Connery and Catherine-Zeta Jones). I was stunned by the city this time around – great food, happy people – and the cobwebs of the late 1990s economic crisis had been well and truly left behind.


I flew into KL this time around for work again, but with a weaker pound and tighter budgets I could not stretch to my previous opulence. I still had a lovely view of the towers, but no executive privileges, rooftop pool or flowers on my bed this time. The city has changed a great deal. There is building work going on everywhere, old businesses moving into new tower blocks and the economic improvements are apparent by the cars people drive and the way they dress. But my my, the cars! KL is absolutely grid locked every rush hour or anytime it rains (most afternoons at this time of year) and it is next to impossible to get a taxi. The residents take it on the chin as part of modern life, but it is the worst experience of traffic I’ve ever encountered – I spent more time in cars than in the meetings they were taking me to.


No novel experiences this visit, just hotels, work, the odd restaurant to shovel beef rendang into my mouth with great gusto and a couple of drinks with colleagues in the heat.


You are 21 months old now and very cute. You say door, car, kangaroo, more, star, mama and dada, Eddie and potato and seem to pick up a new word every day. You are a natural comedian, pretending to cough up socks that you hold in your hand and hiding things from us. Last night you were trying to feed me sweets through the screen on Skype (and I was pretending to eat them). I’ve been away a week and it always gets more difficult being away from you longer than that.


I flew on to Seoul and I’ll write about that later.





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