‘WordPress.com is also available in Bahasa Melayu.’ Well, who’da thunk it?
No sooner did I log onto WordPress to blog away about my flight to Kuala Lumpur and the excitement about coming here to Kuala Lumpur, but, clearly, even the folks at WordPress.com already knew that I was here in Malaysia and had been studying my little bit of ‘Bahasa Melayu’, or the Malaysian language, as they greeted me with an invitation to use Bahasa Melayu.
Isn’t technology wonderful? How ever did we get along without it? I keep wondering. The fantastic opportunity to stay connected these days makes my head spin. I lived in Thailand in 1972-1973 and, 37 or ao (eek!) years later, the difference in how the world works, in how people communicate, is incredible.
In Thailand, I purchased blue tissue paper airmail letters, pre-stamped, and wrote in my finest penmanship and smallest script on single pages to send to friends and family at home — which they received about ten days later, if I recall. Today, having arrived in Malaysia at about seven o’clock in the morning, I could have sent emails, and posted Facebook posts and even sent text messages before leaving the terminal, if not whilst still on the plane (after the seatbelt lights have been turned off, of course).
However. I restrained myself and took a full five minutes after reaching our Nomad Residences room, where Derek’s been ensconced and enjoying himself whilst toiling days for the privilege, to say “OK, so where’s the code for the WiFi?” And he duly got it out, I plugged in and got going and got posting. In nanoseconds, hundreds of people, if they cared to, could know that I’d had a great flight and was happy to be here.
No time wasted trotting off to the post office to speak to people who don’t understand me and whose language I don’t speak. Hmmm, I reflected, that’s sortof sad. It’s not quite like that. I really should be out there saying “Selamat pagi” (good morning) to the postal clerk and “Nama saya Cynthia” to anyone who wants to know. And how about “Perlahan sikit” (slow down) when something’s going all too fast for me–traffic or language? I have learned some little bit of the language and had some lovely conversations with Malaysian people already, sharing my ten words of vocabulary, so why not plunge right in and go buy a stamp?
All right, well, I will and isn’t it nice of WordPress to invite me to write in Bahasa Melayu, the ‘Language of the Malays’ anyway? Thank you, WordPress. It’s an interesting language but, to my surprise, it’s only been the language of the Malaysian government and the schools since the early 70s. Malaysia, I’ve learned, is multiracial and multicultural and multilingual as well. As the guidebook says, wherever you go you will see shop signs in a ‘rainbow of languages and scripts’. And in WordPress too, it seems.
So, anyway, here I am. Malaysia Airlines Flight MH003 was blissfully uneventful. These days, the best one can hope for is a dull, insipid, boring, yawn-inspiring flight. It doesn’t get any better than that, especially if it’s 11 hours and 20 minutes long. The only way it could be improved on would be a surprise upgrade to Business Class (that only happens to me on BA) or a little bit more tailwind to shorten the flight time.
My solution was to sleep–and, for once, it worked. I tried the “psyche me!” approach and set off believing it was already late afternoon where I was (Yateley) even though it was early morning (0715hours). The dreary rain and wind helped. It was a bit dark and easy to play along with the game in the taxi. I dozed. I had turned my watch forward eight hours (this is GMT +8) in the taxi and dozed on the M3 and M25 and reminded myself I was tired after a long day.
It was a mere one hour and 10 minutes from the taxi at home to being checked in and through security. I had, of course, checked in online 48 hours before (how civilised is that?) so I was relatively certain it wouldn’t be too onerous. There wasn’t anyone at the bag drop, though there were hundreds of people in the queue to check in. Are there still people who don’t check-in on-line? Apparently so. I was surprised at the proportion. I dread the drama of not being checked in and finding out my chosen airline partner has sold my seat to me and three others. It’s happened before. I want to be the first to check in–even to the point of setting alarms to remind myself to doing so and being all sweaty-palmed as I go through the process. OCD? No, not me, not a bit.
They fed us dinner at about UK breakfast time, which aided the illusion that it was eight hours later than I had previously known it to be. I chose the chicken biryani and it was stunning. It was almost too hot, reminding me that I don’t eat a lot of spicy food these days. Why not? No idea. Living in England? Who knows? I love spicy food. Spicy food has known health benefits. What’s not to like? Well, I plunged in and it was terrific–raisins, pandan leaves and all.
Amazingly, I ended up with an empty seat next to me in row 61 (one of about four such empty seats on the 747-40. It didn’t begin that way and I thought ‘Oh, no, this is going to be a long one.’ I was beyond ecstatic when the young woman who originally sat down beside me leapt up as we began to taxi, a seat having remained empty next to her mother, in row 59, and off she went. Quelle relief! A place to pile my books, drinks, notebook, pens, bottle of orange juice, iTouch, headphones and everything else I seem to have brought along. And, oh joy, a second blanket because it was darned cold on that flight.
It was a relatively turbulent flight. Not enough to whoop over but enough to not write a lot with a pen. I love reading the on-screen in-flight statistics and following our progress on the coloured mockups of the world. Does it help, knowing we’re being thrown all over the place over the Andaman Islands? I don’t know. The Bay of Bengal was particularly bumpy. I rather like knowing where I am while experiencing strange sensations, even if I don’t always understand what I’m experiencing.
This on-board system, iXplore, or perhaps Ixplore or even IXplore, or whatever the marketing people ended up calling it, had an “Advanced” mode so I was in heaven. After, that is, I’d taken the advanced course in operating the in-seat control device for the “AVOD” (Audio Visual On Demand) system. Thank goodness the instructions were in the in-flight magazine and I could sneak six or seven peaks at them until I finally figured out that the thing really was 101 gadgets in one and really did have all the same controls as a DVD remote control, a gaming joy stick, a telephone with a credit card swipe channel and the ability to control the lights overhead and request assistance from a cabin attendant. I gave up before I figured out how to make muffins with it but I’m convinced it has a beater attachment.
In spite of over 300 hours of on-demand entertainment available to me, I managed to fall asleep half an hour into “Inception” (DiCaprio’s latest). I chose it because the review in the magazine said it was ‘ambitious and clever…and also a little confusing.’ It takes place in the human brain, they said. Hmmm, ok. I think I’d like to watch it whilst conscious and not actively trying to sleep as much as I can, but it did the trick. I slept.
Sometime during the ‘night’, the lovely Norelina, a beautiful sweet Malay with the most incredible eyes and the eyelashes (extensions) to prove it, passed through and left a “snack”. If one was to have an introduction to Malaysia a the national airline, and it was Norelina, one could hardly do better. How often is the service really like you see on the adverts? Not very often. But it was on this flight; I truly did feel welcomed.
I was dimly conscious of many trays of orange juice and water going by but, for the most part, I slumbered on, safe in the knowledge that I had my own bottle of liquid anyway. I was also dimly conscious of the absence of crying babies and screaming children–if only because a crying baby woke me at one point and I realised how quiet the flight had been, overall.
Somewhere along the way, probably over the Bay of Bengal, I woke up and went through the on-screen tourist’s introduction to some of the attractions available to visitors to Kuala Lumpur. I made a list of Places to Go in my little “Paper Words” notebook with its ‘finely wrought Rennaisance-style tooled leather cover’ from the museum gift shop in Strasbourg on a previous trip.
Poor Derek! I sometimes wonder he can tolerate my manic enthusiasm about such things. But he does seem such a good sport about it. We actually have little time together this trip–weekends only since he is working Monday to Friday–to be day-tripping together to all the places on my list, but I daresay we will try.
The highlights? I was enchanted that Malaysians are crazy about orchids and there is the Agricultural Park (over 1295 hectares, if only I could remember what a hectare is) and its Orchid Garden with over 800 species of Malay orchids. How can there be 800 species of orchid in one country to begin with? This definitely begs a visit. There is also a Spice Garden (what DOES a nutemeg tree or a galanga bush look like anyway?) and a tropical fruit garden. When I left Thailand in 1973, I said if I never smelled another durian in my life, it would be too soon and, hey ho, perhaps I’ll smell another durian after all.
The highlight, tough, could well be the tropical forest walk — take a shuttle or hire a bike. Oh, yes, and the cultural village. That could be a good one, too.
Then there is Templer’s Park, at Bukit Takun, “only” 500 hectares, twenty minutes North of KL, which boasts a structure 350 metres high made of limestone.
And Taman Alam, at Bukit Melawati, is a proper nature reserve with a bird sanctuary that is home to some really rare birds, largely owing to it being in a mangrove swamp. Over 150 species of birds, the little EVOD (Educational Video On Demand) system tells me, have been identified. Including, for you birders, therare spoon-billed sandpiper and Nordmann’s Greenshank. I am sooooo glad I hired that lens. What if? What if?
It costs 2 “ringgits” (MYR, Malaysian Ringgits) to get in. That’s about 40p for you Brits and ‘half a buck’ for the Yanks. Things really are amazingly inexpensive. I don’t think I’d mentioned that yet. There you go. Ringgits. “ring-gits” or “ring-its”, I am not quite sure yet.
And then there is Taman Tasik Perdana, aka the Lake Garden, the vision of Alfred Venning, the British State Treasurer here (when it was still British, which it was until the early 50s) in the 1880s. While only 104 hectares, it’s a bird park, a deer park and a flower garden.
See what mean? Too much to do. And that’s just the parks. Guess we’ll have to start thinking about spending more time here. Like, how about a year?