I am in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital, for two days — and thankfully no more. KL is a big, ugly, crowded city, and after two wonderful days in laid-back Melaka, I have no interest in dodging mopeds and hoards of people every time I step outside. I would have skipped it altogether had it not been for a few business items I need to attend to.
First, I am sending a pretty hefty package home with stuff I neither want nor need. I thought I did a great job packing for this trip, but I realized within 24 hours of landing in Singapore that I got a lot of it wrong. Mostly, I packed clothes that either aren’t appropriate for what I’m doing or that I just won’t wear because they aren’t me. When it’s hot, all I want is a lightweight sundress — I am a Southerner, after all — and yet I packed mostly shorts and cotton Ts. In using others’ lists, which I now realize were similar because they all fed off each other, I totally lost sight of what makes me comfortable. And believe me, when you’re wearing the same things over and over, comfort is of the utmost importance.
Related, I’m doing a bit of shopping. Some of the items I sent home weren’t clothing, and I do want to reduce the weight of my pack, but there were a few things I wanted to replace. Shopping could be considered a competitive sport in KL based on the number of seven-story mega malls I’ve seen, and I know that anything in particular I need I should probably get either here or in Bangkok before I head into more rural parts of Asia.
Third, I’m picking up my visa for Myanmar. Every other country that requires a visa has the option to do it on arrival, but Myanmar is a bit more complicated. My passport is at the consulate (hopefully) ready to be collected tomorrow afternoon, and then I can book a plane ticket to Yangon!
Last, I need to take care of some personal needs, like getting a wax and doing my laundry. You have no idea how important clean laundry is until you have been sweating in your few outfits for a week or more. I had my first experience sitting in a laundromat today, and while I would have killed for an ensuite washer/dryer back in D.C., I didn’t mind hanging out and reading while I watched my clothes go around and around for an hour.
In any case, I’m really excited to move on to Cameron Highlands later this week, where I’ll be up in the beautiful countryside amidst tea plantations and strawberry farms, where there’s plenty of trekking and other outdoor activities, and where it’s — supposedly — a much more reasonable temperature. I’ll also be quite glad to leave behind the expense of big-city life in KL.
The thing about backpacking is that it makes you cheap — and it makes you cheap almost immediately. You balk at accommodations that are more than $15-20 (even $10, in some places), do everything you can to get meals for a few bucks, and groan when a particularly pricey day ups your average per diem. My first day in KL was one such day. I made the mistake of pre-booking a room at a budget hotel because I got a really good deal through Agoda. I was thinking that it’d be nice, because it’s only two days and it’s a big city, to stay in a private room with my own bathroom. Unfortunately, the hotel is nothing like the pictures online, and I could have stayed in a much nicer hostel for way cheaper. I didn’t do my research — in fact, I didn’t do any research on KL at all — so lesson learned.
I also cringed when I swiped my credit card at the wax salon and at the mall, and I was really sad to hand over a big chunk of cash for my visa fee. In the grand scheme of things, it’s just not that much money, but when you’re looking at trying to average a reasonable $30 a day and then you go well over $100 at once, all told, it’s a little disheartening. But I know that Cameron Highlands will be inexpensive, and I won’t have much reason to drop that much money at once again while I’m here.