Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
KL’s airports are an infuriating hour or so from the city center; which I suppose could be Tullamarine on a bad day. Still, it feels like we’ve been traveling all day by the time we’re at the check-in desk of the Furama in Bukit Bintang. It’s officially our last stop on the epic trip here in KL and though we could spend time running around looking at temples and climbing the stairs to the Batu Caves or going up the elevators in the Petronas Towers, we simply can’t be bothered. As ridiculous as this might sound we simply head to KL’s mall district and get an iced coffee and a panini. The malls here are like Dubai, massive in scale with huge attention to retail dressing. Shopfronts are extravagant and bright. Enticing. We spend a lot of time picking up a bit of a new wardrobe before we head home. Part of me wonders whether this exercise is a kind of induction to the world back home. A bit of a mindset shift. The nice hotels, the good nights sleep, the malls and cinemas. Perhaps it’s a way of drawing some alignment of at least some of what we can expect back home. It’s not to say that we’re not comfortable doing the day to day of a nomadic style traveler, but it’s perhaps more a survival, adaptive measure. Perhaps I’m over-thinking it.
The day-to-day becomes getting down to Level 3 for breakfast right before 10am. Wandering out around Jalan Bukit Bintang around 11am when the shops have mostly opened. Getting a coffee around lunchtime. Getting lunch around 2 or 3. Returning to the hotel for a swim and gym. Getting a beer. Heading out at night for dinner.
KL has this wonderful distinct ability to make you feel right at home. People smile, they’re happy and courteous and mostly speak English. There’s an unusual tendency I remembered from our prior time in South East Asia to touch your forearm when handing over money or to accept money or cards with two hands. It’s been a habit I managed to keep even when back in Melbourne, to the odd glances of a few, so it’s come back easily.
We meet Sunny the taxi driver on the way back from KL’s mammoth Suria KLCC mall at the Petronas Towers. While all the drivers standing around touting on the pavement offered us 30 ringgit (10 bucks) back to our hotel, he waved us from the road and offered us 15.
‘Cool’ I thought.. but then..
‘You want to do some shopping?’ No thanks. Just done that. ‘Batu Caves, half day tour, it’s only 2 o’clock.’ No thanks. Just the hotel okay Sunny.
‘Okay Sir but do you want to go past some electronic market first. White tourists love electronics.’ Which tourists? ‘White sir’ Only white? ‘Yes’.
He was annoying as hell so I don’t know how it ended up that we booked him for the next day to take us to the airport at midday. For our flight home.
Being all packed and ready to go, sitting on the couch just waiting for the clock to tick midday was a weird feeling. Already we’d showered, put on some nice new clothes and just sat there quietly watching our last batch of international news that had become a kind of customary expectation. When it was time to go, Sunny was there, in the lobby and he took our bags and loaded them into his cab. We got in, soaking the gravity of the moment, but it’s quickly stirred when Sunny drives us past the onramp to the freeway and into gridlock.
‘You want to buy car parts? You have so much time.’ No Sunny, we need to get to the airport as soon as possible.
One of my ‘things’ is not ******* with your ‘getting to the airport’ strategy.
‘Okay.. 10 minutes sir, I need to stop here’ and we pull into a service station to get gas.
‘Sunny.. you need to have done this before you picked us up okay? This is our time now and we need to get to the airport’
’10 minutes sir, we’ll be on the freeway’
To add to this, he cranks ‘The Best of Boney M’ while we’re waiting. His favorite song.. ‘Sunny’. Some lyrics..
Sunny, yesterday my life was filled with rain.
Sunny, you smiled at me and really eased the pain.
The dark days are gone, and the bright days are here,
My sunny one shines so sincere.
Sunny one so true, I love you.
Not true is it?
I must admit though, there was something adorable sitting there in the back of his taxi, listening to a song that he loved, about him.
It was pretty much silent the hour or so to the airport. When we got there, like a dog that had ****** on the carpet, head sunk low, he said.
‘Sir, I’m so sorry..’
I felt awful.
‘Sunny.. it’s no problem, thank-you for getting us here’
It was time to go home. It’s impossible to culminate all the 12 months of travel into one reflective thought, or even try to weigh the magnitude of the achievement; the best I could muster was sense of satisfaction that we’d survived, learned a lot, seen the most amazing things and met some truly wonderful people. Everything else was a kind of synapse relating to ‘last time I’ll be doing this’ sort of stuff.
We were greeted at 1:00am or so by Rebecca’s mum and brother after a lightning whip through Australian customs. The air was clean and fresh and we could smell Eucalyptus. You heave a sigh, draw a line in the ground and know that it’s all ended.