February 29th 1984

posted in: The way back | 0
The Post Office

A milestone, I suppose, albeit a somewhat artificial one, being the one and only Feb 29th we shall spend away on this trip.  Not that we spent it in spectacularly exciting style.  Our night was rat-free, we think, + then Hassan dropped us in to town on his way to work.  We spent a big chunk of the morning dealing with 2 relatively small chores: changing some money, + posting some letters.  The money-changing was an expected delay – foreign banks have really made us appreciate British ones, where the foreign exchange teller has the authority to cash a travellers’ cheque on his own.  In most other countries – I’ll confess I don’t remember the system in US or Canada – the blasted thing has to be checked + authorised by every man + his dog, + they’re in no hurry to do it either.  The PO business was complicated by the fact that they’ve recently moved, now occupying a brand-new purpose-built + exceedingly impressive white building on the river.  It is enormous, + that is part of the problem – they have lots of office space to fill, so have solved the problem by narrow specialisation, so that one office handles parcels, another registration, etc.  With the various sections labelled only in Malay, finding the right section is no easy matter.  We had the ludicrous situation where Val could buy a stamp in one place, but had to go to an entirely separate one to buy an aerogramme.  It was as much her fault as theirs, but a crazy situation nonetheless, especially when one considers my mum does everything that whole place does (+ probably then some) only she operates out of one tiny office.

The railway station

I had a treat when we happened on a Wendy’s fast food place – I’ve been pressing Val to go to a Wendy’s ever since we left England.  Not that it was all that different, of course, but I enjoyed it.  We then went on a walk around the southern end of town to visit KL’s attractions.  One of the best of these, strangely, is the one we did first, the Railway Station, which looks like some Eastern potentate’s palace, with a profusion of spires + minarets.  We took some pictures, + were able to enquire about a train up to Tapah, just below the Cameron Highlands, our next destination – we intend to leave in the morning.

We walked down to the museum, but it seemed a bit thin, + we weren’t really in the mood, so we gave it no more than a cursory inspection, + then moved on to the Park.  A pleasant stroll, but again we weren’t in a mood to appreciate it.  I think we both feel anxious to move on, + that at the moment we are just wasting time.  However, thro’ the Park we walked past the Houses of Parliament – uninspired architecture if ever I saw it, an office block on yop of a row of greenhouses.  And then we came to the National Monument, erected to commemorate the end of the Emergency, when the communists got beat, or packed it in, or something.  Again, not wonderfully inspired or inspiring – a larger than life tableau of a group of soldiers, one or two proud + victorious, one or two (to show a balanced viewpoint) dead or dying.  And from there we returned to the Export Trade Centre, the place from where Hassan had picked us up yesterday, as it was a sensible landmark.

The National memorial

Hassan was in a meeting for a long time, but when we finally got thro’, he told us he would pick us up at 6.30.  So we sat on the steps + read.  In fact, it was past 7.30 when he arrived, the meeting having gone on well beyond the time he had expected.  We had just been about to get in to a taxi, not wishing to appear entirely useless in the face of altered circumstances, so he arrived just in time.  We collected Faridah – she is a newspaper sub-editor, so works funny hours, then out to his place.  We were dropped off at Ima’s to shower + change, then picked up 30 mins later.  The plan had been to go to a restaurant which had a buffet plus Malaysian cultural show as a sort of cabaret.  It was rushing things – Hassan reckoned it started at 8.30, + it was gone 9 when we finally turned up.  When we discovered it had actually begun at 7.30 + was almost finished, that put the kibosh on that.

Largely, I imagine, because we had enquired of them, during the ride to Melaka, what a steamboat was, they decided to take us to a restaurant that served them – it was a bit of a tortuous drive, with KL’s road system, + Hassan not knowing the roads all that well, but we arrived eventually, + parked the car under the watchful eye of one of the car boys – basically a protection racket.  The meal was splendid, but once again, I’m afraid, not really to my taste, consisting mostly of seafood.  Luckily, H + F (they paid for everything) also bought a plate of Chinese-style beef, mostly for me, which was excellent.  In addition, there were crab-meat balls, and a big tray of huge king prawns, about 6 of them, each one about 6 inches long.  Plus the steamboat.  It gets its name because it is a large bowl of boiling water, cooked at the table on its own furnace of burning charcoal, into which various things are dropped.  I thought it definitely over-rated, being not much different to a sort of watery fish soup.

Steamboat

Over the meal, Faridah told us that one of her colleagues was interested in interviewing us for their paper – would tomorrow lunch be convenient?  It didn’t take us long, publicity –seekers that we are, to postpone our departure by a day, + agree.  Even if nothing came of it, it would be a free lunch, + a different experience.

We moved on next to the Merlin Hotel, one of KL#s top international hotels.  I thought it was just for a coffee, but H + F got stuck into the beers.  Val + I kept with coffee, plus, with not much persuasion, dessert – rich fruit sundaes both.  Hassan quizzed us quite a bit about our trip, tho’ I wouldn’t say he listened all that closely to what we had to say, more pressing his own idea of our motivations etc onto us.  I shouldn’t be too critical – he is remarkably kind + generous, + had also had quite a few beers.  We finally got home at about 3, having to wake the housekeeper (Biyang III) up, to let us in.

Quite the busy day today, with plenty of sight-seeing, as well as chores… and then finishing off with two restaurants. There is a slight touch of Yopi about our situation, as we are staying longer than we would have liked, but there again it is clear that this is our choice. And we are being treated royally, so no complaints from us.

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