Big cities turn me into a night owl. Especially the large cities in SE Asia. My body clock gets out of whack and I end up going to bed around sunrise and sleeping till the afternoon. I flew up to Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, with an Australian friend, Damien. We were all over the Duty free and started off Kuala Lumpur with a few day bender. In terms of Asian countries it’s sort of in-between Singapore and Bangkok, and it quite literally is between them. It has it’s fancy side, like Singapore, with big fancy shopping malls, incredible public transport, upscale restaurants, fairly orderly traffic, and pretty clean. Don’t let this shiny coat fool you though. Kuala Lumpur is just as gritty as other large SE Asian cities when you get down into it, but nowhere on earth is quite like it.
It’s a mix of ethnic Malaysians, Chinese, Indians, Middle Easterners, Burmese, Nepalese, and many others. It’s a melting pot for religions with Islam being the majority, followed by Buddhism, Christianity, and Hinduism. The outcome of all these cultures squeezed into one place is food heaven. On one street you can have your choice of Middle Eastern curries and nan bread, delicious Thai stir-fries, Chinese dumplings and noodle soups, mouth watering Malay dishes, Indian paneer, every creature imaginable stuck on a stick and bbq’d, and many many more amazing flavours to try.
If your heart is yearning for some familiar western food it’s not hard to track that down as well. Sometimes their versions are pretty gross. Most of them believe westerners favorited food is hotdogs.
I’ve been stuck here waiting for my motorcycle, and I think the food is the only thing keeping me sane. I love going off and finding the little back ally markets and vendors. You will always find something interesting in them. A lot of it is pretty strange, but the giant white guy wandering through is pretty strange to some of them. The fish ladies are always the cutest. One of the stalls butchering up meat had a cage on the counter with two full grown cats in it. I was looking at it wondering if they were destined for the dinner table, then a lady got my attention and pointed to a sign over them, which read “cats not for eat”.
My favourite place to spend the night time is chinatown. It takes on a whole new personality as the night gets later. The long strip of pesky vendors clears out and evening food stalls come to life. Many of the weird characters come out of hiding. Theres no better time to grab a seat along the road with some new friends, a plate of mie goreng with a banana roti, tall cans of Kingfisher beer, and watch the world pass by. It’s ten times better than any reality show. A great spot to have some drinks and grub is down Jalan Sultan in front of the big glowing red Bee Cheng Hiang sign.
Just under this you have a bottle shop with possibly the cheapest beer and liquor in KL. Just down the road at the mini mart beers are 2 to 3 times more expensive. Being a muslim country, the alcohol is usually expensive, but this little shop has some black market action going on or something. The Bangladeshi dudes running it are solid. Once you have that taken care of, take your pick of the stalls around you, grab one of the outdoor tables, and begin your night.
Be careful of the Chinese man who runs the BBQ meats place right outside. He has some sweet seating, but he is a stern man who will give you some serious attitude. Most the time we had no idea what his problem was and just ignored his steely stare. Most people only visit KL briefly and in transit, so I’ve spent a lot of evenings around the area with different groups from many different countries. As a night progresses in chinatown, the stories get better and better.
You could learn more about the world here than in any University. Two of the wildest were from a young Indian guy and a Chinese girl. I’m not sure which is the winner, I’d call it a tie. So here’s the Indians story: It was about the Aghoris in India. Here’s a little background on them from Wiki (they base their beliefs on two principles common to broader Shaiva beliefs: that Shiva is perfect (having omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence) and that Shiva is responsible for everything that occurs – all conditions, causes and effects. Consequently, everything that exists must be perfect and to deny the perfection of anything would be to deny the sacredness of all life in its full manifestation, as well as to deny the Supreme Being. Aghoris believe that every person’s soul is Shiva but is covered by astamahapasha (“eight great nooses or bonds”) – sensual pleasure, anger, greed, obsession, fear and hatred. The practices of the Aghoris are centred around the removal of these bonds. Sadhana in cremation grounds destroys fear; sexual practices with certain riders and controls help release one from sexual desire; being naked destroys shame. On release from all the eight bonds the soul becomes sadashiva and obtains moksha.)
He told us about how if a dead body was floating down the Ganges River, an Aghori guru or his people would pull the body out, and then do some rituals, which include sitting on the body and meditating. Then some will cut off pieces of flesh and eat them. When I’m in India I might have to track down some of these people and check it out. They will make a bowl out of the skull to use when they ask for offerings from people. The Chinese girls is way more disturbing I think. Supposedly in China there is a place where they built a table with a hole perfect to put a monkey head up through. Once the monkeys head is sticking out and it’s stuck they smash it with a hammer, and then use straws the drink out the brains.
That’s one thing I have no interest in seeing. You never know where the night will take you in chinatown and who you will meet. Everybody has a story, some stranger than others.