Sunrise in KL

KL

The sunrise this morning over a hazy KL taken from our hotel room in Bangsar. The temperature was already 25ºC and is forecast to rise to 33º. The highest temperature in Auckland today was 23º and this time next week we’ll be there! We are returning home after four years in Malaysia. Our stay here was the reason for starting this blog as a means of keeping our family and friends up to date with our news. While we are thrilled to be going home, inevitably we’ll miss things about our life in Ipoh, not least the people we’ve met and the friendships  we’ve formed. But we will not miss the heat or the haze! I’ll have to rename my website – From Ohaupo to Ipoh to ??  We’re not sure yet where we’ll be living but it will be somewhere in the middle of the North Island. It may even be back in Ohaupo! Watch this space.

Jingle bells

mid-valley-christmas

I’ve heard just about every version of this ubiquitous Christmas jingle after three days in KL, where every shop is cashing in on this Christian festival. It always seems strange to me that in Malaysia, where over 60% of people are Muslim and not even 10% are Christian, Christmas music and decorations are so prevalent. I snapped this photo from upstairs in the Mid Valley mall. It was teeming with people, many of whom were taking selfies in front of the elaborate decorations. It seemed ironic that that particular day was Maulidur Rasul (Prophet Muhammad’s birthday).

KLCC

img_3650

The Petronas Towers at KLCC are the emblem of Malaysia for many international and local visitors. There are hundreds of people at KLCC at any one time. It felt like there were thousands there yesterday afternoon when we arrived for the philharmonic concert in the splendid concert hall at the base of the towers. It was a dazzling programme with works by Tchaikovsky, Dukas, Rimsky-Korsakov and Stravinsky. The orchestra filled the stage and included two harps, an expanded percussion section and impressive woodwind and brass sections. But the hall was not nearly full and going out into the throng in the Suria mall afterwards, I felt it was a pity they hadn’t been there to experience it. Hundreds of people were enjoying the piped Christmas music, taking selfies in front of the cut-outs of Santa and his reindeer and shopping in the numerous designer stores that line the mall. Good on them but I think we had the more enjoyable experience.

A pile of books

009

“I hate the thought of no printed books, magazines or newspapers and the way of life they evoke. Books on the bedside table …” wrote Janet Weir in The Listener (13 August 2016). How I agree with her! The pile of books on my bedside table has been one of the very few constants in my life – in every country I’ve lived in, in every house, in every bedroom. I came away from our last trip to KL with the pile you can see in the photo above from the excellent Kinokuniya bookshop in the Suria Mall at KLCC. I have already read the Kiran Desai and have just finished Max Perkins – Editor of Genius. This morning before my walk I began the Gabrielle Zevin and really enjoyed the first 18 pages. I know I could have got copies of all these books for my e-reader but somehow it’s not nearly as exciting as having the pile of actual books, which creates a delicious sense of anticipation.

Tramping in KL

IMG_4109

It is possible to go for a tramp in KL but first you have the find the track. Without local knowledge this can be difficult. We’d been told about the Bukit Saga Cheras trail and we looked up directions online. The GPS said we’d arrived but we couldn’t see the trail and there were no signs. After parking with great difficulty because of the high density of housing and vehicles in the area, we wandered around hoping to find the trail while the temperature rose as the sun began beating down. Eventually we got directions from a man out walking his dog and found the track. It was a fairly steep uphill climb but the steps were well maintained and there were ropes in strategic places. All our fellow trampers were friendly and some stopped to chat. When we got to the top, there were boards advertising the “Save Green Lungs” initiative, which is an attempt to prevent the green spaces in KL being swallowed up by development. This is a worthwhile endeavour and having thoroughly enjoyed our expedition, we wish them every success.

Forest retreat

059

During a weekend spent in KL we explored the tracks through the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia or FRIM as it’s known by locals. It was established in 1925 and by the 1950s had developed into a large plantation with research facilities in the areas of chemistry, silviculture, botany and zoology. It also provides the people of KL with a large green space for recreation. We really enjoyed walking the tracks in the shade of tall trees, listening to the abundant birdsong and even catching glimpses of monkeys through the foliage. We also walked up the path beside some small waterfalls where children were paddling and a bride was having her photo taken. It puzzled us that most people were walking along the roads and not taking advantage of the quieter, shadier tracks. But that meant we had them more-or-less to ourselves, which was a real treat in a city with a population of 7 million.

Interesting snippets

280

We’ve just spent a few days in KL, which is an interesting mixture of cultures that is reflected in the city’s architecture. I had some enlightening interactions with three different people while I was “foraging” for food and other items unavailable in Ipoh. A young man in a mobile phone store very competently helped me sort out my phone, which had had a hissy fit probably because of some daft thing I did. We talked about the Malaysian state of the nation and his opinion was that there is nothing the ordinary person can do to bring about change. And he concluded by saying that the people in power were cleverer than him. If they are, I’d be very surprised! A woman ahead of me in a bookshop queue smartly told a young man who was casually pushing in to go to the back of the queue. Then she told me that it was our duty to educate people about the polite way to behave. I am so inured to being pushed out and shoved in the back while queuing that I was greatly impressed. Another woman in another queue, this time in the ladies’ room, disputed whose turn was next and pointed to a sign saying “the queue starts here”. I smiled and commented that signs like that meant very little in Malaysia and she retorted “if you don’t obey them then they’ll never mean anything” as I let a young woman go ahead of me. She’s right of course. Maybe I should stop being such a wuss!

Hello kitty

hello kitty

My Dutch grandmother used to say “nu gaat mij lampje uit” when she was amazed by something. I understood the equivalent English expression to be “now I’ve seen everything”. We would both have been right today – I saw my first Hello Kitty Cafe at the KL shopping centre I visited. I had to go inside not because I wanted anything to eat or drink but just to gawp. It is quite cute with neat little tables and chairs, white china and napkins decorated with the ubiquitous kitty and glass cabinets filled with cakes, iced biscuits and lollies. The overriding colour is of course pink. I guess it might be fun to take a party of small girls there for a treat but other than that I can’t imagine who it is aimed at. Nevertheless the place was packed, not just with little girls but people of all ages all tucking into the overpriced confectionery.

The glorious 5th

beethoven

We heard Beethoven’s fifth symphony played by the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra last Friday night. The conductor was Roberto Abbado, nephew of Claudio. He was wonderful – at times up on tip toes and at others sweeping the players along with exaggerated arm movements. It is dramatic music that requires a dramatic conductor. Although the symphony is so well-known, it is amazing to hear it live and see the all the instruments, from piccolo to trombone, from violin to double bass, played with such rapid proficiency. It is hard to believe that Beethoven wrote such music over 200 years ago. Apparently the French composer Lesueur said after its first performance in 1808 “It moved and excited me so much that my head was reeling. One should not be permitted to write such music.” To which his student Berlioz replied “Calm yourself, it will not be done often” and he was right.

In praise of bookshops

kinokuniya

As a life-long user of libraries, I used to view bookshops as an optional extra. Why buy a book that you are probably only going to read once when you can borrow it from the library? The only books I bought were those I’d already read and knew I would read again. But there are no libraries that cater for the likes of me in Ipoh. I have an e-reader and I can and do buy e-books. However, I still prefer an actual book. So it is with great delight that I anticipate my visit to the Kinokuniya bookshop in KLCC. We are in KL for a few days and a morning in this wonderful store is the first thing on my to-do list. I sometimes feel a pang of guilt when I spend hundreds of ringgit on books that probably will not fulfill the “read more than once” criterion. But books are the staff of life and, as my daughter wisely reminded me, writers need to be supported.