© Luko G-R (
and 0 draft(s),
created on 30-05-2009
2 project comment(s),
31 photos comment(s)
KL, Kuala Lumpur, literally named the “city of mud”, broke its cocoon to become a brightlighted city.
The first time I saw KL was 14 years ago, going to Saigon the plane flew over brownish-red mud scarring deep green palm tree plantations and landed on old KL airport, which was living its heydays, unaware that KLIA terminal, the oversized architectural gesture of Pei, was already contracted by madman Mahattir, M’sia's infamous PM.
Viewed from my window seat, KL was another sleepy moist hell in Asia, abandoned since Jo Conrad sailed past the Malacca Straits.
Two years afterwards, I ventured out of the airport to discover deserted highways, much alike a dream of a new tropical Reich, only that Mahattir had fixed its arrival on 2020.
This statement was certainly motivated by the traditional islamic party (PAS) winning the elections in the northern part of the country, close to the Thai border. Never frowning on a contradiction and meanwhile he was structuring a local silicon valley called Cyberjaya, Mahattir promoted kampung life (traditional village life) as the keyword of his successful campaign. The same year, Anwar, his deputy –a more democratic politician-, was thrown to the angry holier-than-thou anger, put to jail and sentenced for “sodomy”.
At this time, downtown KL was a small Manhattan, clean streets lined with beautiful huge banyan trees which aerial roots hosted the ghost of Somerset Maugham. The gringos out there were mostly british expats. A 5 star hotel room cost 70USD and all the room you can have facing the Petronas towers, for that price you also had the waitress kneeling at your table when she served a Tiger beer or a Sing Sling.
Malaysia was so NOT a tourist place, so far away from the “Malaysia truly Asia” slogan. I remember my first late afternoon at the pool of the Renaissance hotel, A colonial brit asked me what “Frenchmen could be doing in the outpost of the British empire” (!). Behind me, I heard ole Somerset chuckling… From that day, I always wore white trousers in KL, preferably linen.
Then a few years later and lots of nights spent in KL 5* accoms, Sepang hosted a Grand Prix, taxis tried to scam you for 0.50 cts, sweet milk tiger prawns tasted like they spent their life in a freezer rather than beneath Malacca straits, there was no way to find a genuine pasar malam (night market) anymore in KL city, Middle East people came to spend the pocket money left from Dubai shopping, XXIst century was taking over…Somerset was packing his case, on the leave.
Likewise, I quit my KL hub for Bangkok.
Until now it had been 5 years I missed the sour smell of kwai teow noodles and sweet grilled satays on Jalan Alor. Last feb, I stayed a night in KL, Jalan Alor is still there, though the old guy, whose outdoor grill I used to buy my satay from, has torn the curtain down –he probably kicked the bucket too- . Bukit Bintang street now matches any Vegas strip in terms of energy spent on neonlights, the Carlton-Ritz hotel was an old favourite although I didn’t even recognize the hotel... too much light and too many upmarket malls opening each year…
It seems neons and fashion malls are now an illustration for the “Truly Asia” motto. One upon a time, the Petronas towers were a strange sight while looking through the leaves of the banyan or palm trees. I would challenge you now finding any single palm tree in this neon light inferno.
Outside the cancerous city spreads Like an illness
It's symptoms In cars that cruise to inevitable destinations
Tailed by the silent spotlights
Of Society created paranoia
Delicious platter here of a consciousness stream, colonial white slacks to boot and tendrils of banyan tree bring back allusions long gone, with Asian Reichstag here and there. But this deliciously drunken view slowly gets clearer (I wish your sequence was slightly different--I will comment in the appropriate place again) and I am left with a piece of personal blizzard that blows from Somerset to Paul T.