Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Back to the Beginning

Our room here at the Comfort Inn is slightly smaller than what we had the first time here, but the beds are just as comfortable. One thing I look for at hotels is how clean the mattress is. The sheets may be clean, but if the mattress or pillows are old, soiled, or downright groady, it gives me the heebie geebies. With one exception, the roach hotel, all of the places we have stayed pass the deep down cleanliness test with impressive colors. Hence this is why they are added to Our Picks on our web site www.budabab.com/our_picks.htm . We only refer to the best.

Toward the end of vacation, I go into what Ron calls ‘reentry’ mode, where I stop thinking about the present and concentrate on the things that need doing once we return home. Pushing these thoughts back, we forced ourselves to visit Starbucks to use their WiFi. There is this compulsive need to pay our credit cards hours after we have used them so the rich do not get richer on our interest charges. Plus there is satisfaction in reaching the stage of life where one can say they are truly debt-free. Needless to say, with the e-mails and other utilitarian tasks, we were at the café for over two hours, and then had to return the computer to our room.

There is one Hindu temple we had read about after our first time here, which from pictures looked well worth seeking out. Ron thought he knew where it was having seen it from the monorail in the past, so this was our destination today. Tickets for the monorail are point to point, whereas the point we were headed cost 1.20 Ringgits, less than 50 cents and much cheaper than a Disneyland ride. We disembarked where Mr. Map thought the temple was, but he was in grave danger of losing his designated title; we arrived at a Chinese Taoist temple instead of a Hindu one. The temple looked like it had lost its congregation long ago, being in an unkempt state of affairs, but interestingly, there was a flourishing traditional Chinese medical clinic operating inside and to the right of the main altar. They must deal with foreigners often enough to warrant a translation of the information into English.

Close, but no cigar for the temple we wanted to see, so we walked a few blocks and found an area where there were dozens of stores that sold wholesale jewelry. Block after block, shops were specializing in the glitz and gaudy items to accessorize, a cross-dressers dreamland. As we wandered, other shops started to appear as we reached a neighborhood downtown area, though still in Kuala Lumpur. Then peaking over the tops of other buildings, we spotted the temple we were searching for and magnificent it was.

Although I firmly hold to being agnostic bordering on atheist, there are places where I feel such serenity, there is no denying for me that it has to relate to some past life experience. This only happens when I enter Buddhist or Hindu temples strangely enough. Weirdly, when my photos in Buddhist temples are usually on the blurred side regardless of how artistically I control my camera, yet in Hindu temples, the photos seem to be crisp and clean. Finding this temple was worth the effort. Statues everywhere inspire a regal solemnity over my soul that I rarely find elsewhere worming a desire within to sit around and take lessons from whoever is willing to share their wisdom with me. Ganesh is always my favorite with his elephant head and my love of elephants. I walked around the massive complex taking it all in and wanting to share it with everyone through my photos, but halfway through my batteries died. End of the pictures; I had not recharged the back-up set thinking there were not be a need. My mind holds all of the untaken pictures, but how to share them will be a mystery.

Ron loves taking us off of the beaten track not answering direct questions. When we left the temple for parts unknown to me and asked where we were heading next, he only committed to the light rail train. Buying a day ticket for 7.50 Ringgits seemed ominous to me, our hours were ticking away and we had to leave this evening. We got off of the train at a section in the city where the old wooden houses are built on stilts. Walking in search of a drink, we found we were in a local neighborhood with the usual impromptu looking restaurants patronized by locals, yet only one was open. Ron was searching for a beer, which gave me internal giggles. We were in the land of Islam with head covered women working around us and alcohol being against the teachings of Islam as strictly as Mormonism. There would not be a beer to be found, but he fought on with his ethnocentricity assured that they would indulge tourists. However, after a few blocks, it was a certainty, we were in areas where tourists never tread and the locals were staring at us with smiles and word balloons lingering over their heads saying “These tourists took a wrong turn.”

Admitting defeat, we moved on and in search of a beer. We returned to the central bus station and then to our old ‘hood’ where we started this whole adventure a month prior. It did not seem as overwhelmingly crowded and busy as it had originally. We have been inoculated with the crowd and confusion vaccine. From a street vendor, I purchased some durian already to eat. Durian is one of the smelliest fruits imaginable and not pleasantly fragrant. Some areas restrict their growing it due to the stench. However, some brave soul in some millennia decided to venture past the aroma and cut through to the innards where four avocado shaped pieces of light yellow fruit are waiting to be evacuated. Unlike its smell, the fruit is mind in flavor, slightly juicy, but carries some of its smell into the taste. I tried it, but I could live without it.

Still not finding a beer, we went back to our hotel neighborhood where we knew for certain alcohol was not restricted and found beer before going to the laundry to collect our clean clothes. One of the best things about these countries is the inexpensive laundry services all over. We have never had to suffer with dirty clothes, having it laundered along the way. Now we would be returning home with the only dirty clothing being those that we traveled in.

Our flight to Doha, Qatar is at the unthinkable time of 3:30 am. According to the front desk clerk, we need to leave the hotel at 11:30 via taxi to get there in time. Not liking that answer, we are waiting for a change of shift and will ask again when the new clerk comes on duty. We prepare by taking a nap, though my naps are never longer than one hour, so I am up earlier than Ron to write in semi-darkness with the monitor for illumination.

Our last dinner here and we are going to do it up. We returned to a restaurant in the neighborhood where they have pork ribs in a lemon sauce. The sauce is so delectable if they bottled it, they could be rich. The ribs are almost a misnomer being chunks of pork almost absent of bone. I ordered a medium portion of chicken curry, small was not an option for some reason. To complement this, I also order a small portion of the lemon ribs, warning Ron that I am guarding my plates like a starving dog. If he wants any of this, he had better order his own. The medium portion of the curry was enough to feed a family of four; the ribs could have fed a small tribe in Botswana. I did my best, but since I did not have the time to send the leftovers via Fedex to the poor starving children in China, I had to admit defeat after giving it a glutton’s go at it.

Returning to the hotel, the change of shift desk clerk said we could leave for the airport at 12:30 am, an answer we liked so much better. We went to repack for the final time after showering and tried to nap yet again. Sleeping on my stomach was like trying to sleep while stretched over a beer barrel, it wasn’t going to happen.

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