Bewildered but sated

Bewildered but sated
Bangi, Malaysia

Bangi, Malaysia

I hardly slept last night. Trying to download a new os for both my computer and iPad kept me up too late, past the time I was sleepy, and then my ankle conspired to keep me thinking.

I wasn’t upset, then, to be up and stretching around 10, though didn’t leave till 11. The idea today was to pick up my race number for Sunday and book a bus ticket to Singapore for the afternoon following, exploring wherever those tasks took me and perhaps adding some shops. I had no idea where the registration instructions referred to – t-299, 3rd floor The Gardens, Mid valley. Um. But a google map search showed the latter as a shopping mall a couple of miles away. I set off in blazing sunshine, but when I found myself near a monorail I took the chance to ride that. Or, at least, I did when I realised the station wasn’t under construction. Above me was a metal grid with litter on, surely to have a monorail built on top? Ah, the rails are either side of the grid, which is just preventing droppage onto the street. Oops, I understand now. Single journey, buy a token, follow the sign and I was at KL Sentral station.

There, I was confused again. I could see the underground (LRT), but that is just three lines (one the monorail) and none of them are the ones I wanted. No map, other than the one of the station, offering departure areas for four different types of train. Wifi helped me, I got a map and worked out I wanted a kommuter line. A pass would be good, and more research suggested the touch ‘n go card would do me. I found their base, bought and finally went. Having checked the map I found my platform and all was going well until as the train arrived I checked my map. By now I’d forgotten that I had already checked the map at the station and was confused-the destination was a station I had not heard of, and it wasn’t on my map. Do I get on, or not?

I did. Turns out the line has had two stations added since my map was updated. I suspect the same is true of other lines and the other end of this one, as none of the train destinations I could see seemed to match up, giving me the weird feeling that I might be stood in a different KL than my map showed. I hopped off two stations later and was at the Mid Valley mall. I figured I should head for the ‘mega mall’ and was right – inside I saw signs for the gardens. I was arrowing in. One final attempt to trip me saw a Toys ‘r us sign pointing left, but I continued right to the gardens. Number collection started at 12, I was there 45 minutes after the start and could get that out of the way first.

I became a traitor to my nation. Arriving on the third floor, I realised the t-299 was the lot number for the 2xu store; the queue in front of me could only be for race numbers. I joined in. It took about an hour, but I was terribly terribly un-English about it. Not once did I whinge about the time taken and, to make me unrecognisable from my compatriots, I didn’t use my total lack of knowledge of what they were doing to make several suggestions of what “you’d think they would do” to speed it up. Perhaps I have become international.

With number and bonus 2xu running vest in hand I walked along the mall, unsure why i wasn’t heading back to the first, then realising when I spotted that my unconscious had sniffed out a Lego store. Sadly Lego is international enough that it wasn’t very exciting, and I moved on, to lunch in the garden restaurant – £4, and eating well in malls is a welcome Asian staple.

Heading back I followed the sign to the kommuter line but missed a turn at the end, exploring the north block of mid valley for a few minutes before heading back over the road and finding the turn I had missed. Kuala Lumpur station was better for me than Sentral, though it took me ages to find an exit. I bleeped out on the middle platform, having walked most of the length of it, then walked most of the length of platform 1 before finding steps up to a walkway which took me, finally, away from the station and, usefully, across several roads.

Job one done. I dropped my kit off, then walked to the bus station. Up a ramp and I was in a small shopping area, then in amongst waiting areas for platforms. Ticket office upstairs, so I went up, and found myself in the car park. Okay, middle steps. Now I was in amongst shops and not much else. I went down again and checked for more signs. Definitely upstairs. Back away from the platforms, into a more air conditioned area and back up those steps, the only option left. Behind where you emerge is the ticket area, it’s not really as hard to find as I made it. Lots of bus companies have their own booths, most a bit grubby. I had decided on the Transnacional booth, a bit bigger than the others and surely going to Singapore; others hadn’t mentioned it. But one of the pleasures of a cheap country is knowing that you can be sold to without being ripped off, so I checked that she called it a luxury bus and allowed a young lady to sell me a ticket. 50 ringit, under £10. I was assuming it would be cheaper there than through the hostel, but have no way of knowing. There are enough companies there that you can probably compare and play them off, but good luck to them if they’ve made a couple of quid from me. 5 hour bus ride, cheap, and cheaper than is quoted on the web when I did a search and found a page listing some of the bus companies.

So I’d been bewildered several times, but achieved my goals. To celebrate I wandered back to Petaling street and picked up some hooky Star Wars ‘Lego’, the only such I’d seen, managing to avoid the ladies selling facials. They have a picture board, at which I glanced and got the wrong idea and so I confused the first, telling her I wasn’t hungry, but the second (of 6 sitting together) also got up and got her sign up before I got past. I realised this wasn’t food, now; perhaps they were keen on me because the big spot that appeared overnight looked like a gift, but I moved on. Dinner was in a small ‘restoran’, really a canteen, which always appeals. I could even serve myself, which would be dangerous if I’d run today, but as it was they did okay. Both there and at the non lego place I tried to overpay – the former had 11 on my bill, then he rang up 14 and realised his mistake when I offered 24, and at the latter I gave him 26 and walked away, having confused a 20 for a 10. He called me back, very honest.

Lovely successful day. I let myself off a sense of bewilderment, at least as regards transport and navigating road crossings, with the thought that it takes time to get to grips with cities, usually, and I have shifted cities fairly often. I am gradually losing my instinctive ‘not for me’ reaction to any offers, that crept in in Cambodia, in favour of actually listening and trusting not everyone wants to sell something. Taxi drivers take a ‘no thanks’ immediately, and yesterday the man who said “can I help you” was perfectly happy to point me in the direction of Chinatown, and the one who laughed and said something wasn’t offering a lift, just commented that he too loved Penang, as my t shirt said. Lots of friendly people, and it is much nicer to wander around saying hello to every hello and sharing the odd moment.

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