Wednesday, March 14, 2001

The Good, The Bad & The Taxi Drivers

The first 30 days.

Good stuff:

Our apartment.
It's fabulous, though pretty Zen right now. The furniture that looked so big in Portobello Road looks a lot smaller here, and we have more rooms to fill. My project at the moment is to look for furniture - I have a digital camera so I can pictures of things I like then show to the GM for approval. We have found really great Indonesian furniture - the Malaysian furniture philosophy seems to be leaving no piece of wood untouched - carve it up, it's all very 'decorative'. We went to Hong Kong for Christmas, which was brilliant & amazing for furniture, I may need to go back once I have honed my bargaining skills something I definitely need to work on. Bargaining is the GM's skill area at the moment.

The food.
Obvious I know, it still has to be said. Everything is here from Italian, French, Thai, Chinese Indian, and Malay to New Zealand Fish & Chips (just franchised to Korea). We have a great restaurant in our condominium that does Chinese, Western and Japanese (finally somewhere that does cheap fabulous Japanese) The most expensive item is New Zealand Steak at 50FRF. We haven't splashed out yet, that would have to be for a special occasion as a meal for two at the roadside stalls is around 40FRF. We tend to eat out a lot - just to try everything and because we didn't have plates in our very Zen apartment, although this has now been resolved. So no doubt I'll spend all day whipping up culinary delights for the GM. The weather. Another obvious one however we have lost an entire topic of conversation. This will be the only time I mention it. I love getting up everyday and not having to think about what I am going to wear. The only variable each day at the moment is what time it is going to rain and making sure you are undercover - it's very dramatic at night with all the lightening although a little scary watching lighting when you are being pulled behind a boat on a wakeboard. Right now it's really pleasant temperature around the high 20's early 30's.
Now I'll never mention it again.

We live in a great area called Bangsar which has a lot of restaurants and bars and a cool market on Sunday nights, fruit vege, fish, food stalls, clothes (Hawaiian shirts are very big at the moment) & VCDs. VCDs are basically videos copied on to CDs that can be played on DVD players - not as good quality - nevertheless they have everything - the latest movies are all here. At first it was a bit of a lucky dip in terms of quality though we have found a good stall now so need never go to the movies again. The censors here chop everything to pieces anyway - Four Weddings & a Funeral was most interesting Malaysian style - all that swearing and all those gratuitous sex scenes - you would be surprised.

And now the bad:

The traffic or should I say the drivers?
I don't know where to begin with this - it is the scariest place I have ever been on the roads. They may not be fast but they sure are random. It is each man for himself - no indication at all; it really has to be seen to be believed. It's not just cars it's also pedestrians crossing motorways and swarms of people on gutless little motorcycles - they are the worst. At the moment I just take cabs and close my eyes. In the news at night they like to give accident statistics: first how many road deaths this year compared to last year, then it gets broken down to where the accidents occurred (which states), then on what kind of roads, urban, country, Federal Highway, Motorway etc, and then whether it was a car, bus, truck, pedestrian or motorcycle (the most likely) - all very interesting. The news is quite an experience all round. There is a 30 minute news in English each night that is 15 minutes of local news (which minister said what at which meeting - generally something about how fabulous Malaysia is) then 10 minutes of business news (the rises and falls in the Asian stock markets) and then 5 minutes for International, this is generally a piece taken from CNN that shows the USA in a negative light, how many obese Americans there are, how many Americans have heart disease how much money the poor health of Americans is costing. So I'm reading the International Herald Tribune, the only international newspaper you can easily get hold of. I got very excited a couple of weeks ago when I found Le Monde in a newsagents, I checked the dates and found one for the 6th which was not too bad until I realized it was the 6th of December, they had copies going back to 3rd November.

Getting Lost.
This is not really bad, it's a learning experience or a chance to bond with the GM - you know how getting lost always brings men and women closer.
Last Friday we were invited to a friend’s house for a meal and we had fairly detailed instructions on how to get there. We got on to a motorway that we couldn't get off for 15km. When we did get off we couldn't get back on the motorway in the other direction due to road works. So we were now completely outside of KL, completely off the map and the battery on the mobile phone was running out. We eventually made it (1 & 1/2 hours later - I am not kidding). It took us 15 minutes to get home. The maps in KL are of limited use as there is so much road building going on all the time that routes change on a weekly basis - so you may have it all planned out on the map - yet when you get there, there is a new road or a diversion. Needless to say we are getting a lot of quality time together within the close confines of the car.

And finally the taxi drivers.
This is the group of people I have had the most contact with (and delivery men). The first thing is each car is like a shrine, mosque or church. There are Buddha’s and incense or crosses or passages from the Koran dangling from mirrors. I have yet to get in to a non-denominational cab.
And then the inquisition starts, this is after they have asked me which way they should go (do I look like I know?).
Where are you from?
How long have you been here?
What does your husband do? (Not being married is worth going there)
How long have you been married? (What?)
How many children do you have? (I have to change my story for this one - see below.)
Why not? (Stop the cab)
Where do you live?
How much rent do you pay?

So what do I miss?
Apart from you all, Parmesan cheese (not Australian - what is that about?). Anchovies - I can find anchovies with everything except just plain anchovies. Strange what you obsess over.
Not having easy access to email.
So 'til the next time - maybe direct from our Zen apartment.

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