I have been told indirectly that if I, or we, don’t like living in Malaysia and putting up with the daily racist rants, pollution, public works, corruption and bickering government, then leave. So I left. It was the easiest country leaving decision I have ever had to make. I did try to like Malaysia, honestly.
If you are flying MAS to come to Malaysia you are braver than I thought. MH17 was a tragedy, however, I have made it a personal point not to fly the national carrier until there is complete, independent closure of MH370. When I mean closure, I mean tangible evidence and proof that the plane did actually disappear in the Southern Indian Ocean and was not taken by aliens. You simply can’t lose a commercial airplane. Someone let me know if they ever do find it.
Take a deep breath, and take one more for good measure before you arrive in Malaysia. It will be the last sweet taste of air you have. For when you land at KL International Airport your journey from now on will be under a pall of white smoke. Haze, smog, pollutant, call it what you like, it is smoke. Even the sun can’t penetrate. You will forget what blue skies and fluffy white clouds even look like until you get back home. Your eyes will sting, your throat will become inflamed, your lungs will get a good coating of burnt oil palm essence and your room will smell as though it’s on fire. Slash and burn, the source of the smoke and singular most destructive form of environmental mismanagement and corruption goes on unimpeded around the very seat of Government power – Putrajaya. How can politicians and officials be so ignorant and blind to the countless peat fires that rage for days around them? Easy, they just blame thy friendly neighbour Indonesia.
Welcome to the capital, Kuala Lumpur (or KHell for short), the city of rats and mat rempits. They both share the same DNA and social skills. The only real difference is, one species goes around on scooters robbing people, causing road rage and doing silly superman stunts, and the other species accompanies you to dinner, climbing drain pipes and scurrying under your feet as they head to meet-ups in the sewers. Some of these rats are as big as an American football. If you do hear a motorbike engine, my advice would be to turn around and get ready to run. There will be some kind of vermin chasing you.
When you find the courage to cross the road, it may be the last thing you ever do. There is zero respect for pedestrians. Painted yellow zebra stripes on the road are just painted yellow zebra stripes. People in Malaysia are allergic to any kind of street exercise; it’s dangerous and only for the poor. So the less time spent negotiating pavement obstacles the better.
The last time I crossed the road I nearly died. What made it more poignant was the fact that the green traffic man was both working and lit. In my country that means it should be safe to cross the road. As I started my walk, I heard a commotion of beeps, sirens and honking horns from down the hill. I wasn’t even half way across the road when a police outrider whizzed past, stopped and told me to get off the road. I gave him the finger and pointed to the green man. I reluctantly turned around as a motorcade of dubious looking black Proton cars with cheap flashing lights, more police motorbikes and a sovereign coloured Jaguar rolled past. Every window was heavily tinted. I watched them pull into the local shopping center so I thought I should take a closer look at this VIP and introduce myself. I caught up with the entourage of army generals, bag carriers, minders and an oldish looking chap in corduroy trousers making their way to the cheese counter where I watched him busily sample some Dutch Edam. Was that all my life was worth? Getting some crony, under acts of nepotism to buy some cheese, never mind the selfish chaos and cost of escorting him through KL traffic. Malaysia is a class society and us minions are at the bottom of the social ladder.
I have had my fair share of acquainting myself personally with the local police. They are a nice bunch of crooks. Fair enough my car had illegally tinted windows for my own safety, but that’s no excuse to deceive and rob me.
My first stop was an early morning roadblock, where I witnessed a policeman fail a breathalyser test. The same test I initially refused to do due to a trust issue, but when I did eventually breathe, I passed. My driving license was thrown at me during the Malaysian stand–off as I ignored demands for grease money because I wasn’t drunk. The second time, I was pulled over by a police car and issued a summons for having tinted windows. To make the issue go away I was politely informed I could pay them lunch money. My dash cam was recording as I peeled off some orange notes. My advice to you all is play the game, there is an endemic disease running through Government departments.
If you manage to escape the corrupt police on your way to explore Malaysia’s tourist attractions, then keep going. The list of attractions is world-class and simply breathtaking. Think hundreds of shopping malls to visit selling the same brands, and then there is Legoland! I can tell you are so excited.
The more adventurous might head to the east coast and stay in tatty, damp and un-kept resorts plagued by dengue carrying mosquitoes. Or you could always visit the diving islands and pay to get kidnapped. Wherever you go, you will have to endure month long water rationing as government departments argue and shut down water supplies, putrid smells as hotels discharge grey water onto the beaches, avoid breaking your ankle on boat anchors buried in the sand, rampant deforestation (its OK its sustainable) and confusion over which islands have duty free alcohol or not.
If you plan to go trekking you better brush up on your jungle hiking skills as there isn’t a single trail that is marked with signage on any mountain in the Peninsula. Follow bits of tags and paper cuttings at your peril. You will either get lost or never be found again.
It’s my second Raya here and I still haven’t been invited to a single Open House. You know that occasion where family and friends come to eat and exchange food parcels after fasting. Okay I know I am not a Muslim, but where is the Malaysian hospitality so widely proclaimed? I have found more cheer in a Mongolian Yurt than I have here. Yet in Mongolia I was a complete stranger. Here I have mastered the language, paid a lot of income tax, dated a few girls, run a few endurance races and gone to watch F1 and supported the local team. Thank you for shutting your Open House door on me.
Driving, only road rage and traffic. Nightlife, its dull. Public transport, seriously? Makan or food, who cares. Nasi lemak, totally overrated and unhealthy. Taxis, rip-off and rude buggers. Shopping, I just love Mid Valley. Wildlife, illegally hunted. The Twin Towers, you will see nothing in the smoke so don’t bother going. Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM), so long as you don’t mind paying 10 times the price of a local because your skin colour is white (which reminds me to tell UK’s tourism department to at least double the price for Malays visiting our nature parks).
Wait, there are two nice things I can write about Malaysia, the afternoon thunderstorms for one which are free, loud, dramatic, very wet and bring the capital to a complete standstill. And the other is petrol, it’s cheap and still subsidised.
In all honesty, I can dejectedly say I have never lived in a more inhospitable and unfriendly place in SE Asia, let alone the world. Yes come and Visit Malaysia 2015 but I assure you there is definitely more fun, genuine warmth, smiles and a healthier environment in the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and dare I say it, maybe even Singapore.
Selamat jalan, Malaysia.
Fu Man Chu