Alone together for three months. We only really knew each other, Teresa and I. Everyone else we met along the way were new to us. That is until my sister Desiree stepped off of a plane into Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
“Welcome to Asia,” I said with a smile as she walked out of the secure area into arrivals. It was about 1 AM in Malaysia and we’d taken the train to meet her so that we could all cab back to Chinatown together. It was a surreal feeling, having my closest and most loved family member suddenly along for the adventure, the life I’d immersed myself in for the last while.
We found out very quickly that, for the most part, we all travel very well with each other. To this day, the three of us are in a Whatsapp group called “The Three Musketeers.”
There were, however, a few things I’d taken for granted. Perhaps it was because Teresa and I knew we’d be gone for so long that we’d decided to jump right into the culture in as many ways possible without looking back. It wasn’t until exactly three weeks in that we’d caved and eaten “Western” food, a delicious and simple stone-oven pizza up in the mountains of Luang Namtha, Laos. But for the most part, we were eating rice, noodles, a variety of meat, and plenty more local food every single day. We took for granted some of these choices as we’d been living in Asia for longer and longer.
Dez was more than happy to try all of the different food, but she certainly wasn’t as used to it as we were. A few times, we quibbled over what we were going to eat because Teresa and I were always settling for the cheapest, sometimes sanitarily questionably stall food we’d come to know and love from the bottom of our hearts. At times, one or the other would have to make a compromise. We ended up at Pizza Hut more times than I would’ve chosen (once).
Desiree spent the first night in the place we had chosen. Teresa and I had already found a much better accommodation for when our sisters arrived, but it wasn’t available until the following morning after Dez arrived. So she got to see our extremely budget accommodation, and one of the roughest places we’d stayed to date, despite it being more expensive than almost anywhere else (the prices in KL for hostels are a little inflated compared to Cambodia or Vietnam).
It was funny to see her reaction; it scared the hell out of her. The entranceway wasn’t too bad, besides the frightening staircase leading up. The lobby was nice, with interesting dark lights and fish tanks containing a variety of marine life, including turtles. The rooms themselves were another story. In fact, when Teresa’s sister Mary arrived a couple of days later, we sent her and Desiree back to the old place to pretend to be guests, just so they could take a look at some of the rooms. They cringed and we laughed.
Mary arrived a couple of days later, earlier on in the day compared to Dez’s arrival time. She took the train from the airport to the central train station where we met her. To see her arrive with her backpack, about to undergo a method of travel she never thought she would, was amazing. At the end of it all, we were both very proud of our sisters for stepping outside of their comfort zones, in some ways far more than others, and joining us on this wonderful adventure. Besides, a night at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore was going to make the whole trip worth it for everybody, regardless of what might’ve occurred leading up to it. To this day, it is hands down the best hotel I’ve ever stayed at in my life.
I’ll get to our adventures with Desiree and Mary more next time, and in posts to follow, but I want to briefly talk about a day out Teresa and I had just before our sisters joined us in KL.
We took a walk through the city one day to find an area with several tourist destinations, although none of it seemed overly touristy, just interesting places that many major cities have to offer, including beautiful spans of gardens. Of course, down there in Malaysia, so close to the equator, the gardens are lush and magnificent. KL has one of the largest urban jungles I’ve ever witnessed and much of it is as clean as any North American city I’ve ever been to. There’s obviously a charm that draws me to places like Saigon and Vientiane. Kuala Lumpur is obviously wealthier, though, and their governments, from local to national, can afford to invest more in infrastructure and services that help keep the place looking pristine, for the most part. It was refreshing to be in a place that was as tropical as everywhere else we’d been, but more similarly resemble some of the places I was used to seeing back home, or in the United States. It’s like walking through a dream, or at least the kind of vivid, multilayered dreams I tend to have: a typical urban centre but with more futuristic looking buildings and jungle flora creeping out of everywhere. Very surreal and creatively inspirational.
On our walk, we ended up at a planetarium, one of my favourite kind of “museums” to visit. You know me; I love my space and my sci-fi and my cosmic romanticism, and I love learning about the science behind it all as well, even though my mind isn’t always able to grasp each and every astronomical concept. We were surrounded by school children on field trips as we gaped at star charts and images of the solar system. I feel at home in these kinds of places and it made it all the more cool that we were somewhere near equatorial Asia to be experiencing it. One of those memories of longing.
It was one of the last experiences that Teresa and I would have to ourselves for a few weeks, but that was okay. There was plenty of fun family time to be had, and Dez and Mary would help make that happen in the best of ways.