I will never learn my lesson when it comes to booking difficult travel routes. So, in order to get from Indonesia to South Africa, I found a flight path that would give me one day in Kuala Lumpur, five in Sri Lanka, and another in Doha before arriving at Cape Town.
Kuala Lumpur is strongly reminiscent of Singapore in that it is developed, high-tech, centered around shopping, blisteringly humid, and somewhat boring. Or at least, that is the impression one gets from a quick 8-hour trip from the airport into downtown and back.
On the quiet, efficient, and air-conditioned train in from the airport, unobtrusive TV screens highlight the day's news and other relevant information. One of the most interesting videos played was one, apparently public-sponsored, on the UN 2030 Global Goals for Sustaibable Development. Inequality, climate change, in english, civic education
Characteristically of any city with aspirations of being a global commercial hub, everything is written in English. It makes me feel spoiled that, in all our travels and interactions, the lingua franca regardless of native tongue is always English. Other language speakers adjust around us, whereas we don't have to adjust at all.
I got a chance to grab a quick lunch with three friends, Elodie (met in Chiang Mai), Kouki, and Juline (met in Gili T) inside the famous Petronas Towers, which were surpassed by the Burj Khalifa in Dubai as the tallest building in the world in 2004.
I came across an article a few months ago, when Donald Trump was ascendant following his election win, about real authoritarianism. It was called Everyday Authoritarianism is Boring and Tolerable, and focused on Malaysia. The point of the article was that modern authoritarianism is not the province of mad dictators or jack-booted thugs, but rather a bureaucratic truth for autocratic leaders in rich, functioning countries where citizens are too well-off to risk advocating for democracy. As I left Kuala Lumpur, I heard that Malaysia would be one of the only countries banning Disney's revamped Beauty and the Beast for inappropriate content. Not exactly the kind of consummate evil you picture when you think "authoritarian rule."
At Kuala Lumpur airport, the lounge at was flooded with photographers for the prime minister's visit to grab an airport lunch. I'm not really sure what would inspire lunch at the airport, but it sure made it awkward to be printing my Sri Lankan e-Visa in the background.
Nik / 3.18.17