I arrive in Kuala Lumpur with only 1 thing on my agenda. Visit the Petronas Towers. The hotel I’ve checked into reminds me that I’m running low on funds. I lock my bedroom door with a padlock and my window has a fine view of a washing machine. The bathroom reminds me of my time in Hong Kong where I learned that what I’d consider a toilet room here at home, can in fact be classed as an entire bathroom in other parts of the world.
After a restless night with the fan on and constant fear that my bed is probably infested with bed bugs, I head out in search of these famous towers. They’re incredible. The architecture in this city is fantastic and I can’t help but act as a total tourist as I take snaps of everything. The vibe of the city is impersonal and business like, reminding me that I’ll be back at the office soon enough and I need to keep enjoying my holiday while I still can.
By mid afternoon I’m back at the hotel, trying to escape the hottest part of the day. I get chatting to the guy at the desk who asks if I’ve checked out the rooftop terrace. I head up there and notice a couple of tourists sitting far away from each other with headphones in. I’m in the mood for company, so wander off in search of a drink and settle in at the local reggae bar.
There is no seating left in the outdoor area, so I sit at a table inside near the air conditioning. A couple of years ago on my first solo adventure, I spent my last night in Hong Kong at a bar, reflecting on my adventures and in that moment told my future self to always make time for reflection to embed the memories.
As I’m replaying countless moments in my head, a handsome dark gentleman walks in the door and I smile at him. He smiles back keeps walking. When he comes back he asks me if I’m on my own and if I’d like to join him. I agree and head outside to his table. He pulls out my chair for me and we get chatting. He’s from Kenya and has made friends with a local guy and a guy from Yemen. I’d never met anyone from Yemen before! The topics go far beyond any appropriate list of banter for strangers, but we all seem to be of the same opinion that we’ll never see each other again, so why hold back?
As we continue chatting, the Kenyan pauses for a moment and stares at me. It felt like the temperature changed in that moment, like the world around us came to a halt. I asked if he was okay and he responded by saying ‘yeah, I’m just looking at you for the first time’ and smiles at me. We keep chatting and the other 2 fade into the background. We keep drinking and the conversation turns more and more personal.
We decide to leave and wander through Chinatown. I point out the moon and he realises that it’s been a long time since he’s really noticed it. Seems strange since when I’m at home, I look to the night sky as soon as the sun sets. I notice a man with an Urhu and point him out. My new friend asks if I like it and I said yes, so he paid the guy to play for me. I could see that he had no interest in it whatsoever but I’m appreciative of the gesture. I almost walk out in front of traffic, and he stops me. Some how we end up hand in hand, walking through the markets. I have a flight to catch in the morning, and there’s no part of me that will change that. But, being a traveller means that goodbyes come easily and I’m not concerned about leaving, I’m more concerned about enjoying the here and now.
I pause for a moment to take a picture of the lanterns, to remember this moment. I ask if he’s ever tried durian and he says no. He asks if thats the done thing here in Malaysia and I said yeah, so he buys a tray of it off the back of a truck. On the count of 3 we take a bite… and it ends up splattered on the pavement. Never in my life have I tasted something so disgusting. We sit on plastic stools, on the side of the street, sipping chinese tea in an attempt to eradicate the taste from our mouths but it’s pointless. That stuff really lingers…
We head back to his hotel room to use his mouthwash… We’re inseperable until it’s time for me to head to the airport the next day. We didn’t sleep out of fear of missing the alarm. We kept talking until the sun came up, not that we noticed from his windowless room. We head back to my hotel to get my bags and check out. He carried my overstuffed suitcase with it’s wheel that exploded a few countries ago, and comes with me to KL Sentral where I head to the airport. He buys my train ticket and we take a series of pics to remember each other by. After a long kiss goodbye, I board the train. I sit there staring out the window, listening to the same song on repeat with tears in my eyes. I’m not upset, just grateful to meet such a beautiful person and to share in such a chance encounter.
Saying goodbye is bitter sweet, I know I have to go back to my life in New Zealand. But at times I can’t help but wonder what if…