When I told my parents my first stop on my travels was Kuala Lumpur, they instantly questioned my motives on visiting “the armpit of the Earth.” So I wondered, why do people refer to this tropical metropolis as a pit of sweat, does it really smell? Thats a very offensive name! Kuala Lumpar does actually translate into “muddy confluence,” which is the meeting point of two rivers, but this does not directly suggest that the city is an armpit. After 5 days in China Town I can now confirm that this area definitely does have a strange street smell and is uncomfortably humid, however I have come to realise that there is more to this nickname and more to this city.
What I have gathered from the 35 ubers I have taken in the last 5 days is that even though we are in Malaysia, this city is an amazing fusion of cultures. Firstly, Uber is global. Secondly, Uber in Malaysia is questionably cheap and very luxurious. Free water and free Mentos – London, take notes. Thirdly, the drivers lie about speaking English. After every awkward Enlimalayish hand conversation about the 2.1x rate, they decide to announce, “and if you look to your left you will see the Patronas Towers, the tallest twin towers in the world.” And fourthly, every driver we have experienced is from a different part of the world. Chinese, Indians, Malaysians, Indonesians, Singaporians.. a representative from almost every neighbouring and near by Eastern country. Kuala Lumpar, and the Uber staff team, truly are the definition of a melting pot.
This Uber epiphany has lead me to my main point, that this city’s collision of culture, language, religion, food, and bizarre animals, has led Kuala Lumpar to gain the perception of being a sweaty and perhaps strongly scented place. Not only does KL have double the population of Scotland, there is a Little India AND a Little China. The juxtaposition of all these different markets and communities in temperatures reaching 40 degrees most days, with the occasional thunderstorm, has created an armpit persona. There are monkeys running riot, there are no pedestrian crosses, and there is no aircon, anywhere. It is a metropolis jungle that is quite like a microcosm of the entire Earth and there are potentially too many diverse smells merging together. Even sitting at the Korean BBQ last night in Jalan Alor, with my new hostel friends, we really were a global team. From left to right it goes Cambodian, Austrian, Scottish (me), English, American, “London mate,” French, and German.
So what can I suggest for the future of Kuala Lumpar and its scent? Well, it needs to shave and it needs to get some deodorant because it doesn’t smell like the Abercrombie and Fitch store (which has a suspiciously alluring smell). Perhaps in the future the people of Kuala Lumpar should come together and decide on one national smell, so tourists like myself do not face the armpit perfume of China Town.
For anyone else pit stopping in this city I do have a couple of tips for you. Do not bring any food to the Batu caves, the monkeys are fearless, even the baby ones. Get Ubers, they have free water. Do not go to the Skybar, it plays Call Me Maybe and there is a pool in the bar. If you, like myself, always like to splash about and have a whale of a time, pools in skybars with heels does not work. Go to Reggae Mansion, you can really go every night – its great. But DO NOT drink the gin, as I am 90% sure it is made in someones bathtub. Eat the curry from a banana leaf, with your hands, but do not wipe your eyes. Never wipe your eyes. So in conclusion, KL is cool.