Hot to shop: Kuala Lumpur

Photo: the bewilderingly fabulous mall, Suria KLCC.
Photo: AFP &
Sun Herald

Malaysians have two great loves: eating and shopping. Sometimes you could flip that around to shopping and eating.

Either way, the capital, KL, is truly fabulous for a shopover, especially if you’re a mall fiend.

Smell the fakes, snap up the bargains then advance to genuine designer talent. Click here to read the full story…

Things I just don’t get about Malaysia

No kissing in taxis (see explanatory picture).

The B.U.M. Equipment clothing range. For men, women and children. Er, market research, anyone?

The Petronas towers. Yeah, they’re big man. Ok, they’re real big. And that’s really about it. No cure for cancer or the common cold. They’re. Just. Big. Call me a killjoy, I don’t care.

The fact the population is just 1.6 million (with surrounds, 7 million). “Melbourne looks so small after KL,” said the Kiwi in front of me as we flew into Melbourne lat night.
Clearly, her eyes were painted on. Or perhaps that we were flying at the time over the desolate northern suburbs, where the highest point is the VideoEzy store. Or it’s just that when we think of Asian cities, we think of megapolises. KL’s population is dwarfed by Melbourne, which recently topped four million.
KL’s a young city, too, with Chienese settlers dropping in to mine tin in the 1850s, relative to Melbourne’s founding in 1835.

However, I notice that we both now have Chinese language directions at both airports, so we’re not so dissimilar after all, eh?

Early morning over Kuala Lumpur

Flying over Kuala Lumpur before sunrise, the city of 1.8 million looks dark and empty. I’m having a flashback, oddly, to another time, arriving before dawn in a small Russian city, dumped off an overnight bus on an overpass on its outskirts.

Surprisingly, the Russian soldier who gets off the bus at the same lonely point speaks good English, and he becomes my guide. He is walking to war… The town’s train station is a major gathering point for fresh conscripts to be sent to Chechnya.

The closer we get to the station, the more the streets fill with young men with rough crew-cuts and ill-fitting uniforms, walking to war in plastic sandals, their cheap regulation boots slug over their shoulders. They eye my leather hiking boots with avarice.

My guide is older than most, at 28 he is educated and has a career. Yet he seems untouched by what is country is making him do. He’s neither excited nor angry nor afraid – just stoic. He says he knew he would have to go. His best friend went before him and is already dead.

As the taxi drives through palm gardens and terraces of ferns, the humid Malaysian air warming bones chilled by a Melbourne winter, it’s a strange memory to recall this morning. But who ever can control their memories?