Thursday, December 25, 2014

Kuala Lumpur - Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

My vacation continues to be just what I wanted - slow, relaxed  with lots of walking and eating.  Well, except for one adventure, which I'll explain in a minute.

I've been staying up late, luxuriating in being able to read as late as I like, knowing I don't have to be up early the next morning.  That's going to be a tiny problem, potentially, since I have a 6:30 a.m. flight on Saturday.

On Christmas Eve I took advantage of the free GoKL bus and cruised around KLCC.  I like KL and would certainly recommend it as a place to visit, but think I'll stick with Bangkok for future visa runs.  If it was faster to get to, I might change my tune but so far I haven't seen anything unique that makes me crave coming back.

The city is much smaller than Bangkok (1.5 million compared to 6.5 million, as of 2010) and has more green areas.  It seems a bit odd, and pleasant, to have random patches of trees and banana plants butted up against blocks of highrises.

Shopping (and banking) seems to be the main thing in KLCC and Bukit Bintang, which is adjacent to KLCC and filled with malls and restaurants.  Chinatown and the Central Market, both a stone's throw from my hotel are worth a visit but I've found mostly the kind of hawker goods sold in every Asian city on the tourist trail.  I'll continue poking around but so far, China town seems much smaller and less authentic than the Chinatown in San Franciscio.  The good news - people are friendly and you can dine on the cheap with good food.

Speaking of food, I decided I wanted a steak for Christmas dinner.  I love Asian food but part of this vacation is enjoying some Western fare.  I did that yesterday with a visit to Subway.  Sadly, it was the first Subway whose food was below par.  It was bad enough that I threw half of it away.

For Christmas dinner, I checked out Fuddruckers in Bukit Bintang.  They had a set Christmas menu for 90 RYM, about $27.  It included salad bar, choice of entrees (I chose the ribeye steak with baked potato), glass of wine and a dessert of apple pie and a ginger cookie.

The best part of the meal was the steak.  Perfectly cooked, tender and flavorful.  The best (and most) meat I've had since moving to Myanmar.

To top off the meal was a bit of excitement as I headed back to my hotel.  The sidewalks were packed with people and there were more people than usual waiting for the GoKL bus.  The first bus which arrived was heading to a different destination I was, so I stayed in the back of the waiting crowd.  People tried to surge onto the packed bus before letting passengers off and that resulted in pushing and yelling.  During the ten minutes we all waited for the next bus there was more pushing and yelling among the crowd.  Nothing too much, but disconcerting in such a large crowd.

As our bus pulled up, people surged forward to get in.  There seemed to be a group of late teen/20 something young men together and they were riding roughshod over every one.  Sad since on the bus going to Christmas dinner I'd enjoyed watching a young local man offer a middle-aged local woman his seat.  Just the opposite, this group was mowing over everyone in front of them.

As they pushed forward, a couple of guys they tried to muscle out of the way started yelling and throwing punches.  By that time, I was on the bus, between the two groups of men.  Other than yelling, they stood their ground.  I just hung on to my bag (thinking this might be a distraction for pickpockets) and hoped for the best.

While we waited for traffic to clear for the bus to move into traffic, a young man started screaming and pounding on the window.  Both groups who had been fighting just turned and stared.  As the bus took off, it seemed apparent that the new entrant into the unhappy holiday bus ride was part of a family fight.  It appeared that the young man and his father were fighting and luckily, the mother was able to calm them down.

Most of the men got off a couple of stops before I did.  Things calmed down.  As I stepped off the bus the driver made eye contact and said "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!"

I was proud of myself for showing restraint and not yelling "Peace on earth, damn it!" during the melee.

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