My stay in Malaysia was always going to be short. It was a proximity destination, as it was close to both Singapore and Indonesia. I picked a hotel and booked my flight, while seated on a beach chair, in Bali, looking out on the Indian Ocean. When I arrived in Kuala Lumpur, my ATM card was still not working. I booked an Uber and charged it to my credit card. The hotel I picked was practically across the street from the Petronas Towers. Once the world’s tallest building, today the property is known as the tallest twin towers. After checking in and dropping off my bags, I did a bit of quick research on touring the towers. Getting a same day ticket was next to impossible, most reviewers said. I decided to walk over, the following morning, and see for myself. First, I needed to get dinner. I quickly made my way to the mall.
The Suria KLCC shopping mall was a five minute walk from the hotel. I entered and went downstairs to a small food court area. The line for McDonald’s was out the door and it was almost closing time. I went for it. The couple standing in front of me kept looking back. I took the bait and said hello. “Where are you from?” The husband asked. I told him that I was from the USA. “Where are you from in Africa?” He replied. I wanted to say, “Sir! I am not the one!” But, let’s be fair. No one should be forced, in line at a McDonalds, to hear about my graduate degrees in Archives and Public History. And since the line was moving, there was not enough time to cover my employment at NARA, (the National Archives and Records Administration), in Washington DC, where I researched family history requests. So, I simply replied, “Early Virginia African American.” I then started to explain that DNA traced my American roots back to Eighteenth Century Virginia. Without missing a beat, the man interrupted me and pointed at the two dark skinned young men behind me. “Are those your sons?” He said, cutting me off mid sentence. The two local Malaysian boys overheard and looked shocked. Thankfully, it was time for the couple to order.
The following day, I walked over to see about getting tickets for the Petronas Towers. I was in luck. Same day tickets were available, but the next time slot was three hours away. As I was purchasing the ticket, the young man taking my order asked my age. When I told him that I was sixty six, he smiled and said, “You get fifty percent off!” I was so excited by my good fortune that I failed to really listen to his follow up instructions. As I was leaving, I decided that I’d better check with a security guard, standing by one of the entrances. “Would you like to go now?” He asked. And, in a flash, he took my ticket, (but didn’t scan it). Then, he slapped a badge on my arm and opened the handicap access gate. Once in, I only had to wait a few minutes for my badge group to be called. Then, we were taken to the first set of elevators. The 45 minute guided tour made stops at three floors in the tower. The Skybridge stop, on the 41st floor, and the Observation Deck, on the 86th, were both amazing. The tour guides did a really good job of getting each tour group on and off the elevators. The final stop was at the gift shop, on the Concourse Level. I sat that one out and waited for my group to complete their shopping. When our badge color was finally called, we took the elevator down and the tour was done.
After the tour, I went inside the shopping mall, which is connected to the towers, for a late lunch. There was a Chili’s Grill & Bar and I decided that listening to 1990s boy band music, while eating a quesadilla, was the way to go. Plus, the restaurant has an amazing view of the water fountain called Lake Symphony. Every night, there’s a colorful performances of light, music, and water. When I had finished my meal, I called my server over to pay. She took my credit card and returned with the card and a copy of my receipt. I took a few extra minutes to finish my beverage, before heading to the door. I was almost to the exit, when another server began running after me. “Did you pay?” He yelled, across the room. I stop and told him yes. “Show me your receipt!” He said, after catching up to me. I emptied out my bag and produced the receipt. He stared at it and back at me. Then, he simply walked away.
While still getting over being profiled at a Chili’s restaurant, (as if), I spotted a nearby bookstore. As a young child, I practically lived in bookstores. I remember my mom just taking a seat, nearby, and waiting for me. I was a magazine junkie and it was how I got my news. I read covers and if I had time (with my mother still waiting) I read the first paragraphs of the articles that I deemed important. I could quickly go through Time, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, Billboard, Ebony, Jet, Harper’s, Life, Ms., Sports Illustrated and all the teen magazines I could get my hands on. More than once, my mother gave in and told me to just buy something, so we could leave. I would grab a TV Guide or a Tiger Beat and happily head home. In Kuala Lumpur, it was nice to see an advertisement, at the bookstore, for an upcoming talk by a children’s book author. I certainly needed at least one good memory of that mall.
There was only one thing that could turn around my stay in Malaysia and that thing was IKEA, or so I thought. But, in the words of Thomas Wolfe, “You can’t go home again!” The food was horrible. I tossed those odd tasting meatballs into the trash, after the first bite. And, to make matters worse, the store was too small. Did you ever think you would hear someone say they wanted to walk more miles in IKEA? My flight was early, the following morning, so I headed back to the hotel. The next day, the ride-share app wouldn’t work. I kept trying and then finally a car was on its way. At the airport, I realized that my credit card information had been removed from the app. The ride to the airport had switched over to cash. I didn’t have any cash. The driver parked and we set out to find an ATM that would possibly take my ATM card. Two floors and six machines later, I quit. I had missed my luggage check-in time and I was still no where near security or my gate. I apologized to the driver and filled out the “I forgot to pay my driver” form, in front of him. Then I ran to my flight. I made it to gate and thanked god for getting me out of Malaysia.
A few days later, I received an email from the GRAB ride-share app. They told me to simply use my credit card and Top Up funds on my account. A couple of days later, I received a second email letting me know that my driver had been paid. Lesson learned? Do NOT add a last minute trip to Malaysia! XOXO —GGT