Kuala Lumpur is the capital of Malaysia. But nobody calls it that. In local parlance, it is exclusively known has “KL.”. The Gustavus students made a long weekend trip to KL in March. It was the week before my due date, so our family declined to go.
We recently had the opportunity to go. The US Consulate is situated there and we needed to do some paperwork to prove she exists and document that she’s an American citizen. The International Office at Universiti Sains Malaysia graciously supplied us with a minivan for the weekend. Of course, we don’t drive here, so Firdaus, a USM driver, escorted us the whole way.
I hadn’t really thought about it, but this was my first venture out of the state of Penang. I was quite surprised by the scenery. I guess I had this image in my mind that most of Peninsular Malaysia would be flat. I’m from Florida. Florida is a subtropical peninsula, and it’s really flat. But Malaysia is not! Up and down, over hilly terrain, we drove for about four hours. I was also startled by the local land use. It’s one thing to read about the damage of oil palm plantations in SE Asia. (You haven’t heard about oil palms? Read here about the tremendous damage they do, and start reading the label on your peanut butter jar.) But the scale of the palm plantations was incredible. It reminded me of the cornfields in Minnesota–a single monoculture for as far as the eye could see. It was perhaps a bit more surreal because the rows of palms snaked up and down, over the hillocks and valleys.
We checked into our hotel in mid-afternoon and had no appointments for the rest if the day. I had heard that there was a tremendous playground in the park at KLCC (Kuala Lumpur City Center.). Indeed there is.
It is literally the largest playground I’ve ever seen in my life. There were at least two dozen play structures, spread out in all directions. It was just the thing for little leg legs that had been cooped up for a long car ride. Adults, however, were NOT permitted on the playground equipment. This was enforced by a lady with a whistle, who would whistle vigorously at any adult who dared climb a ladder or, heaven forbid, sit on a swing. She never spoke a word, but would just whistle repeatedly and walk towards the offending adult, eventually coming face-to-face if they hadn’t yet caught the hint. She was remarkably well suited for her job.
There was also a public pool at the park, and Simon was thrilled to swim for a bit. It was actually just a shallow splash zone–which is good-because no adults allowed in the pool, either. Simon paddled away until thunderstorms broke out. Then we found a quick bite to eat in a food court (including milkshakes!) and headed back to our hotel. The next day was spent in administrative monotony. More on that later, where I’ll write about the process of getting a Malaysian-born baby an American passport. We never saw another tourist site in KL–no museums, no architecture, no historic buildings. Sometimes with kids in tow, you just spend your free time doing what they want, and everyone is happier for it.