Thursday, August 2, 2007

Kuala Lumpur, Monday

I am the most underdressed person in the city. I expected boiling heat, but it truly isn’t that bad. It is muggy, yes, but there has been cloud cover alld ay, so the sun doesn’t beat down on you. I packed several pairs of cotton capris and t-shirts to ear with tennis shoes. Nobody I’ve seen is dressed so casually. Long pants, all around, it looks like. Business lcothes are very common, and almost every woman I’ve seen wears heels with their slacks or jeans. And the young women, too, are dressed well – if not too formal, they at least are very fashionable.

Granted, these are locals, not tourists. I plan on doing some amount of sightseeing, where as they are heading to the mall, maybe on their lunch out. I am interested to see what people are wearing at the touristy places, if Asian tourists also dress nicely for their tour of the pewter factory or trip to the zoo or top o the Petronas towers.

I went on my first solo excursion today, to a grocery store similar to a walmart with clothing, electronics, housewares, etc. We needed a supply of food for the hotel room, for snacks for anyone who might have some hypoglycemic episodes. Not that I’m pointing any fingers.

Tesco (or Disco, as Ryan thought someone told him) is located outside of the Curve, the mall that is attached to our hotel on one end. The ground floor of Tesco is kind of a marketplace, full of the trinkets and junk that one would associate with “asian imports” although here it is just called merchandise.

(My quandary – how to tell what things are good quality and what is a junky piece of crap. In the US, it is fairly easy to tell quality from the packaging, English words misspelled, Asian characters, but here none of that is relevant. I find myself going for brand names, which are typically more expensive. Guess jeans in KL, despite the favorable currency conversion, are just as overpriced here as at home.)

To get to the second floor, I rode an escalator that was a ramp instead of stairs. Again with the technology! I thought they did this just to show us how cool they are, until when I was leaving I saw people take their carts down the ramp-elator out to their cars. Well, that makes much more sense. I guess it never occurred to me that there are no two-floor grocery stores in America.

Tesco, like my hotel, is just like what you’d find in the US, but something is a little off. Our room doesn’t have an alarm clock in it. And, naturally, ice machines are non-existent. The bed is so hard I wanted to make sure we were sleeping on a mattress and not just the box springs. There’s an arrow on the ceiling labeled “Quiblat” which, judging by its refusal to follow the “U comes after Q” rule, must be an Arabic word to tell Muslims which direction to pray. Never saw that in a hotel before.

Tesco was similarly a little odd. I coldn’t fins any peanut butter there, or crackers that looked familiar, but I made the mistake of walking down the fish aisle, which, as you can imagine, did not smell so pleasant. There were the typical grocery store refrigerated unitys, but there wer also barrels of ice with fish in them which I suppose you would select and bag like so many cucumbers. There was also a barrel of dried fish, in a bulk, scoop-your-own fashion, that looked a lot more like bait than something a human would eat. In the US, only candy is sold that way. If you think this was snack food you’ve got another thing coming.

The other strange thing is the number of security guards – patrolling the hallways at the mall, standing at the entrances, watching over the kiosk that sells ladies underwear, while women paw through the bins of bras, holding them up to check the size. I’m sorry if I’m cutrually intolerant, but I think that’s an item on your shopping list that’s best crossed off behind the walls of a store. I don’t know how much authority these guards have, if they are as toothless as the ones at our mall back home, but the sheer number is disturbing. If there was ever a coup to over throw the government, the rebels have a built-in militia of rent-a-cops.

At Tesco, I paid about $10 for a loaf of bread, 4 500-ml water bottles, one really big water bottle, a bag of Snyder’s pretzels, a bag of cashews, and a Kit Kat bar marked “International Recipe.” I love Kit Kats and had to see what it was Nestle was keeping from us Americans in the International Recipe. Not much, as it turns out. Ryan preferred this one, saying the chocolate was creamier, but for me, I’ll stick with the “American Recipe” from now on.

This afternoon I went to the other mall that is next to our hotel, called Cineleisure. This is a younger, hipper mall where I didn’t feel nearly as underdressed. Now I merely felt under-hip.
Being a hip mall, it had a Mac store, wehre Ryan had gone yesterday while I slept the sleep of the dead. I needed to pick up the electric adapter for the laptop. Darcey was fussy today, barely slept at all other than catnap, so I loaded her into the Baby Bjorn for this trip. (She gets a lot more attention in that, or in my arms, than she does in the stroller.)

Now, I’m not opposed to buying a part at the Mac store, even though there are 2 of them in Orem, because they had the part we needed. But on the whole, I did not come halfway around the world to eat at Tony Roma’s or TGI Friday’s/ I’m not here to shop at Ikea.

I’m here to shop at the beauty supply store called Shins. Or, my very very favorite, the Fourskin Store. That’s right. Great big sign, called the Fourskin Store. And what do they sell in the Fourskin Store? Well, not what you might think from the name. Rather than selling human anatomy or anything else you wouldn’t want to take home and show your parents, they sell rather pedestrian t-shirts, flip-flops, and in general, nothing you couldn’t find in the mall back home. But with a name like this, how could you resist shopping there? That’s what I came halfway around the world for, the differences between home and here. And the Fourskin Store.

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