Two weeks ago I tagged along with my mom on an international conference, the ICAS5 or International Convention of Asia Scholars, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She read two papers and was chair for one of the panels.
Since I finally finished school (I’m not the type who skips school for any leisure traveling) and can work anywhere Risk has an internet connection, nothing was stopping me from finally stepping out of the country.
But it wasn’t the best time to do so.
First, I got an NBI “hit” when I applied for a clearance. Because I was a DOST-SEI scholar, I was forbidden to leave the country for four years or else I had to temporarily post a cash bond worth the privileges I had enjoyed. Sixty-nine thousand pesos, more or less. I had no choice. I’m not going to bore you with the rest of the details, but we hopped from one red-taped government office to another and barely made it alive.
Day Zero: Arrival
I had the worst flight ever. Two reasons: I didn’t have a decent dinner (just siopao) and I had a cold (though I’ve always had one). Both caused an episode I would love to forget for the rest of my life. It was like hyperventilation or asthma—never had either—followed by bleeding ears due to the change in cabin pressure—no actual blood, it just felt like it. ‘Twas embarrassing. I never had plane problems during the rare times I rode them.
My ears stayed weird for a day and my sense of balance faltered for the rest of the week.
Day One: Reconnaissance
Impiana, the hotel we stayed at, was in the heart of KL, that is, the KL City Centre or KLCC, and a stone’s throw away from the KL Convention Centre, where the ICAS5 was held. There we got our first lunch: mine was chicken and mushrooms with noodles.
Then we got curious about the mysterious tunnel which many people passed through. After about two blocks of walking we unsuspectingly entered Suria KLCC, the high-end mall of the city.
On one end, we found the sprawling KLCC Park and saw that Suria was just in front of the Petronas Towers. So we headed to the other end to get a better view of the twin towers.
Then, I was amazed by how such colorful flowers managed to bloom in the midst of city traffic. It was also a great photo spot, even if it meant posing and taking pictures from opposite sides of the road!
Day Two: Freeloading
The highlight of this day was free dinner at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, which was actually the Opening Ceremony for the convention and the ICAS Book Prize awarding. I wasn’t exactly a valid participant at the convention, but the abundance, no, excess of dinner courses ought to justify it! That’s Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak opening the, uh, ceremonies.
It took me a while before I could catch up with work, though (not to mention help my mom with her presentations). First, the sockets didn’t match my laptop’s electric cord. I needed an adapter. Second, I needed a LAN cable in the room. Wifi was only available downstairs in the lounge, where we enjoyed live performances of classic hits in piano, cello (or was it contrabass?), and flute.
Day Three: Gadgets and Fountains
We stumbled upon a tech convention, the PIKOM PC Fair 2007, in the Convention Centre. Think three high-ceiling, wall-to-wall carpet, di mahulugang karayom trade halls with nothing but gadgets and tons of people. This could be the closest I’ll ever get to a large-scale technology convention.
Then we headed to the KLCC Park for a spectacular water fountain show. We waited until eight o’ clock in the evening for the sun to set! We wanted the waterworks all lit up, too, of course!
Day Four: City Tour
We signed up for a relatively short tour of Kuala Lumpur early in the morning. We covered pretty much every major landmark, like the Sultan’s Palace, the Tugu Negara (National Monument), lots of menara (towers) and temples (Indian, Chinese, and Muslim), the faraway view of the Petronas Towers, and four “factories” for batik, leather (stingray skins are damn expensive), chocolate (the curry and durian flavors were startling), and pewter.
Our tour guide, Jamaluddin, had enough wit and initiative to reveal both the “good and not-so-good” stories about Malaya. We visited the spot that explains where the name “Kuala Lumpur” comes from. “Kuala” means “mouth of a river” or “confluence of two rivers”, while lumpur means “muddy”. That spot, where the rivers Klang (or Kelang, also the original name of the state of Selangor) and Gombak merged, is the very spot where eighty-seven Chinese miners settled and became the pioneers of Kuala Lumpur.
We then asked to be dropped of at the Central Market or Pasar Seni to pick up real souvenirs. (There are some pretty ones at Suria but it’s easy to figure out that buying there would be like highway robbery.) I wanted to purchase this cool-looking airplane with childish sound effects and surprisingly, a lighter—don’t ask why—but feared it would be banned at the airport. So I settled for a kris.
We took the LRT back to KLCC, got flattened by an almost-stampede at the top of the station’s escalator, but let out a deep sigh once we saw the familiar Suria shops.
Day Five: Departure
My mom went to the conference in the morning and afternoon. I woke up late, as usual, and scrambled to pack my things. We checked out of the hotel and killed time waiting for our flight. This time, after taking in a cold tablet and Bonamine (defensively: I’ve never needed it, I swear!), the trip back home was very pleasant, only dampened by the fact that I couldn’t take pictures of the city lights from above.
Everything seems so far away now but I definitely miss it. Something tells me I could get used to leisurely vacations like that. And sometimes, working hard and doing what you love doesn’t seem that attractive compared to it!
Parting shot! I love this one.