A day out in Kuala Lumpur

At lunchtime today, I took a flight from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur. This isn’t very far at all; you get in your seat, you look out the window, they give you some peanuts and a small tub of orange juice (for this was a Malaysia Airlines flight rather than a low-cost carrier), you eat the peanuts, they give you some more peanuts, you eat those and well, and then the plane lands.

I got off the plane and walked through the Kuala Lumpur airport to the immigration desks. This took a long time, because it’s a lovely airport, designed to fill with lots of shops and joy, unlike the Low Cost Terminal, which is designed to get you through as fast as humanly possible, probably with no joy at all. Also, there’s an enormous queue of people trying to go through passport control, and apparently at random staff leave the counters and the queue fails to get any shorter, although in my case I was in a paroxysm of rage because a couple who were behind me in the queue were gradually trying to overtake me by sidling past me.

(If the young couple are a foot shorter than you, and fail to make eye contact, and occasionally the wife nudges your arm, it’s really hard to figure out what sort of passive-aggressive microaggression is appropriate, so you just seethe until the steam comes out of your ears and after half an hour when you get to the front of the queue, you let them go first anyway. Seriously, what was I so cross about?)

Everyone else going through passport control got fingerprinted. For some reason I didn’t. Maybe they just liked the look of my face, but that seemed odd, as everyone else had their itineraries scrutinised while I just said I’d be in town for four days. Must be good ol’ Boris Johnson making things great for British people around the world.

Hang on, that can’t be right.

Anyway, as I only had the backpack on my back, I sailed through baggage reclaim, had a less-than-depressing mushroom puff for lunch, and then tried to find a taxi to take me to the Malaysian Airlines headquarters, where I had a meeting.

You don’t pay your taxi driver at the airport. You go to a counter, you pay somebody there, then you get a bit of paper that you take to your driver and then he takes you where you want to go. Or rather, I was told to walk to the other end of the terminal, where at the counter they at first admitted no knowledge of Malaysia Airlines at all (no, really: I had my phone with me and we’re in Malaysia and at an airport, so you’d think somebody would have heard of it) and then a taxi driver drove me to the headquarters of the Malaysian Airport Authority which isn’t the same thing at all, so then we drove all the way back round the airport until we got to a bunch of hangars, roundabouts and a slightly depressing shed, which turned out to be the visitor centre. My taxi driver had the temerity to ask for another 10 MYR because he’d had to go out of his way to drive me to the place that I wanted to go to, after he’d driven me to somewhere that I didn’t want to go to, but because I’m British of course I paid him and then went on the internet to complain.

The visitor centre really is a largish shed. It’s dark inside and there doesn’t seem to be air conditioning, and you hand over your passport and get a badge instead, and then you sit on a chair while the heavens open and the rain crashes down, and then after a little while longer one of your colleagues drives up and picks you up and takes you into the office complex. So that was all a bit odd after the famously antiseptic world of Singapore. It does seem par for the course with all the office buildings I’ve visited recently, where, regardless of the country, you have to surrender your passport in order to get an access card that lets you get to the reception of an office building somewhere. That doesn’t feel like an equitable transfer. From “Her Britannic Majesty’s Secretary of State Requests and requires in the Name Of Her Majesty all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely etc”, to not even an entitlement to a free coffee from the office Nespresso machine. But then as per the great work of Boris Johnson, maybe my British passport will depreciate in value soon.

We had our meeting, we drove up to Kuala Lumpur, I had a vaguely depressing dinner of smashed avocado on toast (because I’m a wannabee Millenial hipster, apparently) and now I’m in my hotel room and it’s dark and I think soon I will go to sleep. The hotel is aggravatingly hipster, in the sense that it’s too pretentious to have a mini-bar, and since my love of business travel is mostly because I can eat Twixes without leaving the comfort of my room, this makes me sad. There’s a nice view out the window though.


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