Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

With the DM decision finally made, we headed to our hub in Kuala Lumpur to arrange plane tickets, visas, and shop around for gear that we would need to embark on our new, much anticipated, endeavor. We began this trip in mid-September 2009 with lots of diving on the agenda and DM training as a major goal. Now, here we were, late-May 2010, finally moving towards the realization of that goal.

We spent the next week running errands that fueled our excitement; even if the errands themselves were mundane. We headed to the Indonesian Embassy. Unfortunately the Indonesian visa takes up a whole page in our already full passports and the few square spaces available would just not do. Thus a trip to the US Embassy was needed before we could proceed. We hoofed it over, wanting to get things done ASAP. But by the time we arrived the US Embassy was closed, tacking on more time needed to sort things out. After waiting out the weekend we returned and were quickly ushered through the process of sewing more pages into our passport books. The Indo Embassy was closed due to yet another holiday adding another day of waiting.

When we finally did make it back into the Indo Embassy office we struck up a conversation with an American named Andre while waiting to be called. Andre was a Texan, in the process of moving for his job from Kuala Lumpur to Jakarta, Indonesia, and you guessed it, he was in the oil business. He took a shining to us, and we to him and before we knew it, he was asking, “So, have you had the chili crab here in Malaysia?” We had no idea what he was talking about, but he assured us it was not to be missed. Before I could ask where to find such a delight he had his hand phone out and was making plans for us to meet up and feast. We were to meet at his condo where his driver would take us out, on him. How could we possibly say no?

Andre’s office was in Malaysia’s famed Petronius towers, just above the tourist observation deck. He said he would love to show us up to take in the view and asked if we had any office attire that would allow us access to the building—no dress code violations permitted. Seeing as it was embassy day, we were already dressed in the nicest (or should I say, cleanest) things we owned and assured Andre that we were already donning our best. “Oh course,” he laughed, “backpackers.” And that settled the matter. No view for us, but chili crab still loomed. We finished up at the Embassy and set a time to meet later.

It wasn’t long before we were back in Andre’s company, sitting in his mostly packed up condo, waiting for his Malaysian girlfriend to finish up at the office. Upon her arrival, we were chaffered to the main event: chili crab. Andre took the initiative and ordered for everyone, choosing an array of dishes to try. Surprisingly he only ordered one crab, we quickly found out why. #1—the sucker was huge and #2—Andre doesn’t even eat crab! All that raving and it turns out his recommendation is strictly second hand; he doesn’t like seafood. No sweat, more crab for us. Or should I say me.

As Scotty chatted away, entertaining the two with funny stories of our travels, I ate, and ate, and ate. It was all ok, until I devoured the prize piece: the giant crab claw, without so much as sharing a morsel. It wasn’t my intention to do so, at first. But as Chatty Cathy went on, and on, and on, I just couldn’t restrain myself. And, I must admit, I didn’t feel bad about it for a moment. Sure it was the biggest, best, juiciest piece, but it wasn’t like Scotty didn’t get any delicious crab. There was plenty to eat, so I did. The evening was fantastic. Good conversation, great food, and a touch of luxury for these two scrubby backpackers as Andre’s driver delivered us home, curb-side service.

Outside of errands and chili crab, the other highlight of our week in Kuala Lumpur came when we had the pleasure of meeting up with our friend Tu. We met Tu while on tranquil Ko Adang in Thailand and spend many evenings chatting about life, culture, and future plans. Tu was part of the gang that participated in ‘Rice Feast 09’ and we felt honored that he found time in his busy work and marathon training schedule to meet up with us. In the wee hours of the morning, we took public transport to a far away stop that we have never been to before. Exiting the monorail, we headed down the stairs to our pre-arranged meeting spot. Tu was waiting. After hugging our hellos, we got into his compact car and headed to what Tu had described as a cool look-out point.

We drove through a residential area and up a hill, parking on a back street where the trail-head started. It was still dark as we exited the vehicle and noticed two men exiting a vehicle about 10 meters in front of us. Each was wearing running shoes, moisture-wicking clothing and had available hydration. In Tu’s backpack, he had a torch, drinks, and a small towel, presumably to catch sweat drippings. We packed nothing. Suddenly, I felt very underprepared. I quickly discovered that his said “look-out point” was much more than we had anticipated.

In marathon shape, Tu lead the charge, torch in hand up a steep inclined hill. We could see a limestone ridge jutting out above us, our destination, as we huffed and puffed to keep up. The sun began to break and soon the torch was not needed as we continued to climb. We made intermittent stops not only to admire the slowly unfolding view, but also to allow us to catch our breath. Tu’s cool look-out was certainly that. To one side of the ridge was Kuala Lumpur, sprawling modernity, glistening in the morning rays. On the other side a reservoir, calm water surrounded by lush, untouched greenery. The juxtaposition was pure beauty.

Not only did the view deliver, but so did the hike itself. Along the way we were challenged by not only having to contend with the elevation gain, but also having to brave steep gaps and steps in the trail that could only be managed through the use of some rock-climbing skill and ropes provided as aids. These obstacles were unexpected and exhilarating. On the trail we were passed by a few groups of local exercising enthusiast who were surprised and delighted to see us. “First time” they all kept saying, and it became obvious that tourists were not common to this place. What a treat. The early-morning hike provided more than I could have hoped for.

Famished, Tu insisted on taking us to breakfast at a popular Malaysian local joint to try some traditional food. We let him take the lead at the crowded breakfast spot and were pleasantly surprised by his choices. A strange savory porridge breakfast tasted a lot better than it looked. Curiosity got the better of us and we decided, against our apprehensions, to sample the 100 year old eggs that floated like black abscesses in the porridge. This time, looks did do the food justice. We were glad we tried but weren’t keen on ingesting any more of the fermented black globules. Tu didn’t mind, it meant more for him; he loves them.

It was a great morning. Reconnecting with Tu was a real treat. We have met so many wonderful people on this trip so far and feel really fortunate when we find ones that we can revisit, develop, and continue friendships with. This was a great way to wrap up our time in Malaysia. On to Bali, on to Komodo, and on to our realization of becoming divemasters. I scored a great dress at a Malaysian thrift store that I plan to dive in on my last day of training as a celebratory fancy dress up dive. Sure it is a bit too small; but it is fabulous! White polyester with large lapels, a blue fishing net design and peppered with conch shells all for $2. I mean, really, who could resist.

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