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PHOTO ESSAY: Why I Did Not See the Petronas Towers

It takes time to love big cities. Its character is not fixed, its face varied, it is or can be unpredictable. To love a city is to linger, to stay for months or years perhaps.

It is not meant for place sniffers, those who can only afford to stay for three days, a week utmost: visit the Petronas Tower on the second night, go to Batu Caves in the morning, haggle at Chinatown in the afternoon.

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To fully love a city is to abandon the self’s restlessness, the self’s hunger for the places one has never been to. To love a city is to give up, to give up on fernweh.

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“You must not like cities, right?” Fadza, a local photographer in Kuala Lumpur, commented upon learning the places I planned to visit in his country: Taiping, Sekinchan, and Cameron Highlands.

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“Not really. I live in a city myself. It takes time, that’s all,” I replied.

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It is easier to love the countryside. To love the countryside requires little, less thinking for the probinsyana like me. While to love a city requires patience and purposefulness: go grocery-shopping, pay the bills, go to work, and grab some beer with friends. Cities do not have the languidness, the slowness of the countryside, the uneventfulness of one’s day.

But I did my best to know, which I hope leads to understanding, the first city I traveled to outside my homecountry.

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Out of rebellion, I resisted seeing the Petronas Tower up close. I owe it to myself, the self who looks for fresh narratives on places, the self who prefers the seeming ordinary to the iconic. I owe it to the city, who perhaps wants to be seen in a different light, who perhaps pines for more varied images and perceptions.

To fully love a city is to abandon the self’s restlessness, the self’s hunger for the places one has never been to. To love a city is to give up, to give up on fernweh—the ache for distant places .

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Despite the intimidation of traveling abroad for the first time, I went around on foot and rode monorel (monorail) and trains like an estranged local who has not been to her city for quite a while, but of course, I was just lying to myself. I was never an estranged local, like what Mama reminded me over text before I boarded the plane: timan-i, stranger ka didto (Remember, you are stranger there).

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These two were obviously gay, and I loved their flirtations. But they suddenly stopped and got awkward when they sensed a camera pointing at them. I felt guilty. 🙁

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A family on their way to the temple.

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A country with three major religions, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism, Malaysia is an interesting country to walk around for its diversity. It is very likely for one to come across a Buddhist temple with an Indian security guard. P3570082

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They said you can never hurry love, but I wanted to contend that: for one to love a city, one must walk its streets, beautiful and otherwise.

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Overall, my two-night stay at Kuala Lumpur was too short to really grasp its realities. Definitely coming back.

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Kuala Lumpur Malaysia Photos July 2015

Jona | Backpacking with a Book

Hi, I'm Jona! I write stories and poetry and take a lot of photos, which I'm too lazy to upload. If you want to receive some photos that I don't share here on the blog, please leave your email here. I'm crazy about cats too. Feel free to browse through BWAB, and I would love it if you say hi! For collaborations, projects, and other things, please email me at backpackingwithabook@gmail.com For more stories about BWAB, check here. Connect with us through

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2 Comments

  1. Jon, your photos speak so much of life in that places. Very beautiful! The rock formations (first photo) are eye-widening!

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