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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 there, I’m Jona! I’m in my early 30s and is currently based in Ha Noi, Vietnam.I primarily write poetry and short stories in Cebuano and lengthy travel essays in English. Blogging has become an outlet to think out loud. I live the life I set for myself. I try to live an unapologetic life. For collaborations, projects, and other things, please email me at backpackingwithabook@gmail.com. Find me somewhere else!

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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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