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.
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.
“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.
“Not really. I live in a city myself. It takes time, that’s all,” I replied.
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.
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 .
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).
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. 🙁
A family on their way to the temple.
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.
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.
Overall, my two-night stay at Kuala Lumpur was too short to really grasp its realities. Definitely coming back.
Kuala Lumpur Malaysia Photos July 2015