My not so Hanjeongpan Asian adventure

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A rocky arrival

As the title indicates, I too have been bit by the K-bug. This condition is fairly recent. It started about a year ago in downtown Kuala Lumpur. I credit it to a city airport with no parking on pick-ups, and two terminals not clearly marked and seemingly only distinguishable based on which airline you used. I spent over two hours trying to find the two friends I was traveling with. We were coming from Bali on different flights, only twenty-five minutes apart. Same departing airport, same destination, but different airlines which led to different terminals. The last part not made discernable in any way when you’re inside.

The pick-up system doesn’t make room for any patience in taxi drivers. And I too was tired from going up and down between the exit and arrival hall three times. So on his second his lap I told him, “we can leave.” I was hungry and frustrated, and wondering, “How dense can two girls be to not find Level 1, Door 5?”

They found out first that we were on completely different terminals. By that time I was exiting through the first toll gate, and my chatty and non-apologetic driver was not in the mood to go back. So I conceded. I told them to hail a taxi for themselves. Which worked out with no additional fuss.

Streetview arond the corner of our “luxury” apartment

Because everything is better on a full belly-

Later that night, bellies full from a delicious meal, and hearts happy from the location of our rental, we lay on the couch trying to spy on our neighbours through curtainless windows. Whilst our supposed luxury apartment was made of cheap Ikea furniture, it had one big thing going for it, location. It was less than a kilometre from the Petrona Towers. And from our couch, we had an idilic city view with the KL Tower as a prominent feature. It was too late to venture out for a night about town. So we turned on Netflix and embraced our region’s recommended viewing. Then I watched my first Korean drama, Chocolate.

Chocolate is a Korean Netflix original drama aired from December 2019

I loved Kuala Lumpur; the integration of the down-right cheap livelihoods with the hanjeonpan, limited-edition and ultra-luxurious. We could have breakfast at the roadside-tent-eatery, then walk into Salvatore Ferragamo’s store inside the Suria mall at the Petrona Towers across the road. Seeing Nando’s there was a surprising delight on our way to China Town. As tempting as it was to check it out our beloved export, we opted for more street food.

Lunch during on the road side food stall. I loved the flavours.

Walking the city makes you want to live in it. The deliberateness of creating green spaces within the city and convenient public transport and bike lanes make you fall in love with it. The Forest Eco Park, KCLL Park, huge botanical gardens, all within our vicinity give you an idea of the city’s commitment to sustainability. But I think they should also serve as a warning to emerging and growing cities, that up and concrete can’t continue to be the symbol of development and progress. In that regard, seeing my city in the spring this year, after a year away, I appreciated all the green. Johannesburg is the world’s largest man-made forest. It has over ten million trees. The giant oaks and jacarandas are the staples. The latter covers the city in a purple blanket during springtime.

One thing that stole my heart above everything was the New Year’s celebration. We were too tired to go to the organised event we had planned after a wild previous night celebrating my birthday. So we opted for the fireworks show with the general population at the Petrona Towers. The fact that the vuvuzela made in it to Malaysia and it’s still embraced ten years after the SA-hosted Soccer World Cup was not a happy moment for me. I hate the vuvuzela. It’s possibly one of the worst things to come out of South Africa. On this night I heard all sorts of types of these annoying buggers, but my heart melted at the demographics attending: families, old people and newborns. The carefree teens enjoying a lightly supervised night out with friends and playing pranks on their seniors. And all that, with not a drop of alcohol.

It was like a utopia. The wish for more family-friendly gathering at home was born. An inspiration to create alcohol-free events. COVID has put gatherings on hold, but it’s still a burning desire for us to see more of that here.

Take only pictures, they say. But I left more than footprints.

I only watched one and a half episodes of Chocolate that night because one felt like a full movie. I then forgot about it for more than four months. It was only after lockdown when I couldn’t stand anymore HGTV, that I remembered the series with one-hour episodes. The rest is history. Now I can probably get around in Seoul, after a few lessons on Duolingo. Just this week, World of the Married was top 10 on Netflix SA.

And as the COVID storm was wearing off I wondered if a new start was in the cards for me in a different country. And for the first time ever, Canada was not on the top of my list. But Singapore and Malaysia were. I do think KL airport needs to go easy on removing redundancies. We can’t be over-reliant on technology even on basic things. I still need to be able to find my way around without a smartphone on hand if I choose to.

Thanks to

 Rahul Pandit for fireworks image from Pixabay

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