Tuesday, January 24, 2006
City of noises
I'm in Kuala Lumpur, where the Petronas Towers (above) loom out of the sky wherever you are like the spacecraft in Alien. I first saw the towers on The World's Strongest Man - incongruous though it may seem - about six years ago, long before I ever dreamed I'd be living in Asia. Then, as now, the towers seemed impossibly strange: and close up, incredibly tall.
The traffic in KL is notoriously bad and you're really only able to arrange two or three meetings a day because it takes so long to get anywhere - according to today's taxi driver, cars are too cheap. Malaysia manufactures the Proton which has been struggling for a while with the same problems Ford have been trying to tackle by making sweeping redundancies across the US - too many cars, too few buyers. All the world's keenest consumers seem to be in KL right now - in their cars, and driving somewhere (and if this doesn't seem too solipsistic, usually in the same direction as I need to go to get to my meeting on time).
KL, despite its traffic problems, is a very interesting city. Malaysia's slogan is that it's "Truly Asia" and that has been my experience - at the risk of making Hong Kong and Singapore seem like ersatz Asian cities, until I came here I don't think I understood Asia at all. Not that I'm much closer to understanding now, but I'm less colossally ignorant than I used to be. So far a majority Muslim population in a largely secular state with a large Chinese minority have managed to co-exist with a minimum of trouble.