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.


the letter b said...

and i must say that Dr Mahatir did a fine job keeping the tensions between the two races down though - like any other ethnic minorities with substantial numbers elsewhere - many ethnic Chinese aren't quite delighted with the so-called discriminatory practices. still.

Dr Mahatir didn't think twice slagging the majority for wasting public money by not attaining good quality educational qualifications. instead abusing their "birthright" to special privileges by becoming religious teachers for instance.

oh i can go on.

PJ Miller said...

I once did a book about those towers. Well, there was a chapter about them. I remember nothing, except the arch symbolises Islam or something equally doolally.