Leaving KL was actually a very difficult process for us. We had settled into routines that made us very comfortable. We had even adapted to the miniscule supply and exhorbitant price of serious beer. We have our lunch hawkers Salwah and En Sham, with whom we became friends after eating at their stall five times a week for the past four months. Their lunchtime nasi campur (buffet) spread is exceptional – we saw no better. Each day we would take some rice and pile on a vast array of meats and veg, everything from fish-sized crabs to fried tempeh to rendang. Great traditional Malay food. We got to know a few different people in town – KL is open that way. Malaysian people on the whole are friendly and warm. It becomes easier to become at least a little bit immersed when you share a common passion, in this case food. We hunted food like the locals. The food in KL is diverse, spanning many cultures. It is at once rich and approachable. We got the sense that we would never run out of exciting new foods to try even if we spent years there. Even in our last week, we were chowing down on new things like chili pan mee (a local spicy noodle bowl) and crab with salted duck egg sauce.
I took to running around KLCC Park, located at the base of the Petronas Towers and featuring a running track. I don’t normally run, but our building’s exercise room was grubby, small and full of broken equipment. So I started running, trying to remind my lungs and heart that I used to be able to run cross-country races as a kid. The park also features a fountain. Locals and tourists alike hang out around this fountain every evening, making it a really nice public space. In short, we had found a way to become comfortable. The point we reached was sort of like the point where if we were expats staying for years we would have just felt like we knew our way around and could really maximize our experience.
Instead, we left. That’s a weird time to move. You can re-set your visa endlessly simply by taking a $10 bus to Singapore and back, so it wasn’t for any legal reason. We just have a lot of things we want to do. Leaving brought about a strange sense of anxiety as for the first time in months, we felt like travelers. Adapting back to that feeling was, if nothing else, a challenge.
We’re actually excited for the challenge that lies ahead. Our hearts are filled with joy, even if we reserve the right to occasional grumpiness. Kota Kinabalu for us is a writer’s retreat, with maybe some beach time and some nature. We will go to Brunei as well while we’re on Borneo. After that, the familiarity and comforts of Europe beckon. We look forward to all of it.