Saturday, February 28, 2009

Agony of de Feet

I like to walk. Even though I have a desk job I try to walk about 7 or 8 thousand steps per day. But see? On my present trip to Asia I've outdone myself with this new foot pounding total on the left. No wonder I've gotten blisters on this trip and have had to buy a new pair of sandals in Kuala Lumpur. But my feet still feel like numb stumps and the trip isn't over and I have no plans to take a tour bus or to hang out all day in the hotel bar.

See that fellow to the right? He's a reflexologist and for less than $15 US he deeply massaged my feet and legs. He started by putting some of the white lubricant goo in the blue tub onto his fingers and worked on the various part of my feet. First soles, then toes, then legs including my knees. He'd press down deeply into the various parts of my foot flesh and then observe my reaction. If I had no reaction he'd press on to a slightly different region until he got a moan of pain out of me. Then he's tell me in really bad English what corresponding part of my body was having a problem that was being reflected by my feet. The verdict on my health: I walk alot, I spend too much time on the computer, I have a stiff shoulder and neck and a problem with my eyes. So how accurate is his diagnosis? Well, I know that I have a stiff neck and a tight left shoulder and my eye doctor wants to see my for a 2nd round of tests of my possible lack of peripheral vision. But hey, my feet feel better. Well used but better.

I went back the next day for a followup and more massaging. Take a look and listen to me squeal -

Friday, February 27, 2009


English is one of the official languages of Singapore (along with Malay, Tamil, and Chinese). But the only time I hear my mother tongue is when I open my own mouth. Most people in Singapore are ethnic Chinese and speak one of the many Chinese dialects, even the young. Cantonese, Teochew, Hokkien, standard Putonghua Mandarin; they’re all spoken in day to day discourse here. Perhaps that explains the gorgeous Singaporean girl I saw wearing a shirt that said, “I’m Looking for Friends with Benefits” (hmm, or maybe not). Just like the shirt I saw on a fat 11 year old boy in Kuala Lumpur that proclaimed in big day-glo letters all the way down his bulbous belly, “I LIKE GIRLS WHO LIKE GIRLS”. Singapore is green, neat and tidy, an Asian oasis from the surrounding third world madhouse. Everything in Singapore has a place. Singapore is clean. Unlike Tokyo that has no litter baskets and no litter, Singapore has litter baskets everywhere and no visible litter.

Cars have a place in Singapore; they’re well regulated, remotely charged and tracked by the government through a scheme called ERP. The price for driving on that particular street changes every few minutes and depends on time of day and load. The little square antennas above the road and at the bottom of the sign track transponders in each vehicle.

So litter is in its place and cars are in their place. Singapore even has a place for drug dealers. The sign on the Singapore side of the border with Malaysia and on my immigration card promises that drug traffickers would be put to death. Under Singaporean law the death penalty for drugs is mandatory, no getting off on a technicality, no hanky dabbing sob stories, not even the final peace of death from lethal injection.

In Singapore the death penalty is administered old school, the prisoner and their families are informed of the execution date 4 days before it is to be carried out and the condemned is hanged by the neck until dead.

So compared to Kuala Lumpur, Manila or Bangkok everything is squeaky clean and supposedly has next to no crime. I see no slums and I’m told that Singapore is so clean that tap water is fit to drink (I drank it several times and the toilet doesn’t have me on a short leash). Singapore has been spared the fate of other Asian cities because it has a strict immigration policy and it’s a city state surrounded by water. Singapore doesn’t have to accommodate and bear the burden of the nearly inexhaustible supply of the migration of the rural poor of a country like the Philippines.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Kuala Lumpur Mass Transit

When I get a moment I’m going to do some research and discover why the mass transit system in Kuala Lumpur is as disjointed as it is. There are commuter trains, there’s a monorail, there are light rail lines. Sometimes the lines happen to cross paths and while it’s not a free transfer it’s cheap and painless. But other times the lines will come within 2 or 3 blocks of each other and in order to get from one line to another it can be quite a hike up a flight of stairs, across a pedestrian overpass, down a flight of stairs, a 3 block covered walk with the sun beating down on the steel cover and the heat radiating down on commuters and then a flight of stairs up to buy another ticket and another flight of stairs to the next mass transit car. Why is this? Did one hand not know what the other hand was doing? Did some local political warlord demand a payoff for crossing his turf that never came? In some cases huge office buildings were constructed on the northwest side of Kuala Lumpur and either have no train or a line that stops just blocks away. The PetronasTowers cry out for mass transit, a station in the basement as the World Trade Center in NY once had would be ideal. But the train stops a block away across a huge boulevard that teems with traffic and workers stream across dodging traffic to get to their jobs. The monorail terminates a block from KL’s Sentral train station. Would it have been too much to connect them?


Monday, February 23, 2009

Kuala Lumpur - Life Near the Equator

First a word about life near the equator. Kuala Lumpur is hot. It’s humid too and the heat just rocks down out of the sky. And each afternoon isn’t complete without a tropical downpour. But life near the equator also means that day and night are roughly of equal lengths. The sun sets at 7:30 PM and dawn hasn’t broken until nearly 7:30 AM. It’s a constant that I could get used to. KL is big, it's loud and it's kinda Muslim. Here and there women in black burkas Muslim. Commercials on TV condemning Israeli aggression Muslim. But the supermarkets have booze and canned pork from China and there’s no call to prayer five times a day from the few minarets I’ve seen so I guess Malaysia isn’t strict theocratic Muslim even though Islam is the official Malaysian state religion. Fewer beggars on the street than in Bangkok or in China but there's no doubt that this is the 3rd world. The Dorsett hotel is no great shakes. They want $10 US for an Internet connection and I see no trace yet of the promised free municipal wifi that's supposedly up and running. I walked into our room for the first time and immediately stepped on la cucaracha and heard the toilet leaking. I washed my hands and the sink leaked onto the floor and onto my shoes. This inspired Eleanor into her role of whipping the servants into shape and we got another room quick. The hotel is in what’s known locally as the Golden Triangle. It has gigantic concrete hell of shopping malls with lots of fast food franchises. Papa Johns, Beard Papa, Kenny Rogers Roasters, Carl’s Junior. Had dinner in a Chinese restaurant where one of the dinner candidates was eating a fellow dinner offering that was on his back in their aquarium holding tank. At least I've managed to find and consume the King of Fruits.