When a Massage Offer is Five Too Many…

Allow me to show you a little something I like to call...the view...

According to my clock, in five minutes I’ll have been in Malaysia for one month to the day. It’s definitely not a case of a month too many, but it’s hard to believe it’s actually only been just the one month. After the whole Penang/Paradiso Guesthouse affair (as in, having a McDonald’s billboard being changed outside my bedroom window overnight), we finally got round to settling into our new place. Now, our new place – it’s on floor 22 of the building (is there any building in Ireland that even reaches a floor 22, let alone has people living on it?), which means we get good views over the neighbouring areas, which incidentally include Swiss Garden, the place we spent many a night, the Maybank building, and a decent amount of Chinatown and the Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve. Unfortunately, there’s no ironing board included in rental it turns out, so thus far I’ve resorted to using the dining room table and an old duvet (don’t tell anyone, but it partially melted earlier while I was ironing a particularly troublesome shirt) – however, we do have a swimming pool that ranges from ‘sparkling clean’ to ‘did I just see a fish head on the bottom?’ and a gym that so far has proven something of a hit with both myself and Anna, if nothing else but for the mere ability to lose weight in the place without actually doing any exercise due to its lack of air conditioning – naturally, when you do take a turn on an exercise bike or whatever, it’s not so much a case of ‘and then I got a bit sweaty’ as more ‘and then I got so sweaty that I couldn’t actually see any longer’! But overall, it’s right downtown, it’s quite upmarket (especially considering the semi-slum outside our window that always takes us back down to earth with a bump) and it’s exactly what we wanted. So, problem sorted.

Another week, another elaborate shopping centre display...

Living in Kuala Lumpur meanwhile takes a certain bit of getting used to, if you happen to be me. First up, the price of drink is in serious disproportion to the price of everything else – for example, a meal generally comes to around 8 Ringgit let’s say. A beer meanwhile tends to start at 8RM just for a small bottle and up to around 15RM for a large bottle, which if you’re trying to stick to Malaysian prices, happens to be scandalous. As a result, I’ve gone on a compulsory detox that’d make any AA member look shameful – quite simply, the price isn’t right and considering we can go and smoke some shisha for 8RM (between a couple of us, for an hour or two), there’s no point in drinking…too much. The next thing that takes some getting used to if you’re from Ireland (especially Ireland), is that eating out is always cheaper than eating in – there’s a reason many condo kitchens are poorly equipped and that’s because only an idiot or someone with a stash of cash would be bothered eating in, any given night. A trip to our favourite ‘Little Wok’ (there’s a few of them) tends to run to around 6/7RM a meal (actually served in little woks too for added novelty) presuming you don’t buy a drink (which we rarely do). Even pizza in one place is around 11RM, while it tends to be around 15RM for a frozen pizza in a supermarket – so basically, everyone eats out and at meal times, while you could easily visit a food court and spend…I don’t know, maybe 2 minutes getting a bit annoyed having to look for a seat, here you could spend 20 minutes or more looking for somewhere to eat and still get nowhere. But then, the flip side – you’ve got to take the good with the bad…

Some more festivities take hold...

The good (for me) is having a swimming pool downstairs, a gym, cheap delicious food, constant heat (sometimes that can get annoying though) and not having to stress even the slightest bit about the job situation, the economy, the climate, etc etc – and neither does any Malaysian that wants to work, because you can be sure that literally every second shop (at least) in any given shopping centre is hiring and doing walk-in interviews such is the urgency with which staff is required out here. Sure, nobody’s getting paid Irish salaries out here – the average starting pay for Malay graduates I heard last week is 1,800RM (around €450/month) but then there’s no need for Irish levels of pay out here anyway. So, in short, there’s cash going if you don’t mind not having a paycheck that converts to any other currency particularly favourably and there’s definitely jobs going (plenty of them) if you don’t mind what you’re doing. The final thing that takes a bit of getting used to is the love for shopping centres. When I think of shopping centres in Ireland, I think of…St. Stephen’s Green, Jervis St., something like that. Over here, Dundrum would be the equivalent of the local joke – far too small and easy to get around. By contrast, shopping centres here are more of a full-day thing (if that’s what you want to do) and you could literally go into say, Suria KLCC or the Pavilion and spend a full day in air-conditioned comfort in there if you wanted to. In fact, they love shopping centres so much that we even discovered lately two things that were particularly unusual (and in both cases, unwanted). There’s a shopping centre not far from our house, which I’ll not mention the name of, that houses a cheap supermarket but with the caveat that the exits are literally impossible to find. So difficult to find, in fact, that a friend of mine declared that he regularly prefers to spend the extra few Ringgit to go to ‘Cold Storage’ supermarket so that he can be sure of finding his way out.

Here we have Power City...on acid...

Obviously a saving of any amount of ringgit is a saving that we want to make so we’ve been to the shopping centre a number of times and like that, have had no end of difficulty trying to escape from – in one particular instance, we went from the supermarket into the shopping centre, into a department store that literally became impossible to leave; somehow even the exit back to the shopping centre seemed to have moved from where we expected it to be. Then secondly, in another shopping centre we went to another day, the whole shopping centre was basically one huge Power City (or multiple Power City’s) on steroids – there were no shops other than camera/mp3/computer shops and the shopping centre literally went on for floor after floor. I wondered to myself how could anyone ever decide what was different (except price) between one laptop shop and another? The only time there was a slight change of scenery was where for example a coffee shop would constitute a slight break in proceedings – other than that, everything either sold laptops, mp3 players, mobile phones or digital cameras. I’m not too sure what was going on, but I know we haven’t been back and I don’t ever intend to – ever.

But one thing’s for sure, you’ll only ever find the cheekiest Malaysian post-graduate saying ‘there’s no jobs’ on whatever’s the Malay equivalent of Primetime over here…


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