KL aka Kuala Lumpur is hot... like real hot... like you step outside and are drenched in your own sweat kind of hot.
It was a beautiful, strange place with very few foot paths (aka side walks) around where I was staying, so my normal (tour) mode of walking to explore was (somewhat) out of the question. I did go for a coffee (this is the theme of my travels guys, get used to it) with a dear friend and had a wonderful conversation that will stick to my ribs like thick porridge on a cold winters day (though we were in the tropics so perhaps- 'it was more refreshing than ice cold lemonade in the dead of summer). I explored a botanical garden and had a glass of wine on the top of a very tall building but other than that KL and I didn't really bond with each other... though I definitely bonded with the Aloo Gobi on the room service menu (don't judge, when you work late and forget to eat it's what you gotta do to survive!).
The same goes for Singapore. Hot and tropical, beautiful and kind, but I did't really get a chance to feel it, to walk around and understand it's energy. Both KL and Singapore were a bit tricky to navigate as well, had there been more time I think I would have gotten used to the things stacked on top of each other and the roads which would up and down, around and through, but when you are in a place for less than 48 hours it gets a bit tricky.
Jakarta on the other hand was a world set apart. It reminded me of Costa Rica with the extreme poverty butting up against extreme wealth. It is a reality we don't often see in the US and Europe (though it does exist). In places like Jakarta (or CR) it is so blatantly obvious you couldn't hide it away even if you tried. It give you pause and makes you think... a lot of the street people in LA have it better off than the entire families which live in these 'shanty towns'. It is eye opening to say the least.
Seeing and experiencing (even just a taste) of different cultures can also be extremely eye opening. For one thing, I am a blonde white chick, I can't say that I think about race all that often living in LA but in places like Jakarta it becomes very apparent just how different you are very quickly. Some people stare because they are curious, they seem to think, 'what is blondie doing wandering down this street?', there are those who cat call and harass, those who walk a little too closely, and the small children who run up and ask for your picture because of your coloring (I had never experienced that before)... but I can't blame them, it's just different there, it's what they know.
On one of the grey mornings in Jakarta I was up early and ventured out to a Batik museum to stare at all the incredible and intracate hand made prints and patterns. I drank Indonesian coffee (delicious... a bit earthy? It has something to do with how humid it is there) and read in a cafe with floor to sealing windows. I got a massage and the girl scrubbed my feet with salt before she destroyed my right shoulder (aka my problem area). I discovered and ate hainanese chicken rice. I stared out the window in my room at the lush greenery and wondered what would/could cause such a beautiful country, full of such kindness, to have so many societal and economic disfunction (and corruption). And then, as with all the other places I visited... I left.
It is strange thinking back on this trip. I saw so much and yet so little. I was technically in these countries (my passport says so) but I don't feel like I actually got to experience the true (extreme) 'foreignness' of most of them. It's like getting a sampler platter at a restaurant- you find one or two dishes you LOVE but the rest you could have never tried and been content. It's a funny thing.
What do you think? Do you like the idea of the 'in and out' or would you prefer more of an immersive experience?
*the photo at the top is one I took of a stadium in Jakarta.