Sunday, November 4, 2007

Possibly the most poorly planned city on planet earth is Kuala Lumpur. It is spread out over a large radius with no true central city area. The roads are built in circles that take you everywhere but where you want to go. Some might think it could be the taxis attempting to get back at some bargaining strategy that I will delve into shortly. In actuality though, there was never a plan for the construction of the city and because of this, locations and roads are random and indirect. Thank the petrol companies for the Petronas Towers. It is worth comming and enduring the circular nature of the travel just to see the towers light up the night's sky.

Everyone has an angle here. They see tall, white-boy in his golf polo and they sharpen their talons. In the cheapest, shopping capital of the world you can purchase anything: films on dvd still in theatres, Tag Hauer "genuine replicas" for 30RM ($9), Gucci handbags for 50RM, the newsest pair of Nike shoes for 60RM, or should you be the wrong place, female companionship. Everything that can be bought can be bargained for. This extends to meals and beer.

Most taxis here wont run the meter for tourists. They give you a price, let's say 30RM, for a trip that costs no more than 6 or 7 RM. If you arent a stereotypical tourist, the interactions goes as follows: After the cabbie says 30, you laugh and close the passenger door. You continue laughing as you begin to walk down the road. They drive alongside you after rolling down the window. Providing they speak english, the cabbie will retort with "my friend, how much you pay?" You then ask them whether they dont charge their later passengers for the remainder of the night after you pay 30RM because for 30RM, you'd pay for everyone else's cab rides. Shake your head and smile when asking the question. They respond by repeating their previous question begining with, "my friend..." Then you tell them you're prepared to give them your business if they run the meter. Then follow that statement with another; maybe you'll consider giving them a tip despite them attempting to rip you off. That'll break down any formal, "hello how are you today, the weather is hot, hugh?..." small talk.

Once you get this system down, you've taken the first step in being able to handle public transportation in southeast asia.

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