I spent the week of my birthday in Kuala Lumpur, wanting to be in a sunny place. I’d anticipated rain, but not so much of it as came down. So I chose to spend time indoors, looking out into the city from the height of my hotel room. During the mornings there were always raindrops pressing on the windows, pushing, wanting to come in, supported by strong winds that beat on the higher stories. Down below the pool of the Grand Hyatt was visible, and starting at the feet of the Hyatt, for a good distance, the low roofs of KLCC, green and glazed by continual showers. Next to the Hyatt stood the Traders Hotel, then Exxon Mobil, and a taller building topped by a slant section that resembled a Nepali cap, and in front of this building, an even taller, cylindrical building wearing a top-hat two sizes too small.
In the evenings I could see the approaching rain, see dark clouds that had already opened up over distant buildings, clouds closing in, shrinking the world around my balcony.
That was the view out my room in KL. I was content with that, because I wasn’t in KL with any plan other than to while my time away peacefully, reading the books that I’d brought along: Ian McEwan’s Machines Like Me, and Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now.
When I did step out, it was only to find a place where to get a decent vegan meal. I sought out new place each time, so as to experience the city wider, even if only from inside a cab, and within restaurants. I went to small places such as LN Fortunate (nasi lemak), Sala (burrito), Newstart (multigrain fried rice and edamame and an indifferent dumpling soup that gave out no taste). Sometimes I went to the Japanese ones, like YUZU on level four at KLCC Suria, where they improvised a rice set for me: rice, a large cube of tofu, sushi with mango and avocado and jackfruit and tofu and mushroom — and miso soup. The chef refused to make tempura. “Can’t make it vegan.” “Why not?” I couldn’t get the answer, they hadn’t enough English to explain.
That’s how I spent my birthweek this year, happy in a melancholic way, in silence and solitude in a busy, sultry Kuala Lumpur.