Thursday, January 28, 2010

Little miss can't be wrong...

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Never really on my radar as one of the 1001 places to see before you die. I put in very little prep time on researching what we would do in Kuala Lumpur. For one thing, the cruise ship was going to drop us off at Port Klang, far away from the inland city, and we were loathe to trust our fates to taxi drivers, however lovely they might have been. Making sure to get back to the cruise ship before it sails away is something that has worried Mike and me since a day, long ago, in New Orleans. But that's another story entirely.

So we went the brainless route and signed up for an all-around bus tour, complete with big red circle stickers to wear on our chests, in case there was any doubt that we were very temporary vistors and probably suckers too.

What we didn't know was that it was going to be one of the most amusing side trips we would take during our entire vacation. And it was all thanks to this man:

The World's Fussiest Tour Guide. Bar none.

This man was the biggest worrywort I have ever been on a bus with. He took his job very seriously. We spent so much time trying not to laugh at his chickenlike feather fluffing that our faces hurt. He fluttered, he fretted, it was completely hilarious.

Our first stop was the Blue (Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah) Mosque with its four impressive minarets and cobalt blue dome. Our guide might or might not have mentioned that it is the second largest mosque in Southeast Asia. I do know he told us three times where we should stand safely to take the best photographs, gave us highly detailed directions to the toilet repeatedly, and, most importantly, made sure we knew to be back in the bus in ten minutes.

Ten minutes, no more. Seconds add up, a little here, a little there, and before we know it we will be behind schedule and then how can he make sure to take us to all the places we want to go? He is not a miracle worker, we must all be back on time.

He was really working himself up about this. Wow.

Thomas was riveted. You can tell. Also note the fringed swag bus curtains, which went well with our guide.

Dutifully, we came back to the bus at 9 minutes or so to a tense atmosphere: a brawl was on the verge of erupting between some of the passengers. An Indian couple and their child had come back onto the bus and apparently sat down in different seats than they had originally rode out in, one of which was perceived by a Chinese woman as being exclusively hers. Apparently once her bottom had rested in it it bacame her sole property. Accusations were hurled, demands and racial epithets slung. I was waiting for the bee-atch slapping to start.

The Indian father caved and moved to the back of the bus, and in her moment of supposed victory, won through a combination of volume and obnoxiousness, the Chinese woman couldn't resist throwing out one more un-called-for slur on his heritage as he retreated. He sputtered, started to protest, and then in magnificent imitation of Ghandi, took a deep breath and walked away.

She looked so smug I wanted to smack her.

Our next stop was the 6-tiered Thean Hou Temple, which was not only an elaborate tribute to the Goddess of the Sea, but also had a great view of the KL Tower and the Petronas Twin Towers

and, along the side, 2 ponds absolutely stuffed with lots and lots of turtles.

We were well informed by Mr. Fussy as to exactly how many stairs we would have to climb, where the bathrooms were, what was for sale in the gift shops, what time to be back on the bus, what time it was now, and the difference between the two times and why that was important.

We worked at keeping our faces merely polite and interested. It was a good exercise in self-discipline.

Our guide also had good information about the temple, including telling us about the do-it-yourself nubbly pebble foot massage pathway, which Thomas really got into.

Back on the bus, where glaring was still going on. Apparently there had been a dash to see who could get back to claim the seat first, resulting in muttering and looks amongst the passengers, directly involved or not . This was really becoming amusing, though awfully silly. It's a seat for crying out loud, who cares?

But it was a diversion, and interesting to watch play out.

Our guide was demonstrating just how anal-retentive he could be, and though he detailed interesting, mostly numerical facts about the city and its history, he again spent most of his time emphasising what time it was, how we were doing staying on schedule, what we must do to continue to be on schedule. I was happy for him that he'd obviously found his calling.

Downtown and up a hill to our third stop, the Menara KL Tower, which I had read is the best place to view the famous Petronas Twin Towers and all of Kuala Lumpur. Up we went in the elevator, past the headscarved Muslim women, to a grand 360 degree view of the city, storm clouds rolling in and the light amazing.

In the elevator on the way down some Aussie women and one husband were tittering about something that had happened with THAT WOMAN back at the bus. I was dying to ask, but we got to the ground floor too quickly for me to butt in and gather gossip.

Each passenger had been equipped with disposable raincoats in neat plastic packages as the guide worried that it might rain and that if it rained we should put on our raincoats and that if we didn't put on our raincoats if it rained we would get wet, in either case we should take care to not wet the seats with our raingear when we returned to the bus, and that it could rain any time and also warned about what to do if approached by a monkey. Sadly, once again, neither rain nor long-tailed primates materialized, much to our disappointment.

The kids did get to ride ponies at the base of the tower. Hey, why not?

Back on the bus, our guide was working himself into a fit of apoplexy. Apparently complaints had been voiced about the seating issue. Oh, this was getting good. He told us that we must all work together like a little family so that all could enjoy the tour, and that we must not bicker amongst ourselves as it would ruin everything, and that the seats were not assigned but would we now please just stay in the seat we were currently in and not fight any more.

Oh, the poor dear.

He further went on to say that if we had any complaints against him or the bus driver that we must voice them to the company (if the driver drove "like a wild horse", was his example) and he talked and talked until he talked himself out. Sort of. Once he'd vented every possible way to talk about it he went back to telling us more numerical facts, such as how the Petronas Twin Towers were the tallest in the world from 1998 until 2004 at 1,482.6 feet, and are still the tallest twin buildings.

And now the famous Twin Towers with the distinctive skybridge between them. Mr Fussy Guide got all passengers across a busy street without losing any of us, though whether he was on the verge of a stroke or having the time of his life is anyone's guess.

We gazed in awe up at the magnificent silver towers stretching up to the heavens, then were hustled into the shopping centre at the base. We heard exhaustively about what to buy where, and finally escaped to take his advice to eat something before returning to the bus. He was still talking, but we figured once we had the meeting place and time we were good. The something to eat for us involved McDonalds, a shock I know, this one having such delights as a truly spicy chicken leg and thigh for me, cups of corn for the kids, and garlic and plum sauce to go with their chicken nuggets. They also offered a Prosperity Burger. The fries, of course, tasted exactly the same as any others from McD's. Amazing.

I left the kids with Mike and hustled off to Starbucks to buy cute little souvenir demitasse cups with 'Malaysia" and 'Kuala Lumpur' on them. I was cutting it close, and the folks at Starbucks really should have sampled their own wares to hurry up the process a bit. Not truly their fault I was in a hurry, but they couldn't have gone slower if they tried. Then again, it's possible they were trying...I certainly found them so.

As it was, even though I ran, I felt a twinge of real guilt when I was the last one back to the meeting place and our guide was looking a little strained. All sheep found and rounded up, we followed our fretful leader like an obedient flock back to the bus.

On the way I managed to corral the Aussie ladies in possession of the hot news and pressed the details out of them. They showed reluctance, warned that it really wasn't very nice, made us wait for the best impact, and then of course told all:

The Chinese woman had spat upon the Indians when they were getting out of the bus.

No. Oh no she di'nt! Yup. She did.

We all did the wide-eyed isn't it delicious and awful dance and questioned what kind of person would do such a thing in front of not only their child but hers and her husband as well? Obviously an evil person. Or at least a total jerk.

The Aussie husband hee-hawed a laugh and informed us that the best part of it was, the seat the Chinese woman had so self-righteously claimed was originally hers after the Indian man sat in it, was actually not either of theirs, he'd been sitting in it to start.

You have to love the irony there.

Our bus rolled along back to the port, through the rain finally falling now that we were safely in our warm metal transport, streaming down the windows. Our guide made an "I told you so so don't complain that you're hungry" speech for those who had not eaten at the mall, wrapping it up with a request to return the unused raincoats. Then he asked for volunteers to fill out customer feedback forms about the tour. None of the tired passengers raised their hand so he gave us fair warning that he's pick people at random and made good his threat.

As he was walking up the aisle with the paperwork he neared the evil Chinese woman, still wreathed in a poisonous cloud of self satisfaction. On the other side of the aisle and one seat back, I flipped my hand up "I'll take one!" getting him safely past her gauntlet. My ploy was pretty obvious, but who cared? It worked and I certainly didn't care if the Chinese woman realised what I'd done. I'm all for working against the dark forces. And jerks. Every little bit helps.

I gave our guide good marks for consistancy and heck, for pure entertainment value.

Though the traffic was slowing us down, our guide assured us that they knew what they were doing and that we would get back to the ship in time.

Which we did.

I can't say I was surprised.


Joanna said...

Apparently you need assigned seating for world peace. Free entertainment on your tour! I'm going to sound like an American here, but are the twin towers the ones in the movie Entrapment?

Anonymous said...

As Jon Stewart would say. "Now Now Settle!"
I guess it takes all kinds, but really all that bad behaviour over a seat? What on earth would she have done if something a bit more uncomfortable had happend to her? Bad Karma. I wonder why she's traveling at all?

*Paula* said...

people are crazy aren't they? Makes for a great story nonetheless!

Natalie said...

Joanna~ the Twin Towers are indeed the ones from Entrapment, though I though all anyone truly remembered from that movie was Catherine Zeta-Jones extremely sexily making her way blindfolded through the laser simulation with Sean Connery looking on. Good call!

I have to say the crazies make for an intersting life...though I wonder how I would have reacted to being spat upon.

I am thinking, not so well.

Julia said...

Your guide sounds like someone who would be an excellent Kindergarten teacher.