Kuala Lumpur

Editor’s Note: what follows is the possibly incoherent rant of a man who has been at the airport for too long with too little sleep and too much caffeine.

Dear Kuala Lumpur,

You fancy yourself a modern city, seeking to eclipse Singapore as the gateway to Southeast Asia. However, if you’re going to do this, we need to talk about two things.

Taxis and rules. Let’s start with taxis.

Taxis are the ambassadors of the cosmopolitan metropolis. They’re the first thing that those Western businessmen/tourists you so desire will see, so it’s very important that you get them right.

Let me share with you an example of how not to do it, provided courtesy of you yesterday.

You should endeavour that your taxi drivers do not get pulled over by the police for dangerous driving. We tourists are never impressed by turns taken so recklessly that your country’s judiciary feels a need to interfere in the situation.

Secondly, the driver should really aim to get you to your destination. This precludes dropping tourists off at a random location on a similar sounding road in a city they’ve never visited. Your driver may think that dropping a person off on “Jalan Tun Perak” when they’re supposed to be at “10 Jalan Perak” is close enough to count as a success, but it’s really not. Cab driving is not tiddly winks and close (although these two locations are over 2km apart) does not actually count.

Another “teachable moment” from today.

Your taxi drivers also need to know their airports. When you tell the taxi driver at 4:45 in the morning that you’re going to “Terminal L at KLIA for an Air Asia flight” and show him this on the ticket, he has to get you there. He cannot drop you off at the wrong terminal at 5:30 when your flight is at 6:30 – and why, pray tell, did you decide to make the terminals 20km apart so that no one can possibly get from one to the other if there’s a mistake?

But it’s okay, because now that I’ve got all this extra time on my hand before my new $400 flight, we can chat.

So let’s talk about part 2: those rules you’re so proud of.

I’d suggest that it’s not a deterrent when you make incoming flights cheerfully broadcast on their intercoms “ladies and gentlemen, drug trafficking in Malaysia is a serious penalty punishable by death.” How you brutalize your petty criminals is your sovereign right, but given that you’re transmitting this at the end of the flight it is likely not the credible deterrent you are looking for.

Similarly, your Kafka-esque network of rules can be baffling. Witness the paths in KL Park, where the paths deposit you at an area where you must take your shoes off to cross a tile structure near a wading pool or a little lady starts blowing the loudest whistle in the world. This is followed by the lady then blowing again if you go in the wading pool if you’re over the age of 12.

Can’t we all just get along? You’re not going to get that high tech export-driven powerhouse you so desire if you threaten accidental waders with the whistle of death.

I have spoken and now I am at peace with Kuala Lumpur.