Monday, March 14, 2011

Welcome to KL

When I was young, the country I wanted most to live in was Switzerland. I don’t know if it was inspired by postcards or pictures on chocolate bars, but somehow the idea of snow covered slopes sounded infinitely more inviting than a-go-go bars and strip clubs during pre-puberty.

I look back now in relief that I never chased by boyhood dreams because other than probably great bank interest rates that are housing billions of blood money, I’ve heard that Switzerland is so boring it makes Alaska look like Disneyland.

We complain a ton about Singapore; about propaganda, about the constitution, about CPF, about rising cost of living, about the intolerance on vice, about the mundane nightlife, about the lack of green spaces, about the joke of a beach, about the torrid humidity, about the myth of meritocracy and about the lack of free speech.

We have so much to complain it’s a wonder we have time for anything else. I am guilty of it, I lament on the lack obscenity, of rave joints or coital fuelled parties. Thank God, Kuala Lumpur succeeded where we failed, in nightlife spunk, and it’s not everyday you find Singapore bested in any aspect of living.

Kuala Lumpur has become a second home to me of late and it hasn’t taken me long to find a fondness for the place. It’s no snow covered winter land that Switzerland proposes, but any place with a vivid clubbing scene wins my erection.

Can I see myself living there?

Rave Clubs

It’s something we are no longer blessed with in Singapore. Gone are the days that Boat Quay ruled with trawling groups of ah lians with their Sonia Rykiel bags and Ferragamo hairbands, accompanying their Versace clad boyfriends to bar-clubs that sometimes offered a mountain of drugs that made it look like a Colombian mansion.

I’m talking about hard music that defied the realms of beats and rhythm and is completely impossible to dance to that the only way you can keep up, is shaking your head. Lights are non-existent, and unnecessary given that misdemeanor is the order of the day. You don’t even need alcohol, just a huge bottle of water. Now that’s cheap living.

If you love trance or techno that sounds like it was fed a clinic worth of steroids and speed, then you will live well in the after hours of KL.

And for a city with all other legitimate clubs that close at around 2am – or in Singapore’s context, the time we slip on our shoes to head out to party -, underground clubs come as a communion for all those who believe that parties should end only after 5am.

For whatever drug fuelled enthusiasm rave clubs have taken from societal well-being, they have credited it back by adding vibrancy and credibility to a city who so prides it’s nightlife. And here we are thinking nothing good ever comes out of rave joints. Shame on us.


There really isn’t much of a difference and you don’t have to live on a staple of bugs, rats and half grown ducklings. There’s as much variety there as you would find it here n Singapore and good enough to encourage a growing concern for obesity.

It’s not about the experience of eating, or the diversity of food, or how amazing it taste. The best part is when you pay the bill and realize that it’s almost half the price. God bless exchange rates, so this is how it feels like to be a European in Singapore.

I once had a seafood dinner for four that cost less than a round of martinis. At that moment, I nearly traded in my Singaporean passport. True story.

Jalan P Ramlee

If you know Beach Club and Thai club, then you truly know your clubbing culture of KL. This stretch is as iconic as Orchard Towers and as notorious a reputation as any you will find in KLCC. It’s a simple rule. When there are more females than males at a bar, and there isn’t a free flow, you know that these women are more interested in your wallet than they are in their beers.

It’s flooded with hordes of Caucasian men who are drawn to the exotic sea of women who have arrived from every third world Asian country from Vietnam to Kazakhstan with surprisingly less clothes than they ever had on them, flaunting cleavages and tight skirts, all in a bid to get their attention. They are the very epitome of capitalism, industrious – working every night – and a keen eye to exploit every willing party.

There is no regards for the live band playing, which is a pity because it’s always magical when you put a mic to a Pinoy’s mouth. And neither is there concern for marked up bar prices, because you’ll be spending the better half of your time deliberating if you’ll still have your Rolex or organs intact in the morning if you decide to take them back with you.


The traffic in KL is almost execrable it makes the rush hour jam in Singapore look like the Autobahn freeway. During the rush hours, it’s faster to travel on a pogo stick blind-folded than it would be to drive round the corner. The whole city comes to a standstill that the only thing that reminds you that God hasn’t hit the global pause button, is your digital clock ticking away, mocking you as you miss precious minutes of American Idol.

It just puzzling because you don’t ever see that many cars on the road and then once it hits about 5pm, the roads and highways become so packed with all the cars just appearing out of nowhere that it looks like Proton was organizing a flash mob.

If you want to get around the city and do not possess skills of champions which includes teleportation and human flight, then what you need is something that will help you through the long hours of commutation, like an iPhone, a book or maybe a bottle of sleeping pills because sometimes you’ll be lucky if you make it home before Christmas.

The road conditions in some parts will make Mars look like a runway and you are more likely to break your leg in a pothole than you would be to get hit by a car. And from what I’ve heard, the only way a pothole gets patched up, is when it orchestrates a fatality. That’s what you call procrastination.

There isn’t a silver lining to the traffic condition there, except the governance of money that solves all other traffic related offenses like speeding, beating the red light, drink driving and having exhaust pipes that look like they were meant for the A380 Airbus.

There are many merits to this city granted by the stronger dollar against the ringgit, but beyond that living in Singapore has already acclimatized to raging humidity, over-inflation and unexpected floods.

It’s not as glamourous as New York or as fashionable as Hong Kong, but for everything else, it makes it a pretty decent place to live in, if you're forced to flee Singapore, because let’s face it, it's just like Singapore on a little prosiac drip and a painful traffic situation. Let's just keep KL as that 3 hr getaway drive for now, unless you own a helicopter.