The sizzle of the grill.
Smoke pluming and settling in your hair.
A greasy, salty smell seducing your olfactory receptors and your stomach. You lean close, inhale, and watch every movement, charting the nuances.
This is street food culture in Hong Kong.
Is it safe?
Will I be kidnapped?
Taken hostage by terrorists?
My favorite one: could I be sold into slavery like that movie with Liam Neeson ? On a side note, wouldn’t it be hawt if he was the one to save you from Eastern European gangster scum?
I hate these questions. There, I said it out loud. Not because these questions are stupid, but I often wonder where they come from.
I tend to fire back with, what source did you read? How old is the information? Do you believe this image is the entire country?
Someone recently asked me about Malaysia. I spent a quick, but satisfying weekend there. Oh dear, that sounds like a fling I just had.
Let me rephrase, I had a memorable time and connected with people I will see again. The culture in Kuala Lumpur appeared mostly innocuous. I didn’t clutch my bag in fear, never felt that my taxi driver (metered I might add) was threatening or leering at me at all. I actually had an informative conversation with him about the government and the development of Kuala Lumpur. The only thing to watch out for are motorbikes hopping the sidewalk behind you during rush hour traffic. The Malaysian people? Some of the warmest I’ve ever encountered. The end.
The question posed to me was, “Is Malaysia safe? I read reports of American women being kidnapped, terrorist groups, etc.”
It went further. “I’ve heard about Al Qaedea-esque groups. Taxis being problematic, US state department website advises against east Malaysia travel.”
In all the excitement of the Asian Women’s Empowerment Conference I did manage to experience a little taste of Kuala Lumpur. Forbes describes Malaysia’s growth as a “bubble economy”, due to a government and household credit bubble, but on the street level my taxi driver described Kuala Lumpur as “stable, it is growing all the time, the government is rich.”
The taxi driver then talked about driving the owner of the Petronas Towers one evening, how nice he was and wanted the driver to find a decent restaurant to eat at. My taxi guy reenacted his shock and horror. Me? How could I know where to take the boss of Petronas?? But he did and apparently the dinner was a cool $200 USD.
Tip, people: if you want to know anything about a place, strike up a conversation with your taxi driver. They see and know all.
What I saw of Kuala Lumpur was a different kind of richness, one in the form of hijabs, salwars and a set of shorts and a tank top. People of varying religious sects and ethnic groups sharing the sidewalk, eating at restaurants together or sitting close as friends.
Ethnic and religious violence hasn’t occurred here since the 1960′s, which is unprecedented to me. In India, those coals burn underneath the surface and singe every so often.
I wished there was more time to explore all of it. The alleyways, the markets and the food. Sigh. This will have to do.