South East Asia :: March - June 1995

Subject: Beyond Here There Be Dragons.
Date: March 8, 1995 11:08

10:12 Swiss Inn, Kuala Lumpur-Malaysia :: 8 MAR 95

The Swiss Inn is a decidedly upscale move from the Backpackers we spent the last two nights in. Our own bathroom with both cold and hot running water. (Cool showers are OK in the heat of the afternoon, to wash away that sweaty second-skin, but in the morning, brrrrr.) And there's a 'western-style' toilet. That is, a throne you can sit on rather than a fairly smelly recessed bowl you squat over. With the latter style there's a handy little wash hose to use rather than paper-it doubles as a shower head in the one-stall-does-all format popular here. I bring my own paper, thanks. Most important of all, there is an International Direct Dial telephone line with an RJ-11 jack.

After going directly to Malaysia Telekom yesterday in an attempt to get a phone line, to no avail (they were willing but their multi-line system wouldn't give me a dial tone when I plugged directly into it), I came to the realization that upmarket hotels provide the most assured means of connecting. Of course, it's not cheap. Rooms go for $100 RM ($1 CDN = $1.80 RM) or more and then phone charges go as high as $8 RM per call (gotta dial Singapore) and that's whether the connection is successful or not (more often, not). My buddy Ian Wijesinghe assured me matters will only get worse:

< From chatting with the [Microsoft] folks there,
< I gather it's not too bad around KL
< but it can get really bad outside.
< It seems the dampness causes a lot of
< corrosion of the copper cables resulting
< in miserable connections.

Now I know what Columbus' men felt as they sailed off into regions of the map devoid of land marked only by stylised sea-serpents and the warning: "Beyond Here, There Be Dragons."

Remarkably, I find myself pining for reliable old Australia.

There, at least, getting connected usually involved little more than convincing the owner of a phone line that you weren't making a call to North America; that calling a computer with a computer was charged no differently than a person calling another person; and that the bill for the email service would be charged to my credit card not their phone bill. Quite often the result of all this explaining, if I was allowed to get that far, was a simple "no" . But Malaysia offers a completely new option: "no English." And English was the national language here just 5 or so years ago so just wait until I get to Thailand.

Still, it's nice to get put up in a nice, western hotel every now and again. Even if the room doesn't have any windows and the air-conditioning seems preset to "Arctic." And here in Malaysia there are only "3 channels of shit on the TV to choose from" with only one of those broadcast in English. No need to bother watching, particularly when your computer monitor is showing you 15 different ways for a telecom connection to fail.

When I was planning this trip I asked my Travel Guru, Tony, at Wanderlust on 4th Avenue about where to spend the most time. He suggested that Australia was a wonderful place but that every morning I'd wake up and know pretty much what kind of events the day would have in store for me. "That's not the case in any of the Asian countries." Tony is a master of understatement. Every day here's a bit of a shocker.

Patrick. -- Responses Sought --

It is not that the beautiful totality of the individual is amputated, repressed, altered by our social order, it is rather that the individual is carefully fabricated within it, according to a whole technique of forces and bodies.
  graphical element Michel Foucault
Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison