by Peter Nelson
Sitting at a marble-top desk under a ceiling fan throwing out a force-2 gale, the old-style three-bladed ceiling fan that sways from side to side as it rotates. One can just visualize Somerset Maugham downstairs in a white linen suit sipping green tea as he contemplates his notes for a travel sketch on the Malay peninsula. This is Kuala Lumpur, capital of Malaysia, a city three times cleaner than Jakarta and ten times more oriental in flavor due to a large Chinese and Indian population.
Believe it or not, we actually went ice skating here! That’s right. After three years in the tropics, we had to feel some ice under our feet again, and there’s a skating rink in Kuala Lumpur. You can rent the skates, but you have to purchase the gloves. Gloves? Yes sir, required for safety reasons. But these scrawny little things wouldn’t protect you from a mosquito bite! Regardless, sir, you must wear gloves or you will not be allowed to skate here. Hmm. That doubles the cost of this venture from $2 to $4. Am I being too cynical if I suspect that perhaps these gloves are manufactured by some relative of the rink owener?
Anyway, whatever, Canadians denied ice time for more than three years have been known to waste away. We gamble our $4 and hit the ice.
Okay, now we’re at Georgetown on the island of Pinang on the west coast of Malaysia, a real Chinese traders’ town. One can just imagine shady deals being transacted in smoke-shrouded back rooms.