Kilometer 32 924: on Carol Beer, platform 9 3/4 and fireflies
I like lights. Lights are nice. I can’t be in Kuala Lumpur and not see my lights. – Justyna and Marek came to visit us and barely had they landed, she wanted to rush to the mesmerizingly illuminated Petronas towers immediately. I went a bit further in the interpretation of her “light” wishes.
When I was a little girl, I spent every summer at my aunt’s summer house. I would sit on a cherry tree through the first half of the day, hang out by the lake through the second half, and the evenings were all devoted to chasing fireflies. I always wanted to have one of these firefly torches (it’s a thing!), but each time I caught one of the little guys, I felt sorry for them… I never got my torch, but my affection for fireflies remained. Justyna’s lights-loving attitude got me started and there we were, already planning the logistics to visit Malaysia’s firefly capital, Kuala Selangor.
The best place to start the logistical preparations is usually the bus station, therefore, armed with optimism and way too much self-confidence off we went in quest for adventure. As we were soon to find out, the bus was leaving from platform 9 3/4, and to find it one had to answer all the tricky questions of Ms Carol Beer in the ticket counter correctly, not to get turned into a stone troll, decipher the clues of the Wizard of Bus, perform four consecutive somersaults, sacrifice a gecko and sing a song in the clicking Xhosa language.
The fireflies were oh-so-pretty.
They begun their performance just after sunset: the trees along the river glittered joyfully with thousands of bugs with butt-torches, just like a winning illumination of a neighbour Christmas decoration contest.
And as we were jumping off the boat, we were sure that the highlight of the evening had just passed and that there were no more thrills awaiting, at least nothing more exhilarating than at Carol’s bus station. But! A nice gentleman from the Kuala Selangor bus station made well sure that we wouldn’t return underadvantured. When we came there right after getting close to nature, the promised return bus wasn’t waiting for us at all! Just some sad, lonely minibus stood there resting before its morning shift, and we felt privileged that we had just taken part in such a niche tourist attraction that there wasn’t even a return option.
What do you think it’s like to hitchhike in a 4 person group after 10pm on a week day? Not great, in principle, but it worked.
How do you explain to the only two Malay guys (except Carol) who speak no word of English that we’d like to get to any place which might still have public transport to the capital, at the same time squeezing all of ourselves into the back seat? Generally, rather badly, but it worked.
What do you think is the negotiating position of the four of us who had just made it to the very last bus going towards the suburbs of KL when it turned out that that’s an express VIP vehicle and we don’t have enough cash? Well, you’re right. Very mediocre, but it worked.
And what are the odds that we will board the last train that departs in 4 minutes after we arrived to a gigantic station full of Carols, with no tickets and no clue? Utterly against. But it worked.
Will four people, including two with major jet lag, go to sleep once they’ve reached the hotel gate at 3 am? Nooope, the 12% Penguin beer looks so appealing!