Whatever Christmas extravaganza we missed in Chiang Mai has been more than made up for in 24 hours in Kuala Lumpur. We were advised that life in Kuala Lumpur centers around the city’s many malls. These megaplexes, designed to provide shelter from the unrelenting heat and humidity, offer stacked floors of stores, eating establishments and entertainment spots. They’ve clearly jumped on the holiday consumer bandwagon, with mall each competing for customers through holiday decorations and sales.
The holiday spirit engulfed us as we entered KLCC Suria Mall, at the feet of the famous Petronas Towers. Carols were blaring throughout, christmas decorations filled each window and the air conditioning was turned to a temperature akin to New York City in December.
The mall was stuffed with shoppers. Fendi, Jimmy Choo and Tiffany purchases paraded themselves through the packed walkways. If the world economy is hurting, there’s a fat segment of Malaysia that’s doing just fine.
After roaming the mall, the kids were itching for a playground and my friend Jess of with2kidsintow suggested we visit the one behind KLCC. Jess, her husband and their two pre-school kids are also traveling around the world, but are way more adventurous than us. They just finished three months backpacking in India – even we don’t have the courage to do that. Her directions were to walk behing KLCC to the left of the water body, but stay off the grass unless we want to get in trouble with the whistle police. We followed instructions and came to a large wading pool and playground multiple times bigger than any park in New York City.
While Christmas was in full swing within the mall, outside we found ourselves in the middle of another religious experience. The muslim call to prayer was finishing as the kids started playing in the park with the Towers as their backdrop.
After the call to prayer, the preacher began delivering the Friday sermon. Anyone who has visited an Islamic nation knows that a mosque’s loudspeaker works. So we had no choice but to tune in.
“You are encouraged to come to the mosque early before Friday prayers. Take a front seat and read the Koran or meditate.”
“Indeed the attitude of paying attention when the preacher is giving a sermon is very bad. Grab the opportunity for Friday prayer by being silent. It is very rude when the people eat, drink and consume in shopping malls around the mosque while the sermon is given.”
At this point I was getting nervous. Should I take the kids off the swing? Lay low till the preacher finishes? I looked around and realized I had no reason to worry. The playground was full of kids, who belonged to Muslim headscarf-donning mothers that were chatting to each other.
“The Friday prayer is a weekly reminder that needs to be paid attention to. It is very rude to be in a hurry to leave after the sermon.”
Despite the preacher’s heartfelt efforts and very efficient loudspeaker, it seemed as though most of Kuala Lumpur was still at KLCC mall going about their eating, drinking and shopping consumption. A few minutes after his concluding remarks about making sure to come back next Friday, what appeared to be the remainder of the city pour out of the mosque halls into the pathway out of the park. At least someone was paying attention.