Today we went to find the FedEx outlet nearest to us. We have a local DHL outlet that we use, but DHL’s prices for shipping packages (as opposed to paperwork) are terrible here. And DHL has already lost one of our packages, so we are not going to let them have a chance with our very important souvenirs and things. So we found that the address is in Kota Damansara, a place that we had never actually visited before, but which we figured would probably be near Damansara Heights, which we have visited. It turns out that Kota Damansara is far away, about 30 minutes from here by highway, and not near Damansara Heights. (Note: We are not absolutely sure that our driver did not just royally screw us, but we are pretty sure.) We got very lost, and stopped to ask directions a couple of times, the first time ending up talking to a Burmese Muslim immigrant whom even our driver could not understand. The second time we stopped at a gas station and enlisted a couple of petrol-heads who showed us the way. All in all, it was quite an adventure. We believe that we will call for FedEx to do a pickup on Monday instead of exploring the outer reaches of metro KL again.
We then set about doing some more shopping for gifts for our friends and ourselves. On the way, we got what will be probably our final roti canai at Hameed’s, our favorite roti place. We then stopped by our favorite Malay wet market and snapped a bunch of pictures, which we will post tomorrow or Monday. There, we got our final nasi lemak and our final unidentified kuih-muih (assorted cakes), which included this time a yellow sweet-corn gelatin treat which was surprisingly good.
During these long excursions, JM and I discussed what we think the smells of Southeast Asia are. While your eyes and ears tell you a lot, we think that probably the smells are what really tell you where you are. So what are the smells of Indonesia and Malaysia? Well, they are some combination of the following:
- the cloying sweet smell of local fruits–mangosteen, mango, snakefruit, rambutan, longan, melons, soursop, jackfruit, bananas, pineapple
- the smell of crowds of people everywhere, body odors and babies
- cigarettes and kretek (clove cigarettes)
- charred grilled fish and chicken and lamb, fried peanuts, coriander and cloves and nutmeg and black pepper
- the rotten sweet smell of durian and ripe knobly jackfruit
- boiling palm oil–a surprisingly good smell, with soybean products and bananas bubbling away
- sweet soy sauce
- exhaust–diesel, leaded gasoline, two-stroke engines
- coconut in all its forms–oil, candies, milk, sugar, and freshly cut open with a machete
- sewage and commingled human and animal waste
- chilies and scallions and garlic, raw and mashing into paste, or fried and crispy
That’s the best we can do, and there’s a couple other undescribable smells that we can’t even begin to capture. As you can see, not all of them are good smells, but they are part of the experience, and their combination is unmistakably part of island Southeast Asia.