Saturday 7 July 2001 – Kuala Lumpur
I wrote twenty postcards over breakfast then found that the post office was closed on the first Saturday of the month. Furthermore, postage stamps are absolutely not available anywhere else, so I lugged my postcards and a heap of papers and documents that I was intending to post home (MPO brochures etc) around with me for the day.
Spent the morning wandering around the colonial district admiring the architecture – the old railway station, the sixties modernist style National Mosque, Merdeka Square, Supreme Courts and the Friday Mosque, as well as the pair of muddy ditches, two rivers that combine in the centre of town to form the ‘muddy confluence’ that Kuala Lumpur is named for.
The fully Islamic nature of KL comes as a surprise after the polyglot nature of the Straits Chinese towns of Malacca and Georgetown. One almost feels that one has arrived in the Middle East. The minarets, calls to prayer and Islamic motifs in the architecture are a constant reminder, as are the veiled heads of the Malay women and the full black head-to-toe garb of the visiting women from the Mid-East.
I wandered north through Little India, where there was a street market setting up for the afternoon, to Chow Kit market. Loads of textiles, food (served in gutters and over sewers!) and everyday items. After lunch I returned to the hotel for a snooze, then tackled the markets. Bought a tie (nasty and shiny, but it should get me past the Islamic fashion police at the concert tonight) and four ‘pirate’ CDs. I felt rather guilty, but they were pop things that I wouldn’t otherwise have bought.
In the evening I attended the MPO concert at the Derwan Filharmonik Petronas – a program of Bach suites played beautifully by a small section of the total orchestra. Met Kevin Field, the MPO’s Associate Conductor, and we had a lengthy chat over a beer after the concert. He’s conducting ACOF in Perth later in the year, so I gave him some background from the TSO’s six years’ experience of this project. We spoke about the MPO’s program, in particular its apparently amazing successes with attracting full houses to challenging programs of contemporary music, of which Kevin is a keen proponent, and the challenge of keeping the Orchestra relevant in such an amazing cultural environment.