The moment the airplane door opens, I already know I will be exposed to a temperature 52 C degrees higher than where I left from. I summon my memory of heat in order to get ready, but nothing really prepares me for that first gush of hot, humid air.
The sensation is so strong and the impact so sudden, that even before getting to my hostel the borderline ridiculous thought of taking the next flight back crosses my mind. Plus, Kuala Lumpur seems chaotic and dirty at first sight. It takes me a while to track down the hostel, its entrance concealed on a back alley preferred by many homeless for their siesta. It feels like a privilege to escape the afternoon heat and enter this A/C oasis. By the time I reach my unwelcoming room, going back is the only thing on my mind. ‘What am I even doing here? I’m at the other end of the world, in a climate that is my worst enemy, on a trip that doesn’t really have a clear purpose.’ I don’t give my trip more than two weeks chance of survival.
Towards evening, I leave these thoughts in my room and push myself to explore my surroundings. The great discovery that is offline Google Maps will only come later; for now I just get lost repeatedly until fortune or a stranger smiles. I go past China Town several times before I eventually find it and later on I head to Kuala Lumpur’s Little India. Everything is new and overwhelming. There’s too much to take in for a jet-lagged, heat-stricken traveler. Faces, buildings, objects become a soup of colors, sounds, and smells. I am in cactus mode and approach each corner and each conversation with extreme caution. The camera remains on OFF in its bag the whole time.