Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D.

I study people, technology, and the worlds they make

Greetings from Kuala Lumpur

I’m in a taxi, going from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport to my hotel in Shah Alam, which is– actually, I have no idea how far away it is, except measured in money. It’s about 60 ringgit to the hotel, which is a lot less than I expected it to be. I read about how to take the train to KL and then a bus or taxi to Shah Alam, but I’m tired and it’s raining, so I wimped out.

Global brands run amok? Suzie Ormond and other American business books for sale in the KLIA bookstore… via flickr

I’m glad I did, because the taxi service here is pretty civilized and non-treatening. (One would hope that those two things are pretty much synonymous.) There aren’t meters in the taxis, but before you get in the queue, you buy a ticket at a counter serviced by very nice ladies in head scarves. (Nearly everybody I’ve interacted with speaks quite good English; the only odd thing is that the accent reminds me of, of all things, Italian.) They tell you how much it’ll cost to go where you want to go. Once you’ve paid, they print you a ticket; and you give it to the driver. Easy.

via flickr

Before I got to the taxi reservations stand, I stopped at an ATM and got some cash. It’s pretty amazing to me that I can just go to an ATM and get money. It may be the case that I can now dispense with the whole ritual of going to the American Express office in downtown Palo Alto, or my local Wells Fargo branch if I’m better-organized, to get money. We’ll see what the service charges are– but given that Amex and other foreign exchange offices tend to charge a pretty hefty fee, I’ll bet it’s pretty competitive.

Kuala Lumpur airport is very new, and is filled with flat screen displays, many of which are playing a video featuring the Japanese architect who designed it, talking in that poetic, nearly incomprehensible voice people adopt when discussing vast corporate projects. “It is an airport is the forest, and the forest is in the airport,” he intones, as we see a fisheye lens-distorted view of forest canopies, water features inside the main terminal, and then a slow-motion shot of a hummingbird.

“It is synergistic.” Sun going down.

“Synergy is to live with contradictions.” Low shot of businessman with Blackberry framed by Petrona Towers. Fisherman. Pilot and stewardess walking in slow-mo. “This is an essential attitude for the 21st century.” As the kids today say, WTF?

The highway we’re on is like the M5 or some other major freeway in Britain, though it’s in better condition– it looks pretty new. I guess it reminds me of England because people drive on the left side of the street here.

We’re going about 120 km/h. It feels like we’re doing about 80. And still, people are passing us on both sides.

I may need to do some reworking of my plan tomorrow, since Malaysian Airlines seems to have lost the supplies I brought for my workshop. I’ve been working on a really cool new online mapping tool; I may end of getting to use it a lot earlier than I expected…. As we like to say in the craft, the future often happens in unexpected ways. This may be one of them. A nice object lesson.

There’s a car brand here called Proton, which I ‘ve never heard of. I wonder if it’s a rebranded Hyundai, or something Chinese, or does Malaysia actually make its own cars? These feel like Korean or Japanese cars– the detailing is pretty good, the materials are decent… I’ll have to check that out.

Before I got on the plane in Penang, when my energy level and spirits were at their low ebb, I watched about 20 minutes of The Bourne Ultimatum. There’s something about watching Matt Damon beat, blow up, and crash through stuff that’s energizing and reassuring. Jason Bourne knows how to travel. In fact, he hardly does anything else in those movies.

[To the tune of The Doors, “The End,” from the album “The Doors”.]

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1 Comment

  1. proton is a local brand. yes, we make our own cars.

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