When I met my Indonesian friends back home, I was frequently asked on whether I prefer to live in Kuala Lumpur or Jakarta/Bandung? My answer has always been the same.. No preferrence. Most of them didn't believe me, of course, thinking that living overseas must be better.
I believe each country has its own charms and curses.
I love KL because it's where my family is. It's a vibrant city filled with people from all over the world that contribute to the varied international eateries. I love the fact that I can have affordable authentic Indian food for breakfast, Lebanese food for lunch, French pastries for tea break, Korean BBQ for dinner and Chinese food for supper. And the next day, I can have nasi lemak for breakfast, pasta for lunch, shawarma for tea break, tom yum for dinner and burger for supper. I don't need to go to fancy restaurants or hotels to sample those food... I can find them almost anywhere in KL.
In Jakarta and Bandung, eateries are mostly Indonesian food. Most of western and "exotic" eateries charge exorbitant prices, nestled in fancy malls or 5-star hotels. Those that charge decent prices serve food that have lose its authenticity or taste nothing like how it should be.
I also love KL for its parks. While KL people complain for the lack of public parks, I feel that the parks in KL are very nice. I love taking my kids to Lembah Kiara Park near my house where they can play in the playground, feed the tortoises and fish in the lake, walk into the small forrest behind it and do some exercises on the monkey bars. I also enjoy Royal Lake Club for the serene lake, lush tropical gardens with lots of beautiful flowers and the huge playground where my kids can jump and run and climb freely. All of them doesn't cost me a single sen. I don't need to beat traffic jam, search for parking space or find a special day to be in a park.
Jakarta and Bandung don't have free public park. If there is a small plot of land, traders will occupy it to sell bakso, pisang goreng, soto or anything that sells. Free playground doesn't exist and people throw rubbish everywhere in open air, waiting for cleaners to sweep it for them.
But one thing I don't like about KL is the feeling that I am not safe even when I am in my own house. Most houses in KL are fully grilled. I used to feel like I lived in a jail but I have no choice but to accept that without all those grilles, anybody can rob my house easily.
I long to have a house like those in Indonesia where we can have courtyards and open garden in the middle of the house, without any grille.
When I walk in a crowded place in Indonesia, I feel safe because if someone steals from me or does something bad to me, all I need to do is just scream and everyone will help. In KL, everybody minds their own business. You can scream all you want, people would just stare at you. The best thing that might happen is they might call the police using their mobile. By the time the police comes, the robbers will fled miles away.
I recall my experience 11 years ago. I just finished a diner meeting with a friend and my husband at Pizza Hut near my house and walked into the car park when a group of 6 men in 3 motorcycles attacked my friend and tried to snatch her handbag. My first response was to scream so people would help (there were about 10 people nearby). I expected my friend to let go her bag, scream and run. Everything happened so fast.. I ran trying to get into the Pizza Hut asking the people to help. Instead of helping, the manager locked the door...!! We were there, stunned and nobody helped us until the thieves left us. The manager only opened the door after he saw the thieves sped away. None of the people there asked if we needed help.... all just stared...
If this thing happened in Indonesia, everyone in the vicinity would chase those 6 men, the diners would leave their pizza to join the crowd to beat, tie and send the robbers to the police station. The kitchen crew would probably bring their butcher knives and join the fun too... Civilized people say that it's inhuman to take law into our own hands. I would say it's street justice. Because of that, no one dares to snatch or steal in crowded places in Indonesia. Over there life is simple, don't rob or steal if you don't want to be caught and beaten. It's not that there is no crime in Indonesia. There are lots of them but as long as we are in crowded place, I can say we are pretty safe. Here in KL, I feel unsafe regardless where it is.
I love Indonesia for its friendly shop keepers, waiters, bank tellers and cashiers. They smile and serve customers pleasantly because they understand that their salaries depend on their employers' businesses. If they are rude, they receive no business, the shops closed down and they will be out of job. Again.. over there life is simple, give good service or you are out of business/job.
And of course the hair salons in Jakarta and Bandung are the best.... Most of them operate from houses, offering comforts, relaxing and less intimidating ambiance. Not to mention all the food we can actually savour when we do our hair. I used to go to my salon at 9am only to finish around 3pm, doing my body scrub, body massage, milk bath, steam bath, cream bath, menicure, pedicure and hair styling. It all comes at a very reasonable price.
I have met few friends who long to live overseas and complain on every single thing about Malaysia. But when they live overseas, they envy me for having a maid to clean my house, do the dishes and be able to eat out several times a week without poking large holes in my wallet.
Well.... no country in this world is perfect. It all depends on what is important in our lives, whether we want safety, parks, public transports, comforts, affordability, entertainment, lights n glitz, climates, culture or even a simple culinary adventure. No country has it all and we can't have it all...