Some people consider Valentine’s Day nothing more than a Hallmark holiday, pumped up and pushed by retailers to add to their retail bottom lines each year. There is definitely money to be made on chocolates and over-sized stuffed animals and roses each February, but if one overlooks the consumer-driven parts of the holiday and focuses on the heart of the day (heart…get it? Clever!), there is good to be found.
This year for Valentine’s Day, we decided to have a little blast from the past. Just days before the holiday, I realized that the first time we ever came to Malaysia was this exact time of year- Valentine’s and Chinese New Year in 2007. We were on winter break from our Peace Corps gig in Gansu and came south in search of sunshine and non-Chinese food with good friends. (It’s funny to look back at how exotic this whole region of the world seemed at the time. Since then, it has become like a second home, with frequent trips around Southeast Asia.)
It’s funny that I often can’t remember what I worked on two days ago, but I can remember that it was Valentine’s Day nine years ago exactly that we went to the KLCC Aquarium. Mostly I remember this random fact because KL’s aquarium was the first one I had ever been to that had the underwater tunnel and it was covered in hearts for the holiday. I remember watching the sharks swim by the cutout hearts and thinking what a strange dichotomy the rows of scary teeth were with the adorable red and pink decorations. (Some in our party who are getting older each year and maybe losing their English language abilities called the aquarium the “fish museum” when we were talking about going over the weekend. After laughing hysterically, I came to realize that I kind of like that nomenclature better. Can we all agree to call aquariums “fish museums” from now on?)
What better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day 2016 than by recreating our day nine years ago? After a slow start to the morning, we headed down to KLCC for some lunch at one of the outdoor cafes that line the lower level of the mall, looking out over the plaza, water show and park. It was blazing hot out, but that is to be expected any day that the skies are blue and the sun is shining in the city. Lunch was relaxed and laid back, full of people watching (it was a people museum!) and talk of how we would be freezing in DC on Valentine’s Day 2017. That helps ease the burn of the sun. The fish museum was just a short walk away from where we had lunch and we were happy to find short lines, as it was a Sunday afternoon, which is prime fish-visiting time.
I may have loved the otters (not fish!) the most on Sunday, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t find other critters to stare at endlessly (a crazy active octopus and strange little rock fish ranked highly as well) and Thad is always fascinated by the jelly fish, a hypnotizing set of tanks. Of course, the highlight of the day was the underwater tunnel, as it is really the only thing I remember from our first visit, all those years ago. Disappointingly, there were no Valentine’s decorations strewn about this time around, but in a more regionally appropriate manner, many of the tanks did have Chinese New Year decorations, including golden monkeys (it is the year of the monkey!) and gold pieces of good luck (fish luck is important!)
Following our new tradition, we should visit the KLCC aquarium every nine years, on Valentine’s Day, to see the fish and other ocean critters and to have lunch/drinks on the plaza filled with fantastic people-watching specimens. The question is, if we stick with the Foreign Service lifestyle (which is the plan), where will we been nearly a decade from now? Wherever it is, we might need to look into a long weekend back to Malaysia!
Valentine’s Day 2007- Kuala Lumpur Convention Center Aquarium
Valentine’s Day 2016- Kuala Lumpur Convention Center Aquarium
Valentine’s Day 2025- ???