In all honesty, I think we chose Kuala Lumpur as our next destination because the name sounded exotic. It didn’t matter anyway. We spent our first two days in the Malaysian capital in bed, recovering from Thailand’s parting gift to us: food poisoning.

When we finally emerged from our hotel at the crossroads of Chinatown and Little India, Kuala Lumpur revealed herself as pretty gray. The paint of once-elegant storefronts chipped and flaked, and the buildings seemed to sag like rain-logged cardboard boxes. Traffic flyovers and congested roadways created a constant din. The Golden Triangle, Kuala Lumpur’s central business district, seemed less haggard, but cold and unwelcoming. I felt sorry for the English businessman we met in a South Indian restaurant; He had been transferred and would live here for six long months.

Color in Kuala Lumpur revealed itself through the brightly hued hijabs (headscarves) of the Muslim women. Each one was so neatly dressed. Even the ladies draped in black niqab and burqas accessorized with sparkling jewelry and designer pumps and purses. Their husbands, however, seemed dressed for a barbecue.

Our stomachs drained from sickness, we were determined to uncover a restaurant or quickie shop selling anything remotely recognizable as breakfast food. To gung-ho travelers, this would have been the perfect opportunity to try the cafe caddy-corner to our hotel, the one serving coffee and prawn noodles as a set. But that damn Thai pineapple had raped and pillaged our stomachs and the gung-ho travelers inside us were curled up in the fetal position. And so we broke one of the cardinal rules of traveling and sought refuge inside a McDonald’s.

Aside from snapping photos of the amusing incarnations McDonald’s normally staid menu adopts abroad (in Malaysia, the “Prosperity” and “Double Prosperity” burgers marked the start of the Lunar New Year), on the World Trip we had thus far patronized the Fast Food Empire as often as we did at home: not at all. At home, the reason was health. Abroad, American fast food chains represent a sign of weakness for tourists, an easy haven of french fries and pizza for the culinarily stunted. So it was with something akin to pity that I watched Him inhale his Egg McMuffin. Amateur. I would not sink to his level. I would go hungry.

It was while contemplating a visit to that coffee and prawns place that I noticed Him had struck up a conversation with another McDonald’s patron, a painfully skinny man in a rather ratty button-down shirt.

The man introduced himself. He was Nelson, a 59-year-old bus driver for an area school. He had learned to speak English thanks to parents who, though poor, had scraped together enough money to send him to an English-speaking school.

Nelson’s English was perfect, but he liked to emphasize his point by yanking the pen from his shirt’s chest pocket and writing feverishly on the palm of his left hand. He would then smear the word or words written there and replace them with the next point he planned to focus on.

More than anything, Nelson wanted to travel to the Falkand Islands. As he spoke, he gestured to a newspaper article about the archipelago. He was fascinated by our trip, at the idea of traveling for such an extended period of time.

I had my breakfast — yogurt — in the basement of the Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur’s star attraction. You may recognize the Twin Towers (so odd to hear another pair of buildings called that), for their cameo appearance in that old-dudes-can-still-kick-butt action film, “Entrapment,” starring Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones’ leather-clad rear end. The towers are no longer the tallest in the world (in fact, they’re ranked at No. 6), but the view from Tower Two and the Skybridge connecting the two is popular enough to recommend booking tickets (80 MYR each) at least a few hours in advance.

In my humble opinion, “tour” is a generous word to describe what transpired during our Petronas Towers visit: An employee packed the two of us and about a dozen other tourists into an elevator. Another employee, possibly the last elevator operator in the world, performed the solitary function of punching a button. We sailed upward to the Skybridge connecting the towers. (I imagine traveling up and down at 6 meters per second is enough to make anyone queasy. To insure you don’t vomit on the tourists so cosily crammed around you, the Petronas Company has thoughtfully installed electronic skylines, moving by at a much slower pace, into each elevator — like windows). We emerged on the 41st floor, 170 meters above the sidewalk below. There, a third employee rattled off a few facts (most interesting of which, to me, was that the bridge is not fully attached to the towers so as to accomodate winds of up to 180 km per hour), and we were released to photograph the view, through glass, for all of 15 minutes. A second elevator system transported our group to the observation room on the 86th floor, 370 meters off the ground. There we spent 15 additional minutes photographing the view through glass. Our “tour” ended back in the basement, surrounded by Twin Towers postcards, figurines and erector sets — all available for purchase.

So yes, I was disappointed my 80 ringgit(s) didn’t buy information about the history of the towers and perhaps a short description of how they were built. I didn’t know anything about Mr. Petronas either so an introduction would have been nice. (Him: “That’s not someone’s name. It’s PETRONAS, as in Petroliam Nasional Berhad, the state oil corporation of Malaysia.” Me: “Well, that’s something they should have cleared up during the tour.”) I had had my trusty reporter’s notebook poised and ready to record factoids about this engineering marvel — even an aside about Zeta-Jones’ “Entrapment” wardrobe would have sufficed — but I heard very little worth jotting down.

I wish I had had that same reporter’s notebook ready when “Bob,” a volunteer guide at the National Mosque, attempted to convert us to Islam. Bob looked an awful lot like a Muslim Ray Romano, although he was not particularly funny and would not shake my hand due to strict Islamic law that forbids touching tourists.

“What many people don’t realize is that Islam is about prevention — not punishment,” Bob explained. “If you steal bread, we’re not going to punish you. We’re going to warn you the first time. The second time, however, we’re going to cut off your hand.”

I may have misquoted Bob — I didn’t have my trusty reporter’s notebook ready, after all — but I believe I’ve preserved the gist of his message. He was kind enough to share the fundamentals of his religion and even offered us an English translation of the Koran (which, fascinatingly, is not considered the Koran unless it’s written in Arabic). I was curious, but I respectfully declined because it seemed to be the only English copy he had. Him declined too but I think his reasoning ran more along the lines of avoiding a full body cavity search before boarding our eventual return flight to America.