You gotta love our Ringgit, the eternal symbol of cheap, good delicious 24-hour stall food, of great quality and pirated DVDs and of fantastical Mega Projects That Will Further Thrust Us Into International Prominence.
Sometime back I was off to Europe for some meetings. For the first time in a long while I had to travel between countries paying my way as the meetings schedule was unpredictable and ever changing. I call a friend “Dude I’m off to Europe, I need to know how much hard cash I need to bring with me. I’ve a couple of days in UK and then off to Paris for a day or two. My schedule is not fixed this time."
“ Safely bring about a 500 pounds la. You’re not a shopper right?” says my buddy, Mr Jet Setter.
“ What the f….! Dude I’ve ONLY changed like 2 thousand ringgit with me man!”
“Nice one cockhead. That’s like slightly less than one train ride if you need to pop down to Manchester for meetings and your meals for a week if you manage to stay out of the clubs.”
I normally stick to one city per visit. And transportation and accommodation is prearranged. I could take a train from Heaththrow into the city, I wasn't sure about the train from London to Paris and then there was my meals which I hoped to cap off at some pub for about 5 pounds per meal. I had my credit card but that was reserved for the hotel bills. Definitely not something to ease my mind in case I had to extend my stay. I was nervously pissed as I sat in the cab on the way to the airport.
I remember once when I was in New York and had to pay for 4 rooms in Manhattan for about 5 days. My credit card couldn’t support it and ended up paying half the bill with travellers checks and the other half with my credit card who was by now was suffering from a huge insecurity complex.
It’s ridiculous how once we head West the Ringgit literary incarnates into nothing more than toilet paper.
I get to UK and POW! Its 70 pounds for a train ride from Manchester to London. That’s Happy Hour for a month and in Kuala Lumpur or Petaling Jaya we could actually get by having dinners for a month. A long while back I walked up to a beach front vendor by the sea in Cannes and asked for a Coke. WHAM! RM10! That’s one refillable banana leaf lunch with one meat and a teh tarik. In Japan I was trying to stretch my allowance and ordered what looked like Wan Tan Mee – KAZAAM! Rm30! And they didn’t even throw in the Wan Tan! That's 9 Wan Tan Mee plates in KL.
The story of the cost of living for a 'ringgified' (Malaysian abroad comparing every costs to the malaysian Ringgit. Wow, I've created a new word. It must the be the celebrity in me!) Malaysian traveller:
"This pizza good? How much?"
"Si, itsa only 5 million Ringgit."
"Boss, how much for this dingo meat burger?"
"For you mate, fresh of the barbie? Only RM20 million Ringgit."
"Hi Store Keeper San, can i have those Gundam condoms?"
"Hai! That will be 5 billion Ringgit prease."
We used to stand proud. RM1.17 to the Singapore Dollar. Now the Dollar from down South has doubled while we chill out in limbo, the Ringgit and us sharing the same fate of not really knowing where we're headed as a country and as a currency. One pegged to an uncertain partner and the other to an uncertain future.