Another journey begins. 9,600 miles away from home.
Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur.
Notes to self:
If you bring illegal drugs into the country, they will kill you. That’s what the videos on the airplanes and the signs and other notices warn as you travel to the country.
On roads and highways, painted lines are generally suggestions.
A guide book warned me about crossing the street ‘If at all possible, avoid crossing the street…due to the duration of some lights you may get caught in the middle. If so, hold your breath and wait for the next break in the traffic…’ They were right. I’ve held my breath many times.
If you are walking anywhere, the locals think you are crazy. [White people, namely me, walking most places they go, get lots of stares from the locals. Do they think I’m crazy for walking in the heat?].
Having pink skin and red hair gets stares anywhere I go. (In one case, it made me a tourist attraction- some Chinese tourists motioned to me for a picture, thinking they wanted a group photo I said sure. The next thing I knew they were each taking turns getting a picture with me.)
Plan outings to jump between air conditioned places. Taxis, usually, light rail trains, and shopping malls.
Downpour is an understatement.
Taxi’s are rather cheap- and if you get a good driver- get his name and phone number. BTW, a good driver means one who knows where you’re going. Getting lost with your taxi driver is a drag, and expensive.
It costs more to travel across the city than it does to travel to another town. RM $35 to get to the bus station. RM $10 to get to a city 2 hrs away.
A month in Malaysia and I have tasted a lot of interesting fruits and spicy foods. Spent a week working on a farm in the jungle, and am still getting used to the climate. My dad says there is one temperature here, “Sweaty Hot!”
I am staying at my parent’s house in a neighborhood just outside of downtown Kuala Lumpur. I have dubbed their house ‘The Cage’. I couldn’t help but call it that my first week here. There are bars across all the windows, concrete walls around the yard, and a gate in. All ostensibly for monkey and burglar precautions. There is a different key to every door and grate. (we are far enough away from the jungle that monkeys are not a problem here in this neighborhood, but there are stories).
It is also an expedition to leave ‘The Cage’. You have to remember to hit the button to open the gate, and keep the key out to close the gate, and walk down the street past the security guards to the main road. Watch traffic for a couple of minutes and then dart across two lanes, hold your breath, and dart across another two lanes. Hail a taxi (or two, if the first doesn’t understand where you are going) and get to the nearest lightrail station.
It’s an adventure to get anywhere.
It took a couple of weeks before I saw any monkeys. We went to the Batu Caves, a cave that has been inhabited by humans thousands of years before it was turned into a Hindu temple. There are monkeys everywhere there. I touched one’s tail and it bared its fangs at me.
KL is a city, as city’s go. I have explored pieces of it. Enjoyed the local markets. And then I escaped.
Escaped to a jungle farm north of KL in Lenggong. Permaculture Perak is a farm that hosts guests and volunteers. The week I spent there, five volunteers were staying with the hosts.
At this farm we spent a lot of our time cooking really good food and lingering over meals. Some of the food we ate came fresh from the trees and plants outside. I learned some traditional Chinese cooking, harvested limes, jackfruit and mangoes, helped weed and rehabilitate the nursery, and spent a lot of time rescuing the puppies that made a habit of falling into the gutter.
Working on a jungle farm is a very different experience. Waking up to Gibbons screeching early in the morning we’d enjoy a bit of the cool air before the sun was fully up. Every day someone or all of us would be out with a machete to try to keep the jungle at bay. We saw a couple scorpions and some giant spiders and tried to avoid the fire ants and leeches. Midday a jump into the ‘jacuzzi’ was necessary (the nickname for a large pool in the creek by the house), as well as a long siesta during the heat of the day.
After a week without fans or AC, I was acclimatized (or at least I knew I could survive the heat). It’s quite the experience to eat really spicy food in the middle of a hot day. After the meal I’d pop outside to catch the slightest of breezes to cool down a bit.
Next stop: South of KL to Melaka on a weekend trip with my parents.
Melaka (alternatively spelled Malacca) was the historical port city of Malaysia. Traders from all over the world would stop in Melaka. The culture and trade was rich, until Europeans took turns ruling Melaka and destroyed it’s trade and reputation. The Portugese, Dutch and British all took their turns taking over.
The town has some beautiful ruins and old architecture, as well as some amazing food. A fusion food developed blending Chinese and Malay called Nonya. We ate dinner at a place called Bistro 1673. It offered a set meal where we could try a number of Nonya dishes. Some of my favorite food so far. And for the traditional Nonya dessert: kidney beans, green beans, and sweet corn served with shaved ice and coconut milk.
This is Malaysia. Where all roads lead to KL. And the taxi drivers will tell you they know exactly where you want to go even (and especially) if they have no idea.