Sunday, April 17, 2011

Exit Malaysia

The last Malaysia experience I may ever have has been stumbling awkwardly through a food market in Butterworth.  There's such a strong mix of ethnicities that sometimes I forget that the people I see might not be Indian, Chinese, or Siamese, but Malay.

A tall man of Indian heritage with a white embroidered hat beckons me to sit at his food stall.  I hadn't expected to be engaged and, off my guard, smiled slightly and continued my round, head down.  Pressed to make a decision, I decided that the easiest route would be to go with a buffet-style lunch.  I stood out front of one such stand and surveyed my options: Red sauce, chicken?  Brown, definitely fish.  Fish. Fish.  Fried fish heads.  Miscellaneous vegetables.  I was getting nowhere on my own but I'd learned in 3 months of travel that if you look pathetic enough, someone usually comes to your rescue.  Unfortunately that's not the case today.  I'm not sure if I'm to wait for service, grab a plate and dish up, or take being ignored as a hint to leave.

I begin to look around and a man across the way smiles and nods in my direction.  I look away, unsure how to approach the new scenario.  Gathering courage I return his gaze.  Still smiling, he nods again.  I notice that his stall has pictures, names, and prices.  I'm saved!  I walk over and point, weakly attempting to read the name of the dish aloud, "Nasi Goreng".  It sounds vaguely familiar and I am relieved to see the man nod again and exit to the preparation area.  My sense of elation is short lived as I see him fondling fish balls with his bare fingers.  I resign to my fate.  I've taken a risk and I'll suffer the consequences.

Another man approaches me as soon as I'm settled, "Something to drink?"  Again, I'm at a loss while he lists off beverages.  I request the only drink I know, Teh Tarek, lazy man's tea.  When it comes, I know I'll at least be satisfied by the taste although it isn't exactly prudent to order hot tea in the oppressive +33 heat and humidity. 

My meal comes.  Fried rice !?  It's fried rice?!  I'm so happy!  I mean, it's not going to blow my mind but at this point I just want to eat without fear and that's exactly the reprieve I've been granted.

I'm going to miss Malaysia.  It was never in the plan.  The thing that brought us here was the desire to escape the flooding in Southern Thailand, but now experienced, I am so grateful for the brilliant foray into diverse and pronounced culture in this developed country.  From the metropolitan buzz of Kuala Lumpur to the cool green of the Cameron Highlands and the cultural fusion of Georgetown, it has been an experience unlike any in our journey so far.

Here are some scenes from the Malaysian chapter of our adventure:

In the Cameron Highlands, Robyn and I decided we were brave enough to venture into the jungle along some 'well-marked' trails.  Here are the three signs we say in our 3 km hike.

At some point in history this must've been a trail.  No sign of human life yet.

After wandering for an hour or so and being almost sure that we were lost, we found this sign.  It's information pertained only to trails we wanted to avoid.

As the day's light waned, we searched for a sign... and found one face down on the ground.  We couldn't be sure what was where.  Jungle hike is less fun, more scary than I thought.

But we found a nice spot.  Robyn is pure zen in the lower right.

In my previous post, I talked about the atmosphere of Georgetown.  If you haven't yet, read it before you look at the photos.  Here are some images to give it context:

Temples everywhere

Crumbling walls

Disintegrating shudders and doorways

And transportation in need of an upgrade.
 David J Parker


Goodbye Malaysia.

1 comment:

  1. An unbelievable adventure! I can't wait for the narrated slideshow when you get home!