05.05.2013 - 05.05.2013
Election madness in Malaysia. No, it wasn't that mad. But if you watched for it, you would see it was on everyone's mind as they walked about with their purple fingertips. In Kuala Tahan we saw election officials shaking the hands of all those eating their breakfasts at the corner stand (where we "always" ate, too). Later, waiting for the bus that never came, I spied on the long queues at the local school. Political sporting event. Jerantut was quieter; the only signs of anything unusual was that most of the shops were closed. "Because of the election," someone told us gratuitously. It explained why our bus never came. Then the Kuantan bus terminal was a big of a mess. It looked like a refugee camp with all the bus company stands set up under flimsy-looking tents and people milling about everywhere. There were no more vacancies on the buses today or tomorrow. "Because of the election?" "Yes, yes, no, yes, what? Finished, finished." And so here we are, stuck in Kuantan, and like everyone else we've nothing to think about but the elections (and the Warriors in the NBA playoffs). An appropriate reminder that real life goes on in these countries we visit, that their infrastructure is not set up solely for the benefit of tourists and that their livelihoods depend so little on us--something that I frequently see travelers forget.
Yes, we are stuck in Kuantan, and it's inconvenient. But what a small price to pay to get to watch, to wait with the nation.