A Travellerspoint blog


All's Well

All is well. We dove. And Chris was able to sit around for a while with his new friends from the dive shop, which, incidentally, he likes immensely (as usual). At least this part of Tioman Island is much quieter than the Perhentians. Tonight's silence matches yesterday's.

Posted by chschen 17:00 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

It's Always Summer, They'll Never Get Cold

Others have said we would get tired of traveling. We would want to be "productive" again. This from fellow long-term travelers. But I feel little of that. I want to keep moving in my endless summer. (Our generation thinks it's unique, but it's not. They must have been breathless with youth and passion once, too. And then they married doctors and became lawyers and bore concerned but footloose children, who now feel ready to unleash themselves upon the world, as if it were this great favor, and perhaps it is.)

Air Batang is silent tonight. Nothing but the whirring of the fan and the sea's gentle lapping. We could be the only people left on earth.

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We're in a real hotel yesterday and today. It feels gluttonous having such a large, clean space, such a functional and comfortable bathroom, not to mention the AC and unnecessary flatscreen TV. The sheets are white and unstained, the pillows luxuriously soft and light (for some reason other pillows we've slept on have the heft and give of lead wool). Though we've stayed inside all day, venturing out only at mealtimes next door to grab the same food we always get, I feel reluctant to leave. I am such a homebound thing after all.

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Malaysia Elections

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.

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Savaged by a persistent, impenetrable thirst. It began in the jungle when, in a panic to escape the leeches, we mustered on in the thick, dark heat. We were afraid to stop anywhere for long for fear the rapidly inching creatures, heads raised like bloodhounds sniffing the air, would latch onto a shoe, breach the plastic bags we had tied around our feet, and wriggle through our socks to gorge disgustingly on our blood. It was not an idle worry. Chris had to pause several times to pry them off the plastic bag or his shoe, and when we finally reached a bench in what we deemed to be a safe area, I found two on my plastic bag--including one inside that had miraculously kept out of my sock. More disturbing, however, was the engorged leech we unwittingly brought back to our hotel room. We found it dazed with the blood it had drunk, moving not with the quick hunger of its rainforest friends but with the drunken motions of fullness. But this was my territory. I was filled with contempt as I tossed it over the balcony.

There is something instantly primeval and uncomfortable about the jungle, and Taman Negara is known as the oldest rainforest in the world, at 130 million years of age. The great animals are all hiding, of courses--all you see are the creepy crawlies. Even those aren't exorbitant in number. Maybe what I'm talking about is simply the sneaking, unshakeable sense that this land is not made for humans. We aren't expected to be comfortable here. No, here we are equals or even subordinates. We must fight like everyone else, and risk ourselves--be flogged by virus, bitten by ants, sucked on by leeches. We must feed and, in turn, eat.

But ultimately this knowledge of life was too extreme. I turned away. We're leaving a day early.

Posted by chschen 17:00 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

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