||September October Continues More Ramblings
October 4, 2000:
After five days in a car cruising around peninsular Malaysia
I have a greater respect for the people who live there. It's
quite funny to hear from the Malays in Penang that they've never
seen the eastern side of their country because it's "Too
far. Very far." But 1500 kilometers didn't seem too far
for the three of us. Bruce, Ric and myself jumped into Bruce's
Proton, the Malaysian car of choice (note the sarcasm), and headed
east. Our initial plan was to drive along the coast and then
head into the interior to the wild rain forest of Taman Negara,
Malaysia's huge wildlife preserve, home to some of Malaysia's
indigenous people, the Orang Asli tribe.
We hit the coast after half a day on the road; little fishing
villages hugging the shores, soccer pitches stuck in the sand.
Unlike Penang, Kuala Lumpur, the west coast, the east coast is
primarily Malaysian. Very few Chinese or Indians inhabit the
east coast. Additionally, when we stopped for lunch, we discovered
that not too many of the Malays there spoke much English either.
After some smiles, te tarik and tom yam aiyam,
pulled tea and Thai seasoned chicken, we were on our way.
The east coast Malays are a friendly bunch. Time doesn't seem
to move too slow or too fast for them. Our fist morning on the
coast we decided we take a walk before hitting the road; we ended
up, five hours later, freshly showered after battling nearly
a dozen 10-year-old Malaysian boys in a game of soccer. The pitch
was set up neatly in the sand off the beach and the rain swept
through in the first couple of minutes significantly cooling
down the humid heat. Being a woman it was great to see that these
little men had no problems playing with me, or tackling me for
that matter. My team was beaten fair and square and I watched
the whole group, Bruce and Ric included, run off into the sea
for a post-game cool down.
The three of us drove the rest of the day on our way to the
jungle. Taman Negara is a huge 43 sq kilometer park where you
cruise nearly three hours by river boat to reach park headquarters.
The river is dirty brown, a silty mess that lets the mind wonder
as to its contents. High jungle surrounds each side and at the
small village itself the Muslim call to prayer and the laughter
of kids in school are the only sounds which break the ever present
jungle noise. They say there are tigers and elephants, monkeys
and snakes in the park but, unfortunately the only one of these
I saw was a six-foot long, black killer snake. Ric and I were
coming back from a little walk and happened upon a huge rubber
tree strewn with vines. I ducked under a big branch to take a
closer look at the bark when the snake up and jumped (slithered)
away into the underbrush. "Did you...?" I mumbled trying
to pop my eyes back into my head. Shortly a park ranger came
by and asked what we were looking for. "Snake?" "U-huh."
"Big?" U-huh." "Black." I said and added,
"Poisonous?" "Probably." He answered and
But besides the few leeches that attacked both Bruce and Ric
(but left me out of it) we were left to ourselves. Due to the
rain and our time schedule we weren't able to visit the native
Malaysians. We took the afternoon boat back down the river and
hit the road back to Penang.
October 9, 2000:
Sometimes you have to be content not knowing the answer to
things, not knowing the rules. I'm still here in Penang waiting
for that fated credit card to show up(from when I smoothly had
my wallet borrowed in Melaka over two-weeks ago). My friend Ric
and I decided that for lunch yesterday we'd go hit the hawker
stands -- a hawker stand being a small, outdoor cart that serves
any sort of Malaysian, Thai, Chinese or Indian food imaginable.
We walked around looking at all the little stalls, picked out
a few that we thought looked good waited in front of one for
a few minutes for someone to come and take our order. "I
don't think we're doing this right." I said. Ric nodded.
So we walked to another stall and waited for another few minutes.
"No, neither do I." Said Ric. We sat down at a table
and watched all the Malaysians slurp hungrily at the piles of
food on their tables. After five more minutes of observation
Ric and I caught the glance of one of the servers. "Soup?"
We asked. The man smiled. "And... Let's see. What else do
you have?" At this the fellow breathed deeply before rattling
off more than a dozen different dishes in Chinese. And at what
must have been halfway through his list he stopped, noting that
we had no idea what he was saying, and motioned that I follow
him. Picking our way between tables and chairs we arrived at
the hawker stand at the back of the row. Full of people and cooking
food this stall was obviously where all the lunches were coming
from. He pointed and I nodded, pointed again, I nodded. When
I came back to the table, "What are we having?" Ric
asked, I could only answer, "Food. Noodle food, fish food
and a vegetable food."
The food came and of course it was incredible. While we inhaled
we noticed that all the other eaters were munching on the same
fare. "It's so frustrating not to know how things work."
Said Ric. "Do we pay here or do we go up to a counter somewhere?
I don't know."
We ended up paying at the table, a woman we had yet to see
came up with the tab in her hand and we gave her the amount of
Malaysian ringets written on the slip. With a little patience,
and friendly help, we figured it out. That seems to happen often
to me in my life (god knows it happens all the time on this trip),
I get impatient and feel guilty for not knowing the correct way
of doing things, the natural way that things work for each particular
region and culture. It's like my credit card, I have no idea
where it is, and I have no idea what would be the best way to
facilitate its speediest arrival. I must have spent an hour on
the phone trying to locate it, hitting closed doors the entire
time. "Wait" was the conclusion I came to "and
you'll probably get it one day." Not always the greatest
or easiest advice but for some reason it has seemed to work in
the long run.