Monday, October 24, 2011

Try-Umph Travels: Malaysia

Shortly after docking in Penang, Malaysia, I got into a cab to head to the airport. During the cab ride I heard Beyoncé and Rihanna playing on the local radio station. It was a bit odd trying to reconcile that I was actually in Malaysia while hearing American songs on the radio. I wanted to ask to hear something local, but when the music stopped and the commercials started I knew I was listening to a local station.
The twenty minute flight to Langkawi Island was filled with wonderful views during our approach. I could see the island I was visiting and some smaller islands nearby. Plus, the weather was perfect so the clouds added another element of beauty to an already amazing view. 

I got into a cab and on the way to the hotel one of my friends began singing Kokomo by The Beach Boys. It wasn’t long before the rest of us joined in. I smiled recognizing that sometimes the only appropriate response to such beauty is a song. 
The first night we went to a night market which was one of the most eclectic markets I’ve visited. There were stalls for t-shirts, shoes, fresh fish, fruit, watches, toys, and all kinds of food dishes. There was chicken satay, noodles prepared in the biggest cast iron skillets I’ve ever seen, a thin waffle with creamed corn in the middle, a combination of noodles, meat, and an egg packaged in clear plastic bags, fried potatoes served on a giant toothpicks, and some things I didn’t recognize. I didn’t sample any of the food simply because I’d just eaten dinner. I filled up on ginger squid, prawn fried rice, and a glass of one of my favorite drinks—ice lemon tea—at Jai Island Café.
The next morning I had the ‘pleasure’ of a wake-up song, courtesy of two of my traveling companions. Their song of choice was one we often hear on our closed-circuit channel on the ship. I laughed and dragged myself out of bed. The plan was to have breakfast, but we quickly discovered that the restaurants near our hotel didn’t open until 9 a.m. We hailed a cab and ended up going to the airport for breakfast. After grabbing breakfast, we headed over to Seven Wells Waterfall. 

The climb to the top was made more difficult because the air was so heavy. Fortunately though, the sun wasn’t out so the temperature remained bearable. After reaching the top and taking a few photos, our group decided to continue on by walking a trail. What I have appreciated most about this experience is having the freedom to create memories I normally wouldn’t. As I get caught up in my day-to-day routine at home I don’t always permit myself to participate in activities that break from my normal mode. I don’t hike trails at home. I don’t even seek out opportunities to hike, but while in Malaysia I felt like it was pointless to think about. When else would I have the opportunity to hike in Malaysia? I actually enjoyed walking through the trail, singing songs (Hakuna Matata made the list), and appreciating the beauty that exists when we take the time to step away from life’s usual comforts. Walking along the trail I could hear the relaxing sound of the stream flowing beside me. It was peaceful and calming—except when we heard the occasional screech from an animal we couldn’t identify.
On the way back down we decided to go for a dip in the wells. After that climb and trail hike the cool water was especially refreshing. The rocks were extremely smooth so we were able to slide down a few of them. They were also slippery so standing barefoot was almost impossible. I had to be extremely careful to ensure that I didn’t land face-first on a rock.
What I anticipated would be an uneventful walk back provided me with a memory that still cracks me up. As I was coming down a set of stairs I saw two little adorable monkeys. I put my hand on my camera, intending to take a photo, but then I heard this primal snarl. Standing even closer to me than the little cuties was a big one and he was not amused by my admiration. I grabbed my friend’s hand and we both stammered up the stairs. I don’t know why being scared is so funny, but as soon as we made it past the bodyguard monkey I laughed really hard. I remembered my reaction, my friend’s reaction, and how we funny we must have looked trying to get up those stairs. I wish we had that on video.
After leaving Seven Wells Waterfall it was time to do lunch. We stopped at a restaurant and I saw the biggest prawns ever! They were the size of lobsters...until we ate them. After lunch we walked the streets of Langkawi Island to visit some shops. After shopping, we walked the beach back to our hotel and then spent some time in the pool.
For dinner we discovered Kung Fu Restaurant and that’s how we met Leow. Leow was outside of the restaurant so we chatted with him. By the end of our meal Leow was posing in pictures with us and sent us to Eagle Rock Café for a good time. He was so right about Eagle Rock Café! There was a live band performing and they were amazing! The three vocalists were fantastic, but the former musician in me was fascinated with the guitar player and the drummer. Loved them! They rocked Maria Maria by Carlos Santana.
As I reflect on my time in Malaysia I can’t help recognizing how much music played into my visit. During my cab ride to the airport I experienced how connected music makes the world. While riding to the hotel in Langkawi I was reminded how music can be the best and only way to express beauty and emotion. When my friends woke me up in song I realized that music has the ability to generate humor. As we hiked the trail at Seven Wells Waterfall the songs we sung were rejuvenating. On our last night, listening to the live band was fun, but it was more than that. Sharing that experience created a memory within us that we will always attribute to the beauty we saw, the appreciation we have for one another, and the laughs we shared while in Malaysia. Next stop, Vietnam!

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