Journal 23: Day 2: Malaysia


Journal [23]: Day two:

Not sure where I am.  Somewhere near Hat Yai which has been under water for the last month in the rainy season here in the south of Thailand.  The train has passed through Surat Thani overnight and I wasn’t awake to wave hello to all of my friends there.

It’s morning and I have been opening the door and leaning out to snap shots of the passing landscape.  The clouds are drifting upward from the leeward side of the mountains in the distance.  Fields of bright green grass and rubber trees are shooting by disguising and encircling their workers, sweating and hunched over in the patty fields.

The shoots from the rice fields are impossibly green.  They are so bright it looks like they are a color that has been bent from the reflection of the sun.  I can’t tell if it’s each of the tiny droplets of morning dew sending a thousand fractals of light through each blade of grass or if they are simply illuminated because they exist in this beautiful and foreign place.  The luminosity is so radiant it looks like it has to be my imagination imparting some fantastic, unintentional transcendence that might not be with me had I grown up around these fields and walked among them every morning.

It’s rained so much here that the fields are puddle, the ditches are overflowing and even the train tracks are sunken down in places forcing the train to slow down over certain places as it leans dangerously far to one side or another.

I was just interrupted from writing as a lady with a bamboo dish full of fried chicken asked me if I would like any food.  I tried to bargain with her over her tiny, overpriced food and she simply got up and left as I was reaching out to take a piece.  I just got dissed by the fried chicken lady.  Sad.

[Now in Malaysia on a bus headed south to Butterworth]

There was a really cute, little Vietnamese lady sitting next to me.  I suspect she speaks English.  She sort of over-pronounced an unintelligible articulation of numbers and simple words.  Generally, Asians simply nod yes or no if they want to say something.  This saves them face when speaking to a westerner who might otherwise realize that they simply don’t speak English.  But this lady was persistently trying to get my attention – which had, up until that point, been focused on my latest book – and initiating conversation.  And then she couldn’t really deliver anything in depth or completely clear.

From what I could tell, she was traveling to Kuala Lumpur in order to attain employment as her boss had refused to pay her her last paycheck.  I took this to mean that she was leading up to asking me for money – or at least hoping that I would offer it.  This is a common tactic of Asians in poverty.  But I wasn’t buying it.  Not only were we on a pretty expensive bus (for the region), but her attempts at mangling her English were not coming through convincingly.

Then, as I was walking around the back of the bus to get my backpack at our last stop, I walked right into the middle of a perfectly coined American phrase rolling right off her tongue as if she was leaning up against the end of some up-city, American bar and chatting away with an old friend.  Our eyes met in confirmation that she’d got nothing past me.  I knew it the whole time.  And I was glad that she got to see me pass her with an affirming smirk pasted across my face.

[First night in Kuala Lumpur]

I haven’t seen all of KL yet, I am sure.  But from what I can tell, this place isn’t really all that impressive.  It just sort of looks like any other large city.  It’s kind of abandoned, other than the restaurants.  There are no street vendors or late night shops open.  Just a bunch of metal walls staring down stoically at the dirty street.

I am finally settling down into my hotel room.  I took a cab with a pretty cool Japanese guy who quit his teaching job to come travel around SE Asia for a couple months.  Kashioto, I think his name was.  He was silent on the bus ride over to KL, but get him into a cab and he full of questions.  Best of luck and nice chatting with you Kashi!

The view from the hotel room was pretty cool.  It overlooked what looked like the happening place in China Town.  I Will have to go out tomorrow and check out the sights down there when people and vendors are around.

It’s about twenty minutes to midnight on Sunday and having boarded my train at about 11 a.m. yesterday, I plan on falling asleep just before my head hits the pillow.  [And I basically did.  It was a long trip.  There were two buses, two trains and a cab – plus some heavy walking in between rides to get to money-changing stations and different transport terminals all while trying not to get lost and keep a schedule on a malnutritioned mental capacity.  The people in town were nice enough.]

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