Malaysia -Truly Asia, is one of my favourite sayings. It was one of the first places we went to in Asia in the truck. It has beautiful mosques; Chinese temples; churches and Hindu temples. This is because Malaysia has a mix of people.
Inside one of the temples in George Town, a kind man helped me tell my fortune. I shook some sticks, swirled them round and drooped them, one stuck up. At the end of the stick was a number, below was little drawers with numbers. My stick was number 22, the number 22 slip of paper said that I was going to be successful later on in life, after the age of 80. That seems a long time away, I am only 7!!
There are very few dogs in Malaysia because Muslims think dogs are dirty. But there are lots of cats everywhere. Many of the cats have misshapen tails, some are long, some are missing and some have “boulders” on the end of their tails. We first thought that some unkind people were going around cutting off or hurting their tails but we found out that they are born with funny tails. On the island were we went snorkelling there were lots of lovely kittens.
I like Malaysia because there was lots of nice food and it is very beautiful.
I think my favourite place place was Mallaca because of the old houses of Chinese men who had intermarried with local Malay ladies. They called themselves Baba and Nonyas and they had lots of gold ornaments; mother of pearl and ebony furniture; and interestingly laid out houses with big open courtyards to keep them cool. It did let the rain in though but according to feng shui, this is a lucky thing (unless you get your feet wet), as this means money will come into your house too. I had my birthday in Mallaca, it was too hot to make a cake in the oven but Mummy made millionaire’s shortbread which only uses the stove for a minute, it kept the truck a bit cooler. I really liked it I wanted another slice but it is very rich so you can only have one slice a day.
Malaysia has some amazing textiles, I particularly like batik, which uses wax to make a pattern. It is painted or dyed and the wax stops the dye from getting to the cloth. We made some batik, it was really good fun as when you painted it the dye would spread out to the wax and then stop. I was very happy with my finished product.
We were attacked by leeches on our first rainforest walk. It looked like my knee had exploded and was really disgusting but the hole was actually really small. I tried to be brave without jumping up and down and screaming and let the leech fall off naturally. If the leech is already securely on, it is better to leave it attached otherwise pulling it off means the bite will keep on bleeding. I left mine on all the way through lunch and a swim, no one could believe I was being so brave. Though it felt horrible and when I got in the water, I kept hoping the fish would eat it. On the way back we tucked our trousers into our socks and we didn’t get any leeches.
Selamat Datang is a phrase you see everywhere, it means “Welcome”. We’ve certainly felt very welcome here, with everyone being so helpful and kind. Need a place to park for the night – “Just here is good”. Lost on the street – “Can I help you find your way?”. Caught out walking in a storm -“Can I give you a lift to you car?” These have been some of our experiences over the last month.
Malaysia’s history has given it an interesting mix of cultures: Malay, Chinese, Indian and others. As well as being fascinating, for us as visitors it appears that it is a very harmonious coexistence. However, we saw lots of signs promoting the government’s “1 Malaysia” policy, so maybe people need reminding of that fact.
It seems a very family orientated society, in the cooler evening temperatures we saw lots of families gathering together often on the beach. It was lovely to see everyone hanging together and they were very welcoming to us as a family too. There were lots of groups of teenage boys, usually playing around on their motorbikes, but they didn’t appear threatening at all. I could have done without their scary looking tricks and engine revving at night though.
It’s been an interesting and diverse month, what a great start to the Asian section of our overlanding journey.
We are starting to find our rhythm in Asia. It’s not been so hard to find decent camping spots which has been helped by everyone being so friendly. We thought we would have to camp in more hotel car parks but so far have not had to do this. Mind you we have had a couple of cheeky breaks in hotels themselves. These breaks have been necessary to escape from the heat and also to be able to see one of the beautiful offshore Islands.
The issue of permits for the truck for the rest of the journey has been hanging over our head but at the moment it is looking good. Still it’s certainly not as easy as it has been on the other continents. Also I am still adjusting to the driving. I am getting used to the motorbikes although the likelihood is this will only get worse.
The food has continued to be fantastic and a lovely eclectic mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian. Whilst some of it is spicy it’s possible to enjoy it with a lower level of spice for the children. With the heat it’s nice to be able to eat out and not to have to cook in the truck.
The overriding memory though has been of the welcoming nature of the people. With all the issues going on around the world and with the rhetoric been spouted by some politicians it’s nice to see that no matter what a persons religion or nationality people can be kind and generous to one another and so welcoming of strangers. I am pleased our children are learning it this way rather than how it is often presented by some of the media.