Monday, 8 January 2007

Report on Malaysia!

I'm back from Malaysia, relaxed, fadingly sunburnt, and full of great stories. I didn't bring a camera to Malaysia (my two coworkers both brought theirs, and one of them is a shutterbug, so I figured we'd get plenty pictures), so I made a point of journalling every chance I got, to write down impressions, thoughts, things I'd noticed, before they escaped me, and I filled up almost an entire (small, to be fair) journal!

The trip was, to apply an overarching theme (without dismissing the rest of what happened) a journey of characters.

My favorite characters were:

The cross-eyed restaurant owner who'd ordered for us before we had a chance to say "actually, I DON'T feel like having redsnapper tonight" -- it took a concerted effort to get him to order something else for us that we actually wanted, but once he had, the dishes were quite marvellous!

Jimmy, the hotel proprietor in Georgetown on Penang Island. Two buildings down from his inn were some sketchy kinds of places with ladies in short skirts standing in the doorway, but he (in a crackled, raggedy old voice, with his gap-toothed mouth,) helped us do everything we wanted to do, including connecting us with a guest house on Langkawi Island (such a beautiful little resort island), taxiing us around, and storing my winter jacket while I didn't need it.

The guy at the Jam Band Cafe. His speaking voice sounded like a sore-throated man, doing an impression of a little boy disguising his voice to sound like an adult over the phone. (Follow that?) Then, when he sang, he sounded like the lead singer from Pearl Jam, if someone were holding his head under water and squeezing his larynx. Every break between songs, he'd go from table to table, asking people if they played an instrument, if they wanted to come up and jam with him, or else he'd introduce the next song in his unbelievable voice (and with a mullet to stop a bullet), saying things like "this soooong is a ... it's a song for people who want to hear songs with people, because people, you know, that's what it's all about, is people understanding and understanding you understanding me that life man, that's people. Sorry about me all this woof woof bla bla dadedah in the talking with all you people out there. . . " and so forth. Fantastic. For the rest of the week we'd occasionally start talking like him, for giggles and such.

The masseuse from Borneo who started chatting about music with me, and by the end of the hour-long massage was singing me full choruses of her favorite Rod Stewart and Destiny's Child songs, to see if I knew them.

The lady who sold me one of those lovely light cotton beach shirts, and talked in this singsong voice that was either an exhausted person trying to put on a cheerful face, a bitter, disillusioned woman being sarcastically chipper to the tourists she despises, or a second language English speaker using a style of intonation that's really cute or charming in her original language, but sounds incredibly forced and contrived in English. Couldn't quite get a read on her.

The taxi driver who took me across Langkawi Island on the way to a tour (also mulleted. . . this is making me nervous), and told me, among other things, "my wife left me to go back to the city. Didn't like island life, slow pace, didn't like that I have less earning power here than pushing pencils in Kuala Lumpur. I said she can go. . . but if she wants to come back, she might have to take a number!" and "You gonna stay in Korea long?" (me:) "I don't know. My sister really wants me to come back to Canada for good." "Well you tell your sister, if she can find a rich lady in Canada wants to marry you, you'll come back to stay." The guy cracked me up about three times a minute.

The main port in Langkawi Island was a town called Kuai, which literally means "gravy" because there's an old legend that some giants spilled some gravy on that spot. What a great legend! Forget myths and tales and narratives! Here's to random placenames from cute anecdotes about mythical beings! "Yes, this town is called. . . Missed A Spot, because after Velman the Giantwife washed the Titan Balgor's shirt for the first time, he spotted a wine stain, and threw his shirt down onto the very place where our city hall now stands!"
"What happened next, grandfather?"
"They went on to the next island, and spent the second night of their marriage where we now find the town called 'Bickering'"

Here are some pictures.

"Lah" is the saying Malaysians (apparently) use the way Canadians say "eh". We saw this sign encouraging Malaysians to learn proper English.
The music at one club was so terrible, Amy and I had to bust out some ballroom moves, while Antony took pictures. This picture won both "best action shot" and "silliest face".

Did I mention that it's really pretty in Malaysia? And that I had to wear shorts this day (December 27th)? That's right, it's true. Sucka!

(These pictures are from Antony's camera. That's why they're all of me and Amy together.)

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