Malaysia: Highlights and Memories
1. Walking the streets of Penang while marveling at the contrast between the old run down buildings, colonial architecture and Chinese temples mixed and mashed along side each other on the same street.
2. Drinking Malaysian coffee while listening to jazz music in a quaint little neighborhood cafe. This deep black roasted coffee could possible rival (dare I say) Italian espresso, it really is that good.
3. Miscalculating new currency.Suzanne eyed a beautiful piece of art at a shop on our way out to the Botanical Gardens.
“Wow, that’s only $20,” I exclaimed after converting 200 Ringgit to American dollars in my head. She agreed it was a steal of a price and within moments had the purchased piece of art in a sack as we walked out the shop door. About half a block away from the shop, Suzanne stops dead in her tracks.
“Wait!” She suddenly comments. “That wasn’t 20 dollars…that was 200 dollars!”
Ahh, yes…that would be correct. We were still in the mindset of Thai Baht, not Malaysian Ringgit.
4. Discovering the world’s most hidden jewel, the Perhentian Islands.What originally was going to be a three to four day stay at Perhentian Kecil turned into nine days. Life was too good. $5 for a bungalow off of a soft white sand, clear torquise water beach, who could ask for more?
5. Becoming fast and close friends with 20+ fellow travellers from around the world. We spent practically every moment together, swimming, playing volleyball, talking about life/travels, snorkeling, and thinking up amusing ways to pass the time–like digging a 4 foot hole to play charades in or dressing up in ferns and flowers for a night out. The best part of travelling is the people I have met along the way and the surprising tight bond of friendship I have formed in such a short time.
6. Touching a wild sea turtle! We spent the afternoon on a snorkeling tour around the island where we saw reef sharks, vibrant shades of coral, a variety of fish and my favorite, a sea turtle. I hovered over the turtle as it lazily glided below me. Then, as it came up for air, I swam right alongside it, hand caressing the smooth shell until it began it’s decent to deeper depths. It was in that moment, that I knew I wanted to explore more of the underwater world.
East Malaysia (Borneo)
1. Watching the cute orange Organgutans at the Sepiloc Orangutan Sanctuary. With their long arms and slow graceful strides they made their way along a rope tied between two trees to where the bananas and milk awaited for them. I felt like a child at a zoo intently watching their every move.
2. Spending three days exploring the Kinabatangan River and jungle. I sat in a small motor boat as it slowly moved alongside the shores of the jungle. From a distance we saw tree fulls of Long Tail Macaws and Proboscis monkeys swinging among the branches, squabbling over food, and lazily sleeping in the nooks of the trees. A Spitting Cobra snake glided through the water, our boat tailing it closely–I waited in fear for it to leap from the water and bite me. Small crocodiles with their eyes peaking up from the muddy banks of the river seemed to glare at us as we continued on.
During our walk through the jungle, I stomped through the muddy trail in my rubber boots like a 5 year old child–I enjoyed the feeling of getting dirty. Variety of bugs lined the floors and sunlight shone down in beams through the small open spaces of the trees. We left the path and went on a hunt in search of the wild orangutan making rustling noises nearby. Our guide, chopped down leaves with his machete as we followed behind. My arms and legs covered head to toe, were still attacked by leeches that “leeched” out at us from tree leaves like a small child reaching for it’s mother.
3. Getting my PADI Certification and diving in Sipidan, one of the top 5 dive spots in the world. Ed, our English instructor extraordinaire, led Suzanne and I to depths of up to 18 meters where a whole new world awaited all this time. Before me stood a reef containing hundred of thousands of different types of coral: pale pink shaped mushrooms, squishy red tubes and elephant ear sized discs just to name a few. Swimming past me where Angel and Parrot fish while lobsters with their long antennas peaked out from the holes in the rocks. Little Nemos shyly hid in the anemone while Green and Hawksbill turtles lazily moved past, holding my gaze until they disappeared out of sight. Ed had us tickle a Garden eel’s head and pointed to a pregnant pufferfish swimming past. A blackfrog fish blended perfectly into the midnight color coral and as for the crocodile fish, I almost mistook it for grains of sand.
When I thought it simply couldn’t get any better, a school of a 1000+ barracuda swam overhead, casting a shadow that blocked out the sunlight that shone from above. The glittering silver fish glided past as I watched in complete awe, it is a moment I will never forget.
As our dive came to a close we moved up to 5 meters for our 5 minute stop, playing underwater sports games to pass the time. I wound my body up and threw Suzanne a pitch. As she hit the invisible ball, Ed dove to his side and made an impressive “catch.” Moments later we were swinging golf clubs and watching them fly into the distance.
Diving. I think I have found my new addiction.
*A shout out to Suzanne for being the best diving “buddy” ever!*