CC and I have been in Malaysia now for just over a week. Our flight back to Phuket, Thailand was yesterday but we missed the flight due to Burger King. Silly story. The details really are not that important but the moral is: never eat Burger King at the airport 15 minutes before your flight leaves. Or really, best to just avoid the place all together. In any case, we have one more day in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to kill before our flight leaves today at 10pm. Our time in Malaysia has been spent almost exclusively in Kuala Lumpur but there are still some things we haven’t done in this beautiful city so we can still make use of the extra time. Today we are going to learn how to Batik, painting on silk using wax and dye. I’m actually quite happy we missed our flight and have extra time so we can do this as it was on the bucket list for our trip.
Plans are a funny concept when you are traveling without a tour group. You make them with some sort of hope of seeing all the neat places people tell you to go see in a particular country or place. You make them about what sort of time frame you will be in place and when you expect to be in the next place. But plans, as it goes, never really predict what actually happens. They are the rough sketch of the future but often times a whole new painting is created over them.
CC and I had planned on going to see the island of Lang Kawi, apparently a just breathtakingly beautiful place of jungle and tropical white beaches, the Cameron Highlands, a mountainous stretch of tea plantations, and Melaka, a unique city where the mix of cultures between Indian, Middle Eastern, and Asian is strongly apparent. What did we do instead? We partied our faces off.
Yes, instead of touring the greater Malaysia, we spent our entire week in Kuala Lumpur going to the club. This is what happens when your wonderfully gracious, entertaining character of a host owns two clubs in down town and invites you to go out, every single night, with him and his crazy cast of hilarious friends, until dawn breaks, you sleep off your hangover and do it all over again the following night! Now I should add that had I been alone in my voyage I am not sure if I would have permitted this trend to continue for one entire week. I really am quite sad that I did not get to see more of Malaysia and less of the bumping and grinding music of the club. That said, we really did have a fantastic week and had ample time to explore the grandeur and elegance of Kuala Lumpur.
We also spent one blissful afternoon touring the Genting Highlands, a glorious stretch of mountainous jungle one hour out of KL. It was raining nearly the entire time we were there and the mists hung thick over the trees but it was still just an incredibly beautiful place. We stopped at a resort perched at the top of a hill with a commanding view of the mist laden jungle below. We soon had to leave this resort due to the arrival of a party of people who had reserved the place. So instead we paid a visit to Aba, a lovely, spirited elderly man and prominent political writer in Malaysia. He has taken the success of his 50 some odd books and put it toward creating what he calls the University of Life. It is an expansive and winding garden, sprinkled with bungalows housing artists and writers from all walks of life, and containing thousands of species of plants from around the world (which he smuggles into the country, quite easily, he says because plants don’t make so much noise in your luggage).
He invited us into his house, fed us delicious coffee and local sweetened black tea with milk, and told us all sorts of stories about his life, the lives of his 10 children and the love and pride he has for his garden, his school of Life. Any artist or writer can stay at the University of Life for free for as long as he or she pleases. Any interested people should check out his webpage at www.shalattas.com or his facebook page www.facebook.com/Syed Hussien Alattas. The address is Pondok Pak Habib, Taman Hana, Wadi Hussien, Janda Baik, 28750 Bentong, Pahang, Malaysia. Good luck getting a taxi to take you out there, as it is rather off in the boonies in the mountainous jungle outside of Kuala Lumpur. But if you can make it out there it is well worth it. The place is simply vibrating with a lovely energy. The ponds ripple and shimmer with humongous koi fish, slipping out from beneath wide lotus lily pads. There are meditation decks, and seating circles in the shelter of the arching trees and vines. There are doorways leading to nowhere and walkways which only make circles. It is a playground for the wandering mind, a hideout for the restless creative spirit to wander and alight upon new ideas, and quite a place to see.
On another adventuresome evening, earlier in the week, CC and I headed out on our own to visit China Town in Kuala Lumpur. I had decided to bring along my hoops because, well, leaving them at home feels like leaving a limb so just in case the opportunity arises to use them, I often bring them along. And I’m always glad I do. As we perused the stalls, the shopkeepers were understandably curious. After one shopkeeper gave us a good deal on some of his merchandise I decided to show him just how I used the peculiar rings. I gave the shortest of shows, right in the middle of the walking lane, stopping traffic and instantly gathering a crowd. The simplest of tricks evoked shrieks of delight and applause from my eager audience. I felt it rude to block the walkway for too long so I quickly wrapped it up and gave a bow, but they wouldn’t have it! Whole groups of people around me called for more, and so, much to their enjoyment, I continued my dance. Call it egomaniacal but I just love doing these impromptu shows. I love showing people something new, something they have never seen before and might never see again. Traveling, I am shown so many new things every day so it feels nice to give back a bit and bring some of my culture to them in exchange for them showing so much of their culture to me.
After touring China Town we stopped for the most delicious skewer BBQ dinner at a street vendor restaurant. At this place you choose from a wide buffet of raw skewers, ranging from whole squid (my absolute favorite) to baby tomatoes, to corn, to chicken shish kabob, to imitation crab, you name it. Then they take your selection and barbeque it with the tastiest sauce smothered all over it. Except the corn which they smother with butter and sprinkle with salt. MMMMMMMmmmmmhmmm. Just wonderful. I kept fantasizing about this place the whole week, hoping to make it back there but never managed it. While we ate we made the acquaintance of an energetic middle aged Malaysian man who turned out to be a yogi, salsa dancer, and club manager among other things. He invited us out for salsa dancing and so, in the middle of Malaysia, a whole world away from the Americas, we went out salsa dancing!
And what a great time we had too! It wasn’t the largest dance floor but the music was live and the energy was inviting and just right. We danced primarily with our new friend and another older Asian man who was just the sweetest, smiling gentleman of a salsa dancer. After getting our fill of salsa we sat out on the patio and listened to the rain crash down upon the awning above our heads. It is the monsoon in Malaysia right now and boy does this rain mean business. It just floods out of the sky in thick sheets so heavy you are drenched in mere minutes if you are unlucky enough to get caught out in it unprotected.
Loosened up and warm from salsa dancing, I felt the urge to hoop slip quietly into my muscles. Not one to argue with my muscles, I picked up my hoop and began just playing, dancing for myself, even closing my eyes. When I opened them I had gathered a crowd, yet again. It was getting late and the salsa night was ending so many of the people in the club started wandering outside to see what the attraction was. So I began to perform in earnest, inspired by the energetic swing and rhythm of the salsa music blaring in the club and calmed by the presence of the rain. With the thunder of rain on one side of me and the banging beat of the salsa on the other, I wove unique and heartfelt dance indeed.
After I had finished many of the people passed around my hoop, all hoping to try to keep the darn thing swinging around their hips. Not many succeeded but the kindly Asian man I had danced with before found the most creative and adorably clownish ways of using my hoop that even I hadn’t ever thought of! Hand it to a middle aged Asian salsa dancer in Malaysia to teach me how to use my own hoop. What a character he was! He walked over the hoop with it placed vertically between his legs, making it appear that the hoop simply popped out of his ass! It created a really great illusion, done in either direction. And then he handed the little hoop to another man and together they did partner hooping with the big hoop and little hoop!! I was so incredibly delighted!! Here I was, thousands of miles away from my circus family, and yet I had found a transient family who understood play! Oh I can’t describe the joy I felt at discovering this. It makes sense that I found this at a salsa gathering though, because salsa is a sort of creative play too.
Our Malaysian friend invited me to come out and perform at his club the following evening, offering to compensate me for my performances. This would become the first of three performance gigs I acquired at various bars and clubs during my stay in Kuala Lumpur. Our couch surfing host offered for me to perform at his clubs as well and he paid me quite well for my time. It is funny how I have to leave home to realize that I have everything I need within me to become the performer I want to be. I simply need to trust myself and keep hooping and keep hooping and keep hooping and never stop.
A fiery fairy who has set off to explore Asia and discover new things about the world and herself. The journey is one to fully realize her strength and an unwaivering faith in her personal power.