It’s been a long trip. About three months in, we probably would have decided to come home had it not been for the prospect of visiting Borneo. We had this fantastical idea of what it would be like. For Rebecca, she wanted to go to see orangutans in the wild. For my part, I thought that going to Borneo would be like the movie Congo, where we would meet a gorilla named Amy who would talk to us and protect us from the other bad gorillas. (Clearly, my brain confuses gorillas with orangutans.) In any case, we dreamt of an island wild and unspoiled. Thanks to the palm products industry and lack of awareness about wildlife conservation, the reality is quite different.
If you had told me a year ago that I would be sleeping in a bungalow in the middle of the jungle in Borneo next April, I would have laughed at your foolishness. I am not a jungle person. Jungles have big bugs, poisonous plants, and dangerous animals; why on earth would I want to go visit?
Well as it turns out, jungles have lots of wildlife that you cannot see anywhere else. So despite my strong misgivings, we decided to do a nature tour in Malaysian Borneo in search of orangutans. And we were not disappointed. Continue reading
The last leg of our journey is upon us. And unlike the first leg of our trip, or first two-thirds really, all of our transit from here on out will be by air. We wanted to begin our Indonesian stay in the east and work our way west. But when we went to book flights, Air Asia wouldn’t let us do the many short flights in one day. So we decided to go to the offices at KL Sentral to speak to a human, thinking we could work it all out. Confusion and eventual dismay ensued. Continue reading
Hands down one of the best days of our trip was the day we spent on a strange historical quest in Kuala Pilah, a town about one hour south of Kuala Lumpur. We went to find the school where Rebecca’s dad had taught during his three-year stint in the Peace Corps after college from 1964-1968. We didn’t know what we would find when we got there. It was an educational adventure for us, one in which we learned that quintessential lesson of travel: no matter where you go, things are more similar than they are different. Continue reading
I have never considered myself a spiritual person. I come from a non-religious family. My (much older) sister was married in a church, and I remember liking the priest because he was funny. So my mother asked me if I wanted to do CCD (Catholic religious school) with him. I considered this as thoughtfully as could, being 8, and promptly responded, “No, thanks.” And that was the end of my relationship with organized religion. In my early years, I watched as my schoolmates attended CCD classes and received (is that the proper word?) confirmations, or became bat- or barmitzvah’ed, while I sat on the sidelines. But on this trip, I have been approached by two separate religions, trying to get me to join the faith. What did these missionaries see in me? What is it about me that they find convert-able?
The Malaysian Tourism Board has declared 2014 as “Visit Malaysia Year.” They adopted a motto for the nation – “Truly Asia” (so take that, Thailand, China, Vietnam, and everyone else) – and started planning parties and festivals across the country for tourists to explore and enjoy. If we needed another reason to go to Penang besides the food, culture, history and atmosphere, the Tourism Board gave us one: the 2014 Penang World Music Festival. The experience, though strange and unexpected, did not disappoint.
I was going through my pictures the other day, clearing valuable space for more pictures from our travels, when I came across a picture I had taken in Siem Reap. We had wandered down a street looking for a grocery store and got fairly lost; not surprising, since the street signs weren’t in English and no one away from the tourist areas spoke English. Suddenly, I look up, only to see possibly the weirdest billboard advertisement I had ever seen: a poster for a weight loss product with a woman stepping out of a giant fatsuit.
Rebecca and I have seen a lot of sports fans here in Asia. Or at least, that’s what we thought we were seeing when we saw lots of people walking around with American sports team merchandise. So, seeking some kind of community with these fans, I began shouting, “Go ___________ (insert team name here),” hoping the person would turn, find me, and smile or give a thumbs up at the very least, like what happens in the US. Instead, what we get is a confused, perhaps vaguely frightened look. It’s because they have no idea that they are wearing a Yankee or Dodger hat. They have no idea why I’m shouting at them.
For the past few months, Rebecca and I have been doing our best to go diving in the cool places we’ve visited in Asia. It’s been great, and we’ve seen some great wildlife. But sometimes, it’s just easier to put on a facemask and snorkel and jump in, content to just say up where the sun still shines. We went diving in Ko Lanta, but we didn’t see anything much better than you would have been able to do snorkeling. So one day during our rustic beach bungalow stay, we decided to save a zillion dollars and do a snorkeling trip.
We are rapidly approaching 100 days since we began our Asia adventure. 100 days is long enough to begin running out of the things we packed, particularly sunscreen and moisturizer. While Thailand’s beautiful islands have tons of places that offer these two products side by side in the skin care aisle, finding suitable replacements for the products we take for granted at home has been difficult, and shopping for them has shed light on a critical cultural difference between the West and the East. Continue reading