Yes, I know I fell off the grid for a while, which I apologise for. I feel like lots of things have happened to me since the last email I wrote. I was delayed in sending the last one because I wanted to make a little photo film, with music and everything. It worked, but ended up being over 7MB, which I know a few of you wouldn’t have appreciated (despite the awesome MGMT soundtrack). Also I was just really procrastinating (although I did manage to suspend my domestic health insurance, so that was good). So are you ready for a super long email about the Cameron Highlands and everything I did there? If so, I may have to disappoint you. Basically all I did there was hiking (I know right – who would have thought), drink a lot of Chang (Thai beer) and cheap Gin and then eat my weight in Roti Canai (more my style). I met a bunch of awesome people, and some who were not so awesome.
I guess I’ll start off with the awesome people. On the bus from KL to Tanah Rata, the main town in the Cameron Highlands, I met an English girl called Sian, who was an avid trekker, but who had recently broken her elbow while visiting her sister in Melbourne. This turned out to be fortunate for me because it meant that we walked all around the highlands, but didn’t do the more extreme trekking that can be found there (I’m talking mudslides here). Joining us in the evenings was a
Unfortunately both ladies left after 2 nights, but then I met a girl from Holland called Manon and a guy from England called James* (both Dutch and English people are everywhere!). Together we explored more of the highlands, and revisited some of the places I’d been with Sian. It was while exploring the highlands that I really got to appreciate the friendliness of the Malaysian people, as it was very easy to hitchhike around and ask people for directions. The Cameron Highlands were similar in temperature to Dry Season in the Kimberley, so excellent for hiking, and the scenery was stunning in places.
I would recommend a few days there if you decide to travel to Malaysia. There are some really nice hotels there if you prefer not to slum it as I do! The first time we got picked up while hitchhiking was by a Indian-Malaysian couple on their honeymoon!German girl called Anja, who was doing a Masters in psychology, but had come to Asia to live in China for 4 months as her minor subject at university was Chinese. We would spend the evenings talking about women’s rights across the world, what it’s like for western women to travel to countries such as China and the Malaysian Government’s policy of promoting Malays over those Malaysians of Chinese or Indian heritage while we roasted marshmallows over an open fire.
The backpackers I stayed in, Kangs Lodge, was recommended by Lonely Planet, so it was quite full all the time. Maya and Dave, the Canadians from Melaka were also there while I was (they’re such great people, really funny and enthusiastic about life), as was an older (about 65) hippie dude called Allan who had traveled just about everywhere in the world, and many other cool people from around the world. Every night a large group of us would get together and chat about everything and anything, sometimes around the fire, sometimes leaving the backpackers to sing Karaoke or eat more roti canai.
You might be surprised that I remember all the names of the people I travel with, especially when I meet about 5 new people each day. It all started with a chance encounter with a German guy called Iko, who was writing a book on the history of Melaka (and he was doing this on an iPad, without an external keyboard!). I made a comment on how it was difficult to remember all the names of the people I met (especially people with names not commonly found in Australia), but that I was trying my best. Iko just looked at me like I was an idiot, and said “Don’t try, just do it”. He said that if you are able to do it, you will be able to do it, it’s no use trying. After I left the conversation, thinking he was an arrogant so-and-so, I came to the conclusion that he was right. I already have the tools in my mind to help me remember the names (such as linking them), but I wasn’t taking it seriously enough. From then on, after sending a silent thank-you to Iko, I started remembering every name I wanted to remember.
That’s where I’ll end this email. Tonight I travel down to Ying’s hometown of Muar, together with a bubbly Japanese girl nicknamed Sama who is also joining us. The good thing is that I can call all of Ying’s older sisters ‘Dajiae’, all her brother-in-laws ‘Dajiae-Fu’, her mother ‘Auntie’ and only need to remember her little sister’s name, Ling.
Xīn Nián Kuài Lè– Happy Chinese New Year Everyone!
Gong Xi Fa Cai – Congratulations and be prosperous
*Not his real name – see this for details.