I’m not sure why I decided to come to KL for a whole week. Part of me was paranoid about getting my Thai visa. It was indeed a very nerve-wracking two days waiting for my visa, unsure if I’d be accepted or not.
Having worked as a volunteer at a resort on Tioman for over a month now, I thought it might be helpful to work through some of my frustration with a post on snorkelling etiquette. While I was here we had people from Sweden, France, Germany, Japan and Singapore, but mostly they came from Malaysia and China. This is not a post that says one nationality is better than another. People are people, and this is for everyone.
Quick note: I am using the British English spelling of snorkelling, which has 2 Ls, the same as travelling.
Before I go any further, I just want to say that I have never worked illegally in Malaysia, but that’s mostly because the pay is pretty low, about AU$2 an hour. I do enjoy volunteering though, as you generally get free accommodation and food, and the workload is a lot less. If you travel through Malaysia and stick around somewhere for more than a week, it’s highly likely you’ll be offered work of some sort. I’ve met quite a few foreigners from loads of different countries, including Bulgaria, France and Spain, who enjoy living here so much they’ll work a bit to make their stay here free.
I’ve been staying at a resort on Tioman Island, the lovely Aguna Resort in Kampung Genting. A three minute walk from the beach, with badminton and beach volleyball courts nearby. The chef serves up good food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and there’s tea, coffee and water freely available all day long. Also, Tioman is a duty free island, so most products, especially alcohol, are ridiculously cheap.
As you may remember I flew into Malaysia on the 18th of January 2013, which means I have been in the country for about a month now. I booked my one-way ticket to Bali for the 2nd of March, by which time I will have been in Malaysia for 6 weeks, and I still have loads more to see, considering that about 4 ½ weeks out of the 6 have been spent in Melaka! Obviously the things you do when you are in a place for a bit longer differ to the things you do when you are travelling all the time.
A typical day now begins with waking up around 10am and having breakfast. Depending on the weather, Ying’s work schedule and our moods, Ying and I sometimes have breakfast together, sometimes going next door, or sometimes venturing further afield for that perfect breakfast of chicken rice balls (for me) and egg and rice (for Ying, the vegetarian).
The next morning (why!!!), after a delicious breakfast of a fresh bun stuffed with lotus seed paste (yes, we used Google translate for that one), it was time to drive around visiting family, which meant visiting the small village about 20 minutes out of town that Ying’s family originally came from. Ying explained that the poorer people lived in this area, and that a lot of foreign workers, hailing from poor countries such as Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Myanmar (Burma) lived there.
As it was a public holiday, we saw loads of people out and about, from Bangladeshis playing a game of cricket, to Indonesian men strolling around holding hands (in Islamic countries same-sex handholding and hugging is a sign of platonic affection. Any public displays of romantic affection are strictly forbidden, and of course homosexuality is illegal, with a stint in jail if you’re lucky, the death penalty if you’re not).
As we did the rounds from one uncle’s house to the next, we were force-fed more treats and tea, got a visit from the ‘Prosperity Man’ – kinda like Santa, except he gives you fake ancient coins (that are shaped like an emperors hat) that are supposed to bring you prosperity in the new year.
After arriving in Muar, we ate a massive dinner of leftovers from the large CNY Eve Lunch we had missed out on, and after that spent a few hours blasting firecrackers and lighting sparklers, and watching as people all around us let off loads of illegal fireworks, smuggled in from China. One of my favourites was a fire cracker that sounded like an automatic machine-gun, it just gave such a gangland atmosphere to the area. We were force-fed lots of special CNY treats and chrysanthemum tea, and were told that the later we stayed up, the longer and more prosperous life our parents would have (so Mum and Dad are going to live to about 150 years old and be billionaires – the things I do for you people).
Dear Loyal Readers
Welcome to another epic, and this time I have good news – I’m not going to rant about anyone in this email (even the kids that stole my Yukult from the fridge – it makes me feel like I’m back home). Instead I’m going to make some of you very jealous, and make my mum shake her head as she realises that all her lessons in being a guest go out the window when visiting a Chinese family. I mean, get this – they give YOU presents! But more on that later – let’s go back and start at the beginning.