Expatriate in Kuala Lumpur – a woman's walkabout – Elizabeth Goodhue

When you leave you must remember to come back for the others. A circle, understand? You will always be Esperanza. You will always be Mango Street. You can’t erase what you know. You can’t forget who you are. – Sandra Cisneros

Flying to Lukla

The shopping tripimg_3809

When we were in Katmandu there was no way to avoid buying our supplies for the trip. All I needed was a sleeping bag, thermal underwear, gloves, a hat, a warm coat, and wind pants to complete my inventory. Aside from some socks, underwear, two t-shirts and a toothbrush, that is all anyone needs to trek the full length of the Everest Base Camp trail.

Shopping should never last over two hours. You go into one or two stores, buy what you need and leave. I don’t squabble and bargain, I just take what I get with whatever reasonable price I can. For camping equipment, I know what I need, and I made my purchases for about 100 USD in about a half an hour. Some people look at shopping as a hobby or a passion. They love it and do it whenever they can. Some people love to shop—I like it about as much as a serving of lima beans that my mother used to force me to eat.

Bull by the river

The group I was with had a different definition of shopping. Since I was trying to hone my team player skills, I stuck with them as they spent four hours going from shop to shop to get the best price for all the items they could have bought in the first store.

I like efficiency. Going to five or six shops and bantering over the price of the same items when you can do that in one shop makes little sense to me. I was proud of my patience as I stumbled from one small shop to the next in a torrential rainstorm.


The Kathmandu and Lukla Airports

I like third world cities about as much as I like shopping and lima beans, so it was a relief to find myself at the airport early the next morning. From what I could decipher, we were going to be waiting for a while. I held twin babies, conversed with people from all over the world, and soaked in the scene. I chatted with two bright Nepalese boys on their way home from boarding school for the holidays.


Hiking gear clogged the crowded floor and provided people with backrests, people who shared the same anticipation as I did. Finally, we got the signal to go. Everything we owned, including our bodies, was weighed. Then we stepped over the baggage scale, grabbed our stuff, and made our way to waiting room two—a holding tank of eager trekkers and people journeying home.

A man sat next to me and proceeded to yell into his cell phone so loudly that I wanted to burst out laughing. I looked across the way at an Israeli man who was raising his eyebrows and grinning at the whole affair. His name was Elbenar, and I quickly joined him and his girlfriend Noah. I would continue to bump into them over the course of the trek.

img_3915Then 16 of us were loaded onto a tin bus and driven out to the runway where several two prop planes waited. “Twenty minutes,” the lady in charge told us, “stay on the bus.” It wasn’t Malaysian heat, but it was pretty close. Soon we leaked off the bus like fried eggs, eager to hop into the frying pan. I quickly found a place to pee amidst some broken down airplanes, and this would probably be my most luxurious toilet experience over the course of my journey.


On the plane, I sat across from two Nepalese girls of about six or seven years of age traveling alone, and delighted to cash in on the sweets that were passed out along with the cotton they gave us to stuff in our ears.

img_3916There were two Germans sporting bow ties. One wore wool-blend stretchy light blue pants held up high above his waist with suspenders and a matching coat. The other sported a wool scarf. I break into a sweat, simply describing them. I pegged them for teachers. I ran into them later on the trail at one of the earlier stops. I am not sure they had any idea what they were getting themselves into.img_3931

img_3922The flight was very Antoine de Saint-Exupery if you have ever read Wind Sand and Stars. The airstrip at Lukla is 450 meters long and 20 meters wide, ending with a large stone wall and a chain-link fence. We landed on the steep uphill runway and halted within two meters of this wall, which probably would not have done much to stop us.

We started hiking immediately from the airport. We wound our way through Lukla, the starting point of the cobblestone base camp trail past Starbucks. Within a few hours, we arrived at our first tea-house where we would spend one night.

Trekking the Mt. Everest Base Camp Trail — the week before

This adventure will be told in three or four installments. Stay tuned.

The week before

img_3916The week before I left on my trek to Everest Base Camp, I was banned from going on the trip; my passport was still at immigration; I did not have my visa for Nepal (which was okay, but I wanted it in my hand when I boarded the plane), and finally, I was sure that I was about to lose my job. I was a wreck, ready to come home, give it all up.

As I licked my wounds, I tried to get my passport back. It is a universal truth that when it comes to dealing with anything government, you are speaking another language. Throw in living in a multi-lingual culture (Tamil, Malay, English with a heavy accent, Mandarin…) and you can only imagine how I felt swimming through the system.

The US embassy processed my new passport in a week. A week before my passport was due to be returned, Malaysian immigration said that they had changed their policy (what policy?) and it would take a month more to process my work visa. When I rejected that idea, they claimed that I had not paid my taxes. When I showed them my receipt of payment, they claimed that a holiday had held up the process.

I got messages like your passport is ready. I would go over to get it, and immigration had no idea who I was. Then the message came on Tuesday before it was time to leave: your passport has not been approved; call us back; come get your passport at 4 pm. Yes, I did proofread that sentence. Since I was communicating through four people who spoke several different languages, I decided to go down to HR to see if they could translate this mysterious message for me. She looked up the status of my case on the computer and saw that my passport was ready.

I took an Uber to immigration. It was much easier this time because I knew where it was. On my previous trip, I discovered that the immigration branch that deals with expats is not on the GPS system. When I got there to pick up my passport, they told me to wait in the lobby for some guy whose name I could never pronounce in a million years. Down to the lobby, I went to ask the dudes at the front desk if they knew who this person was. Either they had absolutely no idea, or they couldn’t understand a word that I said, OR I couldn’t understand a word that said or all of the above. At this point, I confirmed my serious problem with anxiety, which did not help the situation.

I sat in the lobby repeating the serenity prayer and waited for the guy with the unpronounceable name to show up. A guy did show up and made some kind of muddled announcement several times before I heard the words Learning Port mingled in a garbled, possibly English, sentence.

My passport had arrived. From what I gathered, telling me to come get the passport was translated into we will drive the passport to Learning Port. As an English Major, a writer, a woman with her master’s degree and a decent command of the English language, the multiple ways of speaking this English astound me. Malaysia may be a country where “everyone speaks English” but that what kind of English that might be is questionable.

It was Tuesday, so I ran to the Nepalese Embassy (I could write a novel about that experience), but they only processed visas from 10:30 to 12:30. I went the next day, to be at the front of the line at 10:30. There are a lot of people from Nepal who work in Malaysia. People ship them in by the planeload for decent and cheap labor. I had plenty of time to talk to several business owners about this while I waited for the two hours it took for the electricity to turn on before I could get in to get my tourist visa.

I was the only person getting a travel visa, the only woman, and the only non-Asian, so I did stand out a bit. The two people behind the desk serving about 150 people trying to renew their work visas beckoned me to plow through the mob. When I got there, the clerk pointed out that I needed a photocopy of my passport. I looked at the photocopy machine sitting next to him, gave him the I-have-been-waiting-on-a-spit-filled-sidewalk-for-two-hours look, and asked him politely to make a copy for me. On Wednesday, the day before our departure, I retrieved my passport from the Nepalese embassy; this time, they had electricity.

img_3847Another glitch in the preparation

Four days before the trip to Everest Base Camp began, the group leader had kicked me off the trip and out of the Happy Hikers. I was guilty of not being a team player, and hiking as if I was trying to catch a plane. I am guilty as charged of both of these crimes. I have always moved too fast. For the sake of my credibility, I will not detail my qualities as a team player.

Also, four days before the trip, my supervisor told me that there was no more work for me to do at my company. My passport was still at immigration for my work visa and I needed to get it back to get my visa for Nepal. (I was planning on going alone at this point.) Things were not going well.

Do I work here anymore?

The undercurrent of all of this chaos was that I was beginning to figure out that my days as a Subject Matter Expert were drawing to a close. I had discussed this feeling I had with a supervisor, but we had not come to any conclusion. Rather that describing this Ring-Around-the-Rosie, let me just say that I did the communicating this time in writing, which is my best medium. I wrote a letter to my boss with a proposal of how I wanted to write a blog for Learning Port that would draw potential buyers to his website. What did I have to lose? I want to be a writer. He agreed and on Monday, I will move up a floor to write and to edit. Unless something has happened while I have been trekking in Nepal, I am looking forward to starting again on Monday.

The short version is that I was allowed back into the group. I got my passport. My work visa was renewed, I had my tourist visa for Nepal, the trip leader allowed me back on the trip, and I gained some humility on the way.


This was my e-mail to nobody

Giving up

This morning I was at a giving up stage, so I wrote this email to nobody.

Honestly, I am not a good fit for my job as a Subject Matter Expert. After a year, I still do not know enough about ESL or e-learning experience to do the job well. I asked my supervisor and she concurred. As a result, now I am basically an editor and copy-paster.


The difficult part is coming to work every day feeling a bit worthless, which is one of the reasons I left teaching, to be honest. So in the age of non-transparency (seems to be a buzz-word these days) I am revealing myself at a weak moment, which is not an easy thing to do.

As far as I can see, I have three options:

  1. Stick it out here while I am making money, and work hard to establish myself as a writer. Based on all of the reading I have done about becoming a freelance writer, the advice is to write for content mills or anyone who will hire me, and then establish clients. I actually have found steady work reviewing children’s books for a guy I found on Upwork (a site more refined than Craig’s list as it is geared toward freelancers). I like the work and he likes my reviews. I also have another possible client. I have taken a brief, not very helpful travel writing class so that I can write for a blog called Pink Pangea. I am also trying to establish myself on sites (that don’t pay) to build my resume. Slowly, I am building my writing portfolio on WordPress and have found someone to help me with that.
  1. Run away to a far-off land with my 5,000 dollars and see what happens
  1. Come home, work at DD and regroup there.

I have just answered my question. (this marks the end of my e-mail to nobody)

In the making

While this email was in the making, a friend sent me a link to a TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert.

“I’m not going to quit, I’m going home. And you have to understand that for me, going home did not mean returning to my family’s farm. For me, going home meant returning to the work of writing because writing was my home, because I loved writing more than I hated failing at writing, which is to say that I loved writing more than I loved my own ego, which is ultimately to say that I loved writing more than I loved myself. And that’s how I pushed through it.”

Searching for home

I have been searching for home for a long time, which is probably why the words of Homer and Sandra Cisneros swirl around my head like a broken record. But two writers, C.P. Cavafy and Elizabeth Gilbert have helped me to understand what home is. My search for home has been one of yearning. I thought I was yearning for family, friends, a wood stove, a screech from the owl in the woods, love. But home is a destination. It is where we want to go in our hearts, and when we find it, we feel rich and full, no matter where it is or what state it is in. As you set out for Ithaka, says Cavafy, hope your road is a long one, full of adventure, full of discovery.


As you set out for Ithaka

hope your road is a long one,

full of adventure, full of discovery.

Laistrygonians, Cyclops,

angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:

you’ll never find things like that on your way

as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,

as long as a rare excitement

stirs your spirit and your body.

Laistrygonians, Cyclops,

wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them

unless you bring them along inside your soul,

unless your soul sets them up in front of you.


Hope your road is a long one.

May there be many summer mornings when,

with what pleasure, what joy,

you enter harbors you’re seeing for the first time;

may you stop at Phoenician trading stations

to buy fine things,

mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,

sensual perfume of every kind—

as many sensual perfumes as you can;

and may you visit many Egyptian cities

to learn and go on learning from their scholars.


Keep Ithaka always in your mind.

Arriving there is what you’re destined for.

But don’t hurry the journey at all.

Better if it lasts for years,

so you’re old by the time you reach the island,

wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,

not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.


Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.

Without her you wouldn’t have set out.

She has nothing left to give you now.


And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.

Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,

you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.





I Want to Ride My Bicycle

I want to Ride my Bicycle – Queen  bukit-tabor-3

When I was tricycle-riding age, I took to the road. I rode my tricycle to the top of my driveway and let her rip. I sped so fast that I had to lift my feet above the pedals to keep them from getting thwacked. It was a thrill. Perhaps my first one. Then I hit the loose sand at the bottom of the driveway with such a force that I flew off my bike and got the wind knocked right out of me.bukit-tabur-5

When I was 55, I took to the road again. I left my career and home of 24 years and flew to Mexico to teach. One week after my year in Mexico ended, Learning Port offered me a job writing storyboards for e-learning modules. I flew halfway around the world to learn a new trade.

Was flying down the driveway on my tricycle an act of bravery, or an act of impulsivity? Was hopping on the plane to Mexico an act of bravery or an escape?  Was ending my career as a teacher and coming to Kuala Lumpur to try e-learning a good choice? The answers are yes and no. Yes, because I was in a rut, I only have 30 years of living left in me, and it has been quite a ride. Regardless, these acts propelled me to make the conscious decision to become a writer.bukit-tabur1

As I settle into my second year in Malaysia, I have not found my comfort zone. Like the arduous climbing hikes I have been on lately, there have been peaks and valleys, which often leave me depleted. I look at the next year  as a time to focus on learning how to write for a living. It will be a time for me to practice, experiment with different genres and employers, network, and do what I love.

I can see the bottom of the driveway, but like so many years ago when I sat on my tricycle seat at the top of the driveway, I cannot see the loose sand at the bottom Even if I could, I do not know if it will knock the breath out of me. What I do know is that falling off my bike at the end of the road is part of my learning curve. Maybe this time, I will wear a helmet.



In case you were wondering

IMG_0408Getting out of the elevator is still my favorite time of day – stepping into the waft of refrigerator cold air, relishing for the few moments it takes to turn the corner and get a greeting of a hand across the heart from the doorman before the heat sucks me out the door.

On late days, I cut across the street. When I see a flood of motorbikes in the distance, I find my space and dart to the median, switch my purse to the other side of my chest, and dart the final distance to the never-ending construction site on the other side. I walk along with the traffic until I get to the newly completed construction project. Since I have been here they have constructed the buildings that I cut through to get to the five pristine avenues where I work.

On the unusual morning that I have 15 minutes to get to work, I take the skywalk. I walk past the unopened shops while the workers Zamboni the shiny white floors for the first time that day. Leftover wine bottles and cigarettes rest on the tables of bars that closed before the clients left the night before. Baristas bustle behind locked café doors. The faces that I pass all seem the same, but they aren’t. People come and go in this city, nothing stays. Buildings continue to rise, stores close and new ones open. Workers finish their contracts, head home, or move on to another one.

By the time I swipe in at work, I have worked up a sweat. I say good morning to the guard, who is a constant and trudge up the three flights of stairs to my office. Most people take the elevator, but I have to earn the milk and sugar in my tea. On the third floor, I park my shoes with all of the others and check them to see who has arrived before me. After the computer responds to my second card swipe – verified – I complete my trek with another waft of cold air. The office has 10 columns of cubicles. You may think that I would be the last person you would find in a cubicle, but I like it; it fits. I am in the last row by the windows, and I can scan the whole room when I want to give my eyes a break from the computer. I sit with all of the members of the English team, the graphic designers on one side and the subject matter experts on the other. We work well together. Our Instructional Designer, advisor, and the person who knits the loose ends of a module together sits a cubicle-row away within hearing range.IMG_0371

From 8:30 to 10:30 I create modules (lessons) for English language learners. I am learning that e-learning is not a matter of transferring your classroom lessons to a storyboard PowerPoint. I am still learning this detail. . . slowly. I realize how verbose we classroom teachers are. Take away our voices and we tend to flounder. I always claimed that my teaching was not teacher-centered, but the very act of explaining things to students is enough to disengage them. I have had to learn to use graphics, repetition, and other visuals to give direction and to engage the student. It is a challenge that I enjoy.

At around 10:00 in the morning, the tea girls bring in the milk tea and coffee. The tea is meant to be enjoyed at our desks as we work, and usually, it is unless my friend Dito and I get to talking, but we never cross the 15 minutes marked for tea-time. The tea is delightfully sweet and lukewarm. I try not to drink gallons of it, but it is hard to resist.

When we do return to our desks, we either continue with what we were creating, or review it with Jennifer and, in my case,  do some major revisions. Sometimes I get a call to the sixth floor to do the voiceover for Maths. I am Jesse, the young girl who narrates about square roots, and triangles, pi, and all of the most nightmarish math terms you can think of. Sometimes the English team does VO’s together, which is a bit livelier. Doing the voiceover on the sixth floor also gives me a chance to visit with my programming buddies.

My one o’clock lunch hour varies from day to day. I love to sneak back to the pool at my apartment and read. I am reading everything that I can about what I need to do to become an on-line writer (copywriter, blogger, SME, ghost writer). When I don’t isolate myself, where I go depends on who I am going with. Lim likes the cheapest possible Malaysian food he can find. I have learned to ask him where he is going before we leave. We all love to have our 8 ringett (2 USD) lunch at the outdoor Indian/Malay restaurant, where I always get roti and dahl. Otherwise, I find someone to get a Sizzling Hog burger, or some other attempt at western food.

The rest of the day is the same. A module for an SME can take three days to create, maybe more. In my case, more is usual, but I am improving module by module. Currently, my modules have been for English Language Learners at about 14 years old. I created a short story unit, poetry unit, writing process unit, letters and emails, and an essay unit. Once the GD’s do their magic, the presentation is impressive.

My workday ends at six. I return to the Capri happy that I do not own a car. If I was driving home, it would take an hour. Walking it takes 10 minutes. I am at the gym looking down on the traffic within a half an hour. There, I practice yoga and balance before I return home, read by the pool, and go to bed.

It is a solitary life, which I love. On the weekends I hike with the Happy Hikers, who are as intense about hiking as I am, if not more.  I will have to lay low in Malaysia until I get a new passport, which is too full for me to insert my work visa. Then I will travel to Nepal to travel to base camp with the Happy Hikers.

Venture Forth

I saw a dead man today. We had just come out of the jungle and there he lay. The EMTs had just arrived, although we learned later that he had been lying there for 25 minutes. They performing CPR, but it was obvious that he was gone. He had beautiful hair and rich bronze skin. His shoes were cast off and his knee was bloodied and bruised from where he fell. He was alone. No one seemed to know him, but everyone wanted to save him. A small group of hikers took turns performing CPR as a woman counted out 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 up to 30 over and over again.

Why do I start my blog with this (other than to draw you in with a good hook)? Because this is day one of the third year of my two-year walkabout. (Figure that one out.) When I left Peterborough, my plan was to return in two years, but I am not ready yet. The man who died reminded me of that today. One day you’re here and the next day you’re not. A snap of the fingers and life disappears. I am out here in the world because I want to do, see, feel, touch, and hear everything that I possibly can while I can. Nothing can determine my fate, so I want to live my life with abandon. I want to keep all of my doors wide open. By leaving the door open, I ended up in Malaysia a year ago today. By leaving the door open, I am learning a new career, meeting people, exploring. To coin a cliché the world is my classroom. It always has been.

What have I learned from the two years of my walkabout? Here are 10 things, not in any particular order.

  1. Environmentally, we are screwed.
  2. Worrying about the future is a waste of time.
  3. Learning is a challenge, but I don’t need to be defensive as I do it.
  4. Learning takes time.
  5. Language barriers and cultural barriers are married to each other.
  6. As much as I want to be one, I will never be a princess.
  7. When you turn challenges into adventures, they are lots of fun.
  8. I want to be a writer.
  9. Ultimately, I am on my own.
  10. I raised my children well.

In her own way, my mother lived her life with abandon. I think of her often as I tromp through the jungle, board a plane, speak a new language, read a poem, climb the world’s mountains. I think of her scraping her shins, falling down, and getting back up again day after day, mountain after mountain, trail after trail. She was 30 years older than me. Her death reminded me of my mortality. It nudged me to see the world before the great sights vanish, or before I am too old and creaky to venture forth.

Perhentian Island

Perhentian Kecil. If you are anywhere near Malaysia, you need to go here. It’s a remote island. One side is private and untouched. The other is full of tourists. I went where it was private.

Source: Perhentian Island

Perhentian Island

Honor and privilege

(Check out the slide show at the end)

As the world continues to destroy itself, I had the honor and privilege to see a living coral reef. One thing that my walkabout has taught me is that this planet is going down fast. To find pieces of beauty in nature is a rare and special thing. How many more times will I get to see a living thriving coral reef like this one? This was the first place that I have been in Malaysia that was clean. Clean water and no trash – well… I have lower standards than I used to; there was still some plastic hidden here and there, but nothing as blatant as I have experienced in most of Malaysia.


Airplanes, vans and boats to paradise


After spending way too much time in the airport because my father trained me to arrive endless hours before a flight, I shared a cab, which turned out to be a van, with some Australians and headed out for Kota Bahru, where a speed boat would take me to one of the Perhentian Islands. There is a reason why they call them speed boats. We flew over the ocean’s swells for a half an hour and I was the first drop off on Petani Beach. As I stretched from the speed boat to the water taxi that would shuttle me to shore, the Caribbean blue water dazzled me.

The professor and Mary Ann…

Mira Mira where I ate and socialized

I felt like I had arrived on Gilligan’s Island, in color. Ramshackle bungalows lined Petani Beach, Internet was not existent, water was scarce, and beauty abundant. I settled in for dinner with a cluster of tourists like me who had looked for and found the most remote spot on the island. We sat at a hanging table and compared life experiences from Turkey, Italy, the Netherlands, and Malaysia. Most of us were wanderers, not sure where we would end up in a year, which has become my normal. I love it when people don’t react to me traveling alone to remote places. Most of these people are young enough to be my children. I rarely run into women my age traveling alone, which means I am either incredibly adventurous, or irresponsible, or both.IMG_3426

My three days on the island were spent meeting people who drifted in and out, snorkeling, hiking around the island, and snorkeling some more.

Neon is the new black

I used to think that neon was an artificial color – it is not. The ocean lit up with fluorescent fish that batted against my goggles. Clown fish brushed inside of sea anemone, fish brushed against other fish to suck off whatever nutrients attached to their scales. The baby sharks swooshed about harmlessly, and the barracuda were practically translucent. One day, I met up with Napoleon fish that had huge blue bodies and buck teeth. When I snorkeled toward the shore it was easy to see the stingrays. One thing mystified me. At first, I thought I was seeing bright blue and black snake squiggles. As I swam further, I realized that they were clam lips, which if I looked closely, were opening ever so slightly.

My bungalow

Every other place that I visited on the island, except for one, was a tourist trap –music, Coca-Cola, lots of booze, bikinis and music. At Petani Beach, we learned that we did not need to go anywhere. We had found paradise.





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Hiking in Kuala Lumpur: I have found my people

When we plunged into the jungle without a path to follow, I knew I had found my people. The type of people who say we haven’t hiked enough after four hours. The kind who say just one more hill, but you said that the last time, but this hill is not big, so it doesn’t count. The kind of people who don’t fuss on a hike. My kind.

Since I returned to KL last month after selling my house, I have been restless and determined to find something to capture me. My search has led me to an Indian meditation group called Isha, in Brickfields, the Indian section of KL. This was my second time there, and I plan on doing a retreat with them in July.

My second venture was with Internations, an expatriate group, for a “trip to the countryside.” For some reason, I thought that this meant a hike through some rice paddy fields. It turned out to be closer to a trip to the Twilight Zone. It was one of the many experiences I have had that confirms my usual disconnect with the world. After an hour and a half drive Northwest of KL, we arrived at a giant Burger King in a strip mall, full of garbage, durian, open markets, and wafts of everything from India to a mechanic’s garage. We wallowed there in the air conditioning (which I love more than anything) until the rest of the group arrived one-half an hour later. Then we caravanned off to I did not know where. Even though everyone speaks English in Malaysia, if I am not astute, it is easy to miss things like where I am headed, what I’m doing and why. I learned we were going on a tour of a rice processing factory in the middle of a giant rice paddy. 2016-06-25 16.25.37

It was everything that you would expect a rice processing factory tourist trap to be. It started with a video about processing rice that reminded me of a video I might watch in a seventh-grade social studies class (a video from the late 60s). From there we saw the rice plant through glass windows, kind of like the Ben and Jerry’s plant without the ice cream. After we passed through the rice processing plant museum, we landed in a giant tourist trap of a room, where people bought fish rice cakes, rice wine, rice noodles, and a concoction of corn, beans, and rice syrup over ice, and rice. We also got to see people make big blocks of rice and nut granola bars held together by something ricey.

2016-06-25 16.25.062016-06-25 16.32.21

I assumed I had signed up for the wrong trip and continued on my way to a tacky new Buddhist temple, where some people tried durian (which is something you do not want to2016-06-25 16.51.31 try unless you enjoy fruit that tastes like shit). Some people bought paper prayers to burn in a miniature incinerator/prayer burner. One woman bought an entire batch of prayer sticks, lit them all on fire, and practically started a fire. How could she have known only to light one?

With that behind us, we piled into respective carpools and drove to a place that smelled like dead fish and sewer. We pulled over and stood by the side of the road. 2016-06-25 17.33.27We milled about looking at fishing boats, and at birds that slept in the palm trees. After milling about some more, I asked if perhaps there was a beach I could walk to. There was a beach, and that was the next stop. 2016-06-25 17.39.54 2016-06-25 17.40.46

As we piled out of the cars one last time, the intensity of the fish and shit smell had increased tenfold. The beach was a small patch of garbage strewn sand, enclosed by a breakwater on one side and a giant brush fire with flames about 10 feet high on the other. That was the nice part. People selling cheap knock offs occupied the rest of the beach area. There was a woman dressed in a minion suit playing a loud recording in Chinese repeatedly for the entire time we were there. 2016-06-25 17.46.26I stood on the breakwater trying to catch some relief from the intense heat and watched the fishing boats putter toward the fish factory to drop off their daily catch.2016-06-25 17.53.19

I walked over to check out the fire. Some dudes asked to take my picture, and I said yes as long as I could take theirs. 2016-06-25 18.01.50Then I sought some cool-looking Australians to help me cuss out all of this. Yes, indeed this was happening, and it was, most certainly, bizarre.

Meanwhile, the smell was so intense that I had to hold my nose. Americans are few and far between in this land, especially when the ones who dress in hiking gear and hold their noses on excursions to rice processing plants and fishing villages with a minion belting out songs in Chinese. I do not know who made the bigger spectacle, me or the minion. Finally, we went to a fish restaurant to eat fresh fish. I sought out the Australians again to regain my equilibrium and ended up laughing with a lot of others who shared the Twilight Zone experience with me. Regardless, I was happy to get home that night and put that experience behind me.2016-06-25 18.07.28

Not willing to let that experience deter me from my quest for adventure, I signed up for another Internations experience the following weekend, which really was a hike. We met at Bangsar and drove about 30 minutes north of the city with many people from all over the world. Some people had shared the Twilight Zone experience with me the week before. This hike was a delightful experience, despite the trash, which seems to be a part of nature here. Wherever you find “toilets” and tourist trinket stalls, you will find massive amounts of trash. This is true of every journey I have taken in Asia so far.

Toilets I would not consider giving a rating.
Toilets I would not consider giving a rating.
Mom and baby beggar monkeys
Mom and baby beggar monkeys

We climbed along a waterfall until we reached its source. It was a steep climb, and once we reached the top, we wallowed in the cool spring mineral water, that almost seemed clean enough to drink, but I abstained. This was a successful trip. One that I would do again with the same people.

2016-07-02 09.09.15


Happy Hikers Meetup in Kuala Lumpur

This hike inspired me to take another hike the following day with the “Meetup” group. Here I hit the jackpot. From the moment I stepped into the car until the moment I finished a delicious Indian banana leaf meal, I was in heaven. We bushwhacked; we climbed up and down; we talked; we laughed, and we shared our love of hiking and adventure. This group hikes every weekend and sometimes at night during the week. In October they are going on a trip to ABC trail in Nepal. Is there any doubt that I will go?


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