Recently I had the good fortune of being able to visit Malaysia. It was my first trip to the country, and it gave me a chance to meet up with some friends who I hadn’t seen in a few years. I was more than impressed during my time there, and I can definitely see myself back in Malaysia.
Thankfully I arrived pre-dawn. The temperature was comfortable (for a moment), but the fauna was a constant reminder that I was in the tropics. I navigated the airport and found economical transport to the city centre. Unfortunately, I misplaced my ticket, but I was able to verbally muscle my way out of paying 2x. For my first 36 hours I experienced mild exhaustion, indulged in gastronomic gluttony, and felt bewilderment as I noticed the swelling in my hands. However, I was eventually able to attain a balance of diet, rest, and adventure.
I was impressed to see such a conflux of cultures, predominately Malay, Chinese, and [Tamil] Indian interwoven, yet still separate. According to everyone I spoke to there is a lot of racial discrimination and animosity that quavers just below the surface. Things seemed to be going well, though; hopefully nothing too dramatic takes off in the too near future. Nonetheless, I was able to move around the country and the capital city, Kuala Lumpur, independently. I found this beneficial as I wasn’t anchored by a group, or slowed down by a less adventurous companion. Also, this forced me to engage my surroundings more, which made for some interesting and unique encounters, and it gave me some rich stories to tell when I did meet up with friends later during my trip. Myself and a young Dutch woman enjoyed a night safari on the back of a pickup, despite being drenched in a tropical downpour. Two young Swiss tourists were on the excursion as well. Even tough the weather was inclement, our spirits were high, and we had a really fun time. We cracked jokes the whole time, and talked arbitrarily about weed, cocaine and other stimulants.
Having people “on the ground” also helped me gain another perspective on things. During my time playing tourist, I was able to develop my own questions and then bounce them off of locals and long term residents. While touring frequently, I found myself to be the lone American. This feature, when added to my Nubian status, seemed to make some individuals more curious about me. Considering my accent and the cadence of my speech, one young lady called my English tropical. And a nice and inquisitive shop keeper asked me if my hair was real.
Overall, I was very happy with the variety of people I was able meet while in Malaysia. Of course you meet a few opportunists that want to milk tourists, but I was able to avoid being victimized. As you can imagine my conversations were rich and my interlocutors were from a range of backgrounds. Time didn’t permit, but maybe next time I can take that pop-artist up on her invitation to visit her studio.