Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Malaysia: What do I think about it?

Red heron in
I have been in Malaysia for 5 weeks now and so far my experience has been a mixed bag.

Let's start with the bad: I came here to relax after a hard year of hiking. Unfortunately, this has not worked out.

First of all, I am sick all the time. Well, maybe not all the time, but I have the second bad cold in 5 weeks now. I never ever have any cold on a long hike despite the fact that I hike in rain, sleet and snow and freeze my ass off at night in my tent. But here, the hot climate in combination with the air-conditioning is killing me. I am either too hot and sweating like a pig or I am freezing to death. Apparently my body cannot deal with these constant drastic temperature changes. Now I have bad bronchitis and cough like a chain smoker of 30 years. I hope this is my last cold in Malaysia - I am leaving in 2 weeks!!!

Second, the climate makes it hard to relax, too. Basically, there is not much activities I can endure outdoors. It is so hot and humid that you start sweating the minute you step outdoors. The leeches make hiking a bloody adventure.... And on top of all that, it is rainy season almost everywhere in Malaysia. I have never seen rain like that before - maybe in Japan, but nowhere else. When it rains here, the rain is like a solid wall. Even with an umbrella you are soaking wet within seconds. I have given up any idea of camping here - I would just float away! Even walking around town is exhausting - and chafing is a real problem!

Traditional longhouse
Third, I had visions of finding a nice guesthouse and staying there doing nothing. Well, this is easier said than done. In order to be able to stay in an enclosed room here you either need a fan or air-conditioning. And that is what lead to may two colds in the first place. Also, sound proofing is non existent here. One hostel I stayed in was directly above a bar. And on Friday I found at that they have live music on weekends. It felt like sleeping in a disco - and the music would not stop before 2 am!! I thought I learnt my lesson and booked myself into a rather expensive family hotel. Unfortunately this place was located next to a Karakoe bar that started blasting music at midnight and would not stop till 3 am. I have also encountered air cons that are as load as airplane engines and all sorts of biting insects - but luckily not bed bugs yet. All that is not really relaxing....

Orchid farm
Another disappointment is that there is not really that much to see in Malaysia! The museums here are mediocre to put it politely. They are also tiny and it is hard to spend more than 1 hour in them. And beside that there is not really much cultural stuff. Of course there are a lot of National Parks but first of all the weather is not really great now and second doing outdoor stuff is outrageously expensive. Most parks will not allow you to hike without a guide - and a guide is expensive. On top of all that most National Parks are not accessible by public transport - you have to join an organized and expensive tour again. Some parks can even only be accessed by plane! And the few accessible Parks have been closed now due to excessive rain...

As you might read out of these lines - I am a bit fed up with Malaysia. In fact, I am already counting the days before I can fly back to Europe. Don't get me wrong: Malaysia is not a total disaster, but it will never be one of my favourite countries.... 

But not everything is bad here and I want to end this post with something positive:

Nobody has tried to cheat me here. I only have to pay what the pricelist/menu etc.says. No rip-offs. When I unknowingly hand over too much money, I always get it back!!!

There is not much hassling - hardly anybody tries to get my into their shop, taxi, hotel, etc. Of course, I am offered taxis and other services all the time, but if you say NO, people just leave you alone. Funny enough I am constantly being called "Sir", probably because of my height - or shabby clothes...

Longhouse floor
The ethnic mix here - and how well everybody is getting along with each other - is truly astonishing. The 3 big groups here are the Muslim Malay, the Chinese and the Indians. Muslim women almost always were headscarves - even kids, but Chinese women run around in skimpy dresses and skirts that qualify more as a belt than a skirt.... - and nobody cares!!! You can buy newspapers in Malay, Chinese, Tamil and English! I still wonder how everybody understands each other. And here in Borneo there are even indigenous people more or less running around naked - no wonder in that climate!

But I had the biggest surprise today in a small corner restaurant. The waitresses there were either Malay Muslim with headscarves - or DRAG QUEENS. I am not joking here and I could not believe my eyes either, but I have lived long enough in Berlin to spot a transvestite. And half of the 'girls' working there were definitely guys in drag - with 5 cm long eyelashes and heave make-up. I mean, this was not a night club or anything, but a normal restaurant during daytime - in a Muslim country.....

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

A tricky climate to relax in ...
D

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