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One More Day?

Hallo, acorns eten eikkles!

"Screw it, I'm staying one more day."

10 P.M, Friday night - I had already extended my stay in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia twice. Earlier in the day I booked my bus ticket for the next morning, hoping that it would motivate me to finally leave. However on this night, the combination of good friends, a few beers, amazing indian food, and terrible karaoke would be enough to trump the aforementioned bus ticket. I wasn't ready to leave this place, nor was I ready to leave these people.

The Cameron Highlands is the type of place that grabs you. You are surrounded by a seemingly never ending stretch of lush mountains, tea plantations, and strawberry fields. Add to the mix a hostel with a very Summer-Camp type feel, and you have a recipe for enchanting different types of backpackers from all over the world.

The hostel was perched high up on a hill overlooking the small, Indian food laden town below. They were breeding purebred puppies. It was surrounded by flower gardens.

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The Hostel

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One of the many views

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The road into town

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Backyard

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Backyard

My first two days in the Highlands, I only left the hostel when the craving for curry hit me. The rest was spent lounging around, chatting with my hostel mates, and finishing my book that Joey was kind enough give me for my trip (Slaughterhouse Five, I loved it, thanks again Joey!) On my third day, my friend Mike and I decided it was time to stop being lazy, and go on a trek through some of the forests. After walking around for about an hour trying to find the trail, we realized that we had walked about a mile and a half past the trail we were trying to find. Although we never actually found the trail, the search would yield quite the day after all. If only getting lost was always this rewarding.

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we were lost

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we found this while wandering aimlessly through the tea fields. Go Obezags!

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Tea house. OK view.

The next day, after recruiting a few more hostel mates, we set off again for another trail, this time with more success. The trail was beautiful, and just challenging enough for a bunch of somewhat in shape backpackers.

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The part of the trek that wasn't too steep to take pictures

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Chugging curry before the trek. Duh.

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Oh yeah!

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Rawwrr

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The Team

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Made it to the top. And rawwr.

After the trek we would relax for a little while, then descend down the other side of the mountain. On the descent we went to a tea plantation which was named after a gentlemen a fair bit of you may recognize...

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Boh!

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Long lost cousins???

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Another tea plantation, another amazing view

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The moon was full that night, and as we lie in the garden gazing up at the sky, Hester would teach me the one foreign phrase that my brain has been able to retain this trip: Hallo, acorns eten eikkles! This has nothing to do with stars, or food, or mountains, or anything that would seem logical at the time. It is Dutch, for "Hello, squirrels eat acorns." As I repeated that, with Hester rolling in laughter in my terrible accent and pronunciation, I sat back, relishing the feeling of complete freedom and carelessness that this adventure has provided. I went to bed Friday evening, fully content with my decision to stay at least one more day.

Saturday Morning, 7:30 A.M. I was awoken by a downtrodden Mike. My satisfaction in my decision to extend my stay was abruptly cut short. He told me that we had gotten back too late the night before to inform the hostel we wanted to stay another night, and they had given up our beds to other people. The euphoria of the previous evening, which consisted of delightful moments like singing a karaoke duet in Malay with Hester, dancing our asses off, and a 2 am discussion of our generations perspectives on religion, quickly faded into the sobering realization that I needed to say goodbye. My bus left in 30 minutes, and a few frantic hugs later I was running to the bus stop. Of course, I missed it, and was ushered into a cab which chased down the bus so that I could catch it at the next stop.

As I sit in Panang now, a bustling island city off the north west coast of Malaysia, I am left with only remnants of the cocktail of emotions that I felt on my way out of the Highlands. As the bus struggled to climb and descend the narrow, undulating roads, I couldn't help but wonder what other amazing experiences were ahead of me. I was sad, I was excited, I was hungover, and I had that slight tingling feeling I get when I really think about the scope of this adventure. All add up to quite a bittersweet moment, which seems to be a recurring theme this trip.

The Highlands were a delightful reminder of why I love to travel. A little more than a month has passed since I left Baltimore, and although I miss the many comforts of home, that feeling is quickly overshadowed by the thrill of discovering so many wonderful new places and people. About 4 weeks down, many more to go. Acorns eten eikkles.

Posted by dpteitel 06:14 Archived in Malaysia Tagged cameron_highlands Comments (2)

Penang, Malaysia.

City Flavor

When I first arrived in Penang I could only see the bustling city traffic. I could only smell exhaust. I only felt the sweat dripping down from the 100 degree weather and high humidity. As my trip here unfolded, however, the seemingly chaotic city streets would begin to organize. The bustling traffic began to slow down, the smell of exhaust was replaced with the smell of brilliant curries and noodle dishes, and the mid-day sweat was replaced with mid-day siestas in the air conditioned dorm room.

First impressions can be misleading. Whether it be with people, or a city, the seemingly all-knowing first impression can quickly morph into a completely different beast. When I arrived in Penang my first impression was that I needed to get out of there. I didn’t meet anyone on the first night, my dinner was crap, and the bed I was sleeping in had a nice fat bar strategically located in the small of my back. But just five days later, as I sit in the coffee shop awaiting my bus to the Perhentian Islands, Penang sits comfortably in the top 2-3 cities I’ve visited on this trip so far.

The city’s trampling of my first impressions began with a simple reggae bar. It’s amazing how refreshing an intelligent conversation over a few beers can be. It’s also amazing how refreshing an utterly ridiculous conversation over a few beers can be. I find I prefer the extremes. These extremes would consist of a debate over the merits of evolution vs creationism, and a feature film script consisting of a professional bullshit artist wooing a sexy librarian in the year 3000 where you read books with your ass. Oh, script inspired by true events.

Once my blinders were removed, the vibrant culture of the city began to reveal itself. Walking down a small side street, an elderly woman is prepping garlic for something that will surely titillate your taste buds, while a string band plays classical music in one of the nearby closed up houses. Turning another corner reveals a ceremony at a temple involving prayer and massive amounts of incense. Ducking onto another street to avoid the wall of incense smoke reveals an immaculate Victorian era mansion. Each twist and turn makes you feel like you have stepped into a different city. Yet, miraculously, they all seem to somehow fit together.

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My favorite bar in Penang. Avoid the Bison beer

A short excursion out of the city is rewarded by sights such as a small Snake Temple, an oasis in the form of botanical gardens, and the Kek Lok Si temple, the largest Buddhist temple in South East Asia. The snake temple was not the most thrilling of temples, however their collection of snakes was enough to keep me entertained for a while. I also heard the snake keeper tell the same joke to every single person he could get ahold of. “You eat KFC, snake eat KLC (dramatic pause…) Kentucky Live Chicken.” I estimate over the course of his life he has told this joke approximately seventy two thousand times.

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The Kek Lok Si temple’s intricate attention to detail was a stark contrast to the simple snake temple. Like the city center, you never knew what you would find around each corner. Around one corner would be a 75 foot bronze statue of Buddha. Around another, unfortunately, you would inevitably find a gift shop hawking mediocre tourist crap. You want a t-shirt with a tiger on it? Or how about a mug that says I heart penang? Then I recommend going to this temple, you will find thousands of them. It was disconcerting to see such a spiritually significant location being molested by the almighty dollar. Such is a byproduct of tourism, and unfortunately I’ve seen it far too often on this trip. However if you can look past the hawker stalls, the beauty of the rest of the temple is awe inspiring.

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The Botanical gardens were a much needed escape from the city center. I find that filling my lungs with fresh air for just a few hours can be invigorating after several days in an Asian city. The gardens had your usual plant stuffs, but they also had something which takes anything to the next level, wild monkeys.

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Beaches and jungles are immediately gratifying, bigger cities take a few days to even begin to scratch the surface. Entering a brand new city in a completely foreign culture by myself can certainly be intimidating at first, and I really need to push myself in the beginning to see past the hustle and bustle and into the true culture. Overcoming the culture shock can be slightly overwhelming at times, but the effort is always handsomely rewarded.

Penang was wonderful, but I think I’ll go find a beach now. Next stop, Perhentian Islands.

Posted by dpteitel 00:27 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

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