Friday, February 01, 2008

Too much monkey business.

It’s past 4 A.M. in Kuala Lumpur (abbreviated to the letters “K L” by pretty much everybody). It makes little sense for me to be up at this hour. Regardless, here I am. It’s hard for my body to adjust to life after a full day’s time spent in the air, I guess. Somewhere there are photos to document what went on today, but instead, I’ll give you a whole bunch of words. Let your imaginations run wild.

Went to see some caves today—they were religious caves, too, very tied to the Hindu religion. It is a holy place, where believers consider walking the steep 272 steps to the natural formation some sort of a sacred rite of passage. This means that fathers and sons were doing it barefoot and shaving their heads beforehand. They were beaming. They believe that, because they are sacrificing themselves in this way, they’ll reap the rewards. Just last week, there was an annual event called Thaipusam that included some serious body piercing. The more pain experienced, the greater the devotion. From the photos I saw, it looked all kinds of painful. I can’t imagine sticking a few pins through my cheeks to prove myself, but it was the norm.

Meanwhile, Dallas and I took photos of a XanGo bottle (hey, this isn’t exactly a vacation or anything) in various locales. Saw many, many monkeys going about, nonchalantly stealing people’s bags of food, jumping on top of some of them and, when the situation called for it, baring their big monkey fangs. Monkeys are neither cute nor cuddly. They are evil. We steered clear. Once at the top—barring the strong stench of bat dung—I could have stayed all day and listened to what sounded to my ears like some kind of Bollywood dance music. It’s compelling stuff, I kid you not. Caves go better with a soundtrack.

We ended up both being blessed with long lives by somebody wrapped in a decorative sheet who rubbed some ash on our foreheads afterward. I think we were supposed to tip him for the tip, but I never went for my wallet and nothing was taken back. We must have looked pretty peculiar to some, as we had a Japanese troupe of documentary makers following us around for a portion of time. Then again, Dallas was laying down in pigeon poo to get the right shots. Even picked up a necklace made of flowers (were they jasmine? I forget) simply because they smelled so good. Even now, the scent permeates my room.

Bought a small bundle of fruit from a wholesaler in the way of tiny bananas (they’re sweeter), a couple kilos of mangosteen and some soursop (which, translated, means sooo delicious). Three dollars will go a long way if you’ll let it. The “she boys” in the area all seemed to want to talk to us as well, but they were just too scary for words. Almost as bad as those monkeys I mentioned before. Steering clear was pretty necessary there, too.

Survived Chinatown unscathed, on the eve of Chinese New Year, no less. Our driver was a very, very good negotiator. It pays to be able to speak Malay. Negotiating comes so much easier when you travel with a haggler. Seven dollar fake Ray Bans just feel worth it after an experience like that one.

It’s muggy and humid and pleasant here. My skin is happy, as are my lungs. Deep breathing comes easy. It’s downright necessary. I want to walk everywhere barefoot, but it’s just not that clean of a place, so the sandals stay on. I sweat and I’m thankful.

It’s at a time like this, I can’t help but feel like a blessed man. Not lucky so much, as I don’t feel like luck has much to do with this. I’m honestly blessed to be able to come places like this for a living. Writing comes easier when you’re allowed to be inspired by the globe and those in it. You might get all tripped up with your sleeping schedule in the process, but it’s a very minor drawback.

It’s 5. Maybe sleep will come now. One can hope.


plainoldsarah said...

oh i liked this post much. thanks for being up at an odd hour to write it for me. (we'll just pretend.) it reminded me of my days in the philippines and visiting bangkok. i should go visit asia again. soon. and i totally can't wait to see dallas' photos.

Trude said...

KL .. such a pretty place .. betcha get lotsa toothless grins.

puiyee said...

well hey there. hope ya had a good sleep and a better day exploring the city :D

Moonbird said...

Oh! You went to the Batu caves it seems. And the Chinese market... I bought a Milo the monkey t-shirt there. It would be fun to compare KL photos. You're the only other one I know who has been there now. This was a fun read, as I used my memory bank instead of my imagination.