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Malaysia: Beyond Words

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“When for the first time something starts happening which is beyond words, life has happened to you, life has knocked at your door. And when the ultimate knocks at your door, you are simply gone beyond words – you become dumb, you cannot say; not even a single word is formed inside. And whatsoever you say looks so pale, so dead, so meaningless, without any significance, that it seems that you are doing injustice to the experience that has happened to you.”

-Osho, Tantra: The Supreme Understanding

Sometimes writing seems so futile; there is just no way to convey my experiences through words. But I’ll give it a try anyway…

Initially, I had selected Malaysia as my destination following Bali simply because I had to leave Bali due to my expiring Visa, Malaysia was the cheapest flight out, and I refused to fly somewhere and not see it.

Leaving Bali after two months was tough. I had fallen in love (with the place). I was tempted to stay, to buy the shady passport stamp that would allow it, but something inside urged me to keep going, keep discovering. I could always come back.

So I found myself riding in a shoddy little taxi, going from the airport to Kuala Lumpur city, a dismal route with nothing to look at, yet I was blissful. I felt so free, having broken out of the pulls of Bali. It didn’t matter where I was. At least I had kept going.

The cherry on top was Kylie sitting beside me, my traveling friend I had met two months before in the Taiwan airport as we both waited to fly to Ubud. We had kept “running into” each other in Indonesia, and we plotted our exodus together.

I insisted on booking a decent hotel with white sheets and air conditioning. As much as I loved the charm of Balinese bungalows, I was sick of sleeping with ants, stepping in gecko poo, and slipping around on wet bathroom floors (what is it about putting the shower right next to the toilet in Asia?!)

So we checked into a proper hotel in Kuala Lumpur’s popular Bukit Bintang area. I was in heaven. I could have stayed in that hotel room all day and night. I was happy, however, that we did explore the city, indulging in some of the best food. Kuala Lumpur is basically one big food court after food court. The locals here must never cook for themselves because everyone is always out to eat! We ate fresh, sweet bacon out of a plastic bag (crispy melt-in-your-mouth goodness that makes me grateful I’m Flexitarian), stuffed ourselves with the best fake Indian meat I’ve ever had (while covered in glitter, gold temporary tattoos, and bindis), and sampled so many desserts that I found myself in a sugar coma after two days, vowing to be done with the sweet stuff forever…a couple weeks at least.

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street food in Malaysia (with street prices, the top one costing about $1 USD)

Then we set our sights on Penang, an island on the northwest of Malaysia. Sitting in a food court in the mall, we almost booked 12-hour bus tickets before realizing we could fly there for the same price ($25) in an hour! We spent two nights in Penang, including one at a rastafarian-ish hostel where the owner urged us to carry on to the idyllic Perhentian Islands. We listened and found ourselves in a minivan the next evening, the only two passengers being driven by two Malaysian men. I had the thought, “is this safe?” but before I knew it we were flying down the road. Kylie and I thought we had lucked out with this van to ourselves, so we could each take a row of seats to sleep in. We soon realized this would be impossible, as the driver sped through the bumpy roads so we were flying off our seats, holding on for dear life, the craziest road trip I have ever been on.

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Georgetown, Penang with its fun street art

Five hours later, they dumped us off at the port at 4:30 am. The ferry wasn’t until 7am. A man opening his office let us sleep on his couch. I asked him where the bathroom was and he pointed outside, telling me to go anywhere out there except near the mosque next door. I didn’t mind; I sometimes prefer peeing outside as opposed to dirty toilets that are so common here in Asia.

Finally 7am rolled around and we boarded the “ferry,” a little speedboat. We were tired and unknowingly unprepared mentally for another rough ride ahead of us. The waves were choppy and the boat lurched ahead, literally flying through the air and crashing down on the water. We screamed and held each other for dear life, begging the “captain” to slow down (to no avail). The waves drenched us and I couldn’t open my eyes, so I slumped over my bag, trying to protect my computer and phone, wishing it would all be over soon.

When we finally arrived, I was sopping wet and so exhausted I was tempted to stay on the boat and just go back. Zero part of me wanted to explore this island. I left my bag at the port so I wouldn’t have to lug it with me until we found a room. After trudging up and down the hill across to the other side of the island, we found a sweet little bungalow, super simple and bare, yet right on the sand with a view of the beach. My spirits began to lift.

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our little bungalow right by the beach

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After a much-needed nap and retrieving my luggage (thanks to a chivalrous stranger who carried it for me), I entered the water and went from planning my escape from this island to knowing I would be here for at least a week. It was the best water I’ve ever swam in: crystal clear, blue, perfectly soft, clean sand, waves lulling me back and forth. Beyond words.

That evening we found ourselves at a big table on the beach with new friends. We danced in the sand by the fire to the best music. I was beyond words again, wishing I could transport everyone I love to this place so they too could experience it.

I challenged myself to get my Open Water diving certification, always having loved the beach but been slightly afraid of deep, open water and what lies beneath. My confident, former commercial diver, Jared, put me at ease immediately and before I knew it I was telling jokes and laughing at 18 meters under water. I had the sensation that I was both flying and being one with the fishes, a proper mermaid. Beyond words (or hand signals in this case).

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Kylie went back to Bali and I stayed. A new friend from the terrifying boat ride to the island, Vikki, stayed with me in the bungalow and we explored the island together. We found the Stairway to Heaven that we had seen in pictures: a huge staircase leading down the mountain to a picturesque ocean cove below. We descended and found ourselves in our own private “pool,” being early enough that no one else had arrived yet.

And it really did look like a pool: perfectly clear water with soft sand. I was beyond-words-happy and blissfully flung my bikini top on a rock. Soon after, we noticed a group of Muslim tourists walking down the stairs, the woman wearing a hajib. I hastily swam over to the rock to retrieve my top, sliding around and desperately trying to grasp the slippery, seaweed-covered rock. I finally got it and covered myself just as they entered the water. “Hilarious” and “thrilling” don’t do it justice.

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More and more, I found myself craving to be close to the water and nature. I would climb out on the big rocks on the beach and just lay there during the day, the warmth of the flat stone making me moan with gratitude. In the evening, I would lay there again, looking up at the full moon, wishing she would impart her wisdom into me, make me more attune with nature, my intuition, my feminine energy. One night I even went out and danced with her, headphones in and my iPod on my arm. I must have looked like quite the hippie. It’s okay…it was again beyond words.

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As perfect as the island was, I began to get a bit stir-crazy, with limited resources (there are no ATM’s!) and my supply of coconut oil and contact solution dwindling. I set my plans for Thailand and ten days after I had arrived, I departed the Perhentian Islands, an absolutely unexpected, remarkable gem. Part of me wondered if I was crazy to leave this paradise, yet I knew there was more to see. Little did I know I was on my way to more and more beyond-words-experiences.

Malaysia: Beyond Words

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