Saturday, February 12, 2011

Monkey Disease in Kuala Lumpur

It's 5 a.m. and I walk off the plane in Malaysia's capital, Kuala Lumpur.  It's dark and hot.  I'm tired and spacey.  Malays, Chinese, Indians, Arabians, and Persians are walking past me, offering me rides, sleeping on the ground, and speaking in various languages.  I find a bus to take me to the city center.  I doze off and on.  I think I see the Petronas Twin Towers lit up in the distance.  I find a taxi.  We have trouble finding the hostel.  We have to look at a map several times.  I finally make it to the hostel past 6 a.m., just as the receptionist is opening the front doors for the morning.  She says I can check in later and shows me to the dorm room.   I see my friends sleeping in their beds, climb to my bunk, and pass out.  That's how my three week winter vacation began.

I just arrived back in Korea and I'm ready to share some stories and pictures from this year's winter vacation.  The first stop is Kuala Lumpur where I only spent one full day, but it was an active and productive one day.  The first thing I noticed about Malaysia is that it must be the melting pot of Asia.  I see so many different faces, colors, and wardrobes.  I find this to be extremely refreshing.  In China there are Chinese, in Korea there are Koreans, and in Thailand there are Thais.  In Malaysia there is everybody.  Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and who ever else you want to throw in to the pot.  And they're not bombing each other!  We can all hold hands and frolic in a field!  Get out the picnic blankets and blow some bubbles, because there is a country in Asia where multiculturalism is not only accepted but encouraged and proud of itself.  I think in my head, "Hey, Iran, Pakistan, Israel, North Korea, and Tea Party Members, it can be done.  Look we can all get along in one country in Asia.  So everybody just take a breath and calm down.  Good times."

Anyway, let's talk about the one full day in Kuala Lumpur.  After about three hours of much needed sleep, I woke up and met my friends for some breakfast, "good to see you" conversation, and catching up.  Then we were off to see the Batu Caves.  The day before was Thaipusam, which is the Hindu holiday where they shove needles in to their cheeks, tongue, eye lids, chest, and just about anywhere a needle can go.  I was slightly upset I missed this crazy display, but no matter.  However, because the celebration was the day before, the Batu Caves were blanketed in trash.  Still it was quite interesting.  It's maybe the biggest Hindu shrine outside of India with a big, golden God statue standing outside.  Then you climb the 272 steps while trying to avoid shifty eyed monkeys just waiting to take your morning time apple.  In the caves are people with gold painted on their heads or ash on their face praying Hindu style.  It was a spiritual experience, but not knowing very much about Hindu I'm sad to say it was one I didn't really understand.


Back in the city I knew you could get a straight edge shave.  I've always wanted one because it looks cool and it's one of those manly things to have a super sharp razor run across your face to rid you of your manly stubble.  Zach and I found an old school Indian barber that would oblige us in our manly fantasies.  He sat us in the chair, prepped our faces with creme, took the straight edge to our chins, and made faces at the girls that passed by his window.  The experience was a little rougher than I had predicted.  I thought it would be a really smooth ride but actually it was like shaving bark but with a little blood involved.  Zach had a nice gusher in the throat region which I thought might lead to searching for the first aid kit.  In the end, it was worth it and it was the closest shave I have ever had.  I didn't get stubble until three days later!
Clean Cut
Next we took a ride outside the city to feed monkeys on a mountain side road.  I bought a bag of sweet potatoes and there were monkeys all over me in seconds.  One went straight for the whole bag and I fought this mama off my arm and won, but not with out receiving a bite on the finger.  "Oh no, I have monkey disease!" I thought.  I expressed my concern to our driver and he said, "No problem, the monkeys are vegetarians."  I was unconvinced and sure I would have a high fever in ten minutes and a taste for flesh in twenty minutes.  Luckily, that monkey wasn't a carrier of monkey disease and we spent the next hour having a great time feeding the monkeys, training them to climb up our legs, and hang out on our shoulders.  In the end, we felt like we had made pretty good friends with the monkeys in Malaysia.

Awesome action shot from Becky!
Night fall came and we took a boat ride on the river to see the magical trees filled with lightening bugs.  It was like somebody had filled the trees with blinking Christmas lights to fool naive tourists in to spending money.  However, our boat driver was able to steer very close to the trees to catch some of the bugs to prove that there were in fact no Christmas lights in the trees.  It was really a natural wonder.  It was a great first day of vacation, but the next day our destination was Yogyakarta, Indonesia where things didn't go as smoothly.

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