non-fiction rock from Aotearoa New Zealand

Southeast Asia Tour Diary 6: Fishing for lightening

iced tea oWe leave Mentakab. The bus ride takes a couple of hours-ish to Kuantan where we’re to make contact with our man Aiye. We are in texting contact, one text informs us that his mother-in-law has just been taken to hospital for a possible heart problem and can we wait at the terminal for a bit? Sure we can, this tour has had underpinnings of major health related stuff. This is the second possible heart complaint. We also learn of a couple of pregnancies of friends in Java, and plenty of people wanted to talk about other health related stuff while we traveled. What else can you do at a time like this? Go to a cafe and drink black iced tea!

The iced-tea lasts a couple of hours and then we meet Aiye and Hakim, and suddenly we’re up and off. It seems the plan is to head to the far north today to Penarik and collect Joe on the way. This is our scheduled ‘holiday’, we’re still going to the beach! It’s another four hours in the cars, but it’s the first time we’ve really gotten into rural Malaysia.

Along the way we discuss all manner of things, including a new proposed nuclear power plant on the north-eastern coast of Malaysia. Seem nuts given the recent disaster not too far away in Japan, but the government say that the deal is signed and now cannot be undone – as if ink on paper was one of the immovable foundation blocks of the universe. The deforestation is really noticeable as we drive, large earth carving machines eat away the hill side as we pass, for who knows what reason. And the miles and miles of Palm Oil trees – large circular spiky and mono-cultural. Other roadside oddities are massive malls situated in the middle of nowhere, gargantuan car parks located nowhere near any residence, village or kampung. Apparently these peculiar architectural decisions are made and executed often in Malaysia, it’s a mystery who will shop here, there’s no one around.

Collecting Joe KiddWe stop at Joe’s family house, to pay respects, it is the Malay way. Apparently in times of weddings and funerals no invites are required as everyone knows that an open door policy is in place, all in the kampung are invited. And at this time of grieving, many come to pay respects, even if one has had the smallest association with the family then they are welcome. We were a bit unsure about our place in this, but we’re assured that due to our connection with Joe, we too could pay respects to the family. So we did so.

And then we’re off again, Joe has joined us now and we continue north. We go through the city of Terengganu, this city Joe tells us is where the Malaysian punk scene was born, stories of rare and wonderful cassettes somehow found there way here years ago and were the seeds for the growth of the scene that exists now. This is also Joe’s stomping ground, the city where he made his first zine, the man is encyclopedic in his local knowledge, his brain needs to be tapped and saved.Punk in paradise

It gets dark as we drive, it’s the first time we’ve seen stars for quite some time.

And we arrive at our ‘holiday’, the Penarik Inn, maybe about eight hours from KL, a golden sand beach and sky scraping coconut trees, the water’s blue and warm, the sand is soft and the beach is empty. A tiny respite, time to wash clothes, rest, eat, and chat.

Iclean ghostst’s been an intense previous week and this is a welcome pause.

We are informed that our arrival happened simultaneously as the birth of hundreds of baby turtles on the beach. This region is famous for being the birthing place of the giant green Turtle.  Local youth measure and document the baby turtles before they are released in the evening, most won’t survive the wild but the few that do can grow to have a carapace about one and a half metres long, huge! .

At night, like clockwork, are huge huge thunder storms, no one seems to notice but we take photos, fishing for lightening, storms more spectacular than anything seem back in Aotearoa.

We get to try the genuine Nasi Kerabu, blue food for breakfast, possibly one of our finest meals to date!

On our day off we swim, like foundering fish. Our swim the previous day was unaccompanied but today, the water is shared with large clear jellyfish. We are told that is is luck for the baby turtles as Jellyfish is the perfect food for such young ones. However one of our lot is not so lucky as they are reminded of the sting in the jelly’s tail.

Wednesday comes around and we have to return to civilization. We return to Terengganu where we say goodbye to Joe for the last time, to Aiye and Hakim – our wonderful Laurel and Hardy hosts. We buy our bus ticket to Singapore, mooch around the city, finding an intensely loud Internet cafe with loads of local youth blasting each other apart in cyberspace.

We return to the depot in the evening and get ready for the overnight haul.

It’s been quiet here,and now we’re heading back to the noise.

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