Cycling South East Asia
It's been a while since I've experienced a large, Asian city. It was a bit shocking actually coming into Kuala Lumpur. Hundreds of huge towers have been seemingly placed randomly around the "city". I use "city" loosely. That would connote some sort of planning. Here there has been none. The allure of money and profit has superseded all else in terms of livability. Some are offices and some are apartment complexes. Looks impressive from the highway. On ground level of course, it's business as usual. Reminds me of a scene out of the original Blade Runner film with Harrison Ford. A million people all out on the street conducting business, eating in "restaurants" that appear out of nowhere under a ramshackle awning that appears over night. The humidity causes the sky to drip incessantly, sometimes becoming a downpour. And it's hot.
The Malay people are friendly and respectful. Most of them speak at least three languages. English, Malay and one of several Chinese languages. And the food here is really good! It's a little more expensive than other parts of Asia. That is if you call a plate of rice, veggies and chicken marinated in a hundred different flavors for $2.00 expensive. After Australia and New Zealand, it's a real bargain! There is some old and interesting architecture hidden under the more "modern" and new construction.
I went to visit a local mosque. I was given a long gown to wear by a volunteer named Nena. Roughly the same age as me. She was lovely. She asked me where I was from. I told her, "USA". To which she replied with delight, "USA, land of..." Wait for it........... "DAVID CASSIDY!" Yeah, I was expecting some disparaging comment about Idiot in Chief. But no, David friggin Cassidy. She said he was her teen idol and has loved him forever. She told me she was very sad when he passed away recently at the age of sixty eight years old. That was one of the most random things I have ever heard in my life. She wanted a photo with me and I gladly consented.
I'm waiting on approval for a visa application for India. I've also applied to work for Sea Shepherd as a volunteer on one of their ships. My only real qualification is working in the galley. But it's a foot in the door. In the meantime, I’m reading through blogs and guidebooks trying to outline a cycle route to India. Truth is, I’m sick to death of dealing with choking exhaust and congested roads. I mean really clogged, sitting and going nowhere clogged. When traffic does move it's at full speed without any consideration for pedestrians or any other "obstacle". Just crossing the street on foot is an epic and dangerous adventure! Hell, just walking on the sidewalk is risky business. There are half finished, infrastructure upgrades everywhere. This really translates to piles of rubble left to disintegrate on the sidewalk and forcing pedestrians to choose between rubble and roadways. Ironically, there is a new bike share program. All one needs an app. You scan the bar code on the bike and it magically unlocks and off you go. It costs the equivalent of about $.10 an hour. It's a great idea! But there is nowhere to ride. There are vehicles everywhere!
I’m thinking to skip most if not all of SE Asia. I'm not sure that cheating death at every turn is worth the aggravation and stress level. I was spoiled by the wide open spaces and bush of Western Australia. With just a little effort, I found the quietest gravel and two tracks with little to no traffic. I could throw my swag anywhere in the forest and hear nothing but the birds, bugs and breezes stirring in the canopies. I could ride and camp for days without seeing another soul. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a full blown misanthrope but to me, silence is the voice of God.
My bike is currently parked at a bike shop across town.
But all roads (literally and figuratively) seem to lead nowhere. I’ve considered Java, Sumatra, Thailand, Viet Nam, Cambodia. Myanmar is looking like a real possibility. Wonder if I could find a boat around Thailand. All these once beautiful countries have been sold off piece by piece to greedy businessmen (who pay off crooked politicians) for the palm oil industry, petroleum, Coca Cola or whatever else they could extract at a profit with no consideration for environmental degradation. The people are powerless. Not to mention the plastic shit choking beaches, plastic shit piled to the heavens on road sides, plastic shit covering the jungle floor. I have yet to find a water purification station. The hostel provides boiled water. But in this heat, it takes hours to be cool enough to drink. It forces most people to buy endless single use, plastic water bottles. Thankfully, Muslim people have no use for dogs. I’ve been given a reprieve from witnessing the slow miserable deaths of 10,000 starving, mongrels in the streets. The novelty of the developing world wore off years ago. Although, I find wandering the streets really interesting for all it's sights, sounds, foods and smells, it only goes so far. I'd rather be cycling the countryside and hanging a hammock near a quiet beach. Not so easy anymore. Any accessible beach has been developed for tourism. This leads to more people, more traffic and more plastic. In any case, I’m going to wander around Malaysia for a bit sans bike while I wait for visa approval.
Stay tuned. Thanks for reading.
Stay tuned. Thanks for reading.