Since thinking about Indonesia last week, I’ve been thinking about that hallowed tour through Southeast Asia with Lindsay Manko many years ago. Not many of you know this, but I have actually been blogging since that trip. That is over 10 years of travel blogging, and I am glad to say my writing has improved and I usually make better life choices now than I did then (not always, but generally speaking).
Travel blogging was different back then. Very few people did it seriously, and quality was much harder to sustain.
Trying to write quality travel blogs while on a pay-by-the-minute computer in a Thai internet cafe with dial up speed connections did not make for creative genius. Thankfully, some of the experiences from back then made up for the poor writing in sheer bravado and idiocy.
But travel blogging has greatly changed.
People make all kinds of money with travel blogs these days, and travel blogs are not just for family and friends. People use them for reference and trip planning, travel inspiration and sometimes just pure entertainment. I have always loved writing about my travels, and as I become more of a serious member of the international travel blogging community I think about where I came from with both writing and travelling.
Back to waxing nostalgia… It was the year 2005 and travel blogging was basically akin to this palm hut:
“Blogging” was relatively new and unheard of. On the eve of a 6-month backpacking trip through Southeast Asia, Lindsay and I both created blogs on a designated Travel Blog website. We wanted to be able to update our friends and family to our doings through poor grammar and strained sentence structure.
I thought I would go back and have a look through some of those old blogs, and really, not tooting my own horn here, but they were awesome. Awfully written, but awesome.
So awesome in fact, that I thought I would bring one of out retirement and share with you all a blast from the past story. I think this blog from Malaysia really does exemplify what young female travel in Southeast Asia looks like: confused, bewildered, adventurous, hilarious, and downright daft. And remember this was before WI-FI, e-readers, iPods, or GPS, so we were tripping around with books, cd’s, little communication and basically no idea where we were going and what we were doing.
*Disclaimer: This blog has been copy edited for the mercy of you fair readers, though the content and the spirit remains unspoiled. Some exposition has been added for clarity sake. The original title was “Gawd, Suck Your Own Blood”. It had 3 paragraphs (for 1800 words) and no pictures.
A Visit to Cherating Malaysia
For our last night in Cherating (a small beach village on the East coast of Malaysia) we decided to go out with one hell of a bang! So we (Lindsay, our 2 German friends Nina and Isabel, and myself) went to the beach for the day, and when we got back from working on our Malaysian tans, there was a note from our surf teacher Mazlan (whom we had called Mazlo up until then. Damn mumbler!). The note invited us to come to his beach bar that night for a bbq. Obviously, we went!
We feasted on fish, fried clams and muscles (sic. Apparently at age 20 I was a cannibal), and several shots of a certain Mexican poison. You know, the good stuff.
A side note, the 4 of us took along the pretty German boy who had arrived in our guesthouse that morning. Several reasons led to this decision, but mainly we just wanted to look at him. After about an hour or so at the beach bar, we decided to exit before the Mexican poison got heavier, and go for a night swim.
We all (pretty German boy included) walked the 8 feet to the beach, and down a ways to an area with more privacy and darkness.
I mean, who goes skinny dipping in a spot light really?!?!?
We sent the Pretty German (Whose name was Alex by the way) into the water. He had trunks on for all the extremely curious ones out there. Then the 4 of us ‘ladies’ all stripped as fast as possible and got into the water before he could turn around and see us rampaging water buffalos behind him, thus killing his fragile soul.
From the outset of this escapade, you can tell we were all on our A-game of thinking, but surprisingly, the tequila wasn’t to blame, we’re all just kind of dim sometimes. (But look at how young we were!)
So we did this, and had a wonderful time. Who doesn’t love being naked in the ocean of a Muslim country? We all paddled around for a while, splashing about while keeping our bits hidden from Pretty German eyes. All good clean fun.
Well, then all of the shit in Malaysia hit the fan when we saw a flashlight coming down the beach and stop at the piece of driftwood that was covered with our discarded garments.
Never have the hearts of 4 Western girls fallen so far into such a shallow pit. Immediately, we were all sweating, which is hard to do when you’re nude and in the South China Sea. Horror thoughts of being hauled to a Malay prison naked, and in front of the pretty German no less, consumed me.
Yes, Skinny Dipping is Illegal in Malaysia
Naturally, we all panicked and shhhh’ed each other for a little while, until we had the marvellous epiphany to send the German in to investigate and find out exactly how many guns those Police officers surely had. So Pretty German Guy swam into shore and really, he was in for a little too long for our liking.
Visually, we lost him in the darkness, so after a while Nina started calling to him in German (as if it was a code or something) and suddenly we heard a voice not ten meters away in the water swimming towards us!!!! And it wasn’t a German accent!!!!
Well, in reality it was a German accent, but Pretty German Guy was just playing with us, because he knew how scared we all were (LOL pretty German guy is hilarious, who knew??). He reported the people were just tourists, but that they were indeed sitting about 10 feet away from our log of shame.
I wanted him to go and take the flashlight from them; I was outvoted.
With the knowledge that we would not be arrested, but merely humiliated, we all decided that we would calmly, and serenely, because the 4 of us were just so calm and serene, casually walk out of the water to the log and redress ourselves as if nothing was amiss.
And that is what we did. Until the redress portion, when we were all so excited to be so close to being of out of the doghouse that none of us could find the proper clothes or figure out how to put them on.
Lets just say I got a little too close to Lindsay’s unmentionables. Shudder.
So that was our big farewell to Cherating. At least none of the cute surfers saw us.
Hiking in Taman Negara Malaysia
The next day we set off for Taman Negara, the largest national park and jungle in Malaysia. After a night spent in the village on the skirts of the jungle, with 8 bottles of water, our socks pulled up and our day packs stuffed, the 4 of us (Pretty German had gone his own way, I wonder why?) set out to walk to the Bumban Kundan hide, a wood cabin on stilts in the middle of the jungle.
13 km away.
7 hours of hiking.
Up and down rivers and gorges, over hills and through bushes, through mud and spider webs.
One could say that we were naïve; I would say that we were downright stupid. But I ended up really enjoying it, oddly I enjoy putting my body through hell. One thing that did get to me was the bulbous blisters on both my ankles from when my ankle socks were so weighed down with mud.
Oh and then the leeches started. And never ended.
I probably have had about…oh…6000 leeches on my body. My blood has been sucked so dry that at one point I was starting to look like an extra on Buffy the Vampire Slayer (ß excellent early 2000’s reference!). No one else suffered this fate. Nina had one leech, Isabel had several, Lindsay: ZERO!!!! I’m not bitter.
After hours of hiking, we finally arrived at the hide just before nightfall. Thankfully we made it when we did, as the other three gals were not quite enjoy the bodily torture as much as I was, (and really by the end I was getting testy too). We were ready to surrender out fates to the jungle.
Sleeping in a hide in Taman Negara Malaysia
But we did survive and make it to the hide.
The hide had no water, no electricity, no mattresses on the wooden bunks, but we did have neighbors! Rats, lots and lots of rats.
We cooked our instant soup on Nina’s camping stove, and settled in with our three other human comrades (a British woman and 2 Austrians) to watch for wildlife in the watering hole that the hide overlooks.
Well that was fun for about 2 minutes until we realized that it was like watching the news, paused on the anchorperson, with no sound. Unfortunately, the secret to animal watching, so I hear, is to be quiet. Well we’re just not good at that.
After a while, we all started to doze off, which I’m sure the other 3 serious animal watchers were quite thankful of since it gave some chance for them of actually seeing stuff.
But alas, we did see, wait for it…a tapir!!!!!! You know, a tapir!!!! You don’t know what a tapir is?
Yeah that was my reaction too. What the hell is a tapir?!?!?!
The British woman seemed thoroughly disgusted at my lack of knowledge of the tropical animal kingdom. So if you are like me, and are racking your brain trying to think of your animals from primary school, I Googled it for us all. This is what a tapir looks like. Pretty ugly eh?
I’m good with snakes and spiders and insects of most kinds, I don’t do rats. Needless to say, Lindsay and I shared a bed that night, huddled up in a fortress against rats, and bunkered down for a night of fitful sleep.
And thank goodness we did. Apparently there were over 10 rats running around our hide that night. Ugh.
The next morning we rolled off of our wood slabs, and none of us could bend anything below mid torso. We set out to hike about 2 km, back to the river to get a boat down river back to the Taman Negara Park Headquarters.
Back in the village, we found our guesthouse, showered (I won’t get into the stench, which is probably why everything except a lousy tapir stayed away), ate a lot of food, played cards, and tried to move as little as possible. Since we couldn’t.
Leaving the park the next day, we took a 2-hour riverboat back to real civilization, got to a bus station and had to say good-bye to our German comrades. Nina and Isabel, the wind beneath our wings, were heading to Singapore to catch their flight to Australia and we were going on to Kuala Lampur. And a little bit of my heart went with them. Which is basically the only part of me that could get into Australia right now, since I still am banned from re-entry in the great Down Under (<- that’s a whole different part of my shady shady past).
Lindsay and I are now in KL, we got a great hostel, very chill and zen, in Chinatown. The neighborhood is bustling and full off fake Fendi’s, knockoff watches, and pirated DVDs, movies that are still in theatres in Canada, North Country anyone?
So I best be back to the world of haggling and harrowing traffic. oh and big mention, to make up for my lack of mentioning before, everybody, go and check Lindsay’s blog too, just search her name Lindsay Manko, cause apparently her friends have been checking mine, and mine aren’t checking hers and Moaning Myrtle over here in Asia has her panties in a twist about it.
So there you go,
And there you have it, the enlightened experiences of 20-year old Emily, in really the finest of form. Who goes skinny dipping in a Muslim country? And here is some context: The date that story took place?
Literally the day after Ramadan ended. We celebrated Eid one night, and then went skinny-dipping the next. Idiots.
But it does go to show that I guess I have grown up a bit in almost 12 years of travel. I haven’t been skinny-dipping in years, and if I did I wouldn’t blog about it! I would know now to take the riverboat to that hide instead of making the trek through the jungle. I would know now to take actual food on an overnight hike than just ramen noodles. I would know now, when hiking, to wear actual hiking socks. And I can tell you, those leech scars on my ankles last a VERY LONG TIME. They have since been replaced with dog bite scars, so I guess some things never change.
This blog also goes to show, that the friendships you make or solidify through travel, well they really do last. Lindsay features heavily in my very popular travel blog post from Saskatchewan. Even when we make each other crazy, we can make each other laugh talking about that horrible night cuddling in a hide in the jungle in Malaysia. Lindsay is still my most wonderful friend, and I am very thankful I have these memories with her. They will prove very useful when I threaten to tell her son about them.