Satu Malaysia | One Malaysia
You can feel the moisture in the air, each breath filtered by boundless vegetation.
Lush palm covered mountains, winding windblown streets, miles of emerald raindrop kissed leaves, glistening as they reach towards the sun.
You surrender to stillness.
You allow the sensation of the warm air to soothe your bones.
Sweat surfaces upon your bosom – welcome to the rain forest.
October marks the beginning of the rainy season producing periodical downpours followed by symphonies of chirps and chatter. In the open air markets your warm skin is kissed by the windswept showers.
At once you begin to notice the life that surrounds you; beautiful blade-winged scarlet dragonflies bouncing on low-lying foliage, tiny chestnut squirrels swirling around tree trunks; and the quiet rustling of macacos through the canopy.
Malay locals float seamlessly between raindrops undaunted by the cloudbursts overhead.
School children whiz past on scooters at competition speeds, their passengers glancing back as if seated upon living room chairs; cellphone in hand, head back laughing as they glide down the street.
Roadside vendors selling fresh coconut water for five ringgits ($1.15). Beleaguered workers seeking cendol in the morning; a refreshing drink of coconut milk, cool ice, brown sugar, tapioca noodles and red beans served with a wide straw or a shallow duck spoon.
Lengthened stares appear from all corners, interest peaked by the light colored skin making its way through the town. Grins and nods with tender eyes. Welcomed invitations to shop and shelter.
Aromas of nasi goreng (fried rice) and red chilis tickle the senses. As the sounds of distant prayers entrance your mind with a stillness and peace that is most welcome after a long journey.
Surrounded by smiles you traverse the streets, lined with family restaurants each offering their most prized dishes.
Crisp grilled nasi ayam, (chicken and rice with a side of fresh broth); Nasi lemak, the Malaysian national dish made with coconut milk white rice (flavored with pandan leaves), garnished tiny fried fish (and the occasional freshly roasted peanut).
A slice of crisp cucumber and mouthwatering sambal decorating each plate. A glass of lemon teh to cleanse the pallet and the body – a teh tarik if you need a boost.
As you enter the village a mix of beautifully tumbled wood pondoks (cottages) balance delicately on stilts, recently constructed seemingly ancient rain-dyed stone buildings and palatial traditional wooden abodes with large plantation shutters hearken back to late 19th Century Asia.
Roofs whose profiles resemble breaking waves topped with corrugated tin or wooden planks each kissed with intricate wooden finials at their highest points. ‘Motif Lebah Bergantung’ (Hanging Bee Motif) trailing along the overhangs, carefully carved upturned hearts and tear drops.
As you approach the front door and remove your shoes you are welcomed with beauty and grace; and sun-kissed caramel skin, a supple right hand reaches out to yours before retreating to its resting spot over the heart of your host. A small nod and a smile reaffirms your welcome.
It is not unlikely for your host to offer their bed as they sacrifice their comfort to you. Sharing with another or taking to the floor on a simple thin mat.
There is a raw timeless charm to these homes.
Tiny ants make trails along the staircases and into the corners near the ceiling. Intricately patterned moths and spiders shuffle along the walls and floorboards showing off their natural beauty. The soft bellow from distant geckos reverberates through the walls as the moon takes its place in the sky. One last prayer resounds before your head hits the pillow.
Upon waking, the door opens, you look up to a group of grinning Malay women softly reciting “makan, makan” (eat, eat!) looking down at you sweetly as if you were one of their young children. A drop of rain falls from the ceiling onto your shoulder.
As you step into the bathroom your feet touch the cool water of the wet room floor. The roof is simple, beautiful wood beams bursting with life. Either a tandas (toilet) or a porcelain vessel within the floor offers you sweet release, where no handle resides a bucket and ladle to wash down the night soil.
Today like the others you are humbled by the hearts and homes of the natives.
Embraced as if by family and treasured like a precious gem. Gifts of sweets and fresh homemade food, warm sweet tea, batiks and fresh fruit…
Undeserving of such offerings your attempts to take part are declined. As a guest in Malaysia you are cordially treated with the utmost concern.
As you arrive at the airport gleaming from warm days and endless rain you are embraced kissed on both cheeks and released. You’ll keep in touch. Time will never forget the kindness found in Malaysia; the sweet words of the Orang Asli (natural person) tribe and the soft touch of the hand that guides you down village streets or across lanes of frenzied traffic in the city.
Selamat Tinggal Malaysia, Jumpa Lagi.