KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
We had always heard and read that the most Malay part of Malaysia was the stretch along the east coast. It’s here that visitors will see the wooden houses, many raised on stilts above the ground and the wild untamed stretches of beach, mangrove filled river mouths, and warm and friendly people. At times we felt it might be too undeveloped for our current style of travel, so it was quite a surprise to find how modern the communities in the northeast states are. The big change has been the discovery of vast petroleum reserves and the construction of refineries, housing for the workers who keep the refineries running and the resulting commercial development that comes along to service the industry and the new workers.
This development has provided much needed jobs for the people of the east, but it has had an impact on the quiet lifestyles of the residents and the natural habitat of the animals that live here too. The white sand beaches of the east coast were once prime nesting habitat for sea turtles and their numbers are declining at an alarming rate. Tourism is a growth industry here as well, as more and more urban residents from Kuala Lumpur and Singapore look to the offshore islands for a tropical retreat.
That said, we are part of that group of visitors who come for the sea and the sand. However, we really saw this trip as a scouting expedition, to see if this is a part of the world we would like to come back to on future trips. We chose to move through this part of Malaysia on a somewhat tight schedule, because we planned to explore the island of Borneo as well.
In some ways, it’s a good thing that David’s diabetes meant that we had to make regular stops to keep him fed and comfortable. Anil and I have a habit of eating a late breakfast and an early dinner and skipping lunch for the most part. We do snack on fresh fruits and the odd cup of tea or coffee, but we rarely stop for a sit-down meal midday.
As we drove along the coastal highway, we made periodic stops for a cold drink or the chance for me to take yet another photo of yet another interesting mosque. I’ve travelled to a lot of Islamic countries in my day, but I have yet to see such a wide variety of architecture styles in a single country’s places of worship.
As we drove along a particularly beautiful section of the highway, a stretch that was built very close to the water’s edge, David spotted some colourful umbrellas a sure sign that food was available. We weren’t hungry but I was really keen to take some photos of the umbrellas and the beach, pebbled with white shells.
When I returned, I saw the remains of David’s meal and found David using his best Indonesian to thank the women for preparing such a satisfying meal just for him. We had learned that Indonesian and Malaysian languages are very closely related and that people could usually figure out what David was saying when he chatted away using the words and phrases that he had learned during the many years he travelled to Bali to buy handicrafts for his import business.
I joined David, Anil and the women and was won over by their warm smiles and the adorable children in their arms. We managed to figure out that the woman who had cooked David’s meal was the grandmother of the two children present, and the women were her daughter and her daughter-in-law. It’s amazing how we got that all figured out without any English spoken at all.
Before we left, I was surprised to see the baby being placed in a cloth swing, and I took a little film of how the baby not only moved back and forth as the sea breeze buffeted the swing, but how he bounced up and down as well. It’s an age-old way of comforting a baby, no batteries, no wind-up needed. Click here to have a look at these beautiful babes: Malaysian Babies.