Laurie Winters – Laurie Winters in Asia – Malaysia 0

This last weekend, a group of 15 of us traveled together to see the fort at Malawati in Selangor, northwest of Kuala Lumpur. We were guided and driven by Kenny, who made sure we all stayed together (3 vehicles) and saw the sights. At our first stop, we took a small train to the top of a hill where cannons were aimed at the Straits of Melacca, but from a curiously long distance away for cannonballs to reach! Monkeys waited for the trains to arrive, and we obliged them with bread that someone carried, and with various other less beneficial choices: cheetos and dried peas. Silver Leaf monkeys were darker in color, less aggressive, and gentler in accepting our offerings than their counterparts, the lighter macaque monkeys like those we encountered on an earlier trip to Batu Caves. The Silver Leaf variety carried babies around with them and gingerly reached up to take the snacks. If we were tentative, they were tentative, thus some non-verbal signals of communication bounced accurately from species to species, in everyone’s favor.

We continued past the monkeys to a hill where the resident Sultan sat upon his chair to watch cock-fighting in a previous age. From this hill-top fort, local troops re-took their land from the Dutch in the late 1800’s, reputedly the first time such a feat had been achieved by a local power against a European one. Nearby was a Royal Mausoleum, and, a lighthouse, also curiously distant from the sea. Bougainvillea and frangipani bloomed on the hillside.

We left this scene for the Selangor River and the River View Restaurant on an open platform above it, where we enjoyed a shared feast of prawns, crab, sea bass, and vegetarian offerings, plus lime juice (with plum). We watched the sun go down, saw egrets flying overhead and a little heron hunting off a piling, and noticed boats turning into piers for the night. As it darkened, it was time to head to our next stop.

This was a firefly “cruise” on the Selangor River, given at a kampung, or village, probably as a main source of income for them. The “cruise” boats were humble, heavy open wood boats, rowed by a standing rower, with seating for four. We headed out silently onto the river to the far side, where soon we could see hundreds of fireflies in seemingly stationery position in trees and bushes. Though they appeared to stay still, they also blinked in complete synchrony with one another, giving a Christmas tree effect. This quiet glide near the shore was truly the magical moment of the day. Our rower caught a firefly and placed it into one of our hands. When it was released, it flew, all lit up, around our heads, landed on one head, then perched on the bow of the boat to stay until we finally docked. During the ride, we could hear a musical call to prayer through the dark from a nearby mosque.

One last stop: on the way home, Kenny suggested we stop at a “night market”, a Malaysian phenomenon, where bright lights illuminate a local market scene of fruits and vegetables, women’s clothing, children’s books, pirated DVD’s, flip-flops, sunglasses, and other various and sundry items. My favorite take-home items were the pictures I snapped, of stinky durian fruit, a hat table, a little girl shopping with her mother, the colorful fruit.

Posted from Malaysia:
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posted Tuesday September 2007

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