Mar 2013

Asia, Blog

DISCUSSION 15 Comments

Malaysian Invasion

It’s early afternoon and the sun is high overhead, heating the humid air into a sauna that speckles our shirts with perspiration. Vines climb from the ground into the canopy of a tree, out across the limbs, and then dangle in the air above our heads.  We sit on a bench and watch people go by.  A Chinese couple passes, followed by several young Muslim women.  Their silk head scarves shade their faces from the hot sun while their smooth gait is tapped out on the sidewalk by their petite sandals.  They float smoothly along in their elegant silk gowns in such a way as to seem impervious to gravity.

The French say that by presenting ourselves artfully, our presence may add beauty to the world.  I can only imagine that they came to this conclusion after watching Muslim women walk.

The loudspeakers atop the mosque’s minarets crackle to life, and then a voice like a singing cello begins its steady, melodic rendition of the call to prayer.  The voice rings out over the city, a cappella, in an enchanting echo reminding Muslims that it’s time to find a peaceful place to face Mecca and pray.  We sit back and let the sound saturate us.  It reminds us that we’re far from home; that we’re in the Islamic world now.  We’re in Kuala Lumpur.

We amble along the sidewalk, shriveling in the heat, gulping the saturated air as though it’s liquid water.  Between two buildings a Hindu temple appears, adorned with hundreds of ornate statues of mystic blue gods.  From within the temple the rapidly shifting notes of a shehnai fill the street and the ground reverberates with the thud of a hand drum.  We kick off our sandals and walk inside to see where the music is coming from, and are met by a scene of pure jubilation.  Under the central pavilion men and women are dressed to the nines.  Musicians seated on the floor belt out wild instrumentals while flower petals are thrown and little girls in saris run through the canopy of cheerful adults.  It feels like a Bollywood dance scene will break out at any moment.

We have walked into a traditional Indian wedding!

The bride and groom are dressed in elaborate getups with headdresses, necklaces, jewels, and vibrant makeup.  In between trips around the shrine they are showered with flower petals and wafted with candle smoke, all the while surrounded by smiling family and friends.  We strike up a conversation with an older woman named Raji, who gives us the inside scoop about the bride and groom.  She seems to be the cheeriest person I’ve met in the last few weeks.  Everyone is like this.  The little girls run around in their saris handing out party favors to the guests.  Outside of the pavilion more guests eat curry and rice with their fingers, smiling in the sun.

Aristotle said that happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.  I can only imagine that he came to this conclusion after attending an Indian wedding.

In the late afternoon, Sheena and I hop on the metro.  As soon as Teng Tsen heard that we were in town, he called his Volkswagen club together for a proper welcome party.

“All right, we’ll see you at Sri Petaling station at 6:15. We’ll be the goofy looking Americans,” I’d written.

“I’m the good looking Malaysian…look out for the VW kombi!”

We emerge from the station to find Teng Tsen waiting for us in his sweet 1974 air-cooled VW kombi.  We load up and roll out with the windows down, a cool breeze filling the van.  We take a quick detour into a residential neighborhood where Seb and Soizic tag along in their 1966 split window VW bus.  Somehow, through the miracle of Asian chaos and coincidence, we meet up with the other members of the club in traffic on a busy freeway, and then slither as one big VW snake to a roadside food stand.

Over bowls of Yong Tau Foo we swap stories tell lies about our VW-related challenges and triumphs.  All the while, Sheena and I have to keep pinching ourselves.  Are we really in Asia?  Were we really just in South America?  It already seems like a lifetime ago, and Nacho hasn’t even arrived on the ship from Buenos Aires yet.

We load up again, this time in Seb’s van, and head out for cold drinks.  In a parking lot we crowd around tables in folding chairs where we’re joined by more VW clubbers, and throw back several glasses of ice cold tropical juice.  The parking lot is packed with Beetles and kombis, and our table is equally packed with fun-loving Volkswagen people.  Try as we might, nobody will let us pay for anything.  “When you’re in our country, it’s our treat!” they say.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said that happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product.  I can only imagine that she came to this conclusion after driving in a Volkswagen.

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  1. As a Malaysian, I am happy to be the first to comment here.

    Comment by Kenneth on March 18, 2013 at 8:50 am

  2. Lenella

    Wonderful! But I already miss Nacho! Seems like he should be there for the VW club.:-( I so look forward to your narrative of Asia. I know there will be many wonderful stories to come.

    It is a blessing to be hosted by others, and that they will provide for you while in their company. We should all be this way, as it is the right thing to do.

    Wonderful travels and I so look forward to hearing more from you. And remember, hehe, my granddaughter is following along as well!


    Lenella and Zoe

    Comment by Lenella on March 18, 2013 at 9:00 am

  3. Don’t worry Lenella, Nacho arrived in the port today. Tomorrow we’re going to put on our superhero costumes and see if we can get him out of there! Wish us luck. We’re glad to have your granddaughter along for the ride :)

    Comment by Brad on March 18, 2013 at 9:05 am

  4. Lovely write up… more to see when Nacho arrives =)…

    Comment by TengTsen Khoo on March 18, 2013 at 9:06 am

  5. Thanks – see you on Friday night for briyani, TengTsen!

    Comment by Brad on March 18, 2013 at 9:08 am

  6. KJ

    Your blog is as refreshing as a summer rain…..I soo enjoy reading it! I especially chuckled out loud as I read the part “swap stories/tell lies” about your VW’s etc….
    It’s very nice to have you back on your journey again…..”This is the time of your lives”! Enjoy!…I feel like I know you and we’ve never met.

    Safe Travels Friends

    Comment by KJ on March 18, 2013 at 10:31 am

  7. mashoud


    I really appreciate your feelings and sentiments towards peoples of a different culture and traditions.
    What is wonderful is that you see beauty, peace and harmony in the daily lives of the rainbow that this planet comprises. I do wish more Americans would at least attempt to see things with your perspective and I bet the world would be richer for it.

    Just my two cents worth. Nonetheless, I am envious of you being in Malaysia when my big Ram is being prepared to start your footsteps in October.

    Enjoy with care..

    Comment by mashoud on March 18, 2013 at 11:38 am

  8. Barb Wieber (Sheena's Mom)

    So awesome again u 2!!!! Your blog once again is so very well written. Luv it!!! Thank you inviting us Nacho fans to be apart of your new chapter. Skype your Dad and I tonight would be awesome!!!!! The first photo of your new friends so inviting in their VW Westy. Thumbs up u 2 Love Mom

    Comment by Barb Wieber (Sheena's Mom) on March 18, 2013 at 11:41 am

  9. Valerie

    I am with all of the above comments! I do so enjoy your descriptive writing! I feel like I am right there with you. The joy of vicariously living through your adventures is such fun! Keep smiling and I and looking forward to the next installment!

    Comment by Valerie on March 18, 2013 at 7:49 pm

  10. Valerie

    I do so despise typos! I thought I proof read, alas did not….
    Keep smiling and I am looking forward to the next installment. :)

    Comment by Valerie on March 18, 2013 at 7:51 pm

  11. Mom

    Did you kiss the ground when you landed in Malaysia? It is amazing how, after traveling for the past year + over hill, dale, rocky roads, and scary mountain passes, that you can hop on a plane and be in a new country across the ocean in (relatively) the blink of an eye! No adventure in that, right? So glad you are on the ROAD again, and on your way to new adventures and roads less traveled. Drive, Nacho, Drive!
    Senang bergerak!

    Comment by Mom on March 19, 2013 at 9:31 am

  12. ernesto

    Siiiiiiiiiiii lo siguen logrando, wow!!!!, que rapido estan ahi bueno ahora a disfrutar de las nuevas aventuras que les esperan que increible en MALASIA jeje bueno “drive Nacho drive”…………….. Felicidades.

    Comment by ernesto on March 19, 2013 at 8:20 pm

  13. Eric Foo

    Welcome to Malaysia!
    I’ve been following your adventures via Expedition Portal for a while now.
    If you make it over to East Malaysia in Borneo, let me know.
    Its mainly Toyota land here, but plenty of place for Nacho to drive to.

    Comment by Eric Foo on March 20, 2013 at 2:45 am

  14. […] do- Kickstarter to the Silk Road- The Coprophiliac's Fruit- The ApprenticeMarch 2013- Hand to Mouth- Malaysian InvasionOlder Posts (86) » 29 Jul 2013 POSTED BY Sheena POSTED […]

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  15. Shannon Macey

    Brad and Sheena,

    I’m headed to Malaysia in August, so I re-read your blogs from that country. They are so wonderful! And now I am beyond excited!! Enjoy the rest of your trip :)

    Comment by Shannon Macey on July 6, 2014 at 4:01 am

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