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Brian Cray - Budget Travel

Hitchhiking, Train Hopping, & Wandering

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Chaah, Chaah, Chaah…Charmin’


Chaah, Malaysia

“This is yet another excerpt from my book. This is a very rough draft of my experiences in Chaah, Malaysia, where I stayed with a family for a few days. I learned about their python skinning business, illegal hotel, and the introduction of many famous Malaysian foods. I actually bumped into them again and hitched another ride from Chaah to Ipoh, but the story does not go into detail about that…”

I wiped the sweat off of my brow as the jungle sun shined its rays down upon me on a cloudless, summer day. Highway 1 continued all the way until Singapore as I walked along the shoulder of the road headed towards Yong Peng. The summer heat made the walk unbearable, but the shade from the palm trees kept me going. I wandered through Labis, Malaysia and took refuge at an abandoned bus shelter, catching some “zzzz” on a bench before throwing on my pack for more walking. A radio tower caught my eye and the hole in the barbed wire fence made it accessible for a nice climb above the city. The wind bellowed above the tree-line as my sweaty palms clenched the metal ladder and the adrenaline poured through my veins as I looked down, my body trembling. The treetops of palm leaves spread out for miles in every direction with a few bamboo huts standing out by the roadside of the highway.

Chaah, Malaysia

Holding a baby python in Chaah, Malaysia!

I roamed along, my backpack digging into my shoulders, as I threw a thumb out to each passing car. My legs ached and toes blistered as the hours dwindled by, but I continued heading south, soaking in the views and the culture. A tractor-trailer flashed its blinkers and waved me down as I scampered by the passenger side door. The language barrier hindered our comprehension, but I pointed at my map to Yong Peng. He briefly paused, shook his head sideways and said, “Chaah.” I nodded with a huge burst of excitement as the air conditioner chilled my bones, making the pool of sweat on my shirt feel like an ice box. Secretly I laughed at the tattoo marking his shoulder blade, “BORND TO DIE,” but I sat there in appreciation as he drove me south closer to Yong Peng. The two Indians spoke Hindi as they tried to communicate with me, but we all laughed as every attempt remained futile. He dropped me off at the next stop where I continued my trek towards Chaah.

I drank the last droplets of water from my canteen. My parched mouth quenched liquid, from a faucet, bottle, or stream, it did not matter. Then a look of gratitude struck my face as I came upon a restaurant. I removed my shoes and hobbled in through the door. I plopped down in the closest seat to regain my composure. My legs shook in utter exhaustion and pain flowed through each of my temples. A little group of Chinese-Malay kids ran around playing while the rest watched television in the far corner sitting Indian style on the hard-tiled floor. They all looked at me with a set of shy eyes as if they had never before seen an American. I walked over to the fridge, grabbed two chilled bottles of water and placed my RMB on the counter. The owner strolled into the store and stared at me in a slightly confused manner. Just as I stood up about to leave he called me over to his table in broken English,

“Where you from?”

“America,” I said in a rapsy, dehydrated voice.

“You wan see somethin’ coo? I take you back room. Show you? You wan see?”

I stuttered as fear of the unknown circled through my thoughts. Was he going to lock me up in a dungeon out back? I did not know, but I took the risk after chatting with him for about an hour. He rose from his chair. His pudgy stomach jiggled under his collared shirt with each step as he waddled to the back lot. He reached down to unlock the hangar and a gold chain dangled from underneath his shirt. He pointed and smiled as he opened the door exposing the inside for my eyes to see. Bins full of giant turtles, and bags of frogs and pythons sprawled out across the floor by the hundreds in an underground skinning business. Untwisting a bag, his fingers clasped the head of a baby python, which he handed off to me. My eyes glazed over in fear and my hand twitched as I grabbed the snake and held it with my bare hands. The fear faded and a splash of joy erupted across my face. This is what adventure felt like. Now where would I sleep?

Chaah, Malaysia

A python skin in Chaah, Malaysia!

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