Below is another excerpt from my book, which I have decided to call, “The Nectar of Life: Misfit Travel” it outlines my first few days in Malaysia ending up in a Resort Town in Port Dickson with a nice man named Mr. Azaris.
After days of a polyphasic sleep cycle I finally caught up on a full night’s rest. The sky wanted to drown its sorrows with another storm and I started wishing I picked another time to travel to Malaysia. I spent the past days avoiding the rain trying to get as far away from Kuala Lumpur as possible. My mind rested, but my fatigued muscles made it a chore to walk just a few steps down the road. Blisters split open oozing with fluid, my quads ached and the bottom of my feet spurted with pinholes of pain as if I walked barefoot across an endless field of rocks. I took a break from the asphalt and trudged through the grass, damping my shoes and easing the stress on my feet to the soft, wet, ground. The sky cast its angry, dark-grey, clouds above me ready to yell with thunder and then a man with a jack-o-lantern smile parked his motorbike in front of me. My first time on a motorcycle I spent hitchhiking through the Malaysian jungle trying to avoid a downpour. The wind flicked my greasy hair about my face as I held on tight to his waist to avoid falling to my death. He dropped me off further in Sepang and suggested I head to Port Dickson for fresh, white, sand and crystal-clear beaches. The aroma of chicken and beef floated through the air as I walked by restaurants serving breakfast noodle. It triggered my appetite and I ordered a large platter of noodle experiencing my first time with chopsticks without stabbing sushi rolls. I pried the sticks between my index finger and thumb and failed miserably at capturing enough noodles to satisfy my hunger. At the rate noodles entered my mouth I might starve so I tipped the bowl up as if sipping soup and the noodles flowed freely down my throat. I ate every last morsel as the last bits of tangy sauce dripped onto my tongue. My hunger eased and I walked further south to an even more isolated roadway. The canopy of palm trees shaded the sun from the roadway as they framed my path towards Port Dickson. I walked alone for hours unsure of the distance to the next town or the next encounter with a person. As I walked deeper and deeper into the jungle I only heard the faint echoes of chirping critters and the constant buzzing of pesky mosquitoes anticipating their next blood thirsty meal, a feast on my skin. I wandered in the shade, happy to be out of the sun, and slightly frightened on my whereabouts as the only view for miles, simply jungle and the paved road my feet trudged against.
But with hope on my side I felt unstoppable and then it happened. A car stopped. A black pickup pulled off the road and I hopped in, taking me a few miles to the next town before Port Dickson, the constructor operator let me out while he continued to his job. This is where I met a young boy named Cheng who welcomed me into his home for breakfast. Cheng was half Indian and half Malay. His father was born in Malaysia and his mother was from India. He looked like your typical young kid, hanging out with friends, riding bicycles around the neighborhood, getting into mischief. His brightly colored face broke out into a huge white smile when I accepted an invitation to his home. I felt like a celebrity for the mere fact that I was American. His mother whipped me up a big cup of coffee. When my lips touched the sweet sensation of Malay coffee they instantly fell in love. The sweet delectable taste crushed any Starbucks coffee, but the amount of sugar cane in a cup made me fear diabetes.
In the living room sat an isolated area with a small temple dedicated to their God. Since Cheng’s mother was Hindu they used this area for worship in their household. She called it the, “Puja” room or prayer room. It looked like a shrine to multiple deities containing pictures of Gods and Mahatmas. The smell of incense filled the air and a lamp illuminated the photographs making it feel like a sanctuary fit for meditation, and pray. Food offerings placed in front of the idol near the adjacent lamp stood out as a symbol of thankfulness. It looked like I stepped into a completely new world, and I did. They took pleasure in my interest towards their culture, but our encounter remained short-lived. As I walked out the door Cheng looked at me with a sincere glare in his eyes and one last request, a picture. We all huddled up linking shoulders and snapped a photograph to show his school friends he met an American wandering the streets of Malaysia.
I waved goodbye and continued south into the jungle hoping to make it to Port Dickson before sundown. The road made my mind clear as I wrapped my head around my thoughts with each step forward getting a little further south each day and experiencing a little more of the culture. By now, any shoulders ceased to exist on this part of Route 1 making hitchhiking futile, but I did not look for rides, they just came to me, when I least expected them.
Behind me I heard the engine of a beat up van sneeze, and whimper sounding on its last life. It slowly approached me, the thumping and clunking louder, until it stopped dead in the road. An older Malay man picked me up, Aman, and the whole ride I listened to him ridicule and belittle Chinese people expressing his racism and fury using me as a means to vent his frustration about their existence. I sat their confused how to respond and spent the ride nodding in agreement waiting to hop off in Port Dickson. He mumbled about never picking up any kids before, but he saw my white skin and felt I looked harmless. Attesting any native might pull a knife on him and try to rob him of his money or van. My demeanor immediately changed when he reached under his seat, I became more stern and stiff, as I sat upright in the passenger’s seat, concealing my fear as he played with a pistol. He pulled it out and flashed it in front of me for a few seconds saying he came prepared, they would quickly feel the barrel of this gun up against their chest had they fucked with him. He looked at it; he looked at me; and then quickly shoved it back under his driver’s seat. A look of relief sweat down my brow since my only weapon of defense, a tiny, rusty, razor blade found off the side of the road, was no match for a deadly weapon. He continued blabbing about the Chinese, their faults and dirty country, and in that moment, I chuckled, thinking, “Thank god I am not Chinese, this guy would have shot me.” He dropped me off in front of Saujana Beach (4th Mile Beach) where I dipped my toes into the Indian Ocean for the first time.
The soft, powdery texture of the sand rubbed between my toes encrusting my feet in a white film as I ran towards the ocean, eager to splash in the clear, clean waves of Saujana Beach. The salt water cooled my skin from the harsh rays of the sun and made for my first shower in a few days. I slicked back my greasy hair and dipped my head under basking in the comfort of the ocean. My body bobbed like a buoy with each splashing wave that crashed in with the tide. I stood on my tippy toes between floating to avoid the sharp sea shells and rocky floor under my feet, soaking up the ocean breeze for a few hours until making it back to the shore.
I dreamed of camping along the beach, hearing the soft whispers of the ocean lull me to sleep while looking up at the twinkling sky, but this thought quickly vanished from my mind upon further exploration. I found myself breaching occupied territory as I wandered further down the beach past abandoned buildings and homeless camps. A group of stray dogs foaming at the mouth ferociously barked, showing their vicious teeth just a few feet from where I sunk in the sandy shoreline. Again with the dogs, my most feared animal in my travels. The leader of the pack squared up with me vigilantly watching my every move. I dropped my pack and slowly scrambled backwards with a blank stare of shock plastered on my face. I hated dogs, at least when I traveled and I just wanted to walk away unscathed regardless if my pack got destroyed in the process. Curiously, he trotted closer, blowing wafts of sand away from his snout as he crammed his face near my pack. He sniffed, and sniffed some more, quickly losing interest and then one-by-one the pack of five dogs dart off towards Route 1, leaving me shaken in my tracks. I whispered to myself, thanking whatever God existed out there, as I slung my gear back on over my shoulders, which brought up my next problem, where would I sleep?
A section of vacant jungle made for my humble abode that night, or at least I thought. A rush of clouds scampered in early that morning abruptly awakening me at 3 AM. What started off as a soothing pitter-patter of rain drops cooling me off turned into a quick shuffle towards shelter as they thrashed about the air, soaking every last single piece of my gear. Hastily, I grabbed everything and jolted, flinging up mud and grass with each swift movement as water poured down my body. Through blurred vision I spotted a pavilion where an old bus stop once was and fled for cover. I rung out my hair, and my clothing, my bare ass lying against the cold concrete footing, listening to the sharp sound of rain hit the ground like an army of nail guns. My body shivered from the chilling drop in temperature and all my clothes lay scattered out to dry, praying for a bright day of sunshine early morning.
I never slept that night and the sun never even winked the next day, shadowed behind a myriad of clouds. As morning came I slipped back into my soggy clothing. The stagnant smell of stale sweat surrounded me as I waited hour-by-hour for my clothing to dry with little change in its wet state. Fully loaded, my pack weighed too much to carry, so I dumped my jeans, a shirt and underwear leaving me with wet shorts, a t-shirt and thermals. I felt like a zombie and it took every last bit of energy keeping my eyes open as I moved along down the highway like a slug, completely miserable and hopeless.
I tried hitchhiking; standing there with a melancholy stare, and limp thumb, for an hour, but no one picked me up. I looked like a homebum straight out of a dumpster. My damp, raggedy clothes, greasy hair, and mud covered calves said it all as I moseyed down the road. I wandered with my head down staring at my shoes, squishing along the shoulder of Route 1, hearing the repetitive sound of traffic whiz by me. But that all changed as a Range Rover came to a stop. I did not know what to think, so I kept walking. No one with luxury vehicles ever picked me up in the past, but with each step the car crept forward, and I watched the face behind a tinted window appear as it slowly rolled down. The man in the passenger’s seat advised me to get in, directing his driver down the road to his, “Resort Town.” I sat with my knees close together and ass towards the end of the seat, worried my damp clothes would ruin the upholstery of his vehicle. He kept telling me his God would never forgive him if he did not pick me up.
I did not know what to expect. A rich man taking me to a, “Resort Town” seemed quite unexpected and sketchy. Nonetheless, I felt deathly tired, and rolled the die, hoping to wake up fully clothed with an intact asshole and not his next BDSM slave in a dungeon. We pulled up to his gated driveway entrance and it felt like we entered the gates to a castle. I arrived as a guest in his beach-side resort town where he paid workers to live on-site and attend to any maintenance issues on the property. They lived well in their one bedroom beach houses with hardwood patios, ceramic tile flooring, hot water shower heads (uncommon in Malaysia, except among the rich), cherry wood chair and dresser drawers, a ceiling fan and a Tempurpedic mattress. We feasted on a smorgasbord of Malaysian food, fried noodles, fried mantis prawn, and indulged in Tiger Ale’s. My stomach squirmed from overindulging and after one beer I felt drunk from a day full of dehydration, lack of food and what felt like endless walking, so I stumbled back to the room for a quick shower. I ended up flopping on the bed to rest my eyes and sunk into a deep sleep with my body floating on clouds of comfort.
I remember phasing in and out of a fuzzy state of mind, unable to move my body from sleep paralysis. I gave in to my sleep deprivation and awoke 14 hours later, refreshed and alive, to breakfast packaged neatly on the end table. I lay in heaven and as the warm pellets of pressurized water thumped against my skin I felt eternally grateful to bathe in the warmth of cleanliness for the first time in weeks. The luxury of not having to take hobo showers out of outdoor spigots, gas station sinks or creeks made me appreciate this whole scenario I found myself in just by walking down the road.
He took pride in his success as an MD, which allowed him the luxury of a private beach resort off the shore of Port Dickson. Each weekend he drove down from his home in Kuala Lumpur escaping the stress of business life in the congested city, leaving behind his family to attend to his horse stable, drown himself in alcohol and view the limitless waves, sunrises and sunsets cast out in an almost surreal setting. We talked about life. We confided in our deepest desires and regrets and he envied my simplistic life, living out of a backpack. At 60 years old he owned everything he ever imagined from hard-work, but no matter his money he could not buy his only desires, love, happiness and friends. Each passing week he asked his wife and sons to join him down at his beach house already knowing their answers; he sat alone, reminiscing on his accomplishments over wine and beer, despite his many accomplishments. I shortly realized Mr. Azaris, as he introduced himself, just wanted a friend.
The next days I wallowed in the refreshment of a scenic beachside setting, dipping my legs into the brisk ocean feeling the splendor of nature all around me. Mr. Azaris rarely left his living room, sipping Tiger Ale’s and peeping through the windows out at the thrashing waves, seashell filled sand and blinding sunrays. He did not swim, as much as I persuaded him to, he just lurked inside content with the picturesque view of the ocean behind his curtains.
I foraged for seashells, spending a few hours rummaging through the white sandy beach behind his property. Never before did I see such an array of seashells, vibrant, depicting all colors of the rainbows, with pointy tips, curvy shells, and intricate patterns. I filled a jar with a variety of seashells, Thorny Oysters, Propeller Arks, Kitten Paws, Cardita Shells, Floridian Egg Cockles, Jingle Shells, Singapore Scallops, Leathered Donax, Rock Oysters, Dog Conch, Chameleon Nerites, Butterfly Surf Clams, and an assortment of other bivalve shells. They shimmered from the salt water of the crashing tide and made the perfect souvenir for my travels.
My olive skin tone by this time turned bright red after singeing in the sun for hours, so I moseyed inside. I felt like a king in Mr. Azaris’ presence. We feasted every few hours digging our taste buds into a wide selection of seafood, fried calamari, steamed fish, and oysters with eggs and vegetables from Restoran Port Dickson. The chef cooked the whole fish, which looked peculiar from my western roots, but I happily indulged, eating the crispy, fried tail and skin, spitting out the bones with each bite as my tongue worked its way into the scrumptious, fresh, meat.
As his butler drove us through town in his sleek black Range Rover, little Malay children stared, running around the streets barefoot, playing stick ball. Everyone knew Mr. Azaris and his admirable prestige. His clout shimmered in the reflection of his spotless vehicle, showing his crease-free Armani suit, and proper stature before entering any establishment. With each errand he introduced me to the store owner’s and clerks of the places he frequented on his routinely weekend schedule. He always ate lunch at Restoran Port Dickson and on his way home his butler always stopped at the local banana stand to purchase a bundle of fresh banana’s along with fried bananas. Dinner usually consisted of a fried noodle dish, with Tiger Ale’s and a bottle of Domaine Laurent Merlot, one of Malaysia’s more expensive bottles. He looked forward to every weekend of this, the only change with this weekend, my company.
Those three days in paradise quickly came to an end with the start of the new work week. He let me borrow a book for the road, “A Thousand Splendid Suns” and we gave our goodbyes with a brief hug and firm handshake. He set off for the first time that weekend in the driver’s side of his vehicle towards Kuala Lumpur and his butler pointed me in the direction of the bus stop. My adventure continued as I hoofed it down the road towards my next destination, Melaka.