Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Madness of Malaysia

Last week, I was hit with the first Asian Culture Shock. That culture shock has come in the form of Malaysia, a country which looks to its neighbours, Singapore, and says "to hell with your stupid, stuffy regulations and laws!"

I arrived in Kuala Lumpur at 9am after arriving at the airport on Tiger Airways. International flying is so easy here and it was actually quicker to get to KL from Singapore than it was getting from Singapore out to the Night Zoo, the previous night before (which is only about 30km out from the centre of town!!!). They load you on, load you off and send you on your merry way. I had barely purchased my cup of coffee on board before i had to pack it all away and get ready for landing. It was still boiling hot when the PA system announced that the cabin crew had to prepare the cabins...

One thing I noticed as I was flying was that Malaysia appears to be doing its absolute best to destroy its natural resources. I know this because, when there weren't big patches of construction, there were Palm Tree Plantations as far as the eye could see. I knew that it wasn't natural forest because the Palm Trees are all lined up in such even rows, with the same distance between each of them. The sight of such terrible deforestation almost brought tears to my eyes. I have read that 86 per cent of deforestation in Malaysia from 1995 - 2000 was for oil palm plantations. 85 per cent! As a result, there has been a remarkable 85 PER CENT reduction in numbers of mammals, birds and reptiles in Malaysia. Many annimals cannot move through plantations while others (such as orangutans) are seen as crop pests, making them susceptible to defensive poaching by plantation owners. I also read that the use of herbicides and pesticides have made the situation worse. I suspect that my time in Asia will teach me a lot about some of the mistakes human kind are making with respect to natural resources.

Malaysia is the antithesis of Singapore, with its dirty streets, openly operational black market for counterfeit goods and roar of an over populated city. The change in surroundings hits you as quickly as the Malaysian heat does, and all of a sudden you need to have your wits about you as you weave your way through the stalls and the touts, begging you for business. "Miss miss, hand bag!! Madam, taxi?" they shout as you keep your head down, intent on making it to your destination. Taxis even slow down the lines of traffic behind you in order to toot the horn. They continue to toot at you, in order for you to pay attention but its best you ignore them, otherwise you would be forever waving off taxis and touts.

I managed to ignore the taxis at the airport and find a bus to take me from the airport to the main station in the city. There, I struggled to get my bearings. Once I determined where I was, I began the hot and sticky walk to the Bird Park which took 20 mins - that said, 20 mins in the Malaysian heat makes you feel like you've walked across the Sahara Desert for an entire day. Thankfully I had topped up my bottle of water before getting on the flight so I was well prepared. I detoured through the Malaysian Heritage Centre (i admit, the prospect of staying indoors was tempting, but i carried on...).

I managed to get to the Bird Park and all of a sudden, dirty stinking hot Malaysia transformed itself into a world of nature and tropical birds. It really was phenomenal. I was greeted by a canary upon arrival who took pleasure from sitting on my shoulder and licking the beads of sweat of my cheek. It would have been cute had it not have (1) scared the crikey out of me, and (2) been a bird licking my neck! Not even the fact that i have been single for five months meant that I felt any form of intimacy with the thing. I was far more concerned about it pooping on my shoulder and neck, to be honest. I managed to get a photo and that should tell all.

I spent a good three hours in the Bird Park. Over the years, I have traveled to many places and I would often speak to "Days On Tour" where something magical happens. Ie. days on the Cinque Terre in Italy, nights by the fire in Gryon, Switzerland.... and I list this day in Kuala Lumpur as one of them. I found this perfect form of serenity, walking slowly around this partially enclosed bird haven, the roar of the Malaysian traffic well and truly in the distance.

I hope you enjoy the photos of the Bird Park.... if anyone wants to know the species of bird, ask and i will try and find out for you. There were too many to write them all down!!!

1 comment:

  1. yes! you must publish a photo series. your pictures are always so beautiful. i especially love the peacock pic.