Malaysia

 

 

A small propeller plane is the only means of transport to access the world heritage site that is Mulu National Park. We fly over mountains nestled in an endless forestry; the air becomes stickier as the plane descends. On alighting we find that Mulu is extremely humid and there is only one concrete road from the airport to the resort.

After settling in we walk to the river and I feel stares from the natives as I stumble onto a longboat. The longboat takes us to a village with a large field and we browse the markets where locals sell handmade jewellery for as little as one ringgit ($0.30 AUD).

Our first morning is a breakfast with a local family in their home. The walls are browned from seasonal floods; there is even a greyish line that shows the latest’s water level. I look out into their backyard, the morning mist disappears behind the mountains and it looks like a backdrop.

Over the next few days we cover approximately fifteen kilometres of jungle; explore the largest cave chamber in the world, the Deer Cave; scour for birds in the canopy; and swim in the beautiful river that emerges from the Clearwater Cave. The green water is cool and the inquisitive fish scuttle by my feet. I brave the dark patch of water to perch on a rock and take in the natural world before me.

By the end of the short three-day stay the world of Mulu, its people and culture that thrive on the bare necessities - has made such an indelible impression on me that it is difficult to step onto the plane and even more difficult to watch the viridescent greenery fade into the distance.

From the secluded jungle of Mulu to the bustling city of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia offers not only beautiful sunsets and warm weather year round, but also a sundry of Malay-Chinese dishes and refreshing drinks so mouth-watering that I would happily fly four thousand miles to consume. Its interesting array of fruits is worth trying - sweet rambutan, dragon fruit, and yes, even durian. Each time I visit Malaysia my uncle reminds me that durian is the king of fruit. My sister’s eyes light up when our uncle mentions durian and she looks around as if expecting a durian to appear. My nose crinkles as I imagine its smell, as uninviting as its spiky exterior.

In the small town of Sibu smoke wafts in through the open door while my grandmother cooks in the kitchen. The sounds of firecrackers begin in the evening to celebrate the eve of Chinese New Year. A half hour before the clock strikes midnight the whumps and booms escalates as the people of Sibu anticipate the countdown. My cousins and I move out onto the street and at midnight our eyes dart about, watching the fireworks sprout from every direction. The streets quickly fill with smoke and the fireworks continue for another half hour. On trips to Malaysia, which is every few years, I unfailingly come at this time to witness Sibu residents bring in the Chinese New Year with such a bang.