Posted by: Bob Fisher | May 20, 2009

Malaysia Road Notes: By the Straits of Malacca, I sat down and wept….

Well of course I didn’t … it’s just a fun-to-play-with title … unless you count the sweat pouring into my eyes… ok ok … it’s maudlin, melodramatic, and mood music. I admit it. But what the hell … I could have sat down and wept out of pure psychological, emotional, conceptual, philosophical teacher-in-retirement exhaustion … what the fig leaf are you doing here when you could be in a nice condo in Blandville … or maybe it was something I ate.

No, don’t get me wrong … no tummy problems … I have discovered Dukoral! Viva El Dukoral. Besides Peter and I have been into the heart of culinary lightness … more than we could have possibly expected … no “tourist” could have ingested the totally indigenous Malayasia-Chinese layers of lunch we did yesterday in the heartbeat of … wait for the big understatement and theme … Colonial Penang. Penang … Malaysia … the Crossroads of Asia … no … not just a quickie gotta-come-up-with-a-title … um … title. This place … beside the Straits of Malacca the shipping lanes of colonialism for … like … a big bunch of time … is still not on the “tourist” map … at least not for North American tourists … and yet … and yet … the other significant others … come here in increasing numbers … Number Three on the Let’s all go to Penang wandering mistrals is … wait for it … Bangladesh!

Back to weeping.

The old British Cemetery which tropical Penang has almost completely surrendered to the jungle was probably the most poignant wake-up call of our day yesterday. Hello! You want to come all the way from Merry Old for King and Empire … and succumb to jungle fever (malaria) before you have the chance to make any goddam sense of it all? Sic transit gloria britannica … let’s just put on the kettle, have a nice cup of tea, and lie down to die among the orchids. Works for me. MALAYSIA! Cue the music … the elephants … the Malay Madison Avenue boys … MALAYSIA! Where multiculturalism, ladies and gentlemen, really “works” …. um … more or less … or so the theme song would have it.

Multiculturalism … that romantic notion we Canadians love to love … when we are feeling generous. But how multiculturalism plays out here, there, and everywhere … now that’s a whole other question. And Penang is historical, cultural, culinary pluralism served with a drop of quinine and several large slices of pineapple …. and jungle endorphins. And on many genuine, functioning levels, it is a successful multicultural society … no choice really … crossroads remember … but in the metaphorical Straits of Malacca … without which no one would have ever made it to “The Orient”… there be dragons … there be “issues” … there be pirates even in 2007 … there is no perfect human society on the planet that I know of … but in so many ways … mainly the people, who have such an amazingly strong sense of themselves … there is an awful lot I like about this very human society.

Hey … did y’all know Dr. Sun Yat-Sen was here in Penang on a revolutionary roundup? Yee Haw! That is only one of the goodies The Bob and Peter Travel Show will bring you once we repair our neurons.

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