Thursday, July 23, 2009

♪ Bor-nee-oh, oh oh - ♫ Bor-nee-oh, oh oh (Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia)


You try and escape it. You move further and farther, crossing continents and oceans, trying to elude that catchy beat. The mind can stay calm for a while. But then, standing in a sandwich shop at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, you hear it. You watch the young Indian building your sandwich. As he spreads mayonnaise across your buns, you see him noodling his body about to the infectious jam, something forgotten, something familiar, something awful. And you recognize the moves. Your peace of mind is shanked furiously by the familiar jumble of words and electro beats. Pa-Pa-Pa-Poker Face! Pa-Pa Poker face! You suddenly remember that you are on the same planet that you were a month ago, where taste is forged more through familiarity than quality. Lady Gaga folks, America is not so far away after all. You can never escape pop culture.

What I noticed most about Kuala Lumpur is the familiarity of everything. If the U.S. had an area that was predominently Muslim, in the vein that Miami is predomoinantly Latin American, it would probably closely resemble Kuala Lumpur. I thought that the burqas, mosques, prayer bells, and mix of cultures would make us feel out of place and foreign. It ended up being the most familiar feeling place that we have visited thus far. With such a strange mix of cultures and languages, there seems to be a general deference to English. It sort of makes sense. You could not print a sign in bahasa malaysian, indian, chinese, english, and bahasa indonesian. Since most people in this part of the world know at least some English, it ends up being the common denominator, aside from Malaysian of course. Before we knew it though, KL was in our rear view mirror. We opted for having a taxi drive us to KL Sentral instead of carrying our luggage across a city park again. About 5 minutes into the very congested drive, our driver, a frail Chinese man with gold wire rimmed sunglasses and a cheery disposition, threw on some music. He was blasting some symphony numbers, and they sounded like the end credits to our Asian adventure. Thankfully, this is not the case.

We arrived at KL Sentral, which is the central Kuala Lumpur train station, and had a great breakfast of Lebanese wraps and chicken puff pastries. We were able to check our bags in at the train station, which felt novel and relieving. The train ride went by quickly, and before we knew it, we had boarded our plane. Next stop - Kota Kinabalu, Malaysian Borneo.

Kota Kinabalu looks like a city that benefited greatly from the Asian Tiger Cub economy of last century, but has not developed much since. The city looks kind of beaten down, a little old, and has an odd smell. We are not here for the city though, our purpose in Borneo would be to take in the odd delights of one of the oldest rain forests on our planet.

Our place of residence, Le Meridien, is located directly across from a local market that is bustling at night. We gathered that it is a sort of fresh market loosely resembling a grocery store for locals. It is filled with shouting Malaysians, that make noises like drunk auctioneers and swing stiff dead fish around in the air to reiterate their points. They are selling smelly things from the sea, smelly fruits, strange veggies, and a number of oddities. We bought some yellow watermelons for our room. Oh, that smell of rotting corpses? It is not the deceased, but rather a gentleman cutting up a Durian fruit. These things smell literally like death, and we are going to take the next few days to build up the courage to eat a few pieces, probably on our last night here. Seriously, we will probably both throw up. It will be awesome.


The harbor outside Kota Kinabalu



Some boats just offshore, we ate at an Italian place right on the
water. I know, we are not keeping to the fiduciary duty of trying
new things, but we are noodled and riced out



A spot in the shade



Sun set from our room



Another shot, the local market is right there in the bottom right



The main drag



One more sunset, slow day



Kota Kinabalu



A huge seafood market



The local market



Swordfish cooking oil



Some odd dealings



Fish, everywhere, it smells like it looks


A rare consented photo, usually I get yelled
at after taking pictures. I quit asking about
3 weeks ago.



Some desserts, the green stuff is amazing



A whole lot of grilling



A scene from a Borneo night market



Kristin in a very crammed market



Look how happy that guy is to be in this picture



The night market backs right up to the water. This is a smelly place.



Pizza and a Club sandwich - comfort food day

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