Saturday, 2 June 2012

Rural Malaysia

May 24th, 2012

Tickets in hand we waited for the train which would take us to our next destination.  We passed through the Malaysian boarder control who paid particular interest in my tattoo as they stamped our passports, sent out bags through an X-ray machine before ushering us towards the train.  At first glance this train appeared worn and uncared for in comparison to trains I have travelled in the past.  I took out antibacterial wipes and attempted to bring the folding table in front of my chair to a state I felt comfortable with using and decided to put off using the toilet as long as possible. 

Taking this train out of Singapore and into the countryside of Malaysia was my first taste of seeing people living in the rural tropics.  The city gave away to countryside; the land was flat and covered with vast palm and rubber plantations. Workers in straw hats amongst the trees would often look up; the whites of their eyes a beautiful contrast to their dark skin as they offered big smiles and waves at the passing train.  Small, single story homes with tin roofs and sometimes chicken wire for walls were sheltered in the shade of coconut trees.  A woman bathed a child in the sink, a young boy chasing his friends rode a flouresent pink bicycle far too large for him as cows and chickens roamed free in the streets.  Many homes were abandoned in heaps of rubble and litter was strategically piled on the dirt ground. It appears in these countryside environments the local services are somewhat limited.

The palm plantations gave away to jungle as the land gained elevation to small mountains.  Standing to stretch my legs I wandered to the back of the train to find the doors stood open interrupting the air conditioned cabin, whipping warm air through the caboose.  I carefully took hold of the exterior hand rails on either side and leaned outside the train drinking in the hot, sweet air.  More waves and smiles came from almost every person we passed which I returned enthusiastically; the energy of the land and its people beautiful and refreshing from the cites we have been passing through for the last few weeks. 

A moment like this should be shared and I decided to fish Julian out from beneath his book and headphones.  We both stood leaning outside the train seeking more people to vibe off whilst the unfamiliar tropical landscape filed us with feelings only travelling through foreign places can evoke. A Malaysian man joined us, smoking cigarettes and he and Julian were soon involved in a lengthy discussion on the economics of the region whilst I was once more engaged with what was passing by outside.  Homes now stood a few feet off the ground on stilts to protect against flooding during the monsoon and the land continued to grow steeper and the jungle thicker between the areas of cultivated trees.  The unfamiliar call of birds and insects filled my ears along with the clattering of the train as the air cooled and the setting sun set fire to the sky.  I considered jumping off the train at one of our many stationed pauses; the idea of venturing into yet another busy metropolis not nearly as appealing as these homes on stilts with their smiling residents. 

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