The headscarves threw me a bit at first. I am simply not used to seeing so many in one place. I had never traveled to a Muslim country, but there I was in Malaysia surrounded by hijabs (google it). Now the interesting thing about Malaysia though is that there are other religions happening there, so it’s actually quite diverse. However in every hotel, there was an arrow on the ceiling pointing towards Mecca, and I did hear the call to prayer a couple of times. I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.
Per usual, Westerners tend to stand out in Asian countries, particularly three unaccompanied American women, so photography was a challenge for me. Because I stand out so much, there is nothing stealth in my approach. I was forced to go ‘renegade’ – taking pictures from the window of taxis to get some shots. It’s not exactly what I had in mind, but I’ll just have figure out a way to make it all work next time.
We did get our share of catcalls, which I wasn’t expecting and it was a bit aggressive at times. I wonder if it was because we were three western women and therefore, all bets were off. Did these men behave this way with Malaysian women? I wasn’t there long enough to really make that call, but again, not expecting it. In China, it’s gotten to the point where I don’t really even notice the stares anymore. But in Shekou, I have never felt leered at so that was a surprise.
We arrived in Kota Kinabalu (KK) after a 7-hour delay in the most sterile and bland airport in the world followed by a 3-hour flight. And then, to add to that pleasure, I couldn’t sleep on the plane and was seated behind the man with the world’s stinkiest feet – not kidding. Additionally, I was a bit anxious because I was going with two teachers that I really didn’t know that well. It turns out that my worries were unnecessary as we ended up bonding over awkward travel experiences and inside jokes. While there, we traveled to several different locations on the island. For part of the time, we were in KK proper where we saw some gorgeous sunsets. Then, we ventured out to a tiny beach resort right outside of town. It was really lovely and a tad isolated, but the rain each afternoon was a perfect excuse to just relax. I managed to get attacked by some vicious bugs and mosquitoes or as my students say, moss-key-toes. My legs look like a Christmas tree. Note to self: purchase travel size bug spray.
Next, we headed inland to see Mt. Kinabalu and stayed at the saddest hotel in the world called the Fairy Garden. We got totally micked. Okay, I admit I can be high-maintenance, but there were bats and swallows nesting in the stairwell as well as big bugs with wings on my pillow. Gross. As a side note, the food was delicious and we also found a small hovel that sold us some excellent treats and playing cards. From there, we ended up going to a little town called Poring where we walked over the forest on canopy bridges. That was pretty cool. Overall, I saw a lot of Malaysia and definitely want to go back to explore more. But then I heard about a travel package that is a motorcycle tour through Vietnam. Oh yeah. Going to google it right now. Enjoy the photos below!