Under the weather

I haven’t written anything for the last week. As a matter of fact, I haven’t done much at all during the last three days. That is because I’ve been sick. Plagued by heavy fever, headaches, and constant shivering, I’ve spent most of my time in bed. I’m not sure if it was the Malaysian food (which is delicious, but a bit ‘oilier’ than the Thai food) that did me in, or the climate, but the result is the same: I was barely able to move for a few days, let alone write anything for my blog.

Meanwhile, I did make it across four states in Malaysia: I travelled from Penang via Perak, Pahang, and Kuala Lumpur to Malacca. In Perak I made a two-night-stopover in the acclaimed historic town of Ipoh. Unfortunately this town had little to show of its supposed colonial splendour. Two hours would have been enough. It did give me some time to get a job done that I always hate: filing my taxes, which are due before 1 April.

Ipoh is mostly known as a gateway town to the area known as the Cameron Highlands. True to form I decided to pay the Highlands a visit. This gave me a lovely respite from the urban noise, heat, and humidity of Georgetown and Ipoh. This area is well-developed for jungle hiking, and as opposed to, say, Laos or Vietnam, it’s very easy to just go out by yourself and enjoy the nature. I managed to complete two decent hikes, and for the rest just enjoyed the peaceful natural surroundings.

Malaysian city climate

My next stop would be Kuala Lumpur, the megapolis capital of Malaysia. And that’s where I got seriously ill. When moving around in (especially urban) Malaysia you encounter dramatic temperature shifts. Not so much between the different parts of the country, but rather between inside and outside. Outside it is a constant 33 degrees Celcius with 90% humidity. Inside any mall, office, or restaurant the airconditioning is pushed to the max, creating a 16 degrees cool. The effect is that you walk around and sweat your shirt to saturation, then duck into a cold mall for a break and sip on an iced drink while wearing a wet t-shirt in an environment that feels like near-freezing. I can’t imagine this being very healthy. Nor is the insane level of car fumes that pollute the air in KL. Looking back, it’s almost surprising that anybody can stay alive and healthy there. Yet some 6.6 million people do. So instead of scaling the Petronas Towers, getting lost in Chinatown, and savouring the local cuisine, I spent most of my time lying in bed drinking hot tea and feeling miserable.

After two days I did manage to gather enough strength to travel onwards to Melaka (Malacca), which provided quite a contrast with KL. This city was airy, walkable, and filled with historical charm. After another good night’s sleep I felt much better, and got to explore the ‘old city’. Apparently Melaka used to be a Dutch colony (from the time we took it from the Portugese until we had to relinquish it again to the navally supreme British). It was quite funny to recognise names like ‘Heerenstraat’ (Gentlemen’s street) and ‘Stadthuys’ (City hall).

So now that I’m recovered, I’m ready to start moving again (and to get on with my work). Tomorrow I will make a dash for Pulau Tioman, on the other side of the country. This seems to be another one of those no-wires-islands, so it might be a while before I can post another blog update. But I’m alive (and kicking).


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