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Published: March 31st 2009
(Day 364 on the road)
I haven't posted in a while now, and there is a good reason for that: The past six weeks I have spent in one place, namely Port Dickson in Malaysia, a pretty sleepy and non-touristy seaside town about 2h south of Kuala Lumpur. I was looking to a) take a break from constantly being on the move, b) I wanted to play golf, and c) I wanted a place by the sea. I found the perfect place here in PD (as the locals call it), and have rented a nice apartment in a residential complex, complete with swimming pool, washing machine, satellite TV, balcony and on-site restaurant. The place is literally 200 meters away from the Port Dickson Golf & Country Club
on the one side and 200 meters from the ocean on the other side - how could the location be possibly any better?
During my six weeks here I have also had the chance to meet quite a number of local people, and really enjoyed going out with them and taking part in their daily lives. Standing out the most from the crowd was Zully, an ethnic Chinese Malaysian woman with four great children, who has shown me incredible
hospitality and even let me use her car to drive around the area. I met Zully pretty much five minutes after arriving here by bus from Kuala Lumpur, when I was stumbling into her beauty saloon in the desperate search for a toilet. Funny how things work out sometimes.
So with a golf course, a pool, the ocean and friends around me, life was great. I really enjoyed not having to look for a new place to stay every night or spending countless hours on buses, but rather to have my own place, and generally to take it easy for a while. Apart from golf I spent some time with one of Zully's employees, Leah, who is Philippino and introduced me to all her friends from the Philippines in the area. Quite a few of them work in bands at some of the many resort hotels along the coast, so at night we often went to watch them, which more often than not turned into wild partying with a group of local regulars until the early hours of the morning. My attitude towards Leah however turned sour during my last week here, as she was increasingly asking me to
give her money for all sorts of things.
About three weeks into my stay here Karen dropped by for a short visit on her way from KL down to Singapore. This was the fifth time we have met up so far - I find it fascinating that after we first travelled together in China back in July 2008 we are still moving in the same direction at roughly the same speed. All other people I have met on my travels are long gone by now, way ahead of us (many in Australia or New Zealand), or even already back home. Way to go!
Golfing here in Port Dickson at the Port Dickson Golf and Country Club was a great experience. The staff were extremely accommodating, and offered me a short-term membership for the six weeks at the equivalent of 60 EUR for unlimited play. Considering that one single round at the course costs 10 EUR, this was an unbelievable bargain, and I made sure I used this membership to the fullest, playing a total of 28 rounds of mostly 18 holes (which would have cost me about 260 EUR would I have had to pay normal green fees).
They also stored my golf bag in their reception so I didn't have to carry my stuff to the course every morning and lent me a few extra golf clubs for free.
I shared the golf course with turtles, monitor lizards, countless monkeys and - Koreans. This was maybe the only frustrating thing about my whole stay here: Those incredibly slow Korean golfers. Don't get me wrong, they are lovely people and I played a few rounds with some of them (they comment every shot with a long "niceee"), but they must rate as the slowest golfers on the planet. Walking and carrying my bag I was more than double the speed of four Koreans driving in fast buggies. Being caught behind them on countless occasion I timed how long it takes them to play a par 4 hole: 22 minutes! At that rate, it takes them more than 6 1/2 hours to play 18 holes! To put it into perspective: I play 18 holes, without rushing it, in about 2:45h.
And why are the Koreans so slow at golf? Well, it is not too difficult to understand: Apart from moving at a glacial speed when exiting their
buggy and walking to their ball, they also take three to four practice swings each before hitting a ball. If the shot is not 100% to their satisfaction, they take a few more practice swings after their shot. On the green, they all make sure they take their time to pick up their balls, clean them thoroughly, discuss who gets to put first, put the balls back, a few more practice swings each and so on. Oh, one more thing: When getting out of their buggy, they of course need to open their umbrellas to protect them from the sun on the five meter walk to their ball. So once there, the umbrella needs to be closed and put down, then the above mentioned practice swings and all, then opening the umbrella again before crawling back to the buggy. I was so frustrated after a few days that I took to playing around noon, when everybody was - sensibly I assume - avoiding the scorching heat of 37 degrees in the shades. But on the plus side for most days I then had the whole course 100% to myself - perfect!
The umbrella of the Koreans by the way
is on top of their complete skin cover - they are 100% covered so no sun gets to them. Bu they are not wearing long trousers and long-sleeved shirts - no, that would be too obvious. They are wearing shorts and t-shirts like you would expect when it is 37 degrees on the golf course, but underneath that they are wearing legging-style clothing or sometimes knee-high socks that cover their skin. They even wear (no joking) face masks which lock behind the ears that leave only a small slit for their eyes unexposed. When I first saw them I thought it was very conservative Muslims wearing burkas until I realised that it was Koreans who do everything to avoid the sun in oder to keep their skin white and pale. Funny, people from Western countries do everything to get a tan, and many Asians do everything they can (whitening creams are a big thing here) to keep their skin white. One always wants what one doesn't have...
A few words about the Malaysian: From my experiences so far, they rank as the friendliest, honest and most "accessible" people I have met. This of course is a very personal experience,
but I have been to a few countries here in Asia now in the last year and met some great people, but overall for me the Malaysian come out first (so far). Sure, the Japanese for instance are great, but they are mostly so polite that it is often quite difficult to get to know them. Or the people of Laos: Friendly and great for sure, but not too many of them speak English, so once again it is difficult to get to know them better. The Malaysians however are very open and easy-going, speak for the most parts very good English, and are not too shy to approach you either. I have had a great deal of talks with all sorts of people here in Malaysia, and many have shown me, a complete stranger to them, great friendliness and hospitality. Also, not once in the two months in Malaysia so far have I been ripped off or taken advantage off, a thing so prevalent in other countries in here South-East Asia (notably Vietnam, Thailand and to a lesser extend in Myanmar). So in short, I really like the Malaysians.
I also found out whilst living here in Port Dickson that my old Chinese university classmate David Bu (we went to university together in Hong Kong) has finally been released from a Chinese forced labour camp (sorry, of course I mean the "Re-education through labour camps" as the Chinese call them). David had been arrested in May 2006 on charges of being a Falun Gong practitioner and had been sentenced without trial to two and a half years of imprisonment in a Chinese labour camp. David was actually released already back in July 2008, but the news had been kept secret until he was safely outside of China. He has now joined his wife who has fled China and lives in the United States. If you want to read more about his case, have a look at this Amnesty International article.
But to finish this blog-entry on a more happy note: I am very proud that three of my pictures from Novosibirsk, Russia, were chosen by the Goethe Institute to be included in their worldwide quarterly print magazine
. Have a look if you are interested, my pictures are on page 4, 12 and 16.
Next stop: Singapore.
To view my photos, have a look at pictures.beiske.com
. And to read the full account of my journey, have a look at the complete book about my trip at Amazon
(and most other online book shops).
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