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Published: October 8th 2012
There's a storm brewing!
The buses are honking. A woman on the overhead speaker lists off scheduled departure times. Incomprehensible chatter surrounds me. Noise has taken over the Kuala Lumpur bus station. Luggage wheels scraping, cell phones ringing, loud voices. I crawl onto my bus, pop in my earphones and let my music drown out the chaos.
The bus comes to an abrupt halt and spits me out at 5 AM. It's dark, it's quiet. I'm on the Northern East coast of Malaysia and in the distance the silence is interrupted by the Muslim "call to prayer." I walk down the lifeless streets with the haunting prayers echoing off the houses. Exhausted, I find a bench, fall down on it, earplugs in, and I'm out. Two hours later I jolt awake and have one of those, "Where am I, I can't remember where I am?" moments... It clicks and I manage to find the dock and get a boat to haul me over to the island of Palau Kapas.
I'm pretty sure my new favorite place to blog from is a swaying hammock overlooking the sea. Palau Kapas is off the typical tourist path in Malaysia. It's a small
island with three or four restaurants and about the same amount of places offering accommodation. You can walk the length of the island in about 20 minutes on the West side. Monsoon season's nearly here so the island is desolate, nearly empty. Seclusion has found me, and I have found it. It's an affair I'm pleased to be having. There's no other sounds here, apart from rustling leaves, timid waves, small birds and slight breezes. Did I mention yet how much I LOVE hammocks. Swinging, napping, reading, writing, daydreaming... All these things are just THAT much more indulgent in a freakin' hammock! *blissful sigh* OK! Where was I…?
"Werecrabs" and other monsters
I feel as though I've ventured through a stack of old R.L. Stine books, with a different monster theme for each day I spend on the island. After all, it is October and Halloween is just around the bend. Five chilling tales await you below. Day 1: Werecrabs
"Let's catch a few and cook 'em up for dinner tomorrow," I suggested half-seriously. "They're actually poisonous," our host explained. And what a shame because they were everywhere. Apparently one day a year on the
night of the full moon just before monsoon season these cranky crustaceans raid the beach. Jane, the guesthouse canine, was fearlessly attacking some crabs and trying to sink her teeth into them, only to come whimpering back after getting pinched. They weren't typical looking crabs. They were about the size of an American football. They stood up tall and had their big claws raised in the air in constant attack position. Their eyes were large and alien-like. Little poisonous sand monsters controlled by the full moon... Kind of like werewolves... Or should I say, werecrabs? Day 2: Creatures from the maroon lagoon
Jiggling rubbery blobs tangled in tentacles sloppily plopping in the surf. Beached bus-wheel sized jellyfish. Like radioactive JELLO experiments gone horribly wrong. The bodies of these crimson sea giants claimed by the deadly currents and harsh sands... Also, ewwwww! And, gross! OK, next... Day 3: Godzillizards
I'm serenely sitting by the beach enjoying a soda and what scurries by me? A dinosaur? Possibly. Godzilla's offspring? May as well have been. It was a monitor lizard at least six feet in length (nose to tail) and he was hefty. Considering I thought the largest living
creatures on the island were squirrels, you can imagine that the screech bursting from my lips was more or less the same as a 7-year-old girl's is on a roller coaster. Luckily for me only the lizards heard... I hope. Day 4: Vampire Fliers
In America (also China) I was used to seeing small bats at night... You know, the kind that are cute, and are say... about as big as your hand. However, fliers with three-feet-long wingspans sweeping down uncomfortably close to my head in the dead of night? This experience was new to me. Hmmmm, it may have also been the source of that blood-sucking vampire dream I had. Speaking of bloodsuckers... Day 5: Mosquitos
(no monster-nickname or embellishment needed for these guys. They're already the gruesomest things ever to live in the real world or the fantasy one).
The mosquitos were around since day one but it wasn't until day five that they seemed to become immune to my repellent spray and began attacking in relentless quantities. By day five they were swiftly soaring past my ear with that high-pitched buzz, which to me sounded more like a tiny laugh of mockery signifying
East side of the island
their victory. One even landed on my can of OFF spray and I'm pretty sure shot me a grin and the middle finger.
Some advice: R & R & R & R Rest:
This one's a no-brainier and one of the original R&R's. Sleep in, and sleep more. You're on a small island, I promise you'll still get to do everything you want to do even if you get up at noon. Take some naps while you're there too. Sink into a hammock in the shade of the palms and have a swaying snooze. Relax:
The infamous second part of R&R. Even during the time you explore the island, it's easily manageable and requires little effort. Fall into a beach chair and melt your worries away. Sip on an icy drink and forget about everything. Sure, there's a ba-zillion beaches in the world you can do these sort of things on. But, with the minimal noise and few people, you'll finally understand what "relaxation" truly means. Run:
Run? On vacation? Pssh! i know it sounds absurd but let me explain. I was sunbathing and listening to the iPod and suddenly had the urge to just
Freakin' love hammocks
get up and go. I ran along the beach, each stride motivated by the beats in my ears. The whole island nearly to myself. It was such a freeing feeling, heart pumping, cool breezes rolling off the surf, fantastic views. So yes, run. You just might enjoy it. ;-) Read:
Read something, read anything. When the clouds blow in, take cover, cozy up with a book and let the pitter patter of droplets serenade and set the mood. I'm currently reading Bill Bryson's "The Lost Continent," about his travels through America's small towns in the late 1980s. It makes me reminisce. I miss home, and also find the US almost foreign as I read about it from the other side of the world.
FOOD (What'd you think I forgot?)
Oh, how I've missed the prices of food in most Asian countries. Where one can pay a quarter of the price they pay back home, and for basically the same delectables. Each bill I pay leaves me certain it has been calculated incorrectly. I feel like a kid with one hand permanently in the cookie jar, and no parents in sight to scold me. A huge plate
with four crabs, vegetables, and coconut curry sauce for 6 USD!? And of course I split the cost with my friend because it was plentiful enough to fill two bellies. So three bucks! Three measly dollars for a crab dinner. While stuffing our gobs, an angry storm blew in unexpectedly. Bits of crab shell and napkins were taking flight, leaves from the tree above us dropping down on the table, me still munching away madly. Then the rain joined the party forcing us to shovel the last few morsels down our necks before we ran for cover. Storm or no storm, the food was sublime, and I told the guy at the little beachside restaurant that I'd be back for lunch AND dinner the following day. He probably thought I was exaggerating but he looked quite pleased the next day when I fulfilled my promise.
Banana pancakes and coconut pancakes, yep! Also, pineapple pancakes. Chocolate pancakes too! Honey or maple drizzled messily all over 'em. On the island they make these giant pancakes that are like a culinary crossbreed between crepes and flapjacks. I'm a little obsessed with bananas and coconut so I found myself debating each morning which
...and you can't even see his long tail under the deck. Easily six feet long total.
flavor of scrumptious cake would get to occupy the pit in my stomach.
Size is Relative
Part of me now regrets writing that this is a "small" island. I rented a kayak and decided to make a full loop around this rock. The paddling proved to be less than leisurely, and the island appeared to be about double in size. I'd previously only kayaked in rivers, and springs. The ocean was a whole new beast to conquer. Currents changing and coming at me from each angle, waves battering, coral sneakily protruding from beneath, and the unforgiving sun taking advantage of my helplessness and lack of shade. Somehow I survived (I know, dramatic) and made it all the way around this hump in the sea with only burnt shoulders, lethargic arms, and a new respect for the ocean.
I know I've written a few horror stories about the island, and whined about a couple things too. But, in the end thinking about leaving my little chip off the ol' paradise block does make me a tad distraught (monsters and all). Sooooo, I've decided... I'm not leaving yet! And that's the benefit of traveling without a set itinerary.
So, anyone by chance want to bring me some more mosquito repellent?
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