Sunday morning, 15th of April 2018
After a long week it finally was Sunday. Weeks always feel too long, especially when there is work to do on the Saturday as well. After a week it is always longing to sleep in, to be in bed, to relax, to be comfortable laying in each others arms, looking at each other thinking “should we get up already”?
No. not yet, absolutely not yet. And our heads fell back on the pillow.
But… eventually, that time always comes, the time to get up. The cat needs food, run outside and catch some what-ever-animal-it-can-find. Its humans need coffee too – and what-ever-the-mouth-can-find to eat. Oats. Oats and banana with milk. And a baby gecko, for the cat.
It wasn’t that late when we got up. It was around 9.30, the sun was out, the birds sang their tunes and the ‘terror-rooster’ already alerted our block and the next 3 blocks that he’s awake and ready to attack everyone’s feet when they are ‘too near’. Too near is relative; when he has a chance he will frenetically high-speed run to your feet to pick a few times on it, till your feet have some serious blue spots. Often times the neighbors meet at our corner to discuss that ‘terror-rooster’.
Our DFC (or Decent F*cking Car as we call her) was long time ready to bring us anywhere we want to go. This time: a road trip to the beginning of “Muda River”, which is the river that separates Kedah from Penang.
The Road Trip
After we have gotten ourselves ready we were off! We had water, some bananas, our sunglasses, charged phones, the route in the navigation, and of course our good mood with us.
Malaysia to me is new, I don’t know yet much of the country. I know the main roads of Sungai Petani, how to get to Hadie’s work over the toll-road and also over the several back-roads between her work and home (though I need navigation, still, I guess) and how to get to the airport in Kuala Lumpur. Hadie, obviously, knows her country much better, but, she luckily didn’t drive any road which is there.
The first part of the trip was still on familiar roads, but already soon the road narrowed and 4 lanes became 2, and soon after that there was no more space for a car to take over a smaller motorcycle both driving on the same lane.
Palm oil fields
From straight roads it became winding through palm oil fields. Seemingly endless areas of palm trees. Huge trees, needing a lot of space. I still cannot get my head around how much I am against those fields or if I even can be neutral towards them.
I know I shouldn’t compare, but, I do. The Netherlands, with its tiny size, is world’s second largest exporter of agricultural products behind the USA. That is actually quite significant. It’s also significant to realize how much nature and biodiversity had to go before the Netherlands could become that large. The effectiveness and the technological level to create that output is abnormal. There are less and less birds, less bees, less rare plants, but, more chemicals, methane and other greenhouse gasses instead.
How can I then complain about Malaysia’s loss of diversity? Why is the jungle here valued differently than loss of biodiversity in the Netherlands? I am talking about the legal logging and clearing land for palm oil fields – to make that clear! The illegal logging is absolutely wrong, damaging, and uncontrolled. I don’t know the proportion of either.
Driving through the palm oil fields made me think whether it isn’t the same as the corn, grain, or potatoes back in the Netherlands? I didn’t make up my mind yet. I do see that palm oil is a response to the world’s need of it in food . In fact, all the ‘needs and hypes’ are damaging something somewhere as nothing comes clean or without controversy. Soy production is also a good example of that.
Happiness lies in the little things
After the palm oil fields the roads lead us into the ‘mountains’, or hills, or something in between. Winding roads, going up and down, far from civilization. No data connection. Radio off and listening to each other and the buzzing of the engine. No phone connection either, we were together. Just Hadie and I. Together in the car, going over roads neither have been before. Looking at beautiful views, stopping once in a while to make a random picture.
That makes us happy. We don’t need big things, we don’t need to be rich, we don’t need a big fancy house. Yes, we invested in a proper car, but, that car we will keep for the next 10 years or so. Soon other people will trade in and we will have an old car again. But. Decent!
Little talks make us happy. Stopping in a street in a small village seeing older traditional badly maintained houses with elderly people drinking tea makes me happy.
Stopping the car, walking out, making pictures of the beautiful surroundings make us happy. The sun was out, partly clouded, nicely warm, not yet too hot, no other traffic passing by other than a car once in a while, nature, bridge with the sound of a boat disappearing in the distance. That kind of happiness I am talking about.
Away from the rush, away from the constant noise of traffic, air-conditioning, ventilators, neighbors, and at work, meetings, many people; “Hadie can you do this? Hadie can you come? What about this procedure? What about that part? We won’t make the shipment, what do we do now?”
Walking on the bridge, making pictures of nature, yes, that’s awesome.
The beginning of Muda River and more lakes
The real start of the river was a bit boring. It was a hydro dam, totally fenced ans we only stopped there for a minute or so. I think this inevitable. Having an expectation from something and then by being there it’s not totally what it seemed to be from Google maps. Well, of course many times something meets expectation, just not this time.
After driving more, we came to a half deserted fish collecting place, having something to eat, drinking a well deserved “Kopi Ice”. In fact, that kopi ice made me happy as well!
This place was simply amazing! The surroundings are only for dreams, but, now I am walking there in real life. The hills on all sides, the lake in front of us, seeing simple fishing boats. From the main road we drove down, further down to some buildings that still have a function and we parked the car near the water to have a look around.
We spend quite some time there, inhaling the mountain air, breathing the view, having the ‘ooohhh look there, and ooohhhh wow did you see that view over there?!’ moments.
Nearby that lake was one more. Jom – Let’s go! Go to one more, so we don’t drive the same way back as we came from to drive a circle.
Deserted Tourism and fishing ladies
What stroke me was that the area is so amazingly almost terrifying beautiful! There were quite many resorts, ‘beach houses’, and retreats all on the most beautiful locations, but, all of them were deserted! Hadie told me that the previous state governor spend quite some attention and money into tourism. Making places available, subsidizing it one way or the other. The roads are in a good condition, all the resorts are easily reachable, and the locations were well chosen.
The present state governor doesn’t value it too much so all the attention plummet leaving resorts deserted. My guess is if there is anyone who can market this internationally and make small retreats for writers, overcoming burn-outs, general mental care, or simply for people from cities who want to have something totally different and read books with feet in the water enjoying amazing views, then reviving some of these resorts can be good business.
Before we had to say goodbye to the lakes to drive home again we had one more last stop at such a deserted place. Again, the view was mesmerizing, no single sound, and wilderness taking over the cottage that once was there.
We left with peace in our hearts, having had a beautiful day, saying farewell to this road trip when we said goodbye to 2 ladies who were fishing there. Seemingly carelessly fishing with several fishing rods. Simply being there with them, hearing them speak quietly, hearing the bait plunge in the water waiting for the fish to eat it was the perfect ending of that trip.
On the way home we chatted randomly with each other, driving through rice fields, seeing civilization coming back again. Sporadic villages became towns, small back roads became bigger, more traffic and ultimately the toll-road. The road leading us home.