Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Malaysian Adventure: One Trouble

In this post, I will explain how Malaysia taught me to be thankful for my daily luxuries. In my next post, I will explain other reasons why Malaysia might be a good place to visit, especially if you have lower standards of personal hygiene than I, or if you are willing to spend more money per day than I.

Exploring Malaysia with a backpack and budget was not what you would call a relaxing experience for me. Not so surprising, right? New places, stress to get places on time, all the normal things that go along with going someplace new without a guide… that can be enough to make anyone a little concerned.
But those “normal” things really had very little to do with my stress. We had an amazing guide book that contained maps of all the places we visited. I cannot overstate the importance of a map in an unknown area. Maps are wonderful. I love them. If I have a map in my hands, I have almost absolute confidence that I will get where I am going. Maps dispel fears of being lost and give purpose to wanderings of a city. I never felt lost or overwhelmed by novelty during the trip.

But if not such common anxieties, what could betray my comfort? Well, we went to cities in Malaysia. These cities were not what you might call clean cities. We stayed at hostels in these cities. These hostels did not have what you might call clean facilities. In short, my nemesis this spring break was: Dirt.

You may think me a bit spoiled or too “dainty” or something like that, and I’m not going to argue with you. You can go on thinking that, and you are probably right. But I will qualify my enmity against dirt.
First of all, I did go into the trip expecting some uncleanness. Indeed, overnight train rides will certainly prevent showering within the normal maximum 24-hour time limit. Indeed, carrying only a day pack’s worth of clothing will certainly require the repeating of some outfits. These things I knew.

But I did expect that when I took a shower, I would be clean, and I would be able to go to sleep in a clean room on a very clean, made-up bed. But no. Hostels aren’t like that. The sheet, and yes, I meant that to be singular, is clean, but no promises about anything else. The shower will dispense water, yes, and after a day in the city, it will improve your cleanliness, but you will by no means feel like a clean, respectable lady. No. Not at all.

And, well, in much of Malaysia, they have squat-style toilets that do not contain toilet paper. And good for you if you find soap. If I could have used a good clean bathroom complete with clean showers a few times, and if I could have slept in a clean room, I think I would have been far less uncomfortable.
Luckily for me, the rosy tint of hindsight is already starting to color the trip more favorably, but I shall endeavor to remember my newfound appreciation for the little things. A clean bedroom. Clean bathroom. Toilet paper. I have access to these things once more, and I am incredibly happy for it!

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