Day 9, 500 words, 31 days.
Shuli and I have traveled up and down the North-South Expressway five times in the past two weeks. We had taken this road on the way back from Kuala Lumpur after celebrating Christmas there, and made stops in the historic town of Ipoh several times, to and from Cameron Highlands. Today, we went on a school-sponsored “retreat” to “The Lost World of Tambun” – a water theme park and resort for visitors to the Ipoh area.
The park itself is surrounded by stunning, green cliffs towering over the grounds. Today it was especially beautiful – the steady rain had brought with it patches of fog blanketing the tops of these enormous rock formations, making for misty, scenic view, shrouded in mystery.
I’m not one for water parks usually, but I decided to tag along for this particular trip and to my surprise, I actually had a good time.
Of course, you can only go down water slides so many times before the thrill begins to wane. This particular park, since it functioned as a resort as well, offered heated pools and even a sauna inside a cave, if you can believe such a thing. This too, was a pleasant surprise – a nice reward for parents and adults that fancied a “good time” for themselves to be as slow and relaxing and thrill-less as possible.
We arrived there around 12. I was tired, hungry, and sleepy by 3:30 in the afternoon. It was dreary and wet the entire day and so, for most days like this, I resorted to hot, caffeinated drinks to get through.
By the time we hopped on the bus back home it was past 5. We were in for a 3 hour journey, including some rush hour traffic so I made sure that I was prepared. The iPad was loaded up with podcasts for days. I had my music going. The book I’m reading on writing, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, came in handy whenever I couldn’t sleep.
But the thing that put me most at ease, there and back, might have simply been staring out the raindrop-covered window. It’s beginning to be a familiar view – the vast, grassy farmland, the hills sitting just above the horizon, the swaying palm trees lining up each side of the road. We’ve gone up and down the same road so many times recently that I was even anticipating where the next rest stop would be in case we wanted to “makan”. (eat.)
It needs to be said that Malaysia is a beautiful country. The diversity of it’s peoples is already reason to celebrate, but the countryside itself is such a calming sight for me to behold. These hours-long road trips up and down the highway have been life-giving times.
I’m not entirely certain what it is about these long drives that put me at ease. Maybe I just enjoy them the most when I’m not the one driving. Then I can look out and pay attention to all the tranquil details outside the window, or do the complete opposite and take note of nothing at all, letting all the scenery merge into a greenish, untarnished blur.
Today, on the bus, I faded in and out of sleep. Whenever I woke, I felt rested and refreshed. And even at my most alert, there was little desire to speak. I was quiet for long stretches of the ride – happy to listen to old recordings of This American Life or The Moth, and letting the chatter around me dissolve slowly into the background.
For the first time in a while, I found myself rather content, not feeling the need to have to say anything to anybody, embracing the silence like a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time.