Our top story tonight: Ryan and Katie prepare to return to the United States of America after screwing around overseas for two and a half years!
But first, one last half-assed travel post.
Strangely enough, I think we enjoyed our time in the Chinatowns of Bangkok, Georgetown and Kuala Lumpur more than our time in China, itself. With all the alleyways, junk shops, Buddhist supply stores and street food, there was just more olde-timey flavor in these neighborhoods than in most of Beijing, Shanghai or Hangzhou (admitting this gives me a squirmy, first-world-problems feeling: Am I saying I begrudge China’s middle class its apartment complexes and shopping malls? Would I rather these places stop developing, so that I can experience more “local flavor” when I travel? I guess not; it’s just that Chinese suburbia is not my ideal vacation destination). At one point, Ryan and I were sitting in a taxi in Bangkok’s Chinatown, going down one of the more colorful streets with all its red-gold signs and dragons and sharks-fin restaurants and charismatic oldsters and whatnot. As we looked out the windows a Motown song came on the radio, and suddenly, strangely, the feeling of traveling back in time was complete.
The other reason I have a soft spot for these expat neighborhoods is that they have yielded up some of the choicest souvenirs of the trip. Behold, the jewel in my Crown of Crap:
Lord, yes. I love this big creepy head more than I love most people. We had to buy another bag just to tote it around but I don’t care. I don’t care.
The day I found it, I brought it back to the room and we took turns putting it on and capering around ghoulishly; both times, the person watching would laugh nervously and say, “That’s weird. That’s enough. Take…take it off please.” Then the person wearing it would say “What?” and look in the mirror and whisper in horror, “Oh my god.”
Such is the power of The Head! Oh man, I can’t wait to have this weird, nightmarish thing sitting around our home for the rest of our lives.
Also: I show you this picture to give you an idea of just how gross some of the hotels have been on this trip. Land of clean sheets and mold-free bathrooms, here we come!
Foody food food
Let’s cut the crap. We came to Malaysia for one thing, and one thing only. I believe you know what this one thing is.
So you can imagine what a bummer it was when we found Malaysian street food — fabled, renowned Malaysian street food, haunter of our dreams, activator of our drool glands lo these many months — to be kind of disappointing. This was mostly my fault. I had built it up too much ahead of time. “It’s supposed to be amazing,” I would blabber to anybody who would listen. “Like the best things about Thai food and Indian food and Chinese food, all put together to create an explosion of new flavors unlike anything you’ve ever tasted before!”
As it turns out, that is not what Malaysian street food is like, and I’m not sure where I got that idea from, anyway. You can get Chinese food here, and you can get Indian food, and you can get Malay food, but it’s all pretty mellow. The plate of mee goreng up there is a good example: Stir fried and cheap, it’s got a little bit of spice it’s but basically a close cousin to tsuivan, another bland noodle dish (sorry, Mongolia). I mean, look at it. It’s garnished with lettuce. Lettuce!
But once we got over our outlandish expectations, we started to enjoy the food here just fine. Above, we have a delightful bowl of beef ball soup, which had a surprisingly spaghetti-like flavor profile. Below is the only photo I managed to take of the many Indian meals we had, because I would always scarf things down immediately after they were served:
And last but not least, my two favorites: Chicken rice and won ton mee.
I could eat these things every day until the end of time. I also came up with a jingle for chicken rice, using nice and price, but my pride prevents me from sharing it with you here.
It probably doesn’t come as a surprise to you that we have been ready for this trip to be over for, oh, some time now. We slipped out of vacation mode a few weeks ago; instead, we’ve been in unemployment mode. In unemployment mode, we don’t spend a whole lot of time sightseeing or trekking or trying to experience the culture or writing down observations for posterity (obviously! HA). Instead, we stay in our air-conditioned rooms, finalizing grad school applications, taking the first, agonizing steps towards finding jobs, researching cell phone plans. Every once in a while, in a spasm of guilt and a vague sense of obligation, we rouse ourselves! And we go see a thing! But mostly we don’t do this.
So, basically, if anybody ever asks me how Malaysia was I will only be able to shrug. Oh, like, that place that was outside our door whenever we got hungry? Pretty good! It was pretty good, I think?
It has been pretty good, though, and I’m glad we came. I’m glad we came to Malaysia. I’m glad we took this trip, that we took this time for ourselves. I’m glad we decided, three years ago, to go away for a while, and I’m glad we went away to Mongolia. Sometimes it’s felt like forever and sometimes it’s felt like just a moment, but either way all this time has been a gift, and I am grateful that we had it.
But in a few hours we’ll get on a plane, and it will bring us home. So can we hang out soon? It’s been a while, and we’ve missed you.