Friday, February 27, 2009

The Jellyfish

There are two things that are a part of my official "I will not let that happen to me in this lifetime" list.
#1) Agreeably letting a friend pee on me #2) Getting stung in jellyfish infested waters. I can now cross both of those off the list. I've always admired the beauty of the jellyfish but NEVER did I expect to ever be caught up in the ocean with one!

I had a bit of a rough start once we got to Penang. The six of us hiked 2 hours to a secluded beach called "Turtle Beach." We had heard from a passerby that there were jellyfish in the waters and to be careful if we planned on swimming. Of course, during the 2 minutes I actually entered the water (hardly waist deep) I felt the sharpest pain on my right thigh, then on my left thigh and on my foot. It was like being electrocuted! After only about a minute and a half, both of my thighs started swelling up with pink blisters. It looked and felt similar to what happens after a bad burn. I wasn't able to identify the jellyfish at the time, but the most common species in Penang is the Chrysaora Quinquecirrha jellyfish. Although their stings are not lethal, the toxins emitted from their tentacles are poisonous and cause temporary paralysis. I was fortunate to be so close to the shore!

Locals helped out by spreading plant aloe over the stings

I know we've all heard at one point or another that the best remedy for a jellyfish sting is pee, right? Well...Mike was gracious enough to relieve himself over my blistered legs. I must say that no matter what the circumstance, you just cannot help but laugh at the sight of a friend rushing over to save the day with urine! It was only after this that I discovered that the whole 'urine antidote' idea is a total myth. In fact, it actually has the opposite effect because it releases more of the jellyfish venom from the wound- whoops! (Clearly none of us knew this at the time).

Learning Experience. Great Story. I'm a Jellyfish Survivor.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Journey begins in Kuala Lumpur

I just returned from a two week trek abroad from my home in the Bay, backpacking in Malaysia and Bali. My sister returned from Malaysia a few months ago and had shared with me her journey from Kuala Lumpur to Cameron Highlands to Penang and back. It hadn't crossed my mind that I'd ever travel to Malaysia, but I seeing her pictures and hearing her speak to it inspired me to just pick up and go.

Five friends and I (below from left: Mike, Jimmy, Alex, Tyler, Cav and me) went out on a whim, no real agenda in mind, and set forth with our backpacks in tow. Sometimes the best kind of traveling is when you have no plan set in stone, and everything just sorta comes together at the last minute. (Of course, that's not always the case in life but with us it couldn't have worked out better!) You'd think the six of us would pull each other in different directions, but it seemed we were all so content being where we were that it hardly mattered.

Alex and I flew into KL and caught a train in the direction of our hostel. There we met up with Tyler, Jimmy and Cav. They were already traveling all over Thailand and detoured south to meet us. Mike flew in from Taipei, (where he's currently living and teaching English to Taiwanese students). The five of us were fortunate enough to all unite in one strange city, from different starting points around the world.

The first few days in KL were boiling hot and humid. Malaysia, as a predominantly Muslim country, has many women dressed in long robes and scarfs. The photo below was taken from inside the Petronas Towers.

Despite the indisputable heat, the strictness of dress for women is crucial because it is how they are 'protected from gazes of men'. Lustful thoughts or even looking twice at a woman is considered unlawful in the Muslim culture. I was amazed to learn about cultural differences such as these in Malaysia. Islam protects the woman and this is the reason why these laws were created.

Street view of the Petronas Towers

On our second day in KL we visited one of the largest Mosque's in all of SE Asia. It was visually so stunning, and of course we were too in our purple robes! The guys looked particularly cute!

Monkeys! Monkeys! Monkeys! They are everywhere you go! I was looking forward to seeing monkeys but I didn't realize how aggressive they were when you got up close. They seem so cute and cuddly until you make one false move and they either jump you for food or threaten you with their insanely large fangs. I took the photo of the monkey below, and right after the flash went off he jumped out at me. I think I'd rather rely on my zoom lens than take that chance again. Those guys are adorable, but don't fool me anymore.

Although there isn't much 'Night Life' in KL as far as bars or clubs go, there are a ton of markets that run into the late hours. China Town had the biggest market we could find- with probably hundreds of tents lined up. A lot of these tents carried the same merchandise, but you never knew what price you were going to get. Tyler pretty much had her negotiating tactics down by the time Alex and I arrived. We'd visit a minimum of 5 tents that had the same item we were interested in, and test each of the sellers on how much they were willing settle for. By the way, I never knew how much fun haggling could be. After bargaining and winning once, it just becomes a game after that.

There were times where I found myself haggling just for fun, and then I'd win myself a product I didn't even really want to begin with. "Awesome- I just got 10 scarves for $15! AND a 5th pair of white sunglasses I don't even need! But it was SOOOO cheap..." By the time I left the market I felt like a poster child for the Asian Edition of Confessions of a Shopaholic.

Tyler bought a pretty rockin' belly dancing costume. Why? I'm not too sure yet, but it looks amazing and I'm sure it'll break in some good use by Halloween.

Next stop, a six hour train ride North to Penang. The journey continues...