In Search of Better Stories

Reflections from Malaysia

Nature Brings Me Joy

     I snorkelled with hundreds of creatures off the coast of Redang. During my time on this paradise Island, I swam freely with black tip reef sharks, barracuda, colossal humphead parrot fish, moray eels, cuttlefish, clown fish, turtles, and all manner of tropical life beneath the waves. The experience filled me with exquisite combinations of wonder, delight and joy. I experienced a sweet otherworldliness as I dived, twisted and turned almost weightless through the water surrounded by cities of spectacular multicoloured coral. Sharing these encounters in watery nature with my loved ones created a string of moments that could only be described as perfectly beautiful.

     We experienced the same rapture out of the water and throughout the Malay peninsula. Our eyes were wide, and our senses tuned to new adventures as we hobnobbed with land creatures of great variety: Greedy Macaques and gentle Silver Leaf Monkeys descended upon us. We glimpsed a gibbon and were amazed by the Hornbills. We jungle trekked through rugged terrain to discover the rare blooming Rafflesia. Hundreds of Mean-looking Monitor lizards as big as me stuck out their forked tongues in our direction and dared us to come closer. Lightning bugs by the million showed off their bright lights in the mangroves along the jungle rivers after dark. My son invented an ingenious way to feed live grasshoppers to Tokay geckos on the hunt after dark — an experience that far surpasses any delights that might come from a T.V. show or computer game! And, of course, there were the Elephants. The giants of the land, with knowing eyes and curious trunks. It was jubilation to give them showers and feed them. To touch them, speak to them, and have that vague sense that somehow buried beneath all that mass of muscle and bone, they understand what you are saying.

We Humans are Strange Creatures

     Full credit goes to Muslim women who try hard to follow their religion’s rules yet still have lots of fun at the beach or when they go white water rafting. These adventure-seeking women remain fully clothed from head to foot in black swimwear despite it being over 30 degrees celsius with 85% humidity. I am amazed by their ingenuity, allowing them to invent head coverings that magically stay clamped on even when playing in rough surf or pitched from a raft. At all costs, the hair must remain covered, and not the slightest glimpse of leg be shown lest the sight induces a man to lust, alter his righteous path, and ruin the world. So strange from my perspective.

Full credit goes to the Asian’s who clearly have made safety first the priority for their holiday experience. I see platoons of them, cueing in long lines waiting to get on the various touring boats. As they wait on the beach, I can’t help but notice that their life jackets are already fastened on. When they return a few hours later, I’m surprised to discover that they don’t take them off. I see them in their brightly coloured vests on the beach, in the shallows, bobbing in among the coral reefs and even on land in the shops! Not just children but grown men and women remain attired all day long in the vest that promises safety upon the high seas. As hundreds of black and yellow vests mingle throughout the day, I cannot help but imagine myself in a great human bee-hive. It seems so strange to me.

So, what sort of strange behaviours do the Westerners bring? An extreme aversion to clothing. The great irony is that their white skin stands to benefit the most by being covered, but there’s no chance of that. It’s the beach! I see breasts cradled by the slenderest bits of cloth. Rumps adorned with a single thread that nestles like a wedgy between exposed cheeks is all that stands between the white person and the full wrath of the tropical sun. In the Western mind, less is more concerning beach attire. Myself, though a westerner, find this as strange as the Muslims must surely find it. I look more like the Muslim women with my long shirt long shorts and floppy hat chin-strapped on. I can’t leave merely sunscreen to defend my bald head and bleach white skin to the ravaging sun! As the white man, in the floppy hat guides his children without life jackets beyond the reef in 30 feet of shark infested water, as he feeds Tokay Gecko’s and investigates too closely the eating habits of Monitor Lizards I have little doubt that other eyes are watching me as I have been watching them. The tongues are clucking, the heads are shaking, and the words “very strange indeed” are coming to into their minds.

I want to live so that I have a story to tell.

     I wanted to be in the paddock with the elephants. I wanted to swim with the sharks. I wanted to shoot the level four rapids to risk the possibility of being launched from the raft. I wanted to hold my breath and swim as deep as possible to feel the crushing sensation of water pressure and hopefully see better whatever creatures lurk below. I wanted to go where the waves were the most hostile. I wanted to go off the jungle path and see what isn’t commonly seen. I wanted to snorkel the reef on the far side of the island, the one that no one snorkels. I know I am not one of those extreme adventure seekers, I’m no Bear Grills, but at the same time, I experience the  tug of adventure. It pulls me to take calculated risks that put me in harm’s way so that I can live through it and have a story to tell at the end. Did my knee hurt for a few days after I was sent flying from the raft? Yes. Was that aggressive Barracuda truly dangerous? Yes. Did we come a bit too close to that Monitor Lizard? Yes. But we survived! We lived to tell the tale, and this, to me, is truly living.

To catch the whole story click the highlight video below!

On our last morning at Redang Island we were treated to this amazing sunrise which I captured on time lapse. Enjoy!

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5 Responses

  1. As I watched your adventures unfold, I swear I could smell that familiar Asian air. A combination of that humid tropical breeze along with the very early morning aroma of street food … how I miss my Thai life 🇹🇭 🔆 🇹🇭
    Thanks for sharing your Malay vids … Dennis you’re a wonderful storyteller!

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