Malaysia has it all!! But it’s time to leave.
Day 2,067 since October 10th 2013: 182 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country
(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross).
182 countries later…still moving ahead…
At this point it kind of seems like the Saga is coming towards its end. And in numbers it surely is. 182 subtracted from 203 would leave us with 21 more countries to reach. However it is not smooth cruising from here on out. As I mentioned last week…Nauru is out there.
This past week has been super atypical for the Saga. Several times I had to ask myself if I should had been on my way? The Saga isn’t really a travel project. The Saga is about achievement, people, inspiration, motivation, education and the will to not give up. It is also largely about profiling the world’s largest humanitarian organisation and making a symbolic link between the 191 national societies of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. The Saga is furthermore a huge display of the misrepresentation of the world in much of the media. Perception is reality and I believe that most people have a heavily skewered perception of many countries and many people. Now in order to accomplish becoming the first person in history to reach every country (completely) without flying there is undeniably a lot of travel involved. However the travel is sort of a by-product of it all. Much like running is a by-product of completing a marathon.
Justine has been following for years. Glad to finally meet! ;)
The Heli Lounge Bar uses an actual heli-deck on top of Kuala Lumpur.
Some time ago I foresaw that the highly exclusive club of those who have reached every country in the world would see a rapid expansion. Today there are fewer than 200 who have made that accomplishment while more than twice as many have made it into space!! And as per a recent viral photo portrayed, Mt. Everest has never been more commercialized than today. The now famous photo depicted a seemingly endless line of people waiting to finish the climb to the peak. It is still an incredible achievement. Both reaching space and summiting Everest. The media has a tendency to reduce accomplishments once it has been done several times. However such achievements are completely out of reach for most people. Obviously you would need to work out what you are willing to sacrifice in order to accomplish such a goal: every country, space, Everest… You would need to free up significant time and resources. And you would need to stay on track in order to accomplish successfully. It is not interesting to hear about “I could have if I wanted to” stories. The best stories are about accomplishment and achievement. So without further ado I would like to congratulate the youngest member in the club. “A 21-year-old American woman named Lexie Alford stepped foot in North Korea and broke a record, becoming the youngest person in history to travel to every country on earth”. So writes Laura Begley Bloom for Forbes Woman.
When it rains it pours!
Justene and Corey always end their nights out with a foot and neck massage. I could get used to that! Thanks for a brilliant time guys!
I’m old enough to be Lexie’s father. And she is a woman. So just to summarize: a young woman!! I hope that puts all of those people to shame who question whether woman can travel the world. I believe that more than ten women have now reached every country in the world. It is quite the achievement for Lexie!! Well done! You can go and find her on Instagram if you’d like as @LexieLimitless where her account has now reached more than 100k followers. Well deserved. Reaching every country with the convenience of flying is however an accomplishment which is getting easier as time passes. The World Wide Web is packed with blogs, which offer travel advice. The hard to get to countries all have hacks which have been revealed again and again. Many countries such as Saudi Arabia have become far easier to visit and there are more flights connecting more destinations than ever before. And they are cheaper than ever before. I think that the “every country club” will quickly grow to a thousand. Now…doing it without flying is a next level game. That is actually getting harder. If I ever see the end of this project then it might be more of an achievement for someone to redo it than what it was for me to complete it. Ferries are disappearing and being replaced by airplanes. Shipping companies are being out-competed and there is less competition on certain freight routes making it harder to reach certain island nations. Well – those were my two cents on that.
272 steps up to the Batu Cave. The metro will take you right there. Easy!
Yeah, so, right from the get go (last weeks blog) I managed to pay a visit to the Malaysian Red Crescent and include them in histories largest attempt to unify the entire movement in a single journey. They were super kind and do a great job. I also managed to meet with Maersk and deliver a presentation of the Saga for some sixty employees. Good times. I tasted the food, I met some people, I saw some sights and I could easily have been on my way towards Singapore (next country) several days ago. So why didn’t I leave? It’s a good question. In part it was because Singapore is rumored to be super expensive and as such I have hosts in Singapore whom are expecting me on certain dates. But in part I also just felt like taking it easy. I do usually head forward as soon as I have fulfilled my obligations and made the necessary arrangements. Malaysia is super nice! So I wasn’t feeling compelled to leave. In fact I think Malaysia is really overlooked by western tourists. Eastern tourists are a different thing. Malaysia sees plenty of tourists from China, Japan, Korea and India. And that is slightly annoying to me. I’ve seen a few precious sites in Malaysia such as the Batu Caves and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Malacca. Those would have been far nicer with fewer tourists. I don’t mind tourist that are quiet, discreet and respectful. However unfortunately many of the tourists I’ve seen in Malaysia have been anything but.
Batu Caves: 6.3% of Malaysia practice Hinduism
The Batu Caves were "discovered" in 1878 and were immediately taken into use by Hindu priests.
Batu Caves: looking over Lord Murgans shoulders across to the afternoon rain.
I guess it is a good sign though? So many people are moving out of poverty and into middle-class. And many from middle-class are moving up into upper-middle-class. And with that comes a new lifestyle which includes travel and tourism. It is very evident at the most popular sites in Malaysia. However Malaysia is a treasure trove of worthy sites so I’m sure it wouldn’t be hard to find some interesting places which are off the beaten path. Malaysians are really kind and they are proud of their food! And that is not without reason. The food is a mix of the demographics and represents western dishes, Indian food, Chinese food, Malaysian food and mixes between the four. And most meals come at very economical prices! I do love being in Malaysia! I wish I was here as a tourist and in my fiancées company. Kuala Lumpur, where I spent most of my time, is a super interesting powerhouse of activity, people, party and development. The monsoon season has been upon us which meant rain every afternoon! However the city is kind of built to deal with it. There are a great deal of sidewalks that are covered so that you can move about without getting wet. Politically Malaysia has just gone through a huge thing!! Since Independence in 1957 Malaysia has only had one political party in charge of the country. However in May 2018 a new political party was elected and that is the talk on everyone’s lips! At least when everyone is not eating or preoccupied with the durian season!
I have become a master of smiling on photos. But I felt like what Li Yan looks like in this photo!
After visiting the Maersk office last week I was invited to join some of the staff for an afternoon out and about in Kuala Lumpur. Sook Yee, Kim, little Li Yan and Anna arrived at my hostel ready to take me out. Now - looking back at the Saga I figure I might have been severely drunk 4-5 times over the past 5.5 years. I can enjoy a beer or a glass of wine now and again but actually getting drunk is not a part of the Saga. However my Aussie friends from Perth tested my liver the night before and I was feeling quite average a few hours before the car pulled up in front of my hostel. So much so that I was thinking about how I could cancel as there was no way I could manage a full day in anyone’s company. However I manned up as well as I could and got into the car. We then drove out to a brilliant and very local Chinese restaurant called Foong Foong Yong Tau Foo.
Delicious food and great company. If my head wasn't so heavy it could have been the perfect day.
At the restaurant we were joined by Chin Long and together we had a feast of delicacies based around fish paste. I was struggling at first and for a while the fish restaurant was spinning around me while happy customers where dinning all around me. The smell of food, the sounds and…oh!…but as soon as we sat down and I had a soft drink and some food I began to feel better. And the food and company was REALLY good! After we finished eating we drove out to a place where I would have my durian debut! They call it the “king of fruits” and it happened to be season. DURIAN!! “King of the fruits” they say. I’m not sure what the other fruits have to say about that?!? I basically think its entire existence screams: STAY AWAY!! However Malaysians LOVE durian!! Not everyone of course but the overwhelming majority do. By the way: durian and jack fruit is not the same.
It’s not for me - but there is undeniably a great love for durian in this part of the world. And maybe not without reason. It is rich in vitamins B, C, E, iron, carbohydrate, fat, fiber, calcium, phosphorus, folic acid, magnesium, potassium, manganese, sulfur, carotene, alcohol, glucose and cholesterol!! That is quite a list if you ask me! And there are multiple varieties as well. I was served the very best in aroma, texture and creaminess: The Musang King! It was on display alongside with the Black Thorn, Kaki Buluh, D101, D24, D13 and D1 (it seems that the names got less creative). From a distance it smells a little like fruit which is rotting in the sun. From up close it has a sharp smell of fart!
Look at those spikes!! Look at the colour! Would you eat it?
It’s a really heavy fruit to hold. Sort of like a bowling ball but with pointy spikes which will definitely kill you if it drops down on you from a tree! Just holding it leaves marks on your skin. The seeds will kill you too so don’t eat them. Actually you’re also likely to die if you eat durian while consuming alcohol so don’t do that either! The flesh had a sickly yellow colour and the consistency of an avocado - kind of. You are fined for bringing the smelly thing into most building or various forms of transportation. And too top it off you can get bad skin, pimples and a sore throat from eating it. What’s not to love?!? But it did taste slightly better than it smelled. Not quite good enough for my taste though. So people of the world!! If you love it then it’s all yours!! You even eat it wearing a plastic glove. You would somehow think that all the warning signs this fruit could possibly give you were already out there! However people really do love it! A huge thanks to Sook Yee, Anna and Chin Long for bringing me to Soon Durian and making me try it. It was definitely an experience no matter how I feel about it :) Just imagine; even after chewing gum and eating several meals I could still taste durian several hours later when I burped. And I only had two bites. That is some fruit!
Rain is a certainty here during the monsoon season so we drove about for a while at Kampong Baru (instead of walking) before settling at an Indian/Malaysian themed restaurant and had another well-deserved meal. I was curious about Kampong Baru which remarkably is a village in central Kuala Lumpur. And it’s said to be one of the most valuable tracts of land in the capital! In fact it has been estimated to be worth up to US$ 1.4 billion!! Kampung Bharu's elders have apparently turned developers away, saying they want to preserve their ethnic Malay lifestyle. So I went back to take a closer look a few days later when it wasn’t raining. While I was severely hung-over it was still an afternoon in wonderful company from the Malaysian Maersk team in Kuala Lumpur. Amazing people and absolutely more proof that a stranger is a friend you’ve never met before.
Classical Malaysian village house and Kuala Lumpurs city center in the back.
Covered sidewalks on both sides of the road.
The Ramadan came to an end and the Eid al-Fitr celebrations began. Eid Mubarak to my Muslim friends. Most Muslim countries are super laidback when it comes to the fasting. I have been to some countries where you will get fined if you drink in public even as a non-Muslim. However that is far from the case in most countries where there is a healthy respect between those who chose to fast and those who don’t. Malaysia is super cool like that. It does feel like a very safe, easy and hospitable country to be in. As the Ramadan was coming to an end I was getting ready to leave the city. A great deal of people had already left Kuala Lumpur to go and be with family and friends in the towns and villages they originally come from. So Kuala Lumpur was quite quiet. Corey, my Aussie friend, is the Project Engineer on a prestigious new skyscraper called the ‘Exchange 106’. It is located in the heart of Kuala Lumpur and is likely to form a new city center or at least a financial center for the city.
Brilliant view from Kuala Lumpur's tallest building across the former record holder.
Thanks Corey! Such a pleasure to meet you! ;)
Inside the almost finished Exchange 106.
Malaysia's tallest building: Exchange 106. AKA "Isengard" ;)
Corey picked me up and guided me around the mighty structure which reaches as high as 492m (1,615ft). What a view from up there!! That is now the highest building in Malaysia until the next one finishes. It is already under construction and visible from the Exchange 106. In fact every building was visible from the Exchange 106. And I heard that another skyscraper has alrwady been commissioned which will reach above 700 meters (2,300 ft). The world is going up! And Malaysia is no different. Afterwards Corey and I had lunch together (his treat) and then it was time for Corey to head home and get ready for his flight. Corey had a few days R&R back home in Aussieland while most things closed down for the eid. Otherwise Corey is no stranger to work! They have been working really long hours for a long time in order to get to where they are with the building today. It must be strange to leave such a building after so much effort. However that is the life of construction expats. We said farewell and went our separate ways. I really like Justine and Corey. Good people :) I went back to my hostel and the next day the long awaited festival of Eid al-Fitr began.
Traffic can get heavy in Kuala Lumpur. Thankfully the public transport works well.
The beauty of the Twin Towers is however hard to surpass. Farewell for now KL :)
The following day I said farewell to Aisha at my hostel. Then I walked toward the metro station in what had become a very quiet city. The metro got me to a bus terminal and a bus got me to Malacca which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and highly historical city in Malaysia. It was also on route to Singapore. Malacca was founded by Parameswara (the first Sultan of Malacca) after he witnessed a mouse deer pushing one of his hunting dogs into the river in self-defence. Parameswara was amazed of the deer’s bravery and decided to found an empire on that spot. His sultanate was established between 1400-1403. Back then it was based off trade with the Chinese as the Europeans had not discovered the route south of Africa yet. But the Portuguese eventually did find the sea route to India in 1497 and in 1511 they conquered Malacca. That lasted until 1641 when the Dutch arrived and ruled the city until 1798. Later on the Dutch seeded Malacca to the British Empire which ruled the city from 1826 to 1946. Ah yes…us European know a thing or two about meddling in other countries affairs. However it has at least made Malacca a highly historical city and the architecture, food and ambiance does ooze of it. Malacca became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2008.
A Famosa is a former Portuguese fortress located in Malacca. It is among the oldest surviving European architectural remains in Southeast Asia and the Far East.
I suppose the next step of the Saga will be quite significant. As I step over the border to Singapore the Saga reaches its 183rd country which leaves a countdown of the remaining twenty countries. Many of them are Pacific and will pose a great challenge. Just how great a challenge is something I intend to look much closer at while in Singapore which will become my base for a while. I planned out the routing of the Saga in 2013 and much has changed since. So it would only be wise to see which ferries still exists, which shipping routes I have access to and which friends I still need to make. I’m fortunate to have friends in Singapore. Some which I have met and some which I have yet to meet. There is not much which I fear at this point. I have been though quite a lot already. However I am somewhat fearful that I cannot complete this project and also slightly fearful of the thought that I might be back home within a year. It is likely that we find all the solutions to the problems which are yet to exist. Problems are always solved. Either by action or by time. I know a lot of you will go far to help me and for that I am grateful. We will find a way together.
When you see something like this on the road then you know tourism is thriving!
Saint Paul's Church was originally built in 1521 by the Portuguese. 9.2% of the population practices Christianity.
The element of returning home is a bit peculiar. I only intend to return home once the Saga has been completed and by some calculations that could be by January 2020. However my money is on that it will take a little longer. I was speaking to a friend not long ago who wisely suggested that my feelings of returning home might reflect those of a prisoner getting out. There is no doubt that I want to get out of the Saga and return home. I wish to continue to develop the Saga after it has been completed however I do want to complete it and return home. At the same time I have known nothing else than waking up to this life every day for the past five and a half years. This is now my life. This is what I know whether I like it or not. I have become institutionalized and slightly weary of what is to come. Andy Dufresne...where are you when I need you? There is so much I would like to share with you. Maybe someday I will.
Don't ask ;)
Thank you Malaysia. You have been a great host. See you again in a few countries when I cross Borneo.
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - Next levelling the s#*t out of this!
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga