Rainy season is starting to taper off here on the east coast of Malaysia, and it’s leaving without any explanation as to why it had to come with such unapologetic force and vengeance. The flood really shouldn’t write any books on the etiquette of being a house guest, seeing how It entered without knocking, kicked us out of our own home, and decided to either steal or ruin half of our stuff. How rude! The last month of 2013 was spent mostly in agony over what had happened (think “woe is me”, head on forehead) but the first month 2014 brought with it a surge of energy and optimism to rebuild what we could, let go of what we had to, and find comfort in some small hope that this has somehow made us stronger, or more phobic of heavy rain, I’m still deciding.
Having to spend the entire month of December away from home in a hotel in Kuala Lumpur, holding fast to the trauma and stress our ravaged home brought us, wasn’t exactly on my agenda for the holiday season. No, in fact, I was looking forward to spending the holidays with my brother and his friend who had planned a trip to Malaysia months ago and now with their impending trip, and our temporarily homeless status sent the inner-planner/scheduler/organizer in me spiralling with anxiety. But, like most things we spend our lives fretting over, this too turned out okay. My brother brought with him such wonderful energy, it made me forget all about the stress the flood had brought with it and instead, forced me to spend 2 weeks playing both tourist and tour guide with him. Also, baby brother and I have always had a special bond (note: if you are almost a decade younger than me, you are automatically a baby), which has more to do with what an amazing/cool older sister I am than him. I’m kidding, in all honesty, I reluctantly admit that he is in fact much cooler than me. What’s up with that, younger siblings?! Am I right?
I recommended meeting my brother and his friend in Bangkok, Thailand before heading down to Malaysia as it was their first time in Asia and well, Bangkok is pretty spectacular. All seedy happenings aside, Bangkok is a splendor for the senses, and I believe the cheapest (or one of the cheapest) cities in the world for shopping. My husband and I made a long-haul trip to Thailand two years ago where we spent time in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket and I’ve been in love with the country ever since. Bangkok, at first glance, isn’t the most charming of places: it’s smelly, crowded, and busy, and there are certainly more beautiful places to visit in Thailand but Bangkok beats to its own unique rhythm and intensity, and the sights, smells, and sounds are too flavorful to pass up if you’re traveling through Southeast Asia.
No trip to Bangkok would be complete without a Tuk-Tuk ride. If your life isn’t that dear to you and/or you don’t mind risking all for an exhilarating ride weaving in and out of crazy traffic, this is a must.
Khao San Road: A backpacker’s paradise. This place is a party 24/7 and you’re always invited.
The Floating Markets: A must-see in Bangkok. Although some would say this place has now turned into a tourist trap, the concept of boat markets is still pretty neat.
Buddhism being the dominant religion, images of Buddha are found everywhere in Thailand. Along with temples..
Ancient capital city of Thailand: Ayutthaya. As the old capital of the country, this site is around 1-2 hours outside of Bangkok. We hopped on the shabbiest looking train ever and spent the day touring this ancient world filled with relics of beautiful old temple complexes. This places oozes history and culture.
Grilled banana? Why didn’t I think of that..
Perhaps my favourite reason for visiting Thailand: FOOD. From the succulent tropical fruits to street food to restaurant options, food is plentiful, delicious, authentic and DIRT CHEAP.
Okay.. I admit, street food in Bangkok has its limits, especially when it comes to roasted and fried cockroaches, frogs, and other multi-legged things. Although, truth be told, I almost tried a grasshopper (it seems more edible than a cockroach for some reason), but only in the supportive presence of similarly daring souls and because I failed to round up the troops, it never happened.
After a few days in Bangkok, it was time to introduce our guests to Malaysia but with limited time, our itinerary simply consisted of Kuala Lumpur and Kemaman. So, after ringing in the new year together in KL, we finally made it back home to Kemaman where we made good use of the extra manpower around the house to get some things back in order. Soon after, my brother and his friend went back to Canada, my husband went back to work, and I took some time to take a breather and try to get back into the swing of life again. As daunting as it felt when I first moved here and as hopeless I felt about resuming life in Kemaman after the flood, it feels much better this time around, because…
I found my silver lining: a sense of gratitude for what I have and for where I am, and the inspiring memory of smiling locals maintaining their strength and integrity after losing entire homes to the disaster. Also, it didn’t hurt that at a time when I was still reeling from the sense of having lost my home and all the effort that came with it, my brother swooped in and brought himself, a piece of home, to me.