Tag Archives: Asian driving

Cars, Cameron and Cherating


With some of my recent trips, I haven’t had much time to actually write about life in Malaysia. Things have calmed down for a bit now, and I’m happy to say that life in Malaysia has been pretty good lately. This last month in particular has been really fun with lots of positive changes :).

The biggest change is that I finally bought a car. Yes, I am now the proud owner of a light green, 2002 Proton Wira, a medium-sized Malaysian car that was within my budget and not the size of a clown car. No more fighting to communicate with non-English speaking taxi drivers, no more long journeys on the LRT subway, no more staying at home because going out is too much  of a hassle, I AM OFFICIALLY MOBILE!!!

My car

Now, I’m not going to lie. For the record, I still HATE Malaysian drivers. Seriously, they are the most impatient, selfish drivers I have ever seen.  People cut you off constantly, motorbikes weave in and out of traffic without looking and everybody parks wherever they want, regardless of whether or not they are blocking traffic or visibility for others. I have woken up in the middle of the night at least three times now with an overwhelming fear that I would die in a car crash here. I wish I was kidding, but in the end, all I can do is hope for the best and triple check my mirrors :).

Me at the Boh Tea Plantation

Along with getting a car, I have also had the chance to explore deeper into Malaysia and see some really cool things. In March, I joined some fellow CouchSurfers on a weekend trip to the Cameron Highlands, a cooler area of Malaysia within its Titiwangsa mountain range that is a popular weekend getaway. With cooler temperatures, the area is full of tea, vegetable and flower plantations that offer breathtaking views and a welcome relief from the heat. We spent most of our time at the Boh Tea Plantation, one of Malaysia’s most established tea producers, and it was incredible. All around are hill after hill after hill of rich, green tea bushes, all manicured into neat little rows. The air is much crisper there with a vague scent of tea, and you just feel fresh as you breathe it in. I felt like I was in the Great Valley (where are my Land Before Time peeps at? :P).

At one point, we even got a glimpse of Malaysia’s former prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (2003-2009) who was also enjoying tea that day. Though I really know nothing about him, it was still pretty cool :).

Last weekend I was finally able to check out some of Malaysia’s beaches with a weekend trip to Cherating, a small village on Malaysia’s east coast known for its surfing. My Malay friend Omar invited us to join him on his weekend surfing trip, and it was a blast! Omar showed us how to surf, and though we were pretty bad, we just enjoyed jumping in the waves! As a Michigan girl, what was especially refreshing was jumping into water that wasn’t freezing cold. Though not exactly crystal clear, the water was a perfect lukewarm temperature, making it irresistible and easy to spend the entire day in. I couldn’t get enough!

Me and the baby meerkat

Perhaps equally as cool as the surfing, however, is I got to hold some exotic pets! Yes, we all know my weakness for small, furry animals, and I was absolutely delighted when I discovered one of the village families had a baby squirrel, a baby meerkat and a baby monkey! Seriously, HOW COOL IS THAT??? I have always wanted to hold a squirrel (they just look so darn cute outside), but honestly, they’re much more rodent-like than I expected, and I was quickly disenchanted. The meerkat, however, was the sweetest little thing. It was like a small, grey “Timone” and would just sit inside of my hand, so cute! The monkey, however, was my favorite. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that monkeys are kind of a big deal, but this was the FIRST TIME I was actually able to pet one! “Kiki” didn’t really like to be held, plus after my first monkey attack, not sure how close I wanted to be to its teeth, but I was able to feed him with a baby bottle and pet him a little, which was still really awesome!!!

So now I sit here, nursing my bright red skin, looking forward to this weekend’s trip to Perhentian Island in northern Malaysia. My face maybe sunburnt but at least it’s smiling :).

Cars and Elephants!


It’s October already, and I can’t believe I’m already starting my fourth month in Malaysia! At home people keep talking about the changing leaves or football games or Halloween costumes, but here in the land of eternal summer, the heat continues to blaze day after day with patches of rain and thunderstorms thrown in between. I love warm weather and, honestly, can easily give up winter, but I will admit I am a bit homesick for the season of colors and apple orchards and haunted houses. It’s strange, but without these little seasonal changes, it’s hard to believe how much time is actually passing by. Right now, it just feels like a very long summer…

But things have been changing here and mostly for the better. This week, I took the plunge and actually started driving in Malaysia for the FIRST TIME! I know I said originally that there was no way I would ever be driving here, but living in Malaysia without a car seriously limits your mobility, and the hope is with a car I will be able to move out of Cheras to a cooler city and be able to make more trips to explore the country.

That being said, driving here is terrifying! Seriously, the afternoon before the car dealer dropped off a car for me to test drive for a week, I started hyperventilating in the office. I sat there breathing in and out with my head between my knees as my co-workers laughed at my melodrama. Luckily, Jullian has offered to help me learn to drive here and has been driving with me everywhere until I have the skills and confidence to drive alone.

Now let me tell you, as an American, there are many different things to think about when driving in Malaysia:

1.       They drive on the left, which means everything including the seat, signalers, lights etc. are on the opposite side. Training yourself to look right instead of left and not habitually turning into oncoming traffic is harder than it looks.

2.       Traffic laws, from what I’ve observed, seem more like suggestions than actual laws. Cars are constantly cutting each other off, tailgating and sharing lanes. In fact, when my attempt to change lanes by signaling and waiting for space resulted in the car passing me up, Jullian said I need to be more aggressive (i.e. cut them  off) or they won’t know I’m serious about crossing over.

3.       Motorbikes are the most obnoxious vehicles known to man. Fact. They make up a huge proportion of the traffic here and like to weave in and out of cars constantly, even if the space is barely a couple feet wide. Honestly, I think the motorbikes scare me the most. Many people use the bikes to transport their entire families, and often I see Mom and Dad on the bike with little Jr. squeezed in between with no helmet. I’m learning to look at my side mirrors constantly, because I am so scared of hitting one or being hit by one who just pops out of nowhere.


Elephants line up for the tourists at Kuala Gandah.


Aside from driving, I have had some pretty cool experiences recently. Just last week, Jullian, Kevin and I drove up to Kuala Gandah in the state of Pahang ( a couple hours drive) to visit an elephant sanctuary. The sanctuary is a park where they relocate displaced elephants who have lost their natural habitat. Though extremely touristy, the park is really cool. Every afternoon they bring the elephants out and you can go right up to them (of course fighting for space with all the other tourists) to feed them fruit and peanuts. Then they have short elephant rides (think 5-minute circus-fair, once-around-the-circle-type thing). The coolest part of the park, however, is that you can go in the river and actually bathe with the elephants! They seat you on the elephant from the dock, then the elephant moves forward, falls to its side and tips everyone over, it was super fun! I’ll admit, it was a really short ride, but afterward I got to stay in the water and play with the baby elephants and you can go right up to them and pet them and rub sand on them and stuff. It was pretty cool.


An Orang Asli boy plays with a puppy at the village outside in Kuala Gandah.


After the elephant sanctuary, we decided to check out the Orang Asli village nearby. Orang Asli, literally “original people” refers to the indigenous people of Malaysia. Though they are made up of many different tribes, they are a minority in Peninsula Malaysia and have a completely different culture. The village we saw was made up of rows of government-built houses next to the original thatch huts the Orang Asli used to live in and still use as extensions to their houses. There were lots of people hanging around, some inside the huts, with children (some naked) just running around, playing with the stray puppies.  It was really interesting to see.

Heading into the rest of the month, I am planning to buy a car and either find a roommate or get out of my lease to move somewhere more interesting than Cheras. Let’s hope it all works out!