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Back Backpacking

January 3, 2013

The solo-backpacking lifestyle does a lot to animate the mind: obscure cultures, breath-taking vistas and lovable locals. But as I arrived in Kuala Lumpur I battled with the cynical thoughts of filthy hostels, forced openness and repetitive conversations. It had been almost 4 years since I was last in south-east Asia and hoped this trip would remind me of the things I love about it.

The dorm I was staying in consisted of a young Canadian student, a thirty-something year old German chap and a middle-aged silent man who no-one saw for days in anything other than his very small pants.

The streets when I turned up

The streets when I turned up

The Canadian, JD, seemed nice enough but, judging by his leisurely approach to sentences and an inability to lift his eye lids, was on his own special kind of trip; so I turned to Tommy, the German. He came across as a peculiar fellow and evidently not too sensible with his money. He was flat broke and had resorted to selling off his possessions. He offered me his old and battered camera for $50, and when I declined, asked if he could ‘just have the $50 anyway?’ Two very tempting offers but thought I’d save the cash and buy some dinner.

I hadn’t eaten in nearly 15 hours as the airline I flew with had clearly spent its entire annual budget on the cabin crews’ hair spray and teeth whitener, so couldn’t afford its passengers the luxury of a meal.

I dragged myself down China Town’s rubbish strewn streets and shadowy alleys and slumped onto one of the plastic stools arranged outside the only food stall open at this hour. A bowl of what was supposed to be noodles in black bean sauce was brought out to me, but, to judge by its appearance and taste was more likely something procured from a disused oil drum.

Dinner and a chat

Dinner and a chat

Tentatively picking at it a voice chirped up from behind me. “Hey, what percentage is this beer?” He was a lone backpacker from America and apparently desperate for conversation. We talked beer percentages for about as long as most people can, which is to say four seconds; after which he lurched right into a lengthy monologue about some absurd love triangle he had found himself in.

He had an affected manner and an unyielding self-interest. The more he talked the less I listened, but he babbled on undeterred, as if everyone was definitely interested. “And then her boyfriend flew all the way in from Bangkok to get me.” Oh, Christ, I thought. I had more pressing matters.

The streets on a typical night

The streets on a typical night

I went back to my meal and tried to decipher whether it had been made in a wok or a shoe. Another bite and I was almost certain it was a shoe, then the chef came out not wearing any and I was convinced. I hung on with the story to find out if the boyfriend had managed to catch up to him. He hadn’t – I left.

Back in the dorm – tired, hungry and alone – I stripped off to my very small pants and settled down for a few days in silence until my train left.


From → South East Asia

  1. Really enjoyed this – very funny and well written. Are you planning on writing more about this trip? I’d love to read it if you are.

    • Hi aspty! Apologies for the tardy response, I’ve not been as attentive to this blog as I should have been.

      Thanks for your kind words, and yeah, I’ll be writing up more of this trip as well as others shortly.

      Thanks again!

  2. Love the descriptions; ‘judging by his leisurely approach to sentences and an inability to lift his eye lids, was on his own special kind of trip’ and ‘I went back to my meal and tried to decipher whether it had been made in a wok or a shoe.’ Very dryly funny and great ways of showing us things without telling us 🙂

  3. Your writing style is pretty interesting! Definitely made me laugh a few times 😀

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