30.10.2008 - 15.11.2008
After 12 long days spent in the prison without bars that is Singapore, I've hatched my escape into Malaysia! Left to the mercy of bureaucrats due to my own inability to keep track of my passport, the island became a cage with an open door for me, its reluctant houseguest. After an exhaustive search, police reports, bureaucratic complication and 12 long days of spending an inordinate amount of money to do nothing, I'm finally free!
Though only a mere kilometer apart geographically, Singapore and Malaysia feel worlds apart. Singapore is something of an organized disaster, a city that has lost all notion of feeling and culture in favour of neurotic organization and mechanical order. The streets are spectacularly clean, the buildings ultramodern and the people very cosmopolitan. However, this is all to such a degree that it is unsettling. There is no graffiti under railway track bridges, no garbage stuffed into remote corners, no toothless vendor hawking pirated DVD's with shifty eyes and shiftier tattoos, no trace of the squalor that more typically defines SE Asia. No soul, per se.
Malaysia is a land where chaos seems to reign supreme, rocking to the beat of legends past-- the Village People, Stevie Nicks and REO Speedwagon--blaring from the cassette deck of a passing rickshaw (if heard over the blare of the cacophony of car horns). There are no gargantuan LCD screens on the buildings (Kuala Lampur excepted), no neatly uniformed officials directing traffic (though the bus-drivers tend to have pretty rad get-ups), no regulatory bodies to curb the impressively extensive black market activities. Indeed, in this chaos thrives a certain freedom with no comparable parallel in the West, a certain liberation in disorder.
Where Singapore was a scripted consumerist society with the trappings of modernity and progress, Malaysia seems to represent a broader spectrum of human existence. It's early yet, but through the wafting fumes of fish oil and diesel exhaust I can smell the action that lurks around every corner in this land. I'll be very interested to see where the next several weeks find me.