I felt my sarong slipping loose while I stumbled down the soccer field as the locals raced around me flashing back smiles at my feeble attempt to keep up with the game. Their smiles quickly disappeared in their cloud of dust.
“Only in Malaysia”, I thought realizing I wouldn’t want to spend this day any other way.
One of the things that bring me back to Malaysia over and over again is that I always seem to end up off the beaten path.
This time I was in Kampung Pasir Kelang, a small village in the Kelantan, a state in the northeast.
Now I’m not lying when I tell you I was far off the beaten track. To get to this village it was a half an hour bus ride from the nearest town, a ferry ride across a coffee colored river, and another 15 minute ride on the back of a local’s bike to the village gates. Yep, I was officially in the middle of nowhere….just how I like it.
Arriving at the village, I was quickly pulled to the outdoor kitchen where the ladies were cooking our lunch, a traditional meal of Cow Curry.
I helped out by stirring, and could hear over my shoulder giggles by the local ladies who weren’t used to seeing a westerner try to cook Malay food.
However, soon I was yanked away for pictures. There hadn’t been a westerner in this village in a long time, let alone a slightly overweight ginger. This was at the height of my blogging belly.
Of course this meant I tended to be the focus of a lot of looks, handshakes, and photos. But honestly, I’ve never minded being the center of attention.
At one point there were a couple dozen of kids that crowded around the window just to watch me eat. Whenever I would go out to say “hi” they would scatter around the village and as soon as I would go back to eating, they would swarm around the window again. This was entertaining to experience.
After eating I was shown around the village by the local leaders. As we walked, they shared their plans about starting homestays in their community.
Next it was game time…..but no traditional Malaysian games are complete without first donning a sarong, a brightly colored traditional garment wrapped around the waist.
This is how I ended up huffing and puffing in a swarm of Malaysia men who were kicking my butt at soccer.
We played a few different traditional games, but the only one I seemed to have any luck at was tug of war. After the game I got to spend some time wandering around the village taking pictures, and talking to some of the locals.
As the sun was setting over the village, they greeted with a gift basket full of popular Malaysian snacks before sending me back to the ferry so I could catch my bus.
This is one of the things I love about getting off the beaten track and hanging out with locals. It allows you to see how people really live, to eat with them, to play games with them, and to learn about their culture.
You have wonderful moments together even though you aren’t from the same corner of the globe, and you learn that a smile breaks every language barrier. Experiences like this are a great reminder of why I travel off the beaten path.
Malaysia is a great country to get involved with the local culture, and I look forward to doing it again.
DO you like to get off the beaten path? Tell me about your experience in the comments below!