Day 9: Kerteh

Often when I get to Malaysian restaurants or food stalls I have the most difficult conversations with the waiters. Last night was the most ridiculous.

It was an open-air restaurant called Dinnies, packed with young Malays eating an exciting menagerie of shit I wanted also wanted to eat. A young waitress with an old face and hi-vis hijab approached me to take me order.

“Hello,” she said with a slight waddle.

“Can I have a menu?”

“You want pork chop . . . chips?”

I just looked at her incredulously. No, I don’t want pork chops or chips.

“No Western Food,” I said shaking my hand like a sad orphan. She flipped over the menu to the Western food page and started pointing at items indiscriminately. I slapped my hand onto the page and looked at her in the eye.

“No western food.”

“Ohhh, you want fried rice? Nasi goreng?” No motherfucker I don’t want any fried rice, nasi goreng or western food, just give me what everyone else here is eating you racist imbecile. Well that’s what I wanted to say, instead I just sunk like an airless pool toy. I opened to a random page on the menu and ordered the first item I saw.

“Nooo spicy”

“Good,” I said. My head already sunken into my folded arms.

As if it was fate I ended up getting something really boring. I know I am a foreigner and I have different opinions, tastes and ideas simply because I was brought up in Sydney and not in Chukai but I’m sick of being treated with the assumption that I only want to eat food bereft of any flavour or authenticity – nor do I want to spend everyday sightseeing and practicing extreme sports.

To combat this infuriating situation I have taught myself some basic Malay – beyond thank you, hello and goodbye (which Lang and Linda already taught me). I can now say fish, beef, fried, delicious, soup, chilli, sweet and a number of other useful words and phrases that can help prove I want to eat what everyone else is having.

The result wasn’t quite what I anticipated. I’m still treated with obstacles and bemusement whenever I try to order anything but rice or noodles but now when I say more than one Malay word in a row everyone turns there heads and someone inevitably says ‘You speak Malay?’ followed by several sentences of things I don’t understand. I haven’t quite worked out how to respond yet – at the moment I’m going with look confused and laugh – I’m open to suggestions.

Today was my first of many days riding in the rain. It was fine. It seems to rain sporadically but heavily, it’s dry and cloudy (also colder!) most of the day with the exception of a few tantrum like spurts. During the downpours I find the nearest cover, usually a food stall, and get my self a snack and wait it out.

I stayed up all night watching Manchester United and Tottenham with a bunch of chemical engineers. I’m sleep deprived but giddy with joy (coffee). I was planning to write about how I had all these great insightful chats but I’m struggling to think about anything other than my next meal.

So here’s a summary of what happened:

Farhan (great chap, couchsurfer) lives in house with two other guys. They all work for a large oil company nearby, Petronas. They’re all around my age and have lived and studied overseas so were much more relaxed talking about politics, religion, money and nudity. Sometimes when you’re on your own speaking a bit of english can be really relieving, particularly with a bunch of really nice and liberal youths.

Oh and their house had amazingly high ceilings, like genetically engineered giraffe tall. Apparently it was built in the 80s when building materials were cheap, I was told the philosophy was something like ‘may as well just build more’.

Some other stuff happened but I really should get riding before the next tantrum clogs up the highways with lakey pot holes.

Love from you friend, brother, lover whatever

This is what most of my meals look like:


3 thoughts on “Day 9: Kerteh

  1. We love reading your posts Nick, I can just imagine how frustrating it must be. Perhaps show them the photo of your delicious looking plate of food along with an enthusiastic thumbs up and you might have more luck. Stay dry and safe xx

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