Our second week in Terengganu!
Monday morning we went to Ziq Bakery and Cake, the bakery factory of one girl’s temporary host family. We decorated cupcakes, which was fun! Of course none of ours turned out as beautifully as the professionals’ did, but they tasted pretty good.
Afterward, Ying drove Anna (Hungary), Grace (USA), Matteo (France), and I past the sultan’s huge palace, though we couldn’t get close enough to see much of it.
Next we went to the famous Floating Mosque, a beautiful mosque built upon a lake.
We went back to Ying’s house where we had our own karaoke session, singing pop hits like the French National Anthem and the Star-Spangled Banner.
We went to phone repair shops to have them try to fix my phone, but no one had any luck.
We went to the beach for the Pesta Pantai (Beach Festival), where there were dozens of tiki-hut style stalls selling food and other things. People on the beach played with kites, and as it was almost sunset, the view was beautiful.
We all walked down the beach more and through the festival stalls. Mr. Long gave out flyers about AFS to people who approached us walking advertisements.
We dressed in Chinese clothing, the chongsiam, which felt extraordinarily short and got us lots of stares as we walked through the almost entirely Muslim crowd on the beach.
We saw Ying’s photographer friend and he took photos of us.
Tuesday we went on a river cruise for about thirty minutes around the Taman Tamadun Islam and the Crystal Mosque. We saw lots of riverside fishing villages and boats and also saw a hotel resort.
We went inside the Crystal Mosque, the only one of its kind in the world. Originally, the architects wanted to make it out of gold, but since gold was too expensive, they settled for crystal. Crystal was still expensive, so only the four minaret towers are made of crystal, and the rest is glass. Nevertheless, it is still gorgeous!
We got to go inside the mosque after wearing headscarves and large robes. This was my first time going in a mosque, since most do not allow tourists, so I was very excited!
Someone from the mosque told us about the history (in Malay) and showed us a display of posters about Islam, where we learned a lot about its basic principles and what it means to be Muslim. We also gathered a lot of free flyers sharing information about Islam and clarifying common misconceptions.
Next we went to the Taman Tamadun Islam, a tourist attraction featuring smaller renditions of around 20 mosques from all over the world. The nine of us AFS students (including one from Japan whose permanent host family is in Terengganu) rode a six-person bicycle to go around the park. We saw mosques from Pakistan, Thailand, Palestine, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia (Mecca, the destination of pilgrims for the Hajj), Singapore, India (the Taj Mahal), Niger, Spain, and Russia. They were extremely beautiful and some of them had (air-conditioned 😍) museum exhibits underneath telling about their history.
Later, Ying, Matteo, Grace, Anna, and I went to a night market, where we got lots of delicious food: nasi kerabu (blue-dyed rice with vegetables and other toppings), kuih (desserts), apom balik (like a thick folded pancake filled with corn or peanuts and condensed milk), lemang (sweet glutinous rice cooked in bamboo over a grill), and satay (chicken grilled on a stick, dipped in peanut sauce; common in American Thai restaurants). People stared at us as usual, and Matteo was regarded as a young Mat Dan, the name of a British man who now lives in Terengganu and is famous for speaking perfect Terengganu dialect Malay. Each state has its own dialect, and the Terengganu one was pretty hard to understand; my Malay school friend told me that even she couldn’t understand the dialect when she went to Terengganu! Mat Dan married a Malay woman after converting to Islam (as is mandatory for a non-Muslim man to marry a Malay woman) and now lives in Terengganu.
A host mother arranged for us all to do karaoke in a fancy VVIP room where we had a wonderful time singing/screaming into microphones to songs we pulled up on the big screen at the front of the room. We had a great time and stayed until our voices probably couldn’t hold up much longer (but the next morning we were surprised to realize none of us had lost our voices)
Wednesday, we didn’t have any AFS plans so Anna, Ying, and I met Grace and Ibe and went to the central market (our second visit). We looked at all the clothes, batiks, food, and other souvenirs, and I bought even more batiks.
We met Ying’s dad at a nasi kerabu restaurant for the delicious Terengganu delicacy.
Thursday, I went for a run! As expected, I was the only runner I saw since it was already 10:30 when I started and was HOT. (Running outside of tiny ‘recreation parks’ is still uncommon in Malaysia any time of day) Still, it was a very nice run and I enjoyed seeing a bit of the city by myself. I showered at the office of one of Ying’s friends, and then we went to Chinatown to walk around. We met with a local councilwoman for lunch which was very nice!
That evening, five of us went to a Container village, a neat concept of restaurants built out of old shipping containers.
Friday, we said goodbye to our host families and thanked everyone involved in the Terengganu AFS chapter for all their generosity in giving us an incredible two weeks. The volunteers were so kind and fun, and we all had a wonderful time.
We had a long bus ride home which we passed talking and reading.
We reached the KL bus station and said goodbye to some of our friends, and four of us took a new train to Klang where we met Matilda’s host family. We had great fun riding along the highway in the back of a pickup truck late at night and singing.
Saturday, we went to the Holi Festival! This is originally a Punjabi Sikh religious festival, but it has been commercialized around the world and has inspired the Color Run. This was a bit more authentic— it was planned by the Sikh community— but this wasn’t a particularly religious festival and we still did have to pay, unlike most religious events (about 4 USD). The actual Holi festival had been a few weeks earlier, which I assume featured the religious aspects of the festival for devotees.
This is known as the festival of happiness and colors, and it certainly was!
After a few trains and an Uber, we eventually met up with a lot of other AFS students who were participating. We were given packets of color powder and the music began! People threw color at each other and water was sprayed from hoses and water guns, and everyone danced to lively music (Indian music as well as English pop songs). Everyone seemed to have a great time and it was fun to have color thrown at us by total strangers; everyone seemed to be friends.
Later, we went to a restaurant (still covered in colors) and later got rides from the few Uber drivers who would accept our Tide-advertisement selves.
Still rainbow-colored, we took a train and enjoyed the amused looks of people as they wondered what on earth happened to us. We were all laughing hysterically, and it was great to see people join in in our laughter when they saw us.
In KL Sentral, a huge bustling train station, we said goodbye to Matilda and Margo after buying train tickets. The happiness festival didn’t end when we left the event, as our appearance made a lot of people laugh and smile. We asked the information counter if there were showers anywhere, and were told that there were not, followed by a genuinely concerned “what happened to you?” We walked through the attached mall (still appearing to have been either ambushed by paintball guns or having gone swimming in a paint factory) and had a great time entertaining stares and questioning glances. By this point, Ibe and I were pretty much out of money so we walked around for several hours before taking the only available train back to Tapah at 10:15 pm (but had a lot of fun in the meantime).
We found a bathroom and spent a good half hour bathing our arms and faces in the sinks, leaving behind pools of color and confused onlookers. (though we cleaned the sink as best as we could!)
Once we were mostly back to our normal skin tones (with a few remaining blue splotches) we walked around Little India and into the wonderlands known as Indian shops, full of beautiful saris and intriguing cooking supplies and cool vegetables and glamorous jewelry and elegant god statues and colorful decorations.
Eventually, we went back near the mall and sat outside watching the lightning storm going on nearby and making up life stories for the people who walked by.
Back inside, we spent our little bit of remaining money on dinner, got our luggage from a locker we had left it in at 7 am that morning, and got on the train. We got back to Tapah Road after midnight, and Ibe’s host dad met us with his motorbike. He miraculously balanced our two large, heavy suitcases on his motorbike and brought them home, then came back for us. As we rode home I saw SO MANY stars! In the minute I was able to look up, I saw more stars than I’ve ever seen at once, and it was incredible.
Sunday morning, the action wasn’t over! We went on a rice paddy and vegetable farm tour with Ibe’s sister’s Buddhist Sunday school.
Afterwards, we went to a rice factory. This one had been out of commission for three years for a reason explained in Chinese. (And probably rightfully so, we realized as we looked around)
I felt pretty gross after being in this environment and definitely didn’t like the idea of consuming food that was processed here, and wanted to get them shut down or something, but I realized that if the owner was giving us a tour, this couldn’t be out of the ordinary. Sure there are rules for food processing, but I’m not sure they’re very strict in the nations that supply the world with rice and thousands of other products we enjoy in the US. Maybe it’s only because the factory is on probation that it is collecting so much dust, but maybe that’s the reason it’s on probation. The owner told us that he couldn’t clean the cobwebs and dust because doing so would require chemicals, and it would get all over the rice. Now we couldn’t have chemicals near the rice, could we!? (see photo below)
This was still interesting to see, and it was fascinating to realize how much work goes into making even what seems like the simplest of foods.
Later we had a picnic lunch:
And that was the end of one fun-filled week of adventure!
We had school the next day.