Chapter 26: Best Supp. Actor in a Malay Miniseries
Trip Start Oct 01, 2003
56Trip End Nov 2004
I didn't bother riding up to the observation deck (it's only on the connecting walkway, and you can't go to the very top of the towers); instead I walked to the Menara Kuala Lumpur (KL Tower) and took in the view from 267M. The 15MR entry fee included a superb audio presentation via an mp3 player that you take around with you to 12 numbered viewpoints
The Lake Gardens are a beautiful area on the western border of downtown KL. The park includes many of KL's most popular attractions: the National Museum, a bird park (the largest walk-in aviary in the world), the National Mosque, the Islamic Art Museum, a planetarium, and a butterfly park. I skimmed through a few of those on Friday while walking through the gardens with a local communications student named Rilz who I bumped into. He was thrilled to meet an American (there aren't many here), and he was especially psyched that I had a background in radio.
Saturday I took a shuttle bus from KL's Chinatown to Taman Negara National Park, in central Malaysia. More specifically, I took the bus to the town of Jerantut, then took another shuttle to the Tembeling Jetty, and then took a 3-hour trip up the River Tembeling in a long but tiny (2-person-wide) boat. On the way up I got to know Simon from England, Kyung from Korea (we watched "Finding Nemo" together on the boat), Tim and Shelly from the US, and Yum, another American (3 in one day?!). The boat dropped 15 of us off at Kampung Kuala Tahan, which is a shabby little town across the river from the park entrance. I found an acceptable single room, paid for two nights, and spent the evening eating and chatting with new friends on one of several floating restaurants on the river.
Sunday we all went exploring on the trails of Taman Negara. The rainforest there is some of the oldest in the world, and rare animals like tigers, Sumatran Rhinos, and Asian Elephants roam the more remote areas (along with reticulated pythons, king cobras, and many other kinds of snakes which I was hoping to see)
After that adrenaline rush I started down the trail to Bukit Indah, a hill with good views that's 5km into the jungle. I found a tiny tree snake before long; it was as thin as a twig, and very well-camouflaged. Kyung and a few other people from the boat ran into me soon after that, so we ventured into the woods together. Somewhere along the way we looked down at our feet and realized our shoes were covered in tiny inch-long leeches; that was a freak-out moment. Only two of them had attached to my foot, and the other ten were easy enough to flick off. Still: *shudder*
By mid-afternoon I was drenched in sweat, hungry, and paranoid about leeches (tho' thankfully no more showed), so I took a boat back across the river, showered, and relaxed
I'm glad I made that decision - Melaka is the coolest! It's one of Malaysia's most historically important port cities, and it's a relaxed and friendly place to hang out for a few days. The architecture is fascinating: a combination of Dutch, Portuguese, Malay, Chinese, and English styles from several centuries. Some original churches and buildings from the 1500s and 1600s are still standing, such as the bright red Dutch Stadthuys downtown, which now houses a history museum. Melaka is also known for its food, and the local Chinese/Malay dishes (like laksa - a seafood noodle soup) are especially good.
Yesterday I had one of the more unique experiences thus far on my trip. While walking out of the Eastern Heritage Hotel (thumbs up!) in the morning, I was asked if I'd like to work as an actor for the day
I was led to the set in a stately old building across the street, and the hair and make-up people immediately transformed me into a 1950's British soldier complete with awful plastered-down hair and geeky military shorts. A few minutes later I met the two other guys who had gone through the same rigorous casting process as myself: Simon (a different UK Simon), who played an officer, and Roele (Brussels), who was another soldier. Simon's friends Nicky and Elisabeth were our official photographers. We all spent the next 9 hours hanging out together on the breezy veranda playing cards, chowing on the catering, chatting with the crew, and occasionally acting.
The production was hilarious. In some ways (lighting, costumes, cameras, number of takes, paperwork) it was incredibly professional, but in others (script, acting, and, um, casting) it was decidedly amateurish. I had three scenes with the major characters (mostly played by legit actors), and several takes for each
The production wrapped for the day at 8:30pm, and we three guest actors earned 100RM (~US$25) each, which handily paid for most of my stay in Melaka. The series will be on TV this May or June, so be sure to look for my Malaysian television debut if you're in the area. Unfortunately, I don't think I'll be able to come back to the country for a while, as the risk of being mobbed by hysterical fans is just too great. I'll have to wait and import the VCD release before I get to see our historical epic.
Last night our team went out for some celebratory beers and Indian food, and I spent today strolling through central Melaka. Lunch was great - three little old Nonya (Chinese Malaysian) ladies sat and talked with me at a restaurant in Chinatown. For dessert they persuaded me to try cendol, which is a combination of shaved ice, coconut milk, palm-sugar syrup, and green bean flour dough. It looks as strange as it sounds, and the texture takes some getting used to, but it's delicious and refreshing!
Malaysia has defied all my expectations... I'd been thinking I'd spend a minimum of time (7 days?) here en route from Singapore to Thailand, as most people I'd met who had been here said the country was just "OK." Instead I might be pushing 3 weeks by the time I get to Thailand, and I'm really myself. Friendly people, fine food, beautiful nature, comfortable transport, cheap pop culture... what's not to like?! Tomorrow I'm moving north again to the Cameron Highlands for a breather from the heat, and I'll write again soon!
- Tim (Future "Best English-speaking Supporting Actor in a Chinese/Malaysian Television Miniseries" nominee)