The Freeloaders

DSC02294ridingpalmtrees.JPG

This blog entry about the events of Wednesday, February 16, 2005 was originally posted on February 21, 2005.

DAY 487:  If you’re like me, you’ve probably read through the past couple of entries in the category “Malaysia” and are thinking (in italics of course), Is this all there is to Malaysia?  Old colonial port towns, a big modern metropolis, and an amusement park?  What the hell?  Isn’t this supposed to be a developing southeast Asian country with like, villagers and stuff? 

The answers to these ponderings came to me like a ton of bricks when I was sitting on the toilet bowl taking a dump at the Travellers Inn in Melaka.  No, it wasn’t another mind dump like when I contemplating Darwin’s Theory of Evolution in the Galapagos; conveniently placed on the door in front of me was a wordy but catchy flyer for an eco bike tour to the outer villages for those wishing to see a more authentic Malaysia in the countryside away from the standard tourist sites of the city.

And so, I washed my hands, booked the tour, and wiped my ass — not necessarily in that order.

IT WAS A PARTY OF FIVE that day:  Pierre and Sara from France, James and Katie from the U.K., and stag Filipino-American me.  Leading us was stag Alias, a quirky Singaporean ex-pat who had served in the Singaporean army before moving to Melaka to start the only bike tour business in town, as far as I knew.  He picked us up at the Travellers Inn and by 8:30 we were off to a roadside food stall for free breakfast — the first of many free meals that day — and then his house in the more rural areas outside of Melaka.  It was there that he gave us each a bottle of water and a mountain bike before leading us to see the “real Malaysia”:  the village towns, the plantations and orchards, and everything in between.  Little did we know at the time that we’d be leeching off of it all.


“IT’S THE BEST EXERCISE FOR ARM WRESTLING,” Alias told us as we rode through a huge palm seed plantation (picture above).  Nearby, a plantation worker was sawing off some palm seed bunches with a long sickle on a stick with all the might of his arm muscles, until a huge bunch of palm seeds fell to the ground like a sack of potatoes.  “If you get lost in a plantation, look to the sides and to the center, you see palm,” the former survival specialist told us.  Not only did palm seeds provide multipurpose oils, but also its fruit could be consumed — although Alias hated the avocado/apricot-like taste. 

“It’s not bad,” I said, nibbling on a piece.

“I quite like it,” said Katie.

While Alias didn’t like the taste of palm seeds, he did rather enjoy the taste of the pungent durian fruit (which I first encountered in Zanzibar), with an odor so bad people have called it the fruit that “tastes like heaven, but smells like hell.”

“If you eat too much, your breath, your burp, your fart smells like durian,” Alias said.  Although the big prickly-on-the-outside fruits weren’t in season, a local farmer brought two over to us when he noticed us riding by.

“It looks like garlic but tastes like onion,” Sara the French fille said.

“Yeah, that’s the taste,” I said.  I couldn’t place it until she mentioned it.  “Sweet onion.”

“It’s not so good.  It’s not the season,” Alias said defensively.  With the texture of soft cheese, the durian fruit didn’t go so well with us foreigners.  Alias on the other hand, couldn’t get enough of it and went for more.  “I thought you French like good food.”

“It’s good diet food,” Sara said.  “[Because] you don’t eat it at all.”

Alias loved it though, even in its off-season taste, and packed the second fruit into his bag.  It was the first acceptance of many free offerings that day.  Soon we were in some guy’s yard picking spice leaves off the trees to sample until a man with his family pulled up in a car.  They recognized Alias right away and greeted their neighbor, and then invited him and his tour group to come over.

We rode down the block to the Muslim family‘s house, where they made a living producing fermented cakes of soybean, rice, and tapioca.  We discovered the visit wasn’t just an invitation to see how they lived and worked, but for free food.  Soon we were sitting with the man on his front porch, who served us fresh hot rose syrup drinks and freshly fried fermented soybean cakes for us to try — there was more than enough to go around, and it was true “Malaysian hospitality” as Alias said.  In return we gave the children quite possibly their first glimpse with foreigners, which they gazed upon with curiosity. 

“Do you go there all the time?” was the question everybody had after the fact as we rode away from the family after thanking them. 

“No, that was the first time I went there,” Alias replied.  “That was probably the first time they saw white people.”  Escaping the hot sun, he parked us all under the shade of a tree to explain his philosophy to seldom do the same biking route all the time, so that you are always a fresh face not seen in a long time to be invited in by locals.  “If I went there everyday, they would probably start charging me money,” he said.  “[I’m a] freeloader, but I have common sense.”

The freeloading continued as we rode through more villages, passed traditional houses, and through plantations and orchards.  We stopped by a rubber plantation to leech off the rubber sap of the trees — “condom trees” as Alias called them — to make rubber bouncy balls.  Alias justified the taking of it without permission because rubber was the only cash crop that was produced naturally everyday; taking a one-day strand of pure rubber wouldn’t hurt. 

“You make the ball and bounce it.  If it goes straight up, rubber ball.  If it goes to the side, unpredicta-ball.”

Free rubber balls were just one of the toys that our guide had growing up as a child in pre-developed Singapore.  Others included a rattle made from a banana leaf stalk, spinning rubber seed shells, and collectible faces on palm seed pits.  “I will put those in Happy Meals and become a rich man,” he dreamed.  Until that day, he’d be running his eco bike tour outside of Melaka — a quite popular tour that would be featured in a television news special the following day — in a landscape that reminded him of the one of his days growing up “in Singapore in the 70s,” he said.  “[Here, it’s like I go] back in time like Michael J. Fox.”


AS WE CONTINUED TO RIDE in the countryside under the shade of tree whenever it was available, Alias kept on bumping into more people in the neighborhood that he knew to say hello.  Another guy invited us to come in and see how he and his wife lived — and to ultimately offer us free food.  The man and his family were in the belinjo-processing business, taking the bitter-tasting nuts, roasting them, grinding them and ultimately making them into yummy snack chips that went well with chili sauce and the iced rose tea that they served to us. 

“More food,” I said.  We didn’t say no.

Before our bike ‘n food tour ended, we went out to leech more rubber from a different rubber plantation that wouldn’t recognized us from the first time that day.  Alias picked off the strands of daily rubber so that we could each have a free souvenir ball to take home.  Soon after we were back where we started, at his home to get our “free ride” back into town via minivan.


THAT WAS THE END of my freeloading that day.  The rest of the afternoon I toured some sights I hadn’t seen yet in the historical area.  I even paid for the admission costs of two museums and an art gallery, even though they didn’t provide any good material for this entry — or adequate enough air conditioning for that matter.  And so, I escaped the pounding heat of the day walking through the air-conditioned shopping mall, and the even colder Melaka International Light & Ice Sculpture Wonderland, a local version of the annual Harbin Ice Festival in northern China.  It was a colorful sub-zero temperature exhibition with big ice versions of Malaysian monuments and Chinese animals, which I paid a relatively steep price for.  (Well, at least the much-needed winter coat rental was free.)

Freeloading was over; that evening, for the first time that day, I actually paid for a meal when I went out for dinner at the former Portuguese settlement three kilometers out of the city center.  It was an area still retaining its Portuguese past, from architecture, to Portuguese street names, to Christianity, to the yummy Portuguese-baked seafood stalls surrounding Portuguese Square.  I had paid a bus fare to get there and was planning to pay one again on my way back into town, but I just walked back instead since it was a nice night for a stroll with a slight ocean breeze for a change.  Sometimes the best things in life are free after all — unless you’re a freeloader with common sense like Alias of course, and most things in life are free.

SAVE THE DATE; DAY 503 IS COMING.  MARCH 5, 2005, NYC.
CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE TRAILER. 
PLEASE R.S.V.P. WITH YOUR HEADCOUNT BY POSTING A COMMENT HERE.






Next entry: A Fine City

Previous entry: Where It All Began




Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

Comments for “The Freeloaders”

  • IT’S OFFICIAL!!!  I am officially coming to the DAY 503 party I’ve hyped everyone about.  I’ve only booked my flight back to the American east coast just now—a very surreal experience, I may add—and will arrive just in time for the festivities.  See you all there! 

    (FYI:  I’ll probably show up 7ish, after taking the photo-of-the-day at the TSQ, the “Crossroads of the World,” just after it lights up.)

    Now all you skeptical partygoers who haven’t RSVP’d yet need not worry, I’ll actually BE there.  Bring anything you want autographed, because I’ll be asking the same thing in return, on a TGT shirt I will hang on the wall when everything is said and done.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/21  at  02:05 AM


  • My father’s family grew oil palm, durians, rubber, and coffee in plantations in Selangor, about an hour from Kuala Lumpur ( I come from good farmer stock!) The highlight of our yearly visits was eating durian.  Durian is so potent it is banned in many hotels in Malaysia and Singapore, and on airplanes, for obvious reasons.  Then there’s durian cake, durian ice cream… mmm.

    Cheers.

    Posted by metags  on  02/21  at  02:35 AM


  • First…...it’s been a long time !!  Now that was a good entry…...you got to see some of the countryside and got exercise to work off all that food!  I like the pic of you in the jacket at the ice sculptures!  You have a look on your face that makes you say “what was I thinking!” LOL

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/21  at  02:43 AM


  • Hi Erik,

    I’m enjoying your Malaysian entries: I had a few days there last year in Melaka and KL - looks like you found more interesting things to do than I did! (In my defence, I was jet-lagged and culture-shocked at the very start of my trip…) Have a safe trip home! The homeward stretch is a real bitter-sweet feeling, isnt’ it?

    Posted by Chris Hillcoat  on  02/21  at  09:06 AM


  • Hi Erik,

    I’m enjoying your Malaysian entries: I had a few days there last year in Melaka and KL - looks like you found more interesting things to do than I did! (In my defence, I was jet-lagged and culture-shocked at the very start of my trip…) Have a safe trip home! The homeward stretch is a real bitter-sweet feeling, isnt’ it?

    Posted by Chris Hillcoat  on  02/21  at  09:06 AM


  • you guys should have sung with alias:

    who are the people in your neighborhood, in your neighborhood, in your neighborhood, the people that you meet each day…

    if you sang that guy smiley would popped out of a pot of rice and sang along too….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/21  at  11:10 AM


  • Durian is banned in hotels in Bangkok too! My Thai friends gave me a container of dried durian that is actually quite good and not stinky.

    Slow internet here in Luang Prabang, after a slow boat to get here, and I’m not able to have patience and look at all the pics. Later, though!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/21  at  12:06 PM


  • Erik!! Arn’t you cutting that a bit close? What if your flight is delayed?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/21  at  02:59 PM


  • I thought Durian tasted gross.  Is it true that you can’t drink alcohol with it, that the combination is deadly?  I heard that it was but that just seems like a myth to me.  People over there swore it was true…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/21  at  03:55 PM


  • NOELLE:  The internet cafe next to JOMA is fast.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/21  at  04:14 PM


  • DURIAN FOLK:  I actually had durian in Zanzibar—looks like it was a deleted scene cuz I couldn’t find it when looking for a cross reference…  it wasn’t too bad then.  Must be a seasonal thing.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/21  at  04:18 PM


  • TDOT:  If my flight is delayed, I’ll be stuck in my layover in TORONTO… I’m coming to your house… wink

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/21  at  04:29 PM


  • MMMM the famous Durian, when I lived in Singapore I noticed signs on the bus saying you weren’t allowed to bring them on (that’s just an example of how bad the smell is). Same with the hotels that people mentioned above. I also heard the alcohol/durian rumor, any one know if it’s true?

    Posted by Kailani  on  02/21  at  04:51 PM


  • According to the Singapore Science Center (http://www.science.edu.sg) “consumption of durians with alcohol has not been shown to be harmful”  based on animal studies. 

    The way it was explained to us was that you should not mix “heaty” foods like durian and booze.  Instead, durian should be followed by a “cooling” fruit like mangosteen.

    Posted by metags  on  02/21  at  05:34 PM


  • Erik:
    You can’t crash at my place because I’m arriving in NYC on day 502!

    Which airline/flight number… maybe I could switch!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/21  at  06:47 PM


  • hey erik which guidebooks were you using for cambodia and thailand?

    if i remember right you used let’s go in cambodia, let’s go southeast asia?

    were they any good compared to others, or did you have overall positive experiences with them?

    thanks in advance,

    Dennis

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/21  at  08:48 PM


  • DENNIS:  Well, if you’ve read from the beginning, you probably have read the sub-storyline of my gradual distaste for Lonely Planet.  Nowadays, Lonely Planet knows they are a popular brand name and slack off; their books come out only every three years or so, so many times their information is out of date.  Plus I don’t know how many people have found LP maps to be wrong.  Lonely Planet defends themselves by saying that we’re supposed to download their PDFs off the web for the latest info, but c’mon, no one actually does that.

    Unless you’re going to a country that isn’t covered by LP, go with another guidebook series that will more likely be more updated.  Even the touristy Frommer’s books are annual, what the hell…  LP is definitely riding on their reputation, and people just buy into it because it’s “The Book.”  But you, TGT Blogreader, are smarter than that.  As Sebastian (Morocco) once said [on the matter of people using Lonely Planet books], “How bourgeois.”

    I’ve come to like the Let’s Go books, not just because I had a friend working for the parent publisher and I got them for free, but because most of their titles are updated annually.  They are run in partnership with a university and are staffed by college grads itching to travel after graduation—therefore, no shortage of them or their more up-to-date research.  Plus, people I’ve encountered (Dutch and German) that don’t know the Let’s Go books have flipped through mine and have immediately said, “I like the way this is laid out better [than Lonely Planet].”

    I used Rough Guide in China, which was excellent… Better than LP or LG, they even had easy Chinese charts per city for the things you would need to point to if no one spoke English.  However, I found RG’s layout not as good as LG or LP.

    One other subtle thing I like about Let’s Go is that it’s humor is American and I get it.  (It’s an American publisher.)  Lonely Planet is Australia-based; much of their humour is targeted for the UK, AUS, NZ set.  Rough Guide is British and so, I found no sense of humor in their writing.

    I’d have to say the only redeeming thing about Lonely Planet is that most other people have it and will assume you have it too, and when you want to meet up some one in town, they’ll just refer to a page or number on the LP map.  Many times people assume I know where “number 3 on the map is”... but I don’t because I have another guidebook.

    It’s really up to you.  The Global Trip officially endorses Let’s Go.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/21  at  10:56 PM


  • WHOA… Air Canada just cancelled my flight to DAY 503 (via Travelocity).  What are you Canadians doing up there?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/21  at  11:06 PM


  • If I don’t show up to DAY 503, BLAME CANADA.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/21  at  11:24 PM


  • Erik, if your stuck in Toronto I will come and get you and bring you to Muskoka over night…..I’m serious!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/22  at  12:15 AM


  • hey erik, thanks a lot for that huge answer

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/22  at  04:54 AM


  • i was thinking of buying the rough guide to thailand, lonely planet and let’s go southeast asia because they were the most recently released ones. lp bali is released this march so that will be a plus, i am just not quite sure about lg thailand because it seems to feature less pages than rg, wonder if it lacks important info or not wink

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/22  at  04:57 AM


  • DENNIS:  Keep in mind that any research for any new edition is based on research that is at least a year and a half old—although LG surprised me in their SE Asia 2005 edition with news as current as September 2004.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/22  at  05:04 AM


  • ye definetly but it is still an advantage to have a book released this year or in the end of 04. i rather have info which is just one year old instead of having books featuring two or more year old info wink.
    therefore these books should be sufficient for my needs, atleast i hope so

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/22  at  05:37 AM


  • First they give us Bryan Adams… then they pollute our youth with Terrence and Phillip… and now they dare obstruct DAY 503??!?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/22  at  02:37 PM


  • ALI:  “The Canadian government has apologized for Bryan Adams on several occasions.”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/22  at  03:32 PM


  • I LOVE LET’S GO - it has only failed me on a few thousand kip here in Laos, for the most part. It’s AWESOME!!

    My two cents. smile

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/23  at  05:25 AM


  • Erik: You also know someone who works for the parent company for Rough Guides, and the ultimate touristy Eyewitness guides—ME!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/24  at  08:08 PM


  • CHRISTY:  Whoa, Bob Barker owns Rough Guide?  Come on down!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/24  at  09:16 PM


back to top of page


SHARE THIS TRAVEL DISPATCH:


Follow The Global Trip on Twitter
Follow The Global Trip in Instagram
Become a TGT Fan on Facebook
Subscribe to the RSS Feed



This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today, RickSteves.com, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.


Next entry:
A Fine City

Previous entry:
Where It All Began




THE GLOBAL TRIP GLOSSARY

Confused at some of the jargon that's developed with this blog and its readers over the years? Here's what they mean:

BFFN: acronym for "Best Friend For Now"; a friend made on the road, who will share travel experiences for the time being, only to part ways and lose touch with

The Big Trip: the original sixteen month around-the-world trip that started it all, spanning 37 countries in 5 continents over 503 days (October 2003–March 2005)

NIZ: acronym for "No Internet Zone"; a place where there is little to no Internet access, thus preventing dispatches from being posted.

SBR: acronym for "Silent Blog Reader"; a person who has regularly followed The Global Trip blog for years without ever commenting or making his/her presence known to the rest of the reading community. (Breaking this silence by commenting is encouraged.)

Stupid o'clock: any time of the early morning that you have to wake up to catch a train, bus, plane, or tour. Usually any time before 6 a.m. is automatically “stupid o’clock.”

The Trinidad Show: a nickname of The Global Trip blog, used particularly by travelers that have been written about, who are self-aware that they have become "characters" in a long-running story — like characters in the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show.

WHMMR: acronym for "Western Hemisphere Monday Morning Rush"; an unofficial deadline to get new content up by a Monday morning, in time for readers in the western hemisphere (i.e. the majority North American audience) heading back to their computers.

1981ers: people born after 1981. Originally, this was to designate groups of young backpackers fresh out of school, many of which were loud, boorish and/or annoying. However, time has passed and 1981ers have matured and have been quite pleasant to travel with. The term still refers to young annoying backpackers, regardless of year — I guess you could call them "1991ers" in 2013 — young, entitled millennials on the road these days, essentially.




Spelling or grammar error? A picture not loading properly? Help keep this blog as good as it can be by reporting bugs.

The views and opinions written on The Global Trip blog are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the official views and opinions of the any affiliated publications.
All written and photographic content is copyright 2002-2014 by Erik R. Trinidad (unless otherwise noted). "The Global Trip" and "swirl ball" logos are service marks of Erik R. Trinidad.
TheGlobalTrip.com v.3.6 is powered by Expression Engine v2.8.1