Tuesday, February 15, 2011
A street in Kuah, Langkawi is suddenly transformed into a market. Peddlers set up tables with canvas roofs to sell their wares.
A Malaysian flag flies by a stall at the end of the street. It matches the building behind it. The exterior of the Baron Hotel is painted just like a Malaysian flag (top left photo).
We stroll down the street with pedestrian traffic only. It is lively with the colors of green beans, papayas, and bananas (top right photo).
We stop at a booth where a man is selling a remedy to alleviate aches. In small glass jars, dark herbs swim in red liquid.
On a bulletin board with Chinese characters, he displays photos of himself as a young trapeze artist in a circus. The man points to the photos, clenches his hand into a fist, punches himself softly, then rubs the medicine on the spot where he punched himself. I guess he is describing how the medicine cured him from injuries he suffered in the circus.
He offers me a whiff; it smells like Vicks. I buy the remedy; eventually I may have a use for it.
Next, we stop at a booth that displays JV whitening pearl cream, saffron sandal soap, and about 20 more products. Claims that they whiten the skin are written on their wrappers. I can read the English, but not the Malay, Arabic, or Thai on the wrappers. I ask the man selling the cosmetics if the products really whiten skin. He replies with a hearty laugh.
Some stalls offer ready-made Muslim-style hair coverings (photo above) and jewels to adorn hijabs for 1 ringgit ( 33 cents ); others display handmade straw purses, fez hats, fried chicken nuggets, and chicken curry.
Finally we arrive at the Westin Resort & Spa. From the top of a hill, we see fountains, ponds, and pools cascading towards the sea (photo, right). We follow the water trail to the resort’s beach. Hotel employees offer us towels, mistaking us for guests because our skin is white.
Suddenly, as I step on the sidewalk my entire body is jarred. For a few seconds, I don’t know what happened. Then I feel intense pain from banging my shins and a knee against cement. I realize I have fallen into a hole in the sidewalk, about two feet down into an open sewer. I feel the sewage covering my ankles. I notice that I splashed myself with sewage above the knees.
When I climb out of the hole, I am glad when I realize I am across the street from the ferry station. I walk to a bathroom in the station, dripping sewage and blood. I use a hose to wash my feet, legs, flip flops, and the deep cuts bleeding on my toes. The muezzin from the mosques chant the last prayers of the evening, broadcast clearly throughout the ferry station, “Allah ’u’ aqbar….”
The next day I review the sewer incident again and again in my mind. I am torn between feeling disgust at falling into sewage and laughing about the unexpected experience. I also find a use for the magic medicine from the market.
Story and photos by Carola C. Reuben, Earthy Reporter, copyright 2011
Parts 1 & 2 of “Photo Walk in Kuah Focuses on Surprises” are experiences fused together from different walks in Kuah.