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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Part 1: Photo Walk in Kuah Focuses on Surprises

 Let’s go for a walk in Kuah, the most developed part of Langkawi, Malaysia. As the camera focuses on characters and colors, we encounter the unexpected.
We enter the clothing section of Billion in Langkawi Fair shopping center where employees dress in department store uniforms, yellow t-shirts with emblems, their hair and necks covered with Muslim hijabs. Barely clad women in underwear advertisements surround them (photo, right). It is the only time during months in Langkawi that we see such a stark contrast to the Muslim ideal of feminine modesty.

Then we cannot help staring when we see 20 or so beds covering the main floor of the mall. People lie on the beds as shoppers walk around them to stores. The people on the beds are donors, giving their blood in a public place.

The white sheets on the beds contrast with the lime green tunics of teenage boys in school uniform swarming around them. Alongside the boys covered in shiny material, girls in red and black school uniforms, long skirts and hijabs, are also helping with the blood drive.
Earlier that day, the walk begins from our apartment building, Seri Lagenda Tower. We walk past the violet and crimson colors of bougainvillea. The flowers contrast with different shades of green; light green banana leaves blend with the darker green of palm fronds. With mountains as a backdrop, we head downtown.

As usual the lady at the fruit stand greets us, "You want banana?"
We pass a fruit stand, where we admire the rambutan fruits covered with fuzzy pink and green skins. The woman there greets us as usual, “Hello. You want banana ?”
Motorcycles whiz past us as we walk. So, be careful not to collide with them. Women wearing long skirts and hair coverings drive some of the motorcycles. Motorcycle helmets top their bright pink and turquoise Muslim outfits.
We are also careful to avoid stepping on garbage as we walk on the dirt next to the asphalt road. Mangled cans mix with dusty plastic bottles.

Charisse manicures the only hand a woman has left after feeding crocodiles
 A mile or so later, we reach Kuah Town, and we stop at Girls Beauty Fashion & Nail Centre, next to Bank Islam. There, Charrice greets customers in English, Malay, or Mandarin. Her grandparents fled to Malaysia during World War II when the Japanese occupied parts of China. She is a third generation Malaysian, but she calls herself “Chinese.” The country’s largest ethnic minority, 24%, is of Chinese origin.
Charrice wears a short print dress, blue contact lenses, and orange-tinted hair. She fills the small store with laughter as she attends her sister Ivy’s business. The store displays fishnet stockings, tops with plunging necklines, and bouncy, round mini-skirts, a clothing collection unique in Kuah.
Rows of motorcycles glisten in the sunshine in downtown Kuah
“Who buys these clothes ?” I ask. Charrice explains that some of her customers dress like Muslims by day, night clubbers by night. Some young women buy clothes from the store for a night on the town.  Our conversation stops when a customer enters to get a manicure on her only hand.
Earlier, Charrice had told me about her. About six years ago, just for fun, the woman decided to feed crocodiles a fish dinner at the Langkawi Crocodile Farm. However, an animal also ate one of her hands as well as part of her arm, just below the elbow. According to Charrice, the woman accepts her condition as her destiny. (For more about the crocodile farm, see story under older posts, “Langkawi Crocodiles no Longer under Curse.”)
As we leave the store, we take out our umbrellas to shade us from the sun. We are a mere 800 kilometers ( about 500 miles ) from the equator. It is about 86 degrees Fahrenheit and humid. Our light, cotton clothes stick to us. The women covered in garments from head to toe do not seem to perspiring as they walk past us. 
The statue of the Langkawi eagle towers over the Andaman Sea
Among the pink and green and mustard-colored buildings, rows of motorcycles shine in the sunlight. We feel hotter as we look at their sun-heated metal bodies so we consider heading to the other end of Kuah. Near the ferry station, we can enjoy breezes where the Langkawi Eagle, 12 meters long (about 39.3 feet), towers above the Andaman Sea.
Story & photos by Carola C. Reuben, Earthy Reporter, Copyright, 2011
School girls volunteer for a blood drive in uniforms like those in this photo from Satun, Thailand



  1. C....great reporting as usual....

    Dave in Las Cruces NM where we received 4 inches
    of snow last night....

  2. Carol, I loved this post! Very You are there feel to it. It all sounds so colorful and cheerful. Do you ever ride one of those motorbikes? What is with that eagle sculpture?

  3. James: I did ride once on the back of a motorcycle when I went on a date I once described to you. However, I never wanted to drive anything in Malaysia because I don't trust myself to drive on a different side of the road. Taxis were easy enough plus I enjoy walking.

    There are many small brown eagles flying around Langkawi, and the island was named for that type of eagle.

    Indeed, Kuah is colorful. I loved living among the colors.