We woke up at 8am, packed our bags and said goodbye to our shitty hostel, the snoring men and the knife wedged between two pipes on the ceiling above our bed. It was time to leave Singapore and head to our first stop in Malaysia – a small organic farm and wellness center tucked away in a mountain in Johor.
Several busses and two passport checks later, we had made our way to the shopping center or Bukit Indah, where we found some highly needed basic necessities – coffee and WiFi! After we had gathered our bearings (and some cash from the ATM), we took a taxi to what would be our home for the next 2 weeks, excitedly looking out the window and marveling the beautiful scenery.
We were greeted by a big group of Christians who had gathered at the wellness center to perform and celebrate a baptism followed by a big lunch, which we were forced to join. “Makan!” they were all saying. “Eat!” The next hour was a blur of trying to unwrap banana leaf rice, being introduced to various people and watching the group finishing lunch and tidying up with impressive efficiency. Before we knew it, we were being ushered up the hill to our sleeping quarters.
Our bedroom was in the upside-down house – the owner’s attempt to create a tourist attraction with furniture stuck to the ceiling. It made peeing a challenge! The bigger attraction for us, however, was the view from the house – trees as far as you can see and a not so distant mountain, the rising sun right behind it. We would spend a lot of time admiring this in the weeks to come.
The only permanent residents at the farm were Mr. Foo, his brother and the dogs Blackie, Yellow, old man Rick, Crazy and Noisy. And now us – a Bulgarian, an American and Jan – another volunteer from Checkoslovakia (like our hosts insisted on calling it even after we corrected them several times).
Every morning we would wake up to the sounds of the jungle and make our way down to the kitchen for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and chinese tea, greeted by the dogs, excited someone else was finally up. Our days mostly consisted of painting, germinating seeds, playing with Crazy and Noisy (named very fittingly by us), eating PB&J sandwiched and reflecting. A lot of reflecting. Being surrounded by nature with no WiFi, TV or other distractions gave us plenty of free time to think and write. Some of these thoughts were happy: “Look at where we are, this is the adventure of a lifetime and I can’t believe how lucky we are to be doing this!” and others – not so much: “The end of this trip will come eventually and then we will need to split and go to our own countries for who knows how long until we are reunited again and the thought of us not being together even for a little while is punching me in the heart.” However, the sad thoughts always ended up giving way to the happy ones because we knew it was pointless to be upset over something that hasn’t happened yet and waste what could otherwise be a wonderful experience. And it truly was. If you want to read more about our adventures in the South Malaysian Jungle, head over to part 2.