Belum Valley is an area in the north of peninsular Malaysia at the border with Thailand. It features one of the last virgin rainforests in the peninsula and can be visited navigating Tasik Temenggor, a huge artificial lake created in the 1970s. Nature lovers come to this area to explore the forest and to watch the wide range of animals that gather in the salt licks scattered around the lake. Belum is also famous for Rafflesia, a parasite plant.
I have now been in Penang for almost three weeks and I’m starting to really understand the island and its population. I must admit that at first I was not entirely attracted by the place: the heavy-traffic highways, impossibly tall condos and diffused modernity just appeared too aseptic and dull to me. But then I walked in the old Georgetown streets, ate at the joyous and psychedelic hawker stalls, visited the many temples scattered around the island and slowly discovered the incredible variety within the population where different ethnic groups, each with markedly opposite ways of living, interact harmoniously although never mixing together. Now Penang is slowly finding its way in me and I’m more and more connected with the surroundings and the people. It’s the feeling of ease and understanding you have with an old and trusted friend…
Last night I went to Georgetown to watch the Nine Emperor Gods Festival (Kew Ong Yeah). This Chinese festival is one of the most important in Penang and is celebrated on the 1st till the 9th day of the Nine month in the Lunar calendar. During these 9 days many devotees go on vegetarian diet and on the ninth day a big procession is held.
I’ve arrived yesterday on the island of Penang in northwestern Malaysia. The island is relatively small, with hills in the center and covered with deep green vegetation. The town is on the eastern side, with a lively city center and historic neighborhoods in the north (where the British initially settled in late 18th century) and a more modern and functional area to the south with the university and airport.
In a few days I will finally be leaving for Malaysia on a volunteering program (see my earlier post). Needless to say I’m very excited and more and more conscious, as departure approaches, this will prove a great experience from which I will learn a lot.
In a few weeks I’ll be leaving on another great trip… this time not for tourism but on a much more serious challenge. Together with eight other great people from around the world (Yolanda, Maya, Priscilla, Etienne, Masaru, Trin, Kevin, Dennis) I’ll be part of a Corporate Service Corps team to Malaysia.