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Writing about a Malaysian lakeside vacation

For me,  vacations have always been about fun. But my trip last weekend was serene, tranquil. Not “fun”, but regenerating.

Writing about a Weekend at Lake Kenyir

Writing about a Weekend at Lake Kenyir

Day 1

A short flight from KL Friday afternoon and we are in Terrenganu, a quaint Malaysian city. A drive through the city and acres of palm plantations later, we are at our resort by the Lake Kenyir, our balcony overlooking miles of blue, and swathes of green. I love it when I get to be at a place where there are more trees than people.

(I’ve put in a YouTube of a slideshow of the pics, but they’re a bit grainy, I’ve been stingy on pic sizes!)

Day 2

I wake up to balmy sunlight through white curtains. Stepping into the balcony, I fall in love with the place all over again. A hearty breakfast later, I settle down to laze, undisturbed, enveloped only by the sounds of lapping water, a distant bird-call or two (my husband spots black and white horn-bills, but I only hear them honking from time to time), and the incessant chirping of a thousand invisible crickets. Palm trees, tall tropical vegetation everywhere, with ferns and creepers galore, the play of light and shadow on the grassy slopes of the lake, the susurrating of lake breeze through a million leaves. Nap-time.

Writing about Lake Kenyir, Malaysia, water trees and sunshine

Writing about trees, water, sunshine

A fishing trip in the afternoon on the enormous lake, a lake which was born when a whole host of rivers were dammed up and the waters gathered to form the biggest artificial lake in Asia. Tree trunks–dried, old, moldy–stick out of the water like eerie monsters, skeletons of the nature that has been destroyed, standing in mute memorial of the jungles drowned to create this lake.

A sleeping trip for me, while the husband attempts, unsuccessfully, to lure fish. The very silence is music to my ears.The wrong notes are the small live bait, pink-white fish, a little longer than my fingers.

They are picked up and hooked, right down their middle and carried, writhing and flapping, to be “cast” into the water, again and yet again, till they go all limp and are thrown away. I am selfishly thankful, for want of a better phrase, that the soft little bait-fish cannot scream, or their agony would break the afternoon stillness over the waters, shatter it into a million tiny pieces.

Day 3

More of the same in the morning, but almost imperceptibly different. The lake turns blue, green or aquamarine and a dozen shades in between, depending on the quantity of clouds in the sky. This ensures that no two days would ever be entirely the same by its shores. Kenyir is like a moody woman, gorgeous, unpredictable.

A lake cruise in the morning, the sun nuzzling the nape of my neck, the lake breeze lulling me again, but I’m not asleep, merely comatose in an orange haze. I part my lashes from time to time to peer at the blue and the green skimming past, or the blue and green approaching, but it is all too much of an effort. When I’m taken to a herbal island and shown Tongkat Ali( a sort of herbal Viagra), and Kacip Fatima (the female equivalent), I’m still drowsy. I sleepwalk through the whole routine and get back to the boat to dream some more.

Writing about Kenyir lake, sunshine

Writing about Kenyir lake, sunshine

We go to one of the 14 waterfalls that grace Lake Kenyir, and the road to it lies through tall, looming tropical jungle, strewn with leaves, red leaves, yellow leaves, leaves the size of my palm, and leaves big enough to form a small umbrella. Creepers and trees in tumbled profusion, stuffy, sticky heat and the omnipresent crickets calling through semi-dark jungle. The waterfall itself is a delight, cool flowing water, noisy yet soothing at the same time. Fallen logs from behemoth trees, small fish in still pools, mossy stones and grassy, slippery banks.

A moment of panic when the boat would not start. A moment that stretches into an hour, as the boat drifts over muddy water almost too shallow for it to tread. Visions of eating bugs, caterpillars and snakes from watching that stupid show Man vs Wild, where a good-looking guy teaches you survival tricks. (The hubby just adores that show.) Thank god they turn out to be merely wild visions, and a rescue boat arrives, dragging us back over the blue waters.

Day 4

Morning is another laze-fest, and I crawl around in bed as long as possible, take pictures, write, sleep. I drag out the seconds, stretch every minute, battle the hours. I do not want to go back to KL, but a ride back through the rain is inevitable. The anti-climax hits us when we realize we’ll be home only by midnight. I dive back into the book I’ve been reading, and surreptitiously take pictures, like this one:

Sleeping woman at Terrenganu Airport

Sleeping woman at Terrenganu Airport

Tranquil vistas at Tasik Kenyir

Tranquil vistas at Tasik Kenyir

Back in KL, Lake Kenyir seems far away.

But then I’ve always had a calm, peaceful lake inside me, a crystal pool of blue waters where all the stress, grief or anger in the world does not reach. I draw back into this lake each time the world is too much.

And Lake Kenyir is not that far, either.

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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No Comments

  • legendoftheprotectors says:

    How beautiful! I will go there some day! We’ll take our husbands and they can fish. 🙂

  • indigobunting says:

    Oh, so, so envious. So glad for you.

  • Kym says:

    That first photo of the porch lures me into laziness. I want a vacation, too.

    It was more of a weekend trip, but it felt like a vacation, because there was so little to do, and time went by pretty slowly. I did spend quite a lt of time lazing on those chairs, and watching a kingfisher at work.

  • rick mobbs says:

    I see you are up to your old tricks, seducing us into leaving this Western craziness behind. Which reminds me… I’m reading “Endgame”, by Derrick Jensen”. It is a very interesting, extended rant against civilization. He sees civilization as the devourer of natural and human resources, always built upon the blood and labor and lands of others, and that the earth will not right itself until civilization is destroyed. And that civilization and its beneficiaries will not go willingly, no matter how many pictures they are shown of starving children, dying babies, slaughtered villagers, uprooted peoples, poisoned earth, and all so that some of the people of the earth can watch more t.v. I am only so far into the book but it seems he is saying that if this concerns us, the only answer is that civilization will have to be thrown over the cliff and destroyed. I wonder if he is on the C.I.A.’s watch list yet? Not that it would matter to him. Your description of the largest lake in Asia brought him to mind. I wonder if the people who lived in the forest were asked, “Do you mind moving?”

    I thought much the same thing too. There was a lot of beauty in the lake, it was teeming with life, but I couldn’t help wondering what the jungle must’ve looked like, and whether it was not more beautiful.

    I haven’t been able to get around much. It is getting easier to do that now. Good to read you again. Glad you are getting a little relaxation time.

    I’m happy to see you back here again too. Come back more often. I’m now very busy after a very relaxing time, but I don’t seem to mind.

  • DarcKnyt says:

    This is such a nice thing to read. I love the way you make your readers feel like they’re there with you, and want to go in person.

    As always, you are way too generous with your praise, Darc

  • aneeta04 says:

    love these sentences:
    I love it when I get to be at a place where there are more trees than people.

    Kenyir is like a moody woman, gorgeous, unpredictable.

    Hey! so cool you can finally comment! Mailed you back, lets chat when we’re online next 🙂

  • Line Larsen says:

    Those pictures are absolutely beautiful.
    After reading your blog, I have had this strong urge to visit Malaysia. It is your fault, so I’ll be sending you my huge traveling bill when I cannot beat away this dream anymore 😉

    I thought you were chasing deadlines? What are you doing here reading about Malaysia? huh? Huh? 😀

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