Wednesday, March 23

Post Office in Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Several hours north of Kuala Lumpur, capitol city of Malaysia, is a series of mountains covered in jungle, tea plantations, and intermittent villages. One of these regions is called the Cameron Highlands (colonization provides the trade-off of sounding less indigenous but gaining mercantile augmentation), and within these is a very cute little town called Tanah Rata.

Here, you wake up to glorious sunrises in which you feel the Buddha smiles upon you, then the mists descend around the mountain tops, and around 1 PM you are drenched in several hours of rain. That's just how it is and the locals are well acclimated to it.

Note: I'm not local. Traipsing around in my fancy-dancy rain jacket is insufficient to the climate, as another couple hours of soaked jeans and Chuck Taylors will testify.

But here I am in Tanah Rata's post office, sending out another batch of postcards, and I want to note something significant here. Just as Norway was a very unpleasant postage rate surprise, Malaysia is the spectral opposite: there are three ringgit to the USD, each ringgit is 100 sen, and one postcard stamp to the US is 50 sen. Seriously! It only costs about USD 16.5¢ to send a postcard to the States from Malaysia! The postcards are more expensive than the postage, and these aren't expensive postcards!

Does my joy seem inordinate, untoward? I beg to differ: postage for five postcards from Norway was US$16, and while the postage rate in Indonesia fluctuated within a margin of 100%, its travel time was equally unpredictable. My friends are only just now receiving postcards I sent from Bali, three months after the fact. Yet I mailed a letter from Kuala Lumpur to my niece and she received it within two weeks, easy.

Vacationers to SE Asia: do your friendly correspondence in Malaysia. It feels like finding $20 on the ground.

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