Malaysia: Truly Bizarre
Malaysia has launched its biggest tourism drive since independence under its famous slogan “Malaysia: Truly Asia,” but it may as well read “truly bizarre.”
Recent visitors to the Southeast Asian nation have read serious newspaper articles about miracle healers and a mysterious giant ape in the country’s southern jungles. Now, there is a woman who apparently secretes gem-stones out of her big toes.
The wondrous toes of 23-year-old Siti Suhana Saadon, a rubber-tapper’s daughter, have become a media sensation, drawing serious commentary from health officials and medical experts.
Welfare authorities have even offered to pay for tests to be carried out on the poor villager and her collection of clear round stones, the New Straits Times said on Thursday.
“I would like to see her. Her condition is very unusual,” the mainstream daily quoted a senior academic as saying.
Malaysians are willing to suspend disbelief when dealing with the supernatural, if recent newspaper coverage is any guide.
Last year, conservationist Vincent Chow captured headlines at home and abroad by saying he had found evidence of a “Bigfoot” wandering the jungles of Johor state, leaving footprints the size of dinner plates and impressive piles of scatological evidence.
“Malaysians may be in for the biggest scientific discovery in human history if the theory of the biodiversity expert Vincent Chow on the origin of the creature called ‘big-foot’ is proven true,” state news agency Bernama declared last June.
Vampires and stubborn reptiles
For tourists who like the bizarre and unexplained, Malaysia also offers a crocodile-whisperer and until recently a special exhibit of ghoulish human-looking remains, known as “jenglot,” which are vampires according to Malay folklore.
Standing up to a meter (3 ft) tall, “jenglot” appear to have charred skin, long black hair and sharp fangs. They are used in villages as a spiritual guard dog to scare off trespassers.
Last year’s exhibit drew big crowds to a small museum outside Kuala Lumpur, including a local paranormal investigation group, Seekers, which reportedly put some of the figures in a room under 24-hour camera surveillance to catch any of them moving about.
Seekers has yet to announce a breakthrough.
It is also too late to see Malaysia’s “Snake King,” Ali Khan Samsuddin, who spent 25 years mesmerizing scorpions and snakes during live performances. He died last month after being bitten by a king cobra that failed to fall under his spell.
But famed crocodile whisperer Cheek Inu, aged in his 70s, is still communicating with the fearsome reptiles, in the frontier state of Sarawak, on Borneo island, though some refuse to listen.
“His prowess is not a myth as he has proven his ability in various past incidents,” the New Straits Times said in September after Cheek Inu was called in to help capture a crocodile that had eaten a 12-year-old boy swimming in the Sarawak River.
Seven years ago, Cheek Inu was credited with coaxing a 5.5-meter (18-ft) crocodile to come out of hiding, crawl up a river bank, turn over and die. Unfortunately, the 12-year-old boy’s killer proved to be far more stubborn and remained at large.