Category Archives: Malaysia

Christmas Day in Koh Muk, Penang and return

I start the day quite early and walk around the headland to cut across the island to Find Sabai beach. The path climbs through rubber plantations. The trees have a groove spiralling down which channels the white dripping sap into half dried coconut shells tied around the trees with wire. Loads of bright beautiful butterflies, a zipping green grasshopper the size of my big finger. A rustle in the trees and I spy the face of a macaq. The path turns into jungle, the track about a metre wide, yellow rutted path used by the motorbikes of planters. No other foreigners. Palms with leaves up to 3 metres long. Dead brown palm leaves hanging in swathes, dry and brown and rustling loudly in the breeze. Past some rubber planters houses, crudely shaped white sheets of pressed latex hanging on lines to dry. Under the house I can see a couple of hand mangles. The path peters to breaks in the bushes and navigation is a bit harder. As I pass another house A voice cries out ” hey my friend, where are you going?” I look up and see a cropped grey head, brown shoulder, brown-orange robed monk. He beckons me over. His friend is swaying next to the house ( it is his house). I join the monk, Ajairn and spend the next hour or more gazing out over the jungle and talking about the directions we have chosen in life. He tells me to be careful not to get lost. I tell him, philosophically that you never get lost. You take paths and the path is either the right one and you continue or you realise it is not the right one, so you choose another one. He is 55 Has been a monk for 5 years. Is from Chang mai and travels Thailand. He works in a foundation that promotes Buddhism to foreigners. He has been sent to Koh Muk to serve the island. One temple, one monk. The island doesn’t seem too interested in Buddhism. I see no shrines, prayer houses, wai-ing. He has had a normal life of working for an airline company in hotels, marriage, children, money, divorce. Turned to drink and women. Says he did bad things and he was damaged. Becoming a monk meant he gave up and away everything, and was supported by his family totally. He has a new name, as do all monks, and even his family must dress him with a higher more respectful language. His friend has also been a monk. He is now married and living on this hill in the forest. I notice a long scar with stitch arcs right down his belly from his navel. He goes down to the neighbouring house where his wife is, and comes back with a flask of hot water and some cups and sachets of instant sweetened white coffee. After a while we go down the hill to a bend where he sends me on my way, suggesting a mark my path with scratches on trees. He invites me to his temple in the evening.

The path to the beach is indeed almost invisible. After anotherc20 minutes it arrives under a pineapple tree at a stagnant pool of flotsam and jetsam which I negotiate on a wobbly plank bridge onto the beach. It’s about 100 metres wide flanked by craggy mountains on each side. Accessible only by boat or by my path . There is nobody there. The plan had been to have a final dip in the sea. Though the beach is soft sand the edge is littered with sharp protruding and underlying rock. I test the water. It’s a bit unpredictable to negotiate the sea bed. I walk in a little way, the sit down, letting the swell wash over me. I spend. A little more time on the rocks then begin my sweaty return journey. A startled dog runs back into the bushes. There are some beautiful flowers, in 2 parts. A red thing like a rubbery red open pine cone and out of the top a delicate long white trumpet of a flower with a yellow stimen.

When I get back to my beach the sun is out, it is around 3 pm. Actually I have no idea, and don’t care. Though hungry I lose myself on the beach. The tide is way way out. You can walk about 500 m out over the sand and rocks. There is a popping sound. I think it’s the crabs, maybe the shell fish. Hoi nam (sea snails), dap (starfish). Little bright sand crabs scampering around and back into the myriad of holes in the sand. Women are banging rocks, and collecting shells, big inky blue grey long legged birds with yellow feet swoop down and wade the pools looking for dinner.

I go back to the Coco Lounge for an excellent green curry with tofu and aubergine. Perfect level of spiciness. The lady asks me about why I’m vegetarian. It’s a question I never know the answer to. Every year in October there is a vegetarian festival in Phuket and Trang. I really should plan a trip around that. At dusk I go to find the wat. It’s actually behind Coco Lounge. And next to the health centre, in front of which teenagers are playing volleyball and a group of older guys are playing a game with a wicker ball. Standing in a ring and passing it around in the air by foot and head. The wat is an open modest affair, in a little square surrounded by houses and sitting next to a diminutive red Chinese temple which only opens for Chinese New Year. Ajairn is sitting freshly shaven and in brighter orange robes. I remember him joking about different types of Buddhist monks. Red shirts and yellow shirts! He is at a table with a small boy who is a tiny 11. He immediately notices me and calls me over. Delighted to see me.

He sends the young boy off to buy him some cigarettes. The boy comes back with a slightly bigger one and they have some fire crackers,which they take glee in tossing in the bushes to bang loudly. They play with a box of matches and I film their antics.

From then on the iPad takes over the evening. Suddenly it is dark and the mosquitoes are ferocious driving us into the temple where the 2 boys and a little sister cluster around the iPad looking at pictures of places faraway and of houses and faces they know. They watch the film I made of the boys playing football. They know them all. Interesting to see how intuitive and easy it is to use this iPad. The younger boy picks up navigation, zooming, speeding up and slowing down film very easily. This evening Ajairn doesn’t make too much sense. He asks me to help him with a website. I will do, but I’m not sure how. He insists I come by tomorrow before leaving to donate a coffee. I say I will, sadly knowing I won’t have time. We say goodbye.

Back at the beach the tide is very very high. I chat with William about my day, then pack. Later in the evening I go to the bar by the beach. There is some live music, a few foreigners, William and some locals. There is a mixture of pro performers, marked out by their sunglasses after dark and long hair, who play a couple of covers including Hotel California, but much much better are their Thai songs, many of which the locals know. They sing about the islands and the sea. The show is interspersed by some of the locals who sing and play too. Very talented and mournful lilting voices. These rough moustached guys by day are fishermen. William takes the mic to sing to some of the tunes. Everyone gets up and dances, the beer flows and some strange crunchy sweet cookies are passed round. It’s a beautiful night, and I’m reluctant to say goodbye and goodnight.

Boxing Day

I wake up with a cold, oh my god. It doesn’t seem to get worse during the day. I have my last breakfast as the sun comes up then walk with Dada to the pier with bags following with her husband in the motorbike and sidecar. At the pier I meet one of the singers from last night. He works the boats lugging boxes. He has a cowboy hat and looks funny lassoing the rope to tie up the boat. Waving goodbye to Dada and husband from the deck of a heavily laden ferry boat. Koh Muk slowly receding, sun beating down, exhaust belching noise and smoke. Lulled into a reverie, next to some weather beaten brown locals and a young lugger with the eyes of an old man. We are transferred to Trang where I go back to Rungtip travel. The girls remember me and I buy them some mangosteens from a very friendly fruit stall. Share a ride with some Dutch girls full of stories about Koh Muk to the bus station, where I kill 20 minutes buying sweet meals. Each bus counter has big bunches of bananas which they hand out to the waiting passengers. The minibus is piled high with bags and the stereo booms past my own headphones. Wafting smell of those menthol nose sticks so many Thais sniff obsessively.

27 December and my time has taken a whole new slant and perspective.

Arrived in Georgetown around 9.30 and the Hang Chow hotel had kept me a room but it was seedy, grotty and on the ground floor. I look at a couple of other places and remembered my trudge 2 years ago trying to find a room. I end up at the Hong Ping hotel, a big place on Lebuh Chulia. Chinese, smells a bit smokey, lacking in atmosphere but ok. I shower and get the long wished for masala dosa and mango lassi.

Phone and meet E and this is where things change. After some stalling he tells me about his illness and I still can’t take in it in. Sitting in a Chinese temple, a chanting cd and on the verge of tears. Slowly now I’m uncovering his layers. Layers he is ashamed of. Man, he has done some bad things and I can only begin to imagine how he is dealing with this. Can’t tell his family. He called it the death sentence.

What else is there to say? The minibus from Hat Yai was driven by a git who spent several stops smoking and chatting to his mates, leaving us waiting. He even got a bit lost. Hat Yai had rows after rows of stalls of dried nuts, porn DVDs, and I ate some vegetable rice salad. The waiter was gay. Shit, so what? Who is reading this? I want to change as a person, but I don’t know what I can do. I love E. What can I give him?

The afternoon ends with heavy rain and I edit pics and doze. I arrange via dodgy Internet to meet Eyrique for dinner at the food court near his hotel. His mum and brother and sister will be there. On this day the 15 th of the lunar month, his mum is vegetarian. Se treats me to dinner, rice, aubergine with garlic, water spinach, we have some beers. The entertainment on the stage is 3rd rate karaoke Carpenters style. Eyrique and I go off on our own initially to find a gay bar, but Georgetown has none. We sit in the side street at the Monkey Juice bar. Same guy, same menu, same prices as 2 years ago. We have a juice, Eyrique eats more, I photograph an old guy with his poodle. We leave as the market is closing. Back to my room. Eyrique has already picked up my cough.

The next day we were going to spend together, but his mother wants him back with them to do family stuff. We have a dosa for breakfast. Seems to be some tension around him being with me. We say goodbye, I’m a bit tearful. Weird how little we know each other, how fleeting our meetings are, how big an effort it is to reach each other. Funny how much I like being with him.

Final 2 days

Yesterday I walked around, hung around some temples, chatted to an old Chinese lady in her medicinal tea shop. Walked the malls, bought nothing. Oh, I forgot about meeting William Orchard from Singapore. A small guy in a baseball hat guarding a pile of flight cases next to the row of ruined heritage buildings I investigated last time round. They are still there, but I think the row behind has vanished. The is still one occupied by a Chinese grocer. He insists they won’t pull them down. Doesn’t seem to be much substance to rebuild though. The guy from Singapore is there making a film. He is the producer and it’s a self financed student film. A sci-fi ghost story and they have come all this way for these cool locations. We chat quite a long time, then they load up their fancy coach and drive off.

That was the day before yesterday. Back to yesterday and my wandering. I don’t see anything new, just enjoy the familiarity of the place. Have several lassis at various cheap Indian restaurants, and buy a big bag of fresh samosa and bhaji for the homeward journey. I browse one of the several used book stores and chat to the missing toothed Chinese owner about my travels. It’s amazing anyone buys anything in these stores, and this is better than most. Sun-faded, sea-water-curled trash best sellers probably from airports around the world. I do manage to find Memories of a Geisha and hope I will get round to reading it. I’ve got money to burn and I find myself in a crockery shop buying discounted Japanese plates and bowls. Quite cheap, but no haggling possible. For dinner I go back to Sri Amman…whatever it is called. No free tables so I’m invited to share a table with an Indian looking guy who is actually British. Quit his job as a banker in Canary Wharf and travelling Asia. His travels are a bit mainstream, and he isn’t too keen on experiencing the real Cambodia I tell him about. Anyway, he is ok company. We share a passion for vegetarian food and fruit, but his comments about missing uk, eg soya milk irk a little. Soya milk is easy to find and deliciously fresh here. Hope he will discover this. When we part I go back to Monkey Juice bar for a series of juices, each different, each refreshing. Suddenly remember to print my boarding passes, then go back to Hong Ping to sleep.

Next day, ie today. Breakfast is impossible to find even at 9am. For a city so keen on eating and with a Chinese population so geared to making money I can’t believe there is absolutely nowhere open. I settle for snacks from the 7-11. The minibus picks me up and takes me to the bus station where I board a luxury cruiser with remote controlled footrest and massage controls. I actually only discovered this by accident. I must have leant my elbow on the button, as suddenly I felt a trembling vibration on the left side of my back. First I thought it was the throbbing of the engine, but then I pressed a few more buttons and found more areas to vibrate. The journey was longer than promised. That’s no surprise, and the traffic was snail-like. The bus got hot and the air fuzzy. I chatted a little to my neighbour, a Malaysian kid of 19 who lives in Penang and studies in KL. To my relief the bus goes to KL Sentral, which means an easy connection to the airport. However, the bus takes me to the Airasia terminal. Why didn’t they tell me? I wander around the terminal a while and only when I ask for help do I realise my mistake. Sweltering sun. Waiting for a connecting bus. Once at the right terminal the rapid drop in queue doesn’t move as a family of Arabs are checking in about 20 pieces of luggage. One of their kids opens a Coca Cola bottle which sprays sticky brown sugary goo all over the counter and floor. Once through to departures I get some Mango Absolut, and the girls in the duty free shop are in a quandary about whether I am allowed to take it into Abu Dhabi where I have to transfer. I buy it anyway, and later am told at boarding that it will be ok. The airport book shop has many peculiar looking books on Malaysian politics and social commentary. I would have bought one if I hadn’t changed the rest of my ringgit back to pounds. My media research continues with buying some newspapers to analyse.

That takes me back to last night. I don’t usually have any interest in tv in my hotel room, but I thought I would check out what is broadcast here. It was an English language news channel from Malaysia. Interesting coverage. No Chinese faces or Indians. Lots of minor dramas, deaths, incidents, all involving Malays. Crimes such as gang robbery of a tanker, a crime of passion involving a woman, her husband, her lover. An overturned pick-up which mowed down a couple of electricity pylons. Floods on the east coast, army rescues. Education reforms. The deputy PM emphasising mastery of Behasa Melayu and English. There were complaints and suggestions by Dong Ping, a Chinese campaigner for Chinese education, for inclusiveness for all students with the new policies. The deputy PM made some comment to the effect that “we cannot please everyone and these policies are not going to be changed just for Dong Ping”. Then he made some speech about how we must curb text language as it is destroying the beautiful Malay language. Basically we saw a portrayal of a single race nation, with a single language. All smiles and silk.

I saw many of these people in the evening, yesterday. I walked up to the town hall and the harbour wall near the fort. This is a Malay area. Funny how segregated they all are. Promenading families, headscarved mothers. Everyone creating meaning and moments by snapping each other on their phones over and over, silly poses, poor light. Rituals that give shape to their evenings. I dangle my feet over the wall and watch a mammoth container ship glide slowly in, then like a mirage a brightly lit blue and white ferry positively motoring into to the port.

Even on the plane, the guy near me. A black African snaps himself several times on his Blackberry. Why oh why? To show he is on a plane? Meaningless.

My god, what a long journey. Arriving in Heathrow at 6.30 am local time. I decided not to change my watch since leaving Malaysia. Time means nothing. Except I’m tired. I can see I have lost a day, or is it 2 and I have been travelling for 30 hours now. By my reckoning it. Will be 32 by the time I get home, mid-morning, and go to bed. It’s cold here, maybe 8 degrees, my sleep on the planes was drowsy and hypnotic due to my iPod streaming whatever it liked on shuffle mode.

Uk transport….well the District line isn’t running from Hammersmith, necessitating another change. The train from Victoria to Brighton should be quick and reliable. Crawling to East Croydon, taking half an hour. This journey is costing 25 quid. I just want to get home. Uk is miserably frustratingly crap.

Lang kawi

Day 6

Made an effort to get up and get to the beach before mid- morning. Floating in the sea. Go off to hire a motorbike and cruise out of town (not really a town).nice to feel a breeze on my arms. Not much traffic on the island. Roads are quite good. No idyllic local scenes by the roadside, but there are stray dogs, fawn cows and a few monkeys. The countryside is green, jungle in places, shacks by the road selling the usual fried rice. After a few mis-turns and even coming across the first place I booked a rom at, then cancelled shortly before coming here. Glad I did that. The area looked tedious. I follow the road to the seven wells waterfalls. Climb up god knows how many steps and come to a serious of pools at the top of a big drop into the jungle. Don’t linger long, cross the river and head up he jungle path. Climb and climb for about an hour. many of those huge fig trees, butterflies, ants, and a mother of a termite mound. Hardly anyone on the trail and its very silent…but also very sweaty. It seems the peak could be a long way off and I decide I’ve had enough and descend. Back to the pools where a big group of cute young Malaysian boys come and try to chat with me. Our common language is Wayne Rooney, Manchester and Liverpool. They gather around me and I don’t know what to say. Then their leader arrives. He speaks better English. He is their scout leader and there is some jamboree that are participating on. H is amazed I am alone and I have to field the are you married question.

Back at the carpark I wolf 2 fruit juices. I’ve been there longer than I thought. Can’t find anything worth eating. Back on the road. It’s fun racing and overtaking, then I hit rain and get soaked. I’ve put my electrical goods in the seat box, but in the end it makes sense to get into some shelter. A petrol station, where some others have pulled ove and are buying ridiculous 5 ringgit rain capes. Definitely not waterproof. After a snack and 15 minutes I head off along the north coast. The weather is grey, low clouds hanging over the mountains. More rain is imminent. I get to taming rhu, which is resort beach with restricted and limited access. The beach is combed and rather crunchy, not so nice to walk on barefoot. Hardly anyone there. A couple of boats offering a trip to the mangrove. I’m not tempted. The bay contains a number of limestone outcrops. Look great through my binoculars. Apparently this is the place for watching sunsets, but the sky doesn’t look promising, and besides they close he gates at 7. I leave and take an age getting back, taking many wrong turnings.

Discover the joys of editing photos on an iPad, and the tin roof begins to clatter with another torrential downpour. Several walkin hopefuls arrive then leave, all rooms are taken. So glad I booked ahead.

With the rain over..and there is no sign of water anywhere…where does it go…pop down for a thai green curry and singha beer. Watching the promenaders.

Buy some flipflops.back to the hotel to. Pay for sunday. takes a bloody long time to sort out what is going on with cit. tries hard but his english is poor. he didnt reply to my email warning that i would be late cos of my delayed flight dor 2 days. he’s not too efficient.anyway i share my druit with him and chat him up a little. he earns £200 a month! Not longan, but cats eye; mata Kucing. Mangosteen is mangi. I love these fruits.

Day 7, Lang kawi

Get up to return motorbike and have a little cruise first. Super duper inefficiency. to rent the bike i had to sign and check any damage evident on the bike, pay deposit, declare my type of licence etc etc. none of thos is computerised, so when i come to return the bike the poor girl cannot find my rental papers. In fact when we do find the right number amid a stack of forms, that number form has been completed by someone else. So ther system breaks down and she has to return my deposit without any records to match against! Do some reading in the heat of the. Beach. So hot almost deserted except for some burning Europeans. Read about narratives in films. I get a quick lunch of some Malaysian curry and bread in an open wooden shack by Babylon bar.

At 2 I get picked up for my island hopping trip. It turns out really good. Only 10 of us in the boat and the weather is nice. The seascape is dramatic lush limestone crags. We go first to the pregnant maiden island, which we spend an hour on. There is a massive deep green, almost black lake formed from a collapsed cave and with legends surrounding it about elves and babies. The are lots of warnings about the depth and the absence of lifeguards. Only the really brave and strong swimmers venture in. Everyone else suns themselves and dangles their feet from the assemblage of pontoons. It’s a bit boring in the end . Climbing back down the steps to the landing jetty- the only way onto the island is by tour boat – monkeys appear, one particularly savage that attacks a kid. As the boat readies to set off the skies open and the torrential rain reappears. The boat speeds off with rain and waves spraying and battering our faces. The weather clears as we reach the next spot, an island where around 30 eagles are circling and swooping for fish, and whatever food the tourists scatter over the sides. By exciting, and I’m so glad I brought binoculars. Our final stop is the island of wet rice. We spend another hour here and I spend much of the time floating, instinctively. I think soon I will be able to swim. It finally feels natural and unforced being in the water. I meet. An Indian guy called sati from Singapore. Lots of gold. We chat a bit in the water.

Spend. Around 10 mins drying in the warm air on the palm fringed beach, and get a cold beer. Watch the Malaysian kids playing in the water, t-shirts and long pants. A group of scarfed girls at the waters edge. Boat back and a refreshing shower. At sun down the rain begins once more. Almost like clockwork.

Day 8/9 Lang kawi and leaving for Thailand

reflections on sweet inns motel. Efficiency and modernisation not so important here. Cit may well have a spreadsheet of rooms, but when I Asked to pay one more night, it takes 20 minutes to sort out. He can’t work out what I’ve paid for, how much to pay. I try to negotiate a cheaper price and there is some debate about agency booking commission and corruption. His English is pretty poor. Shouldn’t really be running reception. The Thai cook works all hours. There at the death at 12. Up making breakfast at 7. I try to engage and I’m never sure if she is telling me Thai or Malay words. Skinny cats with mutated half tails. I’m sure I owe some money for breakfast eggs, but it never gets written down. Several young Malaysian boys. All soft eyes, black hair. Shy friendly smiles.

Langkawi efficiency. Tomato restaurant is a good place to eat. Freshly cooked curry good prices. I thought I had left my money at the hotel. They don’t seem to mind. It takes me a while to go and get it, only to find I already had it tucked in my book, where I thought it was anyway. A the fruit shop I’m a little short, and the girl lets me off of 60 sens!

On the beach, stung by jelly fish, floating, and keeping an eye on my bag as the guys are packing up the loungers. No deck chairs here. A young boy swims by and says hi, and speaks quite good English, at least for a brief conversation. He is unusual in that he is alone and actually swimming the length of the beach. But in t- shirt, and later I discover, having got out and tracked him along the beach, he is wearing flip- flops. Actually, you don’t see many people really swimming, and the kids don’t seem to be able to anyway.

Haven’t really experienced much darkness. Though last night on the beach I noticed the stars for the first time. I don’t know where the moon is here, but in a whole week, I haven’t spied it. after my final swim at dusky a couple of beers at Babylon and chatted briefly to a beautiful long haired Malay called om(?), 18, born here. Like everyone here describes Lang kawi as paradise and never wants to leave. He compliments. My earrings. Funny one of them is 20. Years old. I remember I got it from rosé in Dorchester. Dorchester. Reading my film theory book, I’m beginning to see that giles studied from the same book: it’s full of praise for John ford and Truffaut and makes me realise how unoriginal giles’ views on film were.funny how expert I used to think he was.

Awake as the cock crows. Literally. It’s dark. Mat Lovegrove has a cockerel too. I’ve seen into his fb page.not sure how much I want to continue to communicate with him there. The voyeurism thing is safe. Distance. No commitments.

I’m getting the ferry to Thailand. It’s scruffy, dirty. Full of poor looking locals.

Some gruesome film playing with sound turned down, but subtitles. I’m thinking film theory, watching the edits. Facile silly subtitles. She is smart. Yeah. She is in control now. What’s the genre? Well it feels like alien. Lars be careful. They are not human.. The threat isn’t here. It’s out there. Sci-fi, siege,. Equilibrium, disruption, disequilibrium, new equilibrium.

Arrival in Thailand. It takes 5 hours just to get to hat Yai . Sprawling concrete frontier town, full of saewthawn and thoroughfare. Chat to 2 different English guys travelling alone and doing different things. Practise my Thai fruit vocab with the guy at the ticket office as I wait for my minibus. They tell me I will arrive in Surat Thani by 7.30, but my experience of buses so far today, stopping every 2 minutes to let on some old lady with small children and bundles of baggage leaves me dubious. Thailand smells different and looks rougher round the edges than Malaysia.

Arrival in Thailand. It takes 5 hours just to get to hat Yai . Sprawling concrete frontier town, full of saewthawn and thoroughfare. Chat to 2 different English guys travelling alone and doing different things. Practise my Thai fruit vocab with the guy at the ticket office as I wait for my minibus. They tell me I will arrive in Surat Thani by 7.30, but my experience of buses so far today, stopping every 2 minutes to let on some old lady with small children and bundles of baggage leaves me dubious. Thailand smells different and looks rougher round the edges than Malaysia.

The minibusi to surat Thani is crazy. Driver seems to be on a death wish. Weaving in and out at high speed, u dear taking, overtaking, tail gating. For a laid back calm country the driving is a contradiction. I think everyone drives on the belief that nobody wants to cause a crash, so cos of that crashes do not happen. Pickups loaded with kids in the back, pick ups with stacks of individually caged fattened pigs, the dark brown co-pilot gnawing a chicken bone. Sun is going down. The woman wedged in next to me has got off and I can stretch my cramped legs.

There is a video screen playing endless beautiful boy meets beautiful girl in idyllic locations. Period cars, vw camper, 50’s mercedes even a London cab, farm boy, mechanic boy, all very pretty and not very masculine. Maybe this is masculine here. The woman is definitely the helpless one who needs the man’ s help. A theme in them all is a longing look at old photos of her. And everything is in slow- mo. little girl takes care of injured boy. Meeting wondrous eyes, touching her chin, boy sitting there looking at girls photo.

Toilet stop. I can’t identify any of the snacks in the shop. It’s very Thai here.

Arrive in Surat Thani 14 hours after leaving Lang kawi. The mini bus stops all over the place and I”m the last off at a bus office. A young Thai guy working there takes me on the back of his. Motorbike to a large cheap hotel. It’s fine for the price of£8/ night. It’s opposite a “you want massage?” Place. The town is dead. Like Khonsu kaen. Not a pretty place and the nearby night market is tiny and closing. I get a bowl of soya milk with beans and jelly stuf and a donut type thing. Not satiated get some super noodles from the 24hourshop and sit in the large teak furnished lobby, full of massive chinoiserie urns, and eat and then drink beer. Watching qpr actually win a match. Going to turn in early and head for khao sok early tomorrow.

Day 4 leaving KL

Waking up and the sun is kind of shining for the first time. My stomach feels ok. The market is setting up and I browse in vain for a shirt. Breakfast is fresh soya milk, fresh pineapple and a red bean bun.

Catch the monorail to LLC aka the twin towers and kill a while surveying the mall full of Christmas trees and designer goods stores. Outside in the park it’s to hot to sit in the sun…but then down comes the torrential rain. Back inside I find the food court and miraculously there is a fast food version of the amazing organic vege place we went to in Melaka. Eating, watching the world then back to Chinatown to find an elusive Internet cafe to print my boarding pass. Now sitting on the bus waiting to leave for the airport.

Plane is late. The flight is disturbed by kids in front and behind kicking the seats and banging, tables, arm rests, anything that moves. Turbulence as we approach Lang kawi, passing through storm clouds. Domestic flights are interesting, no bag checks, no passport control. No buses on the island. Fixed rate taxi to sweet inn motel. The taxi driver is an ex-aeronautics engineer and tells me about Malaysian cars. The hotel is on a strip of restaurants, tourist info shops, resorts, fronting the palm fringed beach. My place is the other side of the road among a cluster of cheaper hotels. The boy at reception is cute, cit, but I don’t really think he understands what I say to him. The room has twin beds and a window with a partial, over the top of some houses, sea view. It’s 10.15 and I’m starving. I eat at an Arabic/Indian place and have a byriani and pineapple lassi. I slip down to the beach. It’s dark and there are a couple of reggae bars, bob Marley and cheap beer. I walk through the sea along to the further of the 2 and leave after a couple of beers and being unble to take any more of the singer massacring Marley, nirvana and radio head. Guessing, rather than knowing the lyrics. Lightning is flashing on the horizon. Very cool.  There is a fire swinger, not very good, she asks me for money. I decline. On leaving I bump into the waiter from the restaurant I was at earlier. He is called ismael and is from Tunisia, working here on his uni holiday from KL. I think about asking him for a drink, but he talks a lot bout girls, so I realise it would become facile.

Day 5, Lang Kawi

Breakfast: I seem to have missed most of the food, but have eggs on toast. I’m keen to see the beach, and get down there as soon as I can and spend an hour floating in tepid clear shallow water with a bed of crushed shells. There are screaming Asians being towed at speed on banana boats, and Malay kids bathing in shorts and Chelsea t-shirts. Later I even see mothers in full headscarf and dress in the water. Not wanting to pay for a lounger I walk the shore as far as I can, it’s all resorts and places selling jet ski rides. The other way is more fancy, with combed sand and tables shaded by umbrella shaped topiary. It’s getting hot. I’m taking good care not to get burnt.

afternoon, walk along the strip, an it’s roasting. I eat some sweet and sour japanese tofu dish and carry on walking ending up in a duty free shop with very cheap booze. Inadvertently I find myself walking through the exit of the underwater world. Some cool moray and zebra eels. Puffer fish, jelly fish. Buy some beer and sit on the beach and have a read. Floating in the sea at sunset. God there are so many sexy half naked young boys here.haha.

Dinner at the hotel, requires some translation. I’m having spicy noodles.

Day 3 KL

Day 3 begins very late after a night broken up by a deafening generator outside in the street, and the earplugs from the courtesy bag on my flight do not fit my ears. and breakfast becomes lunch at the vege buffet in the market. Comfortably familiar.

 

Afternoon walk doesn’t take me far as down comes the rain. Back to the hotel, where I have spent far too much time. I finally venture out once more and take a walk round the cultural quarter on Jalan sultan which is being pulled down. Beautiful old heritage buildings now squatted, homeless sleeping outside them, cardboard box recyclers eking a living on the corner. My attention is grabbed by a tank of live frogs next to one of snakes, gasping for air, unaware, or are they, of their impending fate in a pan. There are lots of imprisoned animals on this street. Caged birds, puppies in shop windows, looking quite frantic.

I return to the Buddhist temples I knew from the area around Chinatown. Funny how uncaptivating they seem second or even third time around.

The old man who had his barber’s chair in he alley by the juice bar is no longer there. I wonder if he has died.

In the evening I wander up tp little India. Sari and silk shops, markets selling replica football shirts. My stomach is feeling dodgy. I get a dhosa and lemon juice, but don’t feel much like eating.hope this won’t last long.

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2 arrival in KL

First day in kl. a bit of a blur. Checked into lehotel again. Room with a window and wifi rightin the centre of petaling market. All very familiar. The same guys trying to sell me DVDs, failing that, games, then software then porn. The hot chestnut stall, the soya milk stall. I bought a much needed cover for this iPad then toured the stalls, getting bored, finally ending up looking for a vege place to eat in little India. I have only a rough sense of direction in kl, but always manage to somehow find myself back on the same streets. I find a pure vegetarian restaurant and get the sought for masala dhosa and mango lassi. And lo and behold on leaving realise I’m on the same street as the woodland restaurant where I went last year, and the year before. It’s getting dark, I scout around the mosque and the river that’s hemmed in with concrete embankments and cross over to visit merdeka square. If memory serves, this is the field where independence was declared from the British. Bizarely it is a cricket pitch, with that coarse shrubby tropical grass with a massive flag pole on one side, a row of black and wHite timber framed buildings on another, a gathering place with pools and benches and some kind of mini rally on another, and on the side fronted by the road, which is being casually dug up, a vista of Islamic grandeur with ululating colour changing floodlights, backgrounded by the kl tower and rows of sky scrapers. On the way back to the market I stop by the Hindu temple, where a wedding is just getting going. Drumming and horn blowing, saris and garlands, small children dressed up, and a hired posse of camera crew complete with lighting set up. I watch for a while then consider going to fetch my camera, which I do, but first shoot some pretty poor pics around the market. By the time I get back to the temple I have missed the action, and the photos are being taken whilst the guests queue up for the meal. Back at the market I buy a bag of rambutan and shoot some flaming clay pot cooking. As I get back to the hotel the clouds burst and we are treated to 2 hours of sustained tropical rain. Fortunately I’m falling asleep and my day or is it 2 days are ending as my eyes unavoidably close.

Day 1 airports

It’s been a long day and I don’t know what the time actually is, cos it doesn’t really mean anything when you’re between places. It’s dark, anyway, and Abu dabi airport is busy. I haven’t had any sleep and have just spent 7 hours in the company of some lads from Nottingham who drank almost non-stop. In fact the stop was when they fell asleep and finally calmed down. The one next to me turned out to be an ex- pro footballer who played under big sam at notts county and then Nigel clough at burton. He even had a game in the fa cup against Ronaldo and co at old trafford.

My connecting flight leaves in 50 minutes. I guess I should sleep then otherwise I will have gone a whole day and night or maybe 2 days without any shut eye. I think it will be mid-afternoon when I get to kl.