Finally a good sleep, punctuated by barking dogs though.
Ray is still here and I help him plan his trip to the south. We decide to do some things together: first to the station to get the tickets for our next destinations, then I get a banana pancake and a fresh pineapple. After Ray has checked out, we head for the park at Phra Nakhon Khiri. It’s a hot day, no clouds but I am well prepared for the sun.
There is a steep path (and monkeys) up to the park, which contains a royal palace and a number of temples, flowering frangipani trees, rows of potted flowering bonsais and amazing views.
Each structure has a magical setting and is a little journey in itself.
Each has a view and at each point we end up taking things in and reflecting on some aspect of life. There is hardly anyone there, which makes it all the more wonderful. yet, the noise of the city drifts up and in particular the PA system of a van advertising I dont know what, but punctuating its announcements with blasts of Wham’s “Last Christmas”. Inappropriate? Just wrong!
A drink seller calls out to me “I love you” and pulls out her guitar and sings a beautiful Thai song. Later when I return to buy a green tea and she shows me the bites she has had from the monkeys. They are quite scary.
After a peaceful 3 hours we descend into town where the market is setting up. Fried insects…grilled squid…. sunglasses with Thai and Farang prices….piles of junk..cheap clothes.
And all the kids are coming out of school and calling out hello , then giggling shyly. Thai kids are so good-looking. Well proportioned, lovely skin, rich dark hair, smart and well behaved. Road workers (women) covered from head to foot in the back of trucks going home. Boys on motorbikes with their girls behind on side saddle cruising through the traffic.
This feels really Thai. Nothing put on for show. People just living and doing their regular thing. Courteous, friendly, offering us food only to try in the market. The atmosphere is so genuine.
Back to base to eat and chat and…wow..this blog is now up to date.
Chang beer to celebrate!
Waking up and keen to go out, but blasting sun at the bus stop at Merdeka Villa and no shade. It takes 40 minutes to arrive. I go to Petaling Jalan and have the veggie buffet meal I’d been longing for since last year, then some soya cincao drink and a pineapple guava juice from the hawkers.
I sit on the steps of a now derelict hotel, which last year had given me a wi-fi signal. I watch the stall holders in action. The guy at the perfume stall trying all his charm in vain to get his products shifted. The teenage boy trying to sell his KL t-shirts to a German family with 4 awkward-looking, too tall teenage girls, who then come and sit on my steps as the rain comes. He bangs his stool with his fist in frustration as they walk away. Business is slow today.
The boy and his stall-holder mate (family? friend?) sense the rain even before it falls and he springs about the stall of t-shirts and minature twin towers to roll down some plastic sheeting. Back under cover he pulls up his t-shirt to pat his fat-less perfect slim stomach, flashes it to the girl who is working with him who pats his ass. She looks too old to be a girlfriend and I ponder their flirtatious relationship. About who they are, their education, their background, but there are no clues.
As the rain persists I seek refuge in the Guandi Temple with its burning incense coils and worshippers buying their offering package of incense sticks and coloured paper to throw in the brick oven in the courtyard. You would think the joss sticks and candles offered at the altars would be left to burn to the end, but there is a cleaner type person systematically stripping the altars and dipping these items in a plastic bucket of water before binning them.
Back at the market I buy reluctantly an umbrella, as there seems no likelihood of an easing up of the rain. later finding out when walking with Cyrus through the park behind the twin towers that it is barely water-tight let alone waterproof.
Cyrus finally meets me inside the mall at 4.30 and we go to the gallery but the exhibition doesn’t grab me: it’s about art and fashion. Cyrus asks me if I understand a painting there and I try to prompt him to ask questions: does it make him feel happy/sad/angry? does it remind him of anything he has seen before? do the colours make him react in any way? does he see shapes or randoms? what are the shapes? would he like it on his wall? does he like it?……
At the mall I think I have found the toilets, and nearly charge in desperate for a relief, ready to open my shorts…but warned at the decisive moment that those are the prayer rooms. The toilets are next door!
We head out to the Thean Hou Temple, which according to Lonely Planet is a monorail ride and brief walk away. The first part is right. The second part is at least 20 minutes along a busy dual carriageway and up a steep hill in extreme humidity. My head is boiling. Smog humidity headache. Getting across town at that time is hell. So many people everyone moving….
The temple is modern and has 5 floors. The ground floor is hosting some kind of contest with teams of young girls wandering around in brightly coloured silk uniforms. Up the steps to the first floor there is some kind of concert. We go up to the temple, which is being renovated and the inner hall is partially hidden by scaffolding. The temple area is empty and we go to the top level of the pagoda, eye-level with the dragons and peacocks on the corners of the roof. We sit shoulder to shoulder and I tell Cyrus about my dream and how scrambled my mind is, and how I don’t know what is out ther or what I may become…maybe a buddhist monk (half in jest). He sits in silence. I know I have affected him and I see a tear drip from his eye. He is scared of losing me, as I am of him. He had told me of his dream of going back to UK to do a masters, but it wouldn’t be in Brighton. This makes me feel lonely too. We walk back to the monorail as dusk settles in furtively hand in hand.
We change the mood and I take him to the Blue Boy Vegetarian Centre, which actually is hidden away under a block of flats, and you would never find unless in the know. We have some vege versions of some typical Malaysian dishes (laksa and fried noodles). Cyrus is impressed that they are so good without the meat. We pick up some fruit which has unnecessarily some spices strewn upon it. Mango, apple, guava. Down comes the rain as we walk through Bukit Bintang, where I’d earlier struggled to find anywhere prepared to sell me Thai Baht, through Pavilion Mall, the poshest one in KL, with an unbelievable display of Christmas decorations, matching the austentatiousness of the shops within. Designer and London prices.
Another long wait in the rain for a very packed bus, which gets stuck in a stream of traffic. When we get back for our last night together for a while I need to pack. Sleep comes quickly but is short……
After 11 hours on a crowded, and restless Airbus I’m finally in Singapore.
First impressions? Well, the people don’t seem to be interested in you at all, which could be good, but not when you turn up at a B&B and there is nobody there for over 45 minutes. Sleepy Sam’s is on a little street with a huge mosque at the end. I’ve stayed in worse. If it was full I think it would be horrible as I’ve got to walk through the dorm to get to my little cell….
Jet lag isn’t so bad, as it’s evening when I get here so I can go to sleep whenever and not feel like I’ve missed a day. I decided to take a walk to Little India, 10 minutes away. Streets and all outdoor spaces are throbbing and jammed with Indian men in their twenties and thirties, with moustaches and neat shirts with collars. There’s a lively buzz, murmur, like the sea…male voices discussing things of import….No women…so weird. And I’m the only white face around, yet no glances of curiosity, no menace, no calls of “Hey you…” It’s nice to be left alone, but there is a strange feeling of detachment. I hang on to my bag, but have the feeling that this is not a dangerous place. But no police anywhere. I find what I came for: masala dosa and mango lassi, and sit communally in a cheap vege Indian eating place, but still no offers of engagement.
The architecture isn’t dissimilar from Georgetown and KL: colonial Chinese shop houses, but here in better condition, and interspersed with high rise malls, hotels and car parks.
I hang out at a bar on a Chinese food court, drink beer and see Sunderland go a goal down to Blackburn, the goal scored by some guy with a mask like Leatherface in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The waitress has a limp, and wears a red Carlsberg dress that looks like it was made from a Liverpool shirt. I hesitate to comment..more indiffernce and going through the motions, like everyone here. Withered wizzened Chinese men in vests with fags in their mouths. I wonder how they spend their days. No smiles. Is anyone happy here?
So much for the letter of the law in Singapore. I see Jaywalking, and soon join in too. I see fag butts strewn on the streets and rubbish everywhere. All the signs are in English but I don’t hear a word spoken other than by tourists, or as courteous replies to my requests for information.
The mouse on this computer works back to front and the keyboard is greasy and sticky, so I’ll end here for now.