Sunday, June 29, 2008

"Lyn, this has got to be your dream..."

Thursday, June 19, 2008

bengawan solo, riwayat mu ini

sunset at lumut

it was therapeutic, chatting outside the toilets feeling sticky and cold yet quite happy, or better still, sitting by the marina listening to oldies/ballads (albeit heavily singlish accented and out of tune) and talking in the chilly night after a downpour. and trying to fly a kite in the erratic winds, high enough to trip planes landing at the seletar airport. that's after getting to (sit on a) jetski and bananana boat when crashing the camp the ivans are at. yesterday was also spent with the boys and mag and it was comfy, broken in. it seems like too much trouble these days to break in new stuff.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Trang Beaches: Pak Meng, Hat Yao, Hat Yong Ling, Hat San, Hat Chao Mai, Hat Apo..

long stories stuffed with details follow, because i had the Luxury of time on extremely long bus rides to pen them; i'd long finished reading the books i'd packed..

these are quiet beaches (cos it is.. Low Season..) with shallow water stretching 100m so you can wade far out, turn around and take in the casuarinas lining the beach, the imposing limestone cliffs scattered around, and walk back to scare the million little crabs into burrowing into the sand so quickly you think you might have imagined them.

so at 9.30am, i found myself at the quiet Pak Meng Beach,40km from Trang. "tsunami evacuation" signs along the roads were eerily ominous but small families were scattered having picnics and i was happy with the sea view:

ban pak meng

but sad that the boats at Pak Meng Pier were not operating (because it is Low..) so my great plans to visit Tham Morakot (Emerald Cave) looked like they might fly out of the window. one of the restaurent owners sent me to Ko Muk Pier on a motorcy to try to catch the local taxi ferry.

limestone hill

at the pier, fishermen had just come in with the morning catch of a million crabs and other islanders came ashore on business. the next boat going out was in 2 hours' time, and costs 200Bt, hip hooray. but then.. there was to be no return boat later that day. decidedly against spending the night outside the town, i resigned myself to a short, unfulfilling day and asked for a ride to the next beach, intending to go back to town after that. as luck would have it, Saa~, whom i'd later learn is その "村に一番おもしろい人", (the "most interesting person in the village") took it upon himself to send me on his motorcy. he pointed out several things along the way but chan mai khao zhai Thai (i dont understand Thai) and told him to give up explaining. he didnt understand me. at Hat Yao, he urged me to put my ear to his cellphone and i was rather stunned to hear, もしもし、日本人ですか。(hello, are you Japanese?)

日本人じゃなくても、少し日本語を話せます。and so began a long three way Thai-Japanese conversation, which finally led to Saa~ sending me to Jacky's family home. (yes, the possibility of a kidnap etc crossed my mind. but i heard kids and chickens in the background and decided that chances of them being kidnapped children and stolen chickens, in this small village, is not that high.) Jacky's Japanese is extremely fluent, a result of having worked 8 years in a Japanese firm in Chiang Mai and for a spell in Japan. Having not spoken Japanese in 5 years, i struggled but Jacky was patient and soon, i'd like to think, i got into the groove.

Jacky's and Saa's families are in the crab business, with Saa going out to sea crabbing, and Jacky's family cooking/packaging the crabs for export. so it was a lot of aunties cooking a lot of crab greeting me at the side of the house. sure, i got to eat the fresh crab. mm! lunch was a simple (maybe not so simple) meal eaten sitting down on the kitchen floor. aroy. (delicious.)

walking back at low tide

so the two guys and Jacky's wife, Yin, showed me around. under the guise of a Thai relative, i didn't have to pay the national park fees for foreigners. even the local fees were waived, cos Saa is friends with everyone. we climbed the limestone hills skirting the coastline at Hat Chao Mai national park, and boy was it tiring. but the view was quite spectacular and i'd wanted some exercise anyway. but my legs were starting to tremble (fatigue and.. the height) on the trek in to Hat Apo (i think) and i am glad the tide was low enough for us to walk back on the sandy strip. Hat Yong Ling and Hat San were relaxing, but it is very unfortunate that it was hazy/cloudy that day.

my day with these folks ended with husband and wife (Saa went out to sea for the afternoon catch) rushing me to the bus station for the last bus back to Trang, only to have the driver say that because it is Low Season the bus service terminates 28km before Trang. and then i'd have to take a 5 minute boat ride across the river and then take a taxi/motor. the couple refused to let me go this convulted way and instead packed me off on their relatives' courier service (to fetch ice to pack the crabs) to Kan Tung where i got onto a shared-taxi that dropped me off right in front of the hostel, no less. また会うね。“こんど、サアー君のお船に島を観光するだろう。” 親切は決して忘れません。

for all this, i am very grateful. i think about what ZJ said, and worry that my good luck will run out and i'd face a Drought..

happy (slightly belated) fathers' day, pa.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

on Trang:

it is "Low (tourist) Season". even without the constant reminders from the folks there, that is obvious: there were no farangs at all. Koh Teng Hotel was closed. and there were no occupants in Yamawa Hotel. sawadeeka, is anyone there ka? even the receptionist was away when the sticky, smelly and slightly shakened traveller finally found the place. the shops close by 8.30pm. at least there is the night market to kill some time. and this ah beng internet cafe. and yes, families are walking around, so i dont feel the urgent need to hole up in the hostel room watching CNA, very pretty as the room is.

as my lovely travel buddies Yemily, Zhiminime, Bra and ZJ chill out at the W&O (western and oriental) and watch a Tamil movie (in which kamal hassan has ten! roles) before taking their moses lim-endorsed massage chair fitted coach down south, i continue northwards across the border at Bukit Kayu Hitam in a minivan that had half of ASEAN in it- Viets, Indons, Thais, Malaysians, and a Singaporean. we managed to find common languages among us.

as i turned back the time on my watch by an hour as we crossed the border, i was pleased that i'd gained more time. but what was spozed to take 2 hours from Hat Yai to Trang took 4 as the minivan filled up slowly. the last man was carried on, left leg in a plaster cast. turns out that all the subsequent car pool rides for the next few days would entail long waits like this. i got used to it. in two short days, i'd gotten used to watching the activity build up as the town/marketplace gets busy, to watching drivers play dum with bottle caps on chessboards painted into stone tables, to watching dusty TV, to Not watching time and just.. waiting, believe it or not. in these parts, few speak a smattering of English, if at all. which could be trying..

Friday, June 13, 2008

on Penang:

from Lumut, we catch another bus to Butterworth then transfer to Georgetown via 渡轮. it's just like it was >10 years ago when i took that photo at the snake temple with a python around my neck looking all gungho -or not.

we trudged around Chinatown in the midday heat and finally land ourselves at the new Star Lodge at Lebuh Muntri, off Love Lane. the cacat cheenapiang lodging that had caught our eyes earlier was full. (of rubbish and cigarette smoke too.)

Penang folks are so very friendly.

With the locals pointing the way, we made our way to Penang Hill (Bukit Bendera) where upon alighting, the bus driver warned us to get down by 9pm in time for the last bus back to town. the ride up to 833m in the tram was a little stifling in the beginning but the sharp incline was something to ooh and ahh about; i couldn't have jungle trekked my way up.. midway up the hill, the air was already thinner and frost was gathering on our noses. it was indeed rejuvenating. and then the panoramic view at the top was quite breathtaking la, despite the hazi-/cloudiness.

view from penang hill at dusk

view from penang hill at night

back at the foot of the hill, we waited where we thought the bus stop was. (there are no signs/posts) at 9.10pm there was still no sign of the bus and we walked further down to an apartment building where the residents flagged down for us what we all thought was the last bus. happily we ran up the bus, to hear, i told you 'before 9 o'clock' right! was Lawrence, the bus driver who'd driven us earlier. turns out that the bus service had terminated. but a friendly, helpful Penang-ian he was, he drove us into town, in darkness, (cos the bus was not spozed to be running) for supper and what was to be our latest night out so far as we sat outside the street of clubs/pubs discussing the droughts in our romantic lives. a part of us bemoaning this harsh season, a large part of us/me thinking we should be celebrating the singlehood.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

on Pangkor Island:

arriving after the sun had set, we didn't check out the darkened beach after our taxi in the form of a pink minivan dropped us off at our beachfront chalet in Telok Nipah, the backpackers area to lonely planet readers, and kampung melayu to the locals.

the next morning, we were disappointed by the beach outside and had the intention to beach hop till we found Paradise that we'd had a glimpse of in photographs. turns out that Paradise was Pangkor Laut Resort, off the main island, that costs RM70 to enter (and where chow yuen fatt spent RM10,000/night on accomodation) so we had to be content with this:

coral beach

honestly, the beaches look better in photos, and even better when you are offshore on a boat. now, the boatride was an awesome experience. snorkelling wasn't- i am still itching badly after seabugs/plants stings. i am Scarred; the dead coral and tiny starving fish we saw were definitely not worth it.

and then, we made the best decision on this trip: we rented a car. the car was a beaten up Proton that strained to go up some of the crazy uber winding slopes on first gear and rolled back on one mega incline of "20%" whilst the pink minivan behind reversed away calmly and waited patiently until the accelerator was floored and the car finally crawled up, complaining loudly. the car also sent part of a kerb rolling down a cliff, much to our horror. it was fun.

and there are hornbills (many) on the island!

fight! into the sunset
high after exploring the island, we thoroughly tired ourselves out swingswingswinging from ropes hanging from the trees-imagine waves lapping the shoreline beneath you as you swing out- and fighting as the sun dipped low. before our shiok dinner of grilled fish.

i didn't mention that we were about the only visitors to the island, (of 20,000 inhabitants) did i? because the malaysian school holidays had just ended and it's officially low tourist season now.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

on Melaka/Malacca:
it is a clean town. the chendol is sedaaap. many thanks to andrew h for bringing us around :) there wasn't very much else to do, we thought. though we sure had some fun swinging by the sea in the portugese settlement as the sun set. lodging at Travellers' Lodge was alright..

and then we catch a bus to Lumut to catch a ferry to Pangkor Island.
Melaka -> Seremban -> Ipoh -> Lumut. it took 7 hours in total.

..'69' by ryu murakami makes a good read on the road. perhaps the bus ride was too smooth, too cool, too comfy for the book. but still, i am glad it was on the bus (b/n Melaka and Ipoh) that i read it. the next time i drive up that highway i will think of that quote that caught adama's attention,

Thursday, June 05, 2008

dinner with m cannot be in orchard road, and certainly not at fish & co. (cue cries of "FAIL!") we ate at the southernmost station of KTM (keretapi tanah melayu) and it felt quite like malaysia. random details: m was in fireman boots after work, and mat had on a tight vest. later, we went to look for ivan t who was distributing flyers in scrubs. ..<3

please do not start striking in m'sia, over the fuel price hikes. there are plans to hit melaka, ipoh, pangkor island, penang with the meddies. then ?trang, and i'd like to visit grandmama too. i'd like to leave NOW actually.

by the way: my dad+car at the petrol kiosk were caught on channel news asia while the man at the adjacent pump got interviewed. (my dad works in m'sia, but lives in sg and so is forced to drive a sg car. indeed, it is not quite economical.)

Sunday, June 01, 2008

and so i have "exorcised the demons"- i completed the marathon. in 5 hours, having battled sleep (another set of demons), staving off cramps with salty chocolate gel, twisting down narrow paths and losing the boys at water stations, i finished the run feeling a lust for life, a bit high also from caffeine. (but no overwhelming sense of satisfaction i've heard so much about?) the warm sea breeze, breathtaking airplane takeoffs and landings, cheers from friends and strangers alike who stayed up with us, the constant beat of shoes on the pavements, made it feel.. surprisingly "60%" comfortable. there is much respect! for the folks who did the ultra-marathon. thanks guys, for the support/encouragement. my legs are heavy now. DOMS.

aside: 死神の精度 (accuracy of death) was good. the movie philosophizes life and death in a rather melancholic tone and the mind puzzled over some questions, and tears rolled a bit too freely. yet kaneshiro made us laugh at times :) oh sunny day.. "ミュシック!"