Archive | March, 2009

Malaysia Photos

27 Mar

Click the link, Malaysia Photos

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Worst breakfast ever!

26 Mar

On our third day in Malaysia we rented a scooter to explore the island of Penang. In true biker fashion I needed a “bikers” meal to start the day, rice or noodles weren’t going to cut it.

I ordered the eggs, sausage and hash browns. What came out was a version of eggs, sausage and hash browns. It looked like what I imagined futuristic food to resemble. Food that started in a powder form, you pop it into a machine that looks like a microwave, press a button and you instantly have a meal. It was colourless; I found it hard to distinguish my meal from the pale brown plate.

I thought maybe it’s like Nana’s casserole and it tastes better than it looks. My first bite of hash brown was met with me gagging it into a serviette. On my second mouthful I ventured into the dwarf sized condom injected with processed meat, apparently known as a sausage in Malaysia. But this tasted exactly the same as the hash brown, I think they just puree up the hash brown and injected it into the sausage condom. The egg I did not even bother with, it was more rubbery than rubber and the yoke was more fried than Ozzy Osbournes brain.

Just to make sure I wasn’t being fussy, I got Mandy to taste the hash brown. Her facial expression said it all. It looked like she had just opened up my dirty laundry bag that housed my four day old underwear. I was convinced now, that if you put this plate in the middle of a Somalian refugee camp, not even the flies would touch it. There was no amount of tomato sauce that could save it. Sorry mum, but on this occasion I had to miss the most important meal of the day.

 

Paedophiles and lost souls – Our guest house in Malaysia.

25 Mar

The island of Penang was our home for our 3 days in Malaysia. Not the type of island living we have been use to. Penang is home to 1.3 million people and is connected to the main land by Malaysia’s answer to the Sydney harbour bridge.

We stayed at a 2 storied guest house in the Georgetown area on Penang. Oh, and did we find a beauty. The over energetic Chinese man with a yellow teeth smile at the reception stole our hearts. Plus his guest house met all our criteria, it was the cheapest.

Firstly, the aroma that lingered throughout the establishment. It smelt like the arm pit of a homeless mans shirt for the whole 3 days, until Mandy purchased some incense for our room.

Secondly, our room. It was partitioned off from the neighbouring rooms by the white fibreboard used in open plan office settings. Great for office use but not really the best bedroom walls.

Thirdly, the clientele. The guest house seemed to be an oasis for long-term staying residents, rotting, decaying men. The type of men that had come to Malaysia looking to buy a mail order bride, but not even enough money in the world could finalise this transaction. Men that looked like Paedophiles, taking advantage of an innocent countries lack of policing. The type of men that were lost, could not fit back into the western society, lost souls

I felt very much unwelcomed, sometimes I felt mocked. I think they found the backpacker type threatening. Backpackers disturbed their little self pitying bubble, a constant reminder of what life should be like, what they missed out on. When walking passed the couch in the tiny foyer where they sat drinking cheap beer all day, they never made eye contact, but you could feel their eyes on your back as you left the building. My hello’s were left hanging uncomfortably, so I just stopped.

As much as their unwelcoming behaviour annoyed me, I felt sorry for them. I wondered how their lives had been, how they ended up here. Did they have family? Did they have loved ones? Did they have anyone at all? Or did they just have their drinking buddies that shared the old couch in the rundown guest house in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia?

Home sweet home

24 Mar

Yesterday morning at 6.30 am the overnight ferry pulled up to the pier at Koh Tao, my home for this chapter. It’s always nice when you return to a place and you are pleased to be back.

Mandy and I had a well deserved 3 hour nap when we arrived, as we had been in transit the last 24 hours from Malaysia. Actually it was a trip that did not start well. The bus arrived at 8.30am, so I had set 2 alarms for 7.30am. Just as we were rising from the beep, beep, beep, there was a knock at the door, “BUS”. Shit, then we remembered, our clocks were on Thailand time, 1 hour difference. The whole time we had been in Malaysia we had been on Thailand time, haha. So we just scraped everything into miscellaneous plastic bags, pulled on clothes from the pile on the floor, and managed to get the bus that we were sure we were going to miss.

So anyway, enough of Malaysia, there will be some Malaysia posts following this. Our plan for our first day in Koh Tao was to get set-up, waste no time. And waste no time we did. By that night we had moved into our pimping concrete bungalow with its wrap-around veranda with kitchen. We had our not so pimping orange scooter with masculine basket. Mandy had work at the local beachside coffee shop starting the following day (today) and had a trial at one of the beach bars as well. I start my 3 day rescue diver course tomorrow and then once completed will start my dive masters. So a good start to the Thailand, Koh Tao chapter. For those of you that are wondering, I write the chapters located in the right-hand margin when I leave the place.

Here are some photos of when we were in Koh Tao a couple of weeks ago doing our Advanced open water dive course. In the next couple of weeks I will get some more photos up of where we are staying now, as we have set-up shop on the quieter southern part of the island.

Gotta go and study, will try and get a couple of my Malaysia posts up in the coming days.

Here’s a photo I just took sitting on the deck of my dive school where I’m typing this post on my laptop. Note a bad office setting.

Do bare-feet and islands really suit?

23 Mar

The first thing I did before jumping out of the long tail boat onto the golden sand of Koh Jum island was take off my jandals (flip flops). As for me islands and bare-feet go together like Thailand and lady-boys, or do they?

I first questioned this long-time belief of mine when looking for a bungalow on Koh Jum. I was walking barefoot through the patchy grass of the bungalow grounds following a little old Thai lady. All of a sudden she squeals, turns on the spot starts chattering to me in Thai a hundred miles an hour. All I knew was that she wasn’t saying hello or thank you or counting to 10 or ordering a beer. Then she frantically starts pointing at the ground.

SHIIIIIITTTTT! Right there in the grass is a small snake, and he’s pretty pissed off, arcing up and hissing. Old lady starts barking orders. A Thai boy magically appears out of nowhere, studies the snake as if he was Steve Irwin and declares “cobra”. Then magically a shovel appears in his hand and in a very un-Steve Irwin way smashes it into a bloody dissected snake pulp. Then he magically disappears back to his magical place.

I’m left standing there with the old lady. She points at my bare-feet at which I’m now quite aware of. She wags her finger in a disapproving Judge Judy way “no, no” then points to the concrete battle worn path to our left. I wasn’t sure which would be more detrimental to the well-being of my feet, risking the snake infested grass or walking the mortar hit path. I was shaken, the path won hands down.

Now as I follow the little old lady avoiding what seem like mortar craters, but are just potholes from a life time of neglect I start thinking. Mama cobra’s going to be pissed off that her first born son has been brutally murdered at the hands of shovel wielding Thai crocodile hunter. I’m hoping that mama Cobra knows that I didn’t condone her son’s death.

As all this is going through my head, something attacks me! I let out a scream that shouldn’t come from a 27 year old male. The Thai lady swings around expecting to see mama cobra revenging her son’s death. But no, I sheepishly point to the leaf that is on the ground beside my foot that had fallen out of the tree as we walked under it, brushing my leg on its descent – It was a bloody big leaf though, the size of a table tennis bat!

fu-bar

The second time I questioned my belief about going barefoot on islands was in the civilised setting of one of the islands beach reggae bars watching sunset. Mandy had just come back from the toilet and was recounting her experience, most notably the unbearable stench.

getting-comfortable-for-sunset

An hour later when the sun had set and my bladder felt like an over inflated inner tube, I made my way through the sand to the toilet. I’m very happy to see that one of the 2 cubicles is home to a wall mounted urinal. The one that looks like big porcelain egg that has had the top front section cut out. These are perfect for barefoot peeing as you don’t have to stand on a urine soaked step like the traditional urinals and it also catches the drips that would otherwise land on your feet.

watching-sunset-before-going-to-the-toilet

I fumble with my zipper like a getaway driver in a Hollywood film trying to put the key in the ignition as the police sirens get louder. Finally I get it and I’m rewarded with that euphoria that can only be reached when you have kept your urine captive for an unhealthily long time. This Euphoria is short lived as a tsunami of water hits my bare feet, warm water. It feels like I’m pissing on my feet, but how can I be, my aim is perfect, its hitting the stainless steel drain hole covering. The tsunami continues. Shit! I cut off mid stream, lean down and check out the plumbing. I should say lack of plumbing, there’s no piping at all!

Trouser snake in hand, I hop over the urine river that is now cascading down the entrance way of the toilet due to the lack of a drain. I reach the female’s cubicle and finish what I came to do. And I think to myself, why would you bother putting a urinal up with no piping, why not just have a sign on the wall saying, please urinate on the wall.

I go back to Mandy, sit down and say “I think I know what that stench in the toilet is”.

Tonsai, Koh Jum photo album

23 Mar

Click here to check out my photos from the beautiful beaches of Railey and Koh Jum on which the last two posts were about.

It will be a good way to ease into your Monday mornings.

Nuthin but love Hap

Koh Jum the island in the sun.

22 Mar

Ok, I realise in my previous Thailand posts I have been using the words relaxed and chilled like a 10 year old boy uses swear words to impress his mates. Buuutttttttt, I’m going to have to use them again. Koh Jum is the epitome of these words. Actually I might try a new adjective out for size, “Tranquil”, bugger it, I’m getting the thesaurus out; restful, soothing, unruffled, unperturbed, serene, placid, peaceful. Take your pick. All I know is that it was fucking chilled and relaxing. Sorry, I don’t use the f word much, but it does the job way better than boring old “very”.

It was so laid back that even the ice guy–who is like the milkman, but deals in ice—ambles along in the midday sun, totally oblivious to his merchandise leaving a river of water behind his scooter.

It’s like the island has a law that everything has to be done on relaxed island time. The first night we arrived, time got away from us, you know life’s so hectic these days with sunset watching etc. It was 9.30pm, and we went out to have dinner. Mandy gave up after the first 3 restaurants when we were greeted with “sorry, kitchen closed”.

I had worms to feed, so like any good parasite carrier I went in search of food. After a kilometre of beach and 5 more “sorry, kitchen closed”, I pulled out the last resort. Like an innocent man begging for his life on death row, I did the universal begging sign to the little old Thai ladies and best puppy dog face. They probably thought to themselves “poor kid, looks like he hasn’t eaten for a month, his ribs stick out more than the stray dogs”.

So an hour later I return to our bungalow triumphant from my conquest to my adoring damsel. Two polystyrene containers full of plain white fluffy rice, with a gourmet fried egg on top. Plain rice has never tasted so good.

So you have the point, the island was laid-back.

The tourist attracted to the island was different. There weren’t the backpackers I was used to. There was a real cross section, from the German gay couple that looked like dumb and dumber in Speedos, to the group of Polish university students, to the sun-ripened old men who looked like they had taken one too many sleeping pills while in the sun bed. And there weren’t that many, refreshingly more locals than tourists.

The beauty of the tourists was that everybody seemed to be there for the same reason, to escape, to have a holiday from a holiday, to get away from the constant hassles that come with being a tourist, the bargaining, getting ripped off, pestered – ohhhh lifes sooo hard. Everybody was in their own little bubble, content to keep to themselves. It wasn’t until the last night that I actually got past conversational first base with a fellow tourist.

We spent our mornings eating breakfast laying on the deck chairs reading books. Our afternoons spent cruising the dirt roads on our hired scooter. We would have lunch “downtown” by the pier. Downtown comprised of a peaceful little concrete road that wanders through the Thai shops and stalls. Not an internet café, chain store, travel agent insight.

The locals were great. They wouldn’t hassle you, they went about their business but always had a smile for you. Riding past the local school, the kids were hanging out the classroom window shouting out “hello” with the enthusiasm of an American Idol contestant. Driving through the village the ladies sitting on the floor of the neighbours veranda gossiping would give you a wave as if you were the lady from down the road returning from a days’ work.

It was special the morning we left. The family who owned the bungalows stood on the steps and waved the departing guests good-bye until the long-tail boat was out of sight. One of the long tail boat boys who I had played beach soccer with the night before came and gave me a hug good-bye and a “see you next year”.

It was great to experience Koh Jum before the hordes of tourists, hawkers and high prices come to town. And they will, as all travellers like myself are in search of that tranquil paradise, and Koh Jum was just that.