Another blog so soon....you are getting spoilt.
When you last left us we were doing the civilized thing sipping tea in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia and very right and proper it was too. But all good things come to and end and it was time to continue our travels north. On to Penang, the home of the Laksa, a sort of coconut, fishy broth with noodles that will ward away colds for a good year. Penang is a funny old place, naturally it's blisteringly hot (tipping 36 degrees on one day), but the lack of no discernible pavements means that cars, lorries, mopeds, trishaws and pedestrians all co-exist on the one strip straight down the middle of the road amazingly without more accidents. Here we stayed at the dubious looking 75 Travellers' Lodge, our cheapest, but by no means our worst room of the trip. Although the little mouse that frequented our room and nibbled our loaf of bread was not advertised on the amenities. On mentioning this to the owner, the smiley Mr Low, who has a penchant for talking Premier League Football, was far from apologetic. Instead he told us his name, Ben, and told us he was a 'friendly and clean' mouse. Have to love that customer service over here.
A couple of other culinary suggestions….avoid the Rojak….under ripe fruit covered in a sauce with consistency of tar. Oh and the King of all catastrophes, that lulls you into a false sense of security with a friendly hug before you realize it has just stuck a sticker on your back saying 'kick me', the Cendol. A bowl of ice with flavoured syrup…sounds nice and what would you expect to find at the bottom…fruit?…sweets?….or Kidney Beans and sweet corn. It will live as long in the memory as it will in the palate
On the whole though, I have to say that Malaysia is a much underrated country, probably because it is in the shadow of the looming tourism giant that is Thailand and the myths propagated by Islamaphobia…if that is a word. There is plenty to do here for the traveler that is the equal of Thailand by all accounts and getting the dead skin eaten of your feet by a pool of fish is a seminal experience. Indeed it was only then that I realized why the country is largely Muslim - the prospect of reincarnation as one of foot sucking fish is enough to put anyone of Hinduism. Added to that regular wake up calls you get for free from the local mosque, the great Indian and Malay food, the cultural mix of people and you have a heady concoction of something for everyone.
Onwards and, yes, upwards. Thailand beckoned for us and another passport stamp. Woo hoo! It now wouldn't look out of place next to Michael Palin's. On to Krabi, the home of rock climbing in this part of the world with picturesque cliffs that appear to emerge out of the ground with the regularity of skyscrapers in New York. They offered ample challenge for me and the missus under the direction of some remarkable small and hairless Thais. I have to confess to being quite nervous at the thought of an instructor with the physique of a pre-pubescent boy holding my weight, even with my Mahatma Ghandi curves, but we seems to have made it through with just the odd bump and bruise to show for our work.
Now over the course of the last 10 months we have been privy to sitting, lying walking and running along some amazingly beautiful beaches and I have to confess that the thoughts of doing much more beach time doesn't really appeal. I apologise to all of you that spend your time at home dreaming of beach and bikini, but I'm just shooting from the hip here. So it came as quite a surprise that I was required to pick my jaw up off the sand on walking onto Phrang Cave beach in the Krabi province. It was stunning and this can't even claim to be the best of Thailand's beaches. If ever a place makes you want to give up any career and substitute your life's ambition for doing nothing but hanging out on the beach, getting your hair braided, listening to Bob Marley and changing your name to Moon Shine or something similarly balmy it's Thailand. And when someone comes round offering to massage you for an hour for under 4 pounds your instinct is to melt into the sand and disappear from the working world. A phone call to Mr B.R Martin, Headmaster of Hampton School is but an internet café away.
Of course that was until this morning when we boarded the boat to Koh Phi Phi….with several millions pounds worth of private education between the ages of 18-21 years. In fact I would have had little trouble rounding up an impromptu Theatre Studies lesson should I have been so inclined and probably with some of the students I have taught once upon a time. However despite their well mannered and well enunciate tones they are still yet to learn that bathing in the sun all day is a recipe for disaster with pale skin and that the new oriental tattoo they are so proudly sporting on their shoulder that has as much to do with representing their inner spirit as it does with ordering some crispy duck pancakes. Honestly, what do A Levels teach kids these days? To be fair we are probably just bitter after being the oldest people on the boat by 10 years and good on them for traveling. Although, the route around S.E Asia is so well worn now that I dare say you could shut your eyes and just follow the English accents and still make it round without too much fuss. Escaping the hordes was much easier in Central and South America, but it is something we shall be attempting.
In other news for those of you with you colour chart at home, my tan is currently that of a chocolate bourbon…the biscuit part not the filling. The wife is like a fish in batter.
Until next time.