Malaysia: Boats, buses and drink bottles

Day 11 (11/01/11)

And a travel day it turns out to be. I’m up before 7, quietly tramping about in the pre-dawn gathering my things. Artur awakes with a jolt, Orhan announced his intention to remain another day on Langkawi as everyone else seemed to be leaving. My suspicion that Artur will opt for an extra day’s lounging after a big night proves unfounded as he rolls from bed and assembles his things. He grumbles about not having time for a shower but we need to be on the go.

We stumble out of Daddy’s Guest House and quickly hire a cab at the island agreed price of 24 ringgits. Seems a stellar value to me still. We arrive at the port and it turns out Artur skipping that shower was the right call as the ferry leaves in ten minutes. Malaysian time on Langkawi might be even slower than usual time as the only store open is 7-11 who opt to try to gouge money on the price of water. And there is no where to buy any travel food; local or Western.

The trip is a straight shot across the strait on much calmer waters. Artur disappears and when I awake from my nap with a shiver I wonder where he could have gone. Malaysia has two A/C settings; off and full-Arctic blast. Searching about the cabin I discover a set of stairs. Sure enough, Artur lounges outside with one other Malaysian. I don’t need an invite. I spend the trip soaking up the sun while a fresh, salty, sea breeze invigorates me.

Belching oily anchovy boat

On the water are two types of vessels. One set are larger, oil cloud belching beasts – their dark smoke seems to linger and stain the water like a vapourized oil spill. To a boat they seem set to sink due to being more rust than metal. The Malaysian informs us these lurching, half-sunken creatures are anchovy boats.

Much smaller, slender finger width boats skip atop the waves nearer to the shoreline. Their long propellers jutting out their sterns and kicking up spray and wake like a sea monster slapping an angry tail against the sea. I never found out what they fish or hunt for.

Waving and kicking up spray.

Soon we’re at the next port and disembark only to find this isn’t the bus station like we were under the impression it would be. We hop in a taxi and 15 minutes and 15 RM later we’re at the bus terminal. As soon as our feet touch pavement we’re rushed to the ticket counter and then bundled onto a bus that immediately departs for Ipoh.

Oh, it’s going to be one of *those* travel days. Constantly on the go, always just making the connection but not having a chance to pause… or shower… or eat, as Artur will frequently remind me. Hey, at least we grabbed some alleged (and super cheap) bottled water before we caught this bus.

Malaysian East Coast scenery… palm trees. Nothing but palm trees.

We arrive at the next bus station. The last point before we push onwards and upwards to the Cameron Highlands and Tanah Rata. Here we shudder to a half as the next bus doesn’t depart until after 5 and it’s only 2:30. Fine. Artur and I both need food. I have some local noodles which were fine but I could have (and should have) eaten more. I stay in the bus terminal, Artur goes to the McDonalds we passed right by the station. There he’ll devour 3 burgers, plus enjoy birthday cake with some locals. I know which of those two experiences I’d prefer. (Birthdays with locals is always good fun.)

Before he returns from his burger bonanza, I sit behind some girls in hajibs and some thoughts coalesce about Muslim fashion. Then the heavens open up and a deluge is unleashed, rain streams off the roof in a cascade upon the Konsortium Bas Ekspres. When Artur washes up he looks like a drowned daschund. This wasn’t a 30 minute snap-storm but a prolonged few hours of perpetual downpour.

How can a 2 ringgit bottle of water be a rip off? Well, I'm flipping it off for a reason.

Our bus doesn’t arrive, even when scheduled to have departed. It is apparently en route but I’m guessing the torrential rain has them affixing pontoons to the bus. Instead we climb on a rattletrap rustbucket of a bus that will shiver and limp its way up towards the Cameron Highlands.
This proves very touchy for me as about 18 minutes into the journey I realize I need to use a toilet badly. I need to piss like a racehorse. Time drags by and the bus jerks and jolts imperceptibly upwards. I figure I can hold on…

Then I spot a route marker.
Nope, not gonna make it.
Luckily the bus is mostly empty by this point. Artur smirks wickedly when I roll off the seat and shuffle to the back of the bus. I had an ice-tea with about a third of a bottle left. When I rejoin Artur the bottle has magically refilled itself and I’m relieved, although I still need a toilet.
(It’s good to be a boy.)

The trip up to the Highlands is misty and mountainous, the lashing rain paints the world wet, close and dream-like. Floating hill tops. Rolling fogbanks. Obscured vistas. And at our stately pace we were rewarded with impressive view after impressive view.

Tanah Rata isn’t much of a town. More an oversized village holding a strategic point in the Cameron Highlands, surrounded by tea plantations and near enough to visit the jungles.

There aren’t a great deal of hotel rooms and Artur and I split another 40Rm room, just like Daddy’s Guest House, only I get the double bed this time. Score!

We meet a colourful local character and book tomorrow’s tea plantation tour through him. With added visits to a rose garden, honey farm, butterfly spot, strawberry farm and a Buddhist temple. Not too shabby for 25 Rm.

Then dinner. Unsurprisingly Artur isn’t overly hungry, he’s added another burger to his total, but I go to the Mayflower – a recommended by locals Chinese place. The hot and sour soup tastes delicious and the noodles, ginger beef and chicken were good too. I wanted to try the Steamboat but Artur doesn’t like steamed food and there is WAY too much for one person on a steamboat.

As we’re both exhausted after being on the go all day, we collapse early in a happy, blissful slumber.

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