Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Selamat Tinggal

Wed 25/11 – 30/11
We’re back. Back in KL with the family.

Back to replace clothes that have fallen to bits, pickup other bits for the GPS, a clutch release for one of the bikes, and a few pounds round the waistline, courtesy of Sharifah.

While fitting the new and long awaited GPS mount, we also take the tacho on Ann’s bike to pieces to see what’s going on, as its been erratic since Java. Which is a complete waste of time, since the needle is powered by some form of electrickery, not like one of those old fashioned cable-from-the-gearbox jobs. Some days its fine, some days it idles at zero, and others it gradually winds its way round past the redline and you can’t help watching it thinking the engine is suddenly going to follow suit and self-destruct.

It behaves itself on the way out to Putrajaya, somewhere we’d been meaning to return after being whizzed around it once before. Like Canberra, its an artificial town. And like most people who assume Sydney is the capital of Australia, the reality that Putrajaya is Malaysia’s capital comes as a bit of a doh! moment for us.

The fact that parliament still sits in KL seems to be a minor detail when glimpsing the city for the first time; the grand design gradually revealing itself.

Built on the site of a former oil palm plantation, and conceived by a former dictator, Putrajaya is dotted with signature buildings, designed by signature architects.

We double Richard and Stani out from KL to wander around the place, Ann for the first time on her bike.

And for a while, early on an overcast Sunday morning, we seem to be the only people on the streets.

The only ones doing this anyway.

The two huge signature mosques are a contrast in modern...

... and conservative...


... and... this... is the second silliest photo you’re likely to see today.

This is the silliest.

Tue 1/12
The same guy who designed the old KL Railway Station is responsible for Kuala Kangsar’s mosque so, after a late start (by the way did we tell you we were leaving again today?) we slowly make our way north on the old highway, stopping for food and photos, the whole time keeping an eye on the ominous looking clouds building on the horizon.

We’re already wondering about the wisdom of taking the back roads after passing several kampongs which have been badly flooded only days before and whose houses still bear muddy high-water marks, when the annoying showers of this morning begin worsening to torrential rain. Visibility is down to 40, which is the worst we’ve ridden since Timor. Its a shame, since the country from here to Sungai Petani is quite beautiful.

Wed 2/12
We’re feeling a little old the next day; our reserves of energy seem to have drained away in yesterday’s downpour. Or most likely we’re just out of shape, pampered by too much good living in KL.

And possibly its the thought of today’s goodbyes. Thobrani and Sharifah, who had followed us up to Sungai Petani yesterday, are heading back to KL again today, and we’re left floundering for words of thanks, finding it impossible to convey our gratitude and how much we’ll miss them.

Thu 3/12 – 8/12
So we head over to Penang the next day for a bit of touristic therapy.

We were told to go visit Peranakan Mansion the last time we were here, but didn’t seem to find the time.

Did you go see Peranakan? “Well, we were going to...” What, no? You. What, you didn’t see it? Oh, my god. I don’t believe it.

And so on and so forth.

To be quite honest, we reached a point several months ago in Sulawesi, when we realised that it made no difference where we went, how long it took to get there and what we did when we got there. It may sound a little pretentious to say, but was a real epiphany for us, and we’ve been thankful ever since that it happened early in the journey.

But back to Peranakan...

Which apparently represents the typical home of a wealthy 19th century Chinese family.

And is an eclectic mix of east and west.

Oriental and colonial.

Meanwhile, over at Sungai Petani, Atik, who is still in Medan, has been replaced by a Pakistani “security guard”, who is living on site “guarding” the house.

Apparently, ever since he started the place has been lit up at night like the Griswald’s Family Christmas, so one of our jobs is night-light patrol. The other is simply being here to give him company. Which is really part of the same job, or both jobs are linked at any rate. It seems that either the ghost stories have gotten to him, or he’s the world’s wussiest security guard and afraid of the dark.

Verbal explanations seem to fail, so it becomes a nightly game to see how many lights we can switch off before bed and how many have been switched back on again the next morning.

At least Penang is still there when we return a few days later.

Photogenic as ever.

Possibly the most interesting city in Malaysia.

It might also interest you to know that for months Celcom, the Malaysian telco we bought our sim card from, has been spamming our hand phone daily with lists of prayer times. Maybe we neglected to opt out of this redundant and irritating service after deleting one of their previous spams, but suddenly, on the eve of our departure from Malaysia, we find the service quite useful.

Rana, the Jean-Claude Van Damme of security guards, is a devout Muslim who never misses his prayers. How do we know this? Well, it seems nearly every time we want to leave the house (he has the only remote for the gate) and make our way to the front door, there he is on his prayer mat on hands and knees. Which causes us to back away, silently cursing, to wait a suitable interval for him to finish.

Its our own stupid fault of course. The daily broadcasts from the mosques become almost white noise after a while, and only now do we realise how successfully we’ve tuned them out.

Wed 9/12
Anyway... this’ll be the third time now. The third time we leave Malaysia feeling down, leaving behind people we care about.

Normally we get on the bikes feeling positive; energized with the anticipation of moving on. But after the Thai border at Sadao we blow through one dusty, depressing, no name town after the next.

Its not in our nature to get all gushy and sentimental, but a month ago Thobrani and Sharifah took in two complete strangers, housed them (in style), fed them (in style) and made them feel like part of the family. We can’t thank them enough.

And Malaysia itself? It may not be quite as exotic as its neighbours, but its almost as corrupt. Free speech isn’t exactly free yet, and there’s a real feeling of underlying racial tension, but nevertheless we seem to have become emotionally attached. And so, day one in Thailand is mostly spent reflecting on how much we’ll miss the place...

1 comment:

  1. Now this is strange !! reading your blogs backwards.Please delete my last comments about your travels. Sounds as though you two were nearly kidnaped into a new and wonderful life style.
    Back to reading the previous blog . Loves of Love N