59 Day: Tuesday 20th November: Songkhla – Penang, Malayasia

Crossed to the island over the 13 km bridge. Passed the fort built by the British and many good looking colonial buildings but many in need of renovation. It’s very pleasing and somehow reasuring to be surrounded by reconisable archetecture even If much of it is in a desperate state. I can’t say I like oriental archetecture.

Went to the wine shop next door to the hotel: Aldridge Australian wine cost nearly £7 a bottle.

Meal provided by Leighton was superb for the money: starter of carrot soup with brown wheaten bread, fish course of king prawn on salmon and ham salad and a main course of our choice (lamb) etc. This was probably the best meal of the whole trip and cost 30 rms about £4. I also had a bottle of Argentinian wine which was excellent.

Had an interesting conversation about socialism with John and Scooby but as always it was spoilt by Anne. This was the first and obviously the last interesting debate on this trip. I decided to go back to the hotel sooner than be talked to like some nursery kid.

We were stopping at the Hotel Cititel a five star palace. Large marble central lounge with a shopping type mall running off consisting of bars, restaurants, shops selling choculates, photo copies etc and some executive club with a ponsy looking official checking people trying to enter. Dressed in my pink sweaty tee shirt and knee length shorts I decided not to try for entrance. Next to it was a corridor running to some kind of conference room. A placard with an arrow pointing the way said ‘Getting the best out of the box with Dell’ and ‘Assessing Staff Apraisal’. Needles to say I gave that load of bollocks a miss to. Something I couldn’t miss was the fancy lift which operated with the room card. It was made by Mitsibishi and needed one of their top brains to work it. Spent about twenty minutes going up and down with a dozen other poor souls trying get the damn thing to stop at the right floor. I got little tired of smiling and saying hello to the same people each time the doors opened. Instead of going to floor seven it passed to eight and then went back down to three and then basement before repeating the process over and over again. It’s still a mystery how we got out of there. In a few days time we’ll be standing outside the twin towers in Kaula Lumpa. I think I’ll give their lift a miss.

So all in all the hotel looked impressive but had no atmosphere whatsoever. So much for posh hotels.

60 Day: Wednesday 21st November: Penang – Khaula Lumpar – Melaka

As we entered KL, as our guide calls it, it looked quite impressive with all the very tall unusually shaped biuldings. Eventually we made it to the two towers which were according to some on the bus (Mark who loves big buildings) the tallest in the world for a time. The structure was very impressive but the interior or the bit we were allowed into to was as bland and boring as Meadowhall in Sheffield. Some would have liked to go to the top but the public are not allowed past the connecting bridge about half way up and only 1600 tickets are issued each morning on a first come basis. I checked the price of the new Nokia N95 and an Apple laptop. Both were no cheaper than on the internet back home. However, in its favour Kl was clean and although bustling very friendly.

When we got to the hotel we a good room but changed it with Mark because his had a double bed. It did have big window looking out over Melaka’s China Town.

Family meeting to inform us we are now flying from Pedang on Somatra to Jakarta because of the state of the roads which are supposedly flooded. I asked our Malaysian guide and he said the roads in Indonesia are always bad but he hadn’t heard of any serious weather lately. This trip is absolutely impossible in twelve weeks.

Went to change some money into Indonesian to pay for the visa tomorrow. Our guide in Indonesia blames the cost of the visa on the sudden decrease in tourist numbers over the past five or six years. We hoped this would save time at the border. I hope it’s as easy as the crossing from Thailand into Malaysia. Something else which was good about Malaysia along with the archetecture, the friendly people (especially our guide and driver) and the roads. I have to say the people have been great since leaving home.

After the meeting we went for something to eat across the road in a chinese family run café. The food was awful, Anne had a mixed selection and I had a soup with dumplings and a chicken wrap. Anne’s consisted of a selection of reconstituted meats that were cold and dry whilst my soup tasted like dishwater and the chicken was wrapped in tin foil and although the sauce was tasty the meat was poor. Then we went to the Discovery Bar, a famous place for backpackers, to have a beer. After a pleasant conversation with the female owner we signed her visiters book and watched the tea wallah next door.

The bar had an outside area with a stall and a very thin chinese looking man selling herbal teas. Cars, taxis, tuck tucks and pedestrians all stopped to take tea. Many came for tea and take aways which were served in little plastic bags with a pull string to seal them. Those drinking at the stall followed a routine played out with the man serving the teas. He would take a bowl wipe it round with a cloth and pour the tea from a silver teapot which he raised and lowered above the bowl as though to put a head on it. The customer would then take the bowl in two hands and swerl it round presumably to disovle all the sugar and then drink in either one gulp or two. The whole process only took a minute at most and while we watched 20 to 30 people passed through.

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