The trials and tribulations of a life of leisure...


Thursday, August 01, 2013

Far East Adventures - Part 1 - Penang

Things did not go well in Penang... or Bangkok.

Firstly my case never made it to Bangkok. The flight was already late arriving and having to wait until the baggage carousel said that was it, no more baggage coming out, and then having to queue along with another half a dozen people to fill in the paperwork (not helped by not having the full address and they wouldn't phone Gerry to get it) left me feeling completely frazzled. I found the metered taxi rank and finally was on my way to Gerry's. I felt a lot happier when I recognised a few of the landmarks - most notably the elephant building which meant I was almost there. An hour and a half later than expected and I arrived.

Jane phoned the airport in the morning to give them the full address and baggage expected time of arrival kept coming and then going. Eventually at about 4.30 pm men arrived with a case - not mine. They then returned with another case - jackpot!

I had a few days to recover before the 5 am start on our drive to Penang to ensure we cleared Bangkok before rush hour(s). I would like to say that this was an amazing experience, but I hadn't appreciated how flat Thailand is so it was not great sightseeing! There are occasional standalone 'mountains' (too big to really be called hills) that are very dramatic in appearance with their almost sheer sides. A few have temples on top, and one had an enormous Buddha - I cannot imagine how it got there!

Anyway, back to the journey. Firstly miles and miles of salt farms. And that was replaced my hundreds of miles of coconut plantations. And it started to rain in the afternoon and kept going, other than a break of about 10 minutes. That was very unfortunate. Having been driving relatively slowly the traffic speeded up. And then came to a halt. As we slowly moved on around a corner there was a lorry upside down against the large concrete barrier protecting the road from a large drop. The cab was completely flattened... We only saw one other accident, a car overturned in the 'central reservation' (this is mainly a double tree-lined area with a drainage ditch in the middle that runs almost completely the length of the road to Malaysia except in the towns) but no-one looked hurt. However, I had given up counting the number of dead dogs at the outskirts of the towns we passed through.

We had many short breaks for food, a quick ciggie for me, and the necessary. I will just say that the service areas do not have Western lavatories...

Getting across the border was relatively pain free. I was a little wary when Gerry told me he didn't have a license to drive in Malaysia just before we reached the border and I had visions of us being turned back! I was dropped off at my hotel a couple of hours later. In total 1150 km that took us about 15 and a half hours.

The next day was free to recover.

I will skip over the scrabble itself. Suffice it to say that a year off from serious studying combined with some pretty dreadful tiles at times is not a formula for success. But I did have a good time. The Aussies were on the executive floor of the hotel and I got invited to join them for free drinks and nibbles at happy hour on several occasions :)

We set off for home after the prize-giving.

A scary moment as we neared the border. There was a road block across half the road. We slowed but there was no sign of anyone - until after we went through. Suddenly there was a police or army guy waving and blowing a whistle at us. Gerry reversed back, and now there were three of them. The one in charge was shouting at us - didn't we know we had to stop. Well, um, no. We had gone through really fast. Well, um, no. They checked our passports and made Gerry get out and open the boot. We were praying they didn't ask for a driving license... After a few minutes they let us go. Very relieved when we got over the border...

We stopped overnight (well just before midnight by the time Gerry found the hotel he had decided upon). I zapped my way up and down the TV channels trying to find the Wimbledon final - Jane had said she thought it would be on a terrestrial channel - but to no avail. I gave up and tried to sleep - replaced rock (pillow) with a towel and got a few hours. Got up about 7 am and went to breakfast. This was an experience. There appeared to be four coachloads of people staying there, all colour coded. Purples, Blues, Pinks and Yellows. It was a buffet breakfast, fully lined by 'uniformed' tourists. I had been a little concerned on the food front but needn't have worried - I spotted fried eggs, bread and toaster, marmalade, hot water urn and jars of coffee powder. I could have got a job - I appeared to be the only person who knew how to use a toaster! People were putting bread in it, and then removing it again 30 seconds later without pressing the handles down. No sign of Gerry though. I went back for seconds. Still no sign of Gerry, so I went back to my room to collect my bag and checkout. It was getting close to the time Gerry had said he wanted to leave by so I got the desk to phone his room - he was ready to go. And I got given the news of Murray's victory as we got in the car :)

No more incidents on the way back to Bangkok, and we managed to avoid rain most of the way. The last game of the final was being repeated on the TV as we stepped in the door.

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