Written by mcgulgamesh on 28 Jan, 2003
Roy was a well spoken Englishman whose face told me he had spent more years here than I ever wanted to imagine. He arrived on a cross between a bike and a wheelbarrow in a white tee-shirt, kaki shorts, and a pair of well worn…Read More
Roy was a well spoken Englishman whose face told me he had spent more years here than I ever wanted to imagine. He arrived on a cross between a bike and a wheelbarrow in a white tee-shirt, kaki shorts, and a pair of well worn leather sandals. He spoke to the cowboy whom he obviously had met before, and without much fuss and started to layout a tarp on the ground and then arrange a selection of books on it. I didn't see any classics but there were a few older versions of the Lonely Planet in Dutch and German. Roy then took up his position beside the cowboy and crossed his legs, and without looking down he took a small tin box from his pocket, opened it and preceded to role a cigarette. He spoke very gently, very measured, he wasn't heavily tanned but his face was like a ploughed field. This was what Roy did, he went from hostel to hostel buying and selling books and getting books that travelers left behind for free. It was obvious he had been doing it for a long, long time.
I was snapped back to the sofa, "which way are you going into Thailand?" Claudia had been buried in her guide book since sitting down, but now emerged with this question. She too needed to see about getting into Thailand, but then onto Krabi. I told her I was heading for Langkawi and then on to Satun, "but", I said "I'm going a round about way to get there, so if it's just getting into Thailand you're looking for, someone here might be able to point you in a better direction". I was of course thinking of Roy. Roy was at this very moment in the midst of a conversation with the Shadow who it turned out was a New Zealander - he was now trying to tell Roy he knew more about Malaysia and Thailand than Roy. Roy was currently correcting him! Kick his ass Roy! I said to myself. I turned to the Cowboy who was my next best hope, and put Claudia's problem to him. Claudia had the skills and equipment to get the best advice from people, so having gotten the ball rolling I then left her to it. For all intentional purposes Cowboy was a local and suggested Roy was the one to ask. I was firmly getting the impression Roy was the Yoda figure round here, and I was right. He has been in this country for 30 years on a holiday visa, something which given my current situation not only boggled my mind but brought a whole new dimension to Roy. "You hard, bad bastard!", I thought.
Roy indeed knew his stuff and was more than willing to share. He suggested Claudia take the Kuala Perlis long boat, a route I had been considering but had overruled it so as to see Langkawi. A bus from Penang to Kuala Perlis cost only a few Ringitt and the long boat, albeit a bit basic, would still get you into Satun in Thailand. This was Roy's preferred, and regular route as it was low key which suited him. It was easy and quicker than the border crossing which can be very busy, and you get a boat ride into the bargain. I got the impression Claudia was sold on the idea, and very happy with her new found inside contact. Roy went back to his conversation and Claudia and I went back to ours. I now could overhear the Shadow denying all knowledge of something in New Zealand "no, no, never heard of that, no". Roy was advancing slowly but sure footedly and had now taken his verbal battle with the Shadow from Malaysia into New Zealand, where Roy, incidentally, had also been, much to the Shadows surprise. He was now on the Shadows home ground and Roy was STILL kicking his ass, "never heard that, no, no" I could hear him say as Roy gently but persuasively illustrated to him and us that he was a bullshitter, and that he was out of his depth with Roy.
Roy's Kuala Perlis route is mostly used by locals so for any number of reason you're better to take it if you don't mind basic conditions. The Shadow having been suitably 'whipped' by Roy had moved on to someone else now, who I imagine, unlike Roy, he hoped he would be able to impress. Eventually he would find someone, people like that eventually always do. All in all Claudia would be getting from Penang to Thailand for just over half of what it was costing me. For Claudia it was definitely worth coming to Oasis for Roy's advice. For me it was worth coming to Oasis for Roy, period, but it was no accident that he was there. Oasis is on the fringe, and you have to go to the fringe to find the Roy's of this world. Even then they're not easy to see, they don't advertise, they're quiet, soft-spoken, and can be mistaken for part of the scenery if you're not paying attention. But they're well worth stopping with for a while, and spending time in their company if you can spare it, providing of course you're not a bullshitter.
Along the way Claudia enquired about Ireland, said she was very fond of the place, it reminded her a bit of Austria having been there, although she didn't care much for the rain. I on the other hand loved it...our relationship, it seemed, was doomed…Read More
Along the way Claudia enquired about Ireland, said she was very fond of the place, it reminded her a bit of Austria having been there, although she didn't care much for the rain. I on the other hand loved it...our relationship, it seemed, was doomed from the start. Her sister's husband, for his sins, was an architect and Claudia and I realized there were striking similarities in architectural attitudes. In Austria as in Ireland it is also next to impossible to build something modern. The relevant authorities push for an Austrian vernacular. He, like me, could get quite frustrated from time to time. She asked me the standard 'ideal situation' question, currently I want to find a nice quiet place in a discrete small country, marry the Princess of that country, and basically do whatever the hell I wanted. It's a solid plan and I still stand by it, I just might be standing a long time. Claudia smiled, and I wondered... 'she wouldn't be a Princess... would she?', and if she was could we get over her aversion to moisture laden air? I wasn't sure. Apre said she had a very good job which afforded her these getaways...Princess=good job? I wasn't sure being a Princess actually constituted a job! If I spent any longer talking to myself, it wasn't really going to matter as I would be pegged by present company as a mental case, which would put an end to all my Princely chances... I dropped it.
Apre and Claudia were making their way to Krabi for New Year. They were going to where The Beach was actually filmed and I was going to where the film lead us to believe The Beach actually was. I think I would have been welcome to join them too, but we were after different things. Claudia and Apre wanted a nice, relaxing, laid back, hippie-esque New Year, while I on the other hand was anticipating a blowout of epic proportions. I would like to have met up with them again if it worked out that way, who knows, maybe it will.
Walking is a great activity to induce people to relinquish personal information, if, of course you're listening. Apre was either twenty four or twenty seven, I didn't quite pick that up, I wasn't listening and Claudia, I had already noticed was a bit touchy when the subject of age was broached, her age in particular. Apre it turned out knew, but was warned with an intense glare NOT to speak it aloud. Claudia let the glare hang in the air just a moment too long to ensure we all got the message. I put her in her mid thirties, thirty is generally when the first major crisis can hit with women, then it's every year from then on in, or so I've heard. While Claudia did not seem to be in a major crisis, she was obviously not comfortable with her age been broadcast. Apre I had forgotten was Australian and as it turned out he wasn't going to be put in his place by Sheila, so he said her age... in Malay. He was again given 'the look' but it was too late. I was at that moment glad my Malay was so piss poor that I couldn't figure it out. That in itself seemed to appease Claudia, so we continued at our leisure down Lebuh Light towards the Blue Mansion which had now been added onto our itinerary.
The Blue Mansion was only open to 12:00, and it was now five past. Apre and I were going to turn away but not Claudia, she felt she had a secret weapon, two of them in fact. The two attendants however seemed to put their down time before Claudia and turned our Austrian bombshell away. I wasn't too disappointed, this was an architecture related tourist attraction and I was currently adverse to architecture related tourist attractions in much the same way as Jesus Christ is adverse to cross'. Apre was by now harping on about food, in actual fact it was 12:30 and considering they only got up at 11:00 I thought that was taking a bit of a liberty. Never the less we started looking, as we wandered the back streets. Apre wanted indian... Thosah or Chapati, he was in the mood for one or the other. I have moods too, usually for liver and onions, or a twelve month vintage easter egg, so I was more than happy to go along with it. We eventually found a place back near the Padang, it had very distinct wooden bench seats, seats you might see the Church on Little House on the Prairie when Michael Landon goes in to worship to show what a sterling, good living, all around American he is. It was very busy and we took the table right at the front of the shop. I got in with my back to the street, which was a bit of a squeeze and me and the pew nearly ended up back out on the main street staring up at sky.
Apre's parents were filipino, and he was built like a filipino, but he was eating like a maori with a ten foot tapeworm in his gut. We all put away a Chapati with mutton curry, Apre had dill, he wants to be vegetarian at that particular moment. Then he had a second, and started a third but couldn't finish it and had to enlist Claudia and I. To drink we had three lassis. I had recently been converted to 'lassis' by Rebecca, one of my colleagues from JB. It's an Indian yogurt drink... it rocks! It should be a bit salty, it provides dairy goodness, it's cold, it has the 'yoghertus bacterium', and replenishes salts, everything a body could ask for. Of course to cater for mass appeal some vendors will add sugar. I prefer it original and unadulterated but that's me.
Now on a full stomach we pointed our inner compass towards Oasis and started back. It took us past Easy Life, and we couldn't resist stopping for a mid- afternoon Tuborg. I can't fully understand how I could have been confused six years ago when it took me two hours to find my way back to my dorm. I was of course really hammered, which may have played some small part. The pool table in Easy Life is covered at this time of day to act as a table, so there wasn't really a lot to hold me there. When we got back to Oasis it was late afternoon, still quite early, and a crowd had gathered in the front yard.
A waddling infant caught my attention first, circling the outer edges of the yard. My powers of deduction told me this guy wasn't traveling alone. His mother was a large woman I really shouldn't have missed. She sat on the sofa to the left of the door. Her accent gave her away as Australian, and she was big, not Claudia big but blancmange big. She wore the standard traveling uniform of a tight sleeveless top, way too tight for her particular build and a sarong, she was like a shrink wrapped blancmange. She dwarfed a boy, her son on her left hand side, he was obviously experiencing technical problems with his CD walkman and was starting to operate. He had a bob haircut, head shaved all round up to above the ear, the hair on top remained much longer to hang down. I had that cut once, it was a damn good cut I thought. Hovering round the group was a shadow, in sandals, bermuda shorts, and a banana colored short-sleeved shirt. A leechlike greasy haired homoerectus who I immediately pegged as a pedophile. I made a mental note as there were children round, and filed it away, fairly close to the front on my cerebral mantelpiece.
Claudia and I sat, Apre continued on in for a shower, a hot one... the ponce. A few people drifted in and out, a middle aged man floated in and sat, he was almost opposite me. I was on the sofa to the left of the main door with Claudia on my left, he was on the wicker chair just a bit farther from the door on the right. I did say it was a popular chair. He was lean but not big, and english. He was a cowboy and he was up to no good out here I was sure of it, or at least he was dodging something back in England. It was obvious we were not his target demographic out here for whatever he was up to so we were all getting on just fine, even the Shadow was making inroads into the conversation. Then the tinkling of a bicycle bell alerted us to the impending arrival of Roy.
Written by mcgulgamesh on 22 Jan, 2003
Apre positioned the white at the top of the table - we were down to one ball plus the black. He turned to pot our one remaining ball in the right corner pocket at the top of the table, and Micheala had a hissy fit,…Read More
Apre positioned the white at the top of the table - we were down to one ball plus the black. He turned to pot our one remaining ball in the right corner pocket at the top of the table, and Micheala had a hissy fit, which, as we were dealing with, he then reaches out and grabbed the white. All of a sudden this was getting serious, and by God, I take my games seriously. You see there are very few things in this world I despise quite as much as a poor loser - it shows lack of character. Unwillingness to accept failure leads to an unwillingness to show you are fallible. If you do not want to show you are fallible you inevitably try to create a mystique of infallibility, but in order to do that you can't afford to show surprise, either in a mental or physical sense. The 'unknown' by definition has the potential to surprise, and an unwillingness to explore the unknown is an unwillingness to expand your mind... and I hate that in a person!
Micheale was rapidly slipping off my Christmas card list, and I wasn't going to let this go. Claudia had made a fatal mistake on the pool table. She potted the white, and in life, as in pool, you have to live with it. It seems Germans (and to a lesser extent Austrians), upon potting the white ball, are only allowed to shoot down the table, which more or less would leave Apre and me screwed, but this was both beside the point, and an unacceptable solution. Plus this was neither Austria or Germany and I wasn't about to play Austrian or German rules in Malaysia of all places.
Then I had a revelation and suggested that we play the law of the land! In the film The Field, Bull McQuaid's understanding of the 'law of the land' meant killing Tom Berenger by splitting his head open on a rock. It was an accident, but that really didn't matter to Tom, did it? What I had in mind was not nearly as brutal, but like the Bull, I wanted my way. We all agreed to abide by the laws of the land, so international relations were stable once again. We called the bar owner, who agreed with the British/Australian rules. Apre potted our final ball and was on the black. Within the blink of an eye the German piped up again about the rules regarding the potting of the black. This was beyond a joke and I again pulled the law of the land rule out and eventually, after much twisting, Apre and I emerged victorious.
Just as we would have been happy to quit, the owner circled the bar, enlisting individuals for a game of 'killer pool'. This is where a group of people take it in turn to take a shot on the table. The aim of the game is to pot a ball every time you take a shot. If you miss you lose a life, and if you lose three lives you're out. Due to my recent wiping of the floor with my previous opponents, I was naturally very enthusiastic to play. The game started and the dead weight fell of one by one, but a worthy opponent presented himself. It took a good 30 minutes for the players to thin to just 'Steve' and me. Steve had the look of one who was fond of the sauce. He wore flip-flops. He did not send a chill of fear through my bones, but I am wary of him like I am wary of a hatchet - harmless unless underestimated and treated casually. Steve was a hatchet and I wasn't about to let him take a finger from me without a fight. In the end I was on form, he was not. I had luck and the balls rolled for me, not him. He was more skillful, a better player, and deserved to have won, but I did. As we stood there and shook hands, he accepted defeat in good spirit. I realized that in life, 'deserve' rarely has anything to do with it.
By now we were well and truly done. I was verging on getting a bit cocky, but luckily it was suggested we head back to Oasis to retire. It was a good idea, and we did. The bars had not yet finished up for the night, so the streets were ours as we walked and talked. I explained that I was heading into Thailand for New Year and that I had been working in JB for six months. Apre and Claudia had been through JB, the offered me condolences. I paused for a moment and then accepted them gracefully - they had a point.
Apre and Claudia were going to spend tomorrow wandering round Penang. The padang and a fortress were the only things currently on the list. Again, in a generous gesture, they asked if I would like to join them. I'm usually a bit wary about people who seem to enjoy my company. I can't help but think there must be something wrong with them. Still, I'm not one to turn down an invitation to explore and I must admit the group dynamics were good here. I was enjoying the company of people. I realized that it had been a while since I had, so I accepted. I made it clear I had a few errands to run tomorrow. I had to book the next leg of my journey so I suggested a rendezvous at about 11:00, but it turned out neither of them get up until about 11:00. "Fair enough", I said, "problem solved!".
Written by mcgulgamesh on 20 Jan, 2003
December 22nd 2001 was a cool morning, which was unusual for Malaysia. The rain the night before had produced a cool morning air that enveloped me as I strolled out of the air-conditioned hotel. It was really nice, one of those pleasant surprises you never…Read More
December 22nd 2001 was a cool morning, which was unusual for Malaysia. The rain the night before had produced a cool morning air that enveloped me as I strolled out of the air-conditioned hotel. It was really nice, one of those pleasant surprises you never expect. "A good start," I said to myself.
With the exception of a three-week sabbatical in early November when I returned to Ireland, I had been calling this hotel home for the past five months. I had been back in Malaysia over a month ago now and I had yet to settle back into my routine; in fact I had been receiving steady signals from the planet "second thoughts." I had been fine for the first two months, with the milestone of returning to Ireland clearly visible in front of me, but the moment I returned to Malaysia that goal was removed and I was struck with the realization of being here . . . for a while.
For now, it was nice to be back on the move, standing outside the hotel embarking once again on a journey. I was leaving for Thailand's Koh Pa Ngan, an Island infamous for its excesses. I felt this was what I needed--excess. A friend of mine, Mark, a soldier and an avid church goer, had told me once "everything in moderation" . . . even moderation. I had been living the epitome of a moderate lifestyle since I got here--it was my way, I suppose, of trying to be "professional." It was obvious I was having a spot of bother, so I felt a shake-up was in order. I wanted a break from architecture, from Johor Bahru. I needed a change, an adventure . . . something, for God's sake. Rumor has it that you return from such breaks invigorated and refreshed, with a new lease of life and a pearly-white smile. Thirteen days later I would return not with a smile but with a renewed honesty in my soul--more of a long-term and deep-seated refreshness, rather than the momentary one I was hoping for. However, accepting this truth was not without its perils and rewards.
I caught the 8:45am bus to Penang--some would have stopped of in Melaka or Kuala Lumpur to break up the journey, but I wanted to get as far away as quickly as possible. Having spent new year in Penang back in 95/96, and still having very vivid memories of that night (those I could remember that is), I wanted to get locked back into that mind-set as soon as possible. It would take me a 12-hour bus ride to get there, but I figured it was worth it.
We had to stop and change in some place in the middle of nowhere. A Chinese guy was the only other occupant on the bus heading for Penang. I tried to strike up a conversation with him but he wasn't very chatty so I dropped it. He did arrive back from the food hall with an egg sandwich for me, which I thought was a nice gesture. He seemed more talkative on a full stomach. Jeffrey was an engineer and he worked in Merlin Tower, a place I had been to regularly in recent months due to work myself. His admission to working there caused the blood in my body to rush to my limbs and I had the immediate urge to evacuate my bladder and bowels right their in seat 13a. Jeff was originally from Penang, working in Johor Bahru, and returning home for the holidays; unfortunately, my illegal status in the country meant I had to be less than honest with him, and prompted my earlier involuntary reaction. A run-in with an immigration office in 95/96 had cost me all but my emergency 50 Ringitt which I kept in my sock. Then, on another occasion, I was invited to someone's house whose father was . . . yup . . . an immigration officer. All of this had left me cagey when talking with the locals and made me reluctant to accept Jeffrey's very generous offer to have dinner at his house with his family. I felt like I was letting down the spirit of the Therouxs and the Hemingways who threw themselves into a culture, immersed themselves in the people and the place. This is the problem with lies and, more specifically, trying to live a deceptive life. I think now that you can't live such a life because you have to be on your guard constantly, you're not relaxed and you can't immerse yourself in the eddies and flows around you and (if you want) go with them! You spend your time analyzing every moment to decide how to react--rather than just reacting. You're resigned to watching many moments pass you by.
I had singled 'The Oasis' guesthouse out from my guidebook; it was just a little outside the center of town but still walkable, mind you. It had got a good review and wasn't rowdy, but quiet and welcoming, which was just what I was after. It was dark as we pulled into the bus station and I intended to make my way to Oasis directly. The Komtar tower in Penang is superb for orientation; unfortunately my orientational skills are shit and I immediately headed off in completely the opposite direction. When I eventually realized this and got moving in the right direction, it started to drizzle rain. The closer I got to the Oasis, the sparser the streets got. I was walking up the middle of the road with a few locals cycling past me and, as I looked into some coffee shop windows, I saw locals laughing and cracking jokes at (I would imagine) the asshole in the rain . . . I let it go . . . I figured they were probably right.
After my unplanned detour, I eventually got to Oasis. My first impression was that it was all it was cracked up to be. I passed through a gate that was too elaborate for the typical cheapo hostels I was accustomed to staying in; it was the threshold to a scruffy and dog-eared yard, which put me right at ease. A tall dirty blonde with 'mucho' cleavage was sitting outside with a few others who, for reasons that should already be apparent, I didn't really register. At RM 8 a dorm bed would have been a bargain at twice the price; I fired my bag carefully in the corner and made for the cold shower. I could have had a hot one but the blonde downstairs had awakened the primal wildman in me which, for the time being, could best be addressed by having a cold shower. Plus, from the perspective of energy efficiency, the cold shower was closer, and time wasted walking to and from showers was time wasted away from blondie . . . or so the caveman in me was thinking. One shower later and I was off down the stairs like a rat down a drainpipe. I parked myself beside blondie . . .
. . . whose name was Claudia. She had a strong 5'9", possibly 6' frame, good solid bones, and she was direct and to the point. Her build and her frame created a formidable woman; she had left Austria 15 months ago to wander around the globe and was doing a cracking job at it, having been to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam . . . She didn't say a thing about being harassed by men, or having trouble with men, or being stared at by . . . yup, men. That was nice! You get sick of running into women that do that . . . Claudia didn't. It may have been her purposefulness, a trait very apparent in Germans that was obviously present in Austrians as well. She had, for the past four weeks, being traveling with 'Apre,' an Australian who, incidentally looked like the aborigine in David Bowie's "Red Shoes" video . . . anyway, his parents were Filipino. He volunteered all this info, which I gathered wasn’t the first time, but the explanation seemed plausible to me.
They were going for a drink and, as was proper traveling etiquette, they asked anyone they didn’t consider an asshole to join them. They also asked me . . . naturally, I jumped at the chance but, not wanting to appear the sad and lonely bastard I was, I hesitated initially and even declined, but accepted the second time . . . naturally. Before long we were off: Claudia, Apre, Micheala (a very large German), and me.
I got up early to organize my onward journey, I was of a mind to to meander to Koh Pa Ngan. I wanted to take my time on the way up because I was well aware that I might be nursing a fried nervous system…Read More
I got up early to organize my onward journey, I was of a mind to to meander to Koh Pa Ngan. I wanted to take my time on the way up because I was well aware that I might be nursing a fried nervous system on my way down, both geographically and possibly metaphorically. The plan, as it currently stood, was to take the early boat to Langkawi. I was very curious about this Island, from what I'd gathered from other like-minded people it was the epitome of all that was wrong with capitalism. The government has designated it a tax-free resort, for no other reason I could fathom other than to encourage tourists to part with their hard-earned cash here, as opposed to any where else. Of course I had also met people who loved it, and wanted to retire there. I didn't, I just wanted to see it. From there I would get an afternoon boat to Satun, and spend whatever intermediate time I had exploring Langkawi.
No one, except me, the rats, and a few breakfast hawkers seemed to get up before 11:00 in Penang. I've never really been able to accept that a place can properly function with a populous that rises so late. It's too casual for my liking, you see. I feel guilty getting out of bed after 9:30am--it doesn't matter what time I go to bed at or how much I drank the previous night. . . I still feel guilty. That is, unless I'm in bed with a woman, then I can hold out until 11:00am. This might have worked out just fine in Penang, but I hadn't had a chance to test that theory here, not yet anyway.
Back in my formative years in Northern Ireland I worked with my father on the building sites, he was a builder and I, his assistant. We were always up at the crack of dawn, my tea breaks were all of 15 minutes in length. We were on-site before anyone else and worked later than anyone else. I loved it, much to my father's disappointment, as his plan was for me to hate it, and in turn hope I would study. I studied, but not because I hated building, but because I loved it too, it's fair to say psychology was not one of my father's strong points. One day in 1991, I was on a site of a new house we were building for Phelim O'Neil--he worked in an Abattoir and has never lost a limb in it. . . he runs it now. We were waiting for concrete to come--"we" consisted of me, my father, and Mickey McCrystal, a monster of a man. The concrete was fashionably late, concrete often is for some reason. We were on site at 8:00am preparing for a 8:30am delivery. It came to 10:00am, and heated phone calls had been made. There were no mobile phones in McMeel construction at that time, and making a call required jumping on a horse and galloping to the nearest telegraph office. Anyway, it was still 10:00am and we were still waiting for the concrete to make its entrance. We were at the point now where no entrance was going to properly compensate us emotionally for enduring this wait, in that sense, concrete is a lot like women. It had been drizzling all morning, it was cold, and it was a Tuesday. Da and Mickey were complaining about wasting time when Mickey said "if you don't get started before 9:00am in the morning the day is GONE, you may as well go home. That made sense to a cold, shivering seventeen year old then, and here I am 11 years later still haunted by those words. A good day's work must begin before 9:00am. This theory needed work if it was going to survive Penang. It deserved to survive--I was out in the street at 8:59am. It lives!
There was a 'mee-sup' stall just across the road from Oasis. Always vigilant to prevent dehydration in this country, I figured Mee Sup would make a good breakfast and sat down to a medium bowl of won-ton mee sup. There was no small talk, no "where you from?", no "do you want a wife?" It was just noodles and a look that said "hurry up and get the f*** out of that seat, so I can get another paying customer into it." It was a perfectly valid sentiment, THIS was a good start to the day I thought. I walked to the ferry terminal down empty streets. I like being out in empty streets, particularly in daylight. It feels like you have exclusive rights to the town. . . I was on a power trip. I passed a bus load of people which sort of blew my imaginary street right out of the water, but I made a mental note to get a ticket back to JB--it's always wise to buy in advance because at a moment's notice buses can book up fast! This is the case particularly during holidays, or when some royal prince or King goes to Jesus. It does not take anyone three hours to eat one medium bowl of mee-sup and it was still early by the time I'd killed breakfast. The new Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings-The Fellowship of the Ring was being released on pirate VCD in Penang that day, and virtually every restaurant I walked past had their show times up already--2:00, 5:00, 8:00, seemed to be the preferred times. I felt LOTR deserved the big screen so I wasn't interested. It shows, however, that most people are happy take a lesser version if its cheaper or free, not many would seem to value quality. Being a bit of a computer anorak, I was well aware that LOTR was a visual extravaganza, I did think they were blowing a bit too much smoke up their own arse. . . going on about it being a classic and an epic blah blah blah. Skepticism aside, it would need the big screen to do it justice--I value justice, and quality.
I made my way up to the ferry terminal, which naturally was closed, but it afforded me time to wander from shop to shop without being disturbed or harassed to buy a ticket, to see who could get me to Langkawi and who couldn't. I consulted my guidebook on the trip to see what advice I could get on the various agents. I settled on the one--it would leave early the next morning, it was fairly fast, and I would be able to get a connection later on that day to Satun in Thailand. This would give me 4 hours in Langkawi to see what all the fuss was about. Eventually it was 11:00am and the shop opened. I went in knowing where and when I was going, and 15 minutes later I had my day's work done. I would be leaving Penang on the early boat tomorrow morning for Langkawi. Onward journey planned, I returned triumphant to Oasis to hook up with Claudia and Apre for some exploring.
They were up, and sitting not far from where I had first seen the two of them the previous evening. Apre lying on the sofa to the left of the door, Claudia in the wicker chair to the right of the door (it was a popular chair). There were some pre-nuptials necessary before Claudia would exit the premises, even Apre required some grooming before stepping out into public. I really didn't see what the big fuss was about. Claudia armed herself with her guidebook and we were off. Our first stop was to find a Western Union bank, Claudia wanted to withdraw some money. This was how she traveled--he had money deposited in various Western Unions on her route, and would withdraw it at will. Being on the road for 15 months, you have to think differently than a 2-week/2-month road trip. Our first and only planned stop was the Padang up at Fort Cornwallis, and even at this hour as we walked the back streets we were still pretty much alone, apart from a few consummate travelers who were getting an early start. There wasn't much of a fort. . . the British usually do better, I thought.
We set up camp in 'Easy Life', a place I recognized all too well from my previous new year tour of duty. Six years ago I arrived at this place on the back of a Honda 80, which was driven by a large Indian who…Read More
We set up camp in 'Easy Life', a place I recognized all too well from my previous new year tour of duty. Six years ago I arrived at this place on the back of a Honda 80, which was driven by a large Indian who was equally, if not more drunk, than me. I had met him on New Years Eve all those six years ago, on the other side of Penang Island while touring around on a scooter with a Finnish girl. While having some fun with this Fin, I had met him at the 'consecration' ceremony, I guess you would call it, for a Chinese temple. Being an Indian he took a shine to the Fin's nose ring, as it's quite common to see a ring in the nose of an Indian woman. Later that night when I thought the evenings activities were over and I was staggering back to my dorm, he had spotted me from a coffee shop and shouted. He was naturally disappointed that the Fin wasn't with me, but that did not squash his drunken exuberance. We continued to party!
When the police arrived and broke up the party, his two friends on one scooter, and him and and me on another, rode to Easy Life. We were drunk when we got on the bike and when we got off we weren't trying to sober up, so we resumed our rapid consumption of alcohol. By the time I staggered out I had no idea where I was, how I got there, or more importantly how the hell I was going to get back to my bed. That was in 1995. Tonight, December 22nd, 2001, I was back, and what mysteries Easy Life would hold this time I did not know.
This time I was in dinner jacket mode, apart from the fact I may have to impress a lady tonight. I was also more importantly on the first night of my expedition and I was not about to start throwing money across a bar at this stage of the game. I was anticipating a major blow out in Koh Pa Ngan. I was on a limited budget until then, and I was not about to shit on the eggs at this early stage. I had met too many green travelers who did just that and I was not about to fall into that trap - not yet anyway. Still, I was the first into the establishment and up to the bar naturally! Tuborg was on offer and we all agreed to drink it to simplify any cost breakdowns necessary later on. It reminded me of a bar in Turkey that I went to in 1999, a bar of my own choosing incidentally, with Rubin, Damian, Ariana, Caren, and many more who were there working in what turned out to be essentially university sponsored slave labor camps. Most left soon after arriving, but those hungry for beer and experience stayed. The only beer served in the bar was Tuborg, but they did serve Rika (the Turkish traditional fire water) for anyone in search of a cultural experience and a rather nasty beverage. It was still a shit hole - we were virtually the only people there - and the girls were getting charged less than the men for drinks. The more attractive the girl, the cheaper the drink. Ariana got stuck with the bar run, she was a 6' tall, slim, dark haired German. The only other girl who stayed was Caren, a 5' tall specky German with a Beatle hair cut. She had I would say a latent sexuality about her, but that wasn't going to help with our bar bill. Ariana, however, would. I was once again in a bar with a German and drinking Tuborg, but we were in Penang, not Turkey, but it was a bar and we had a German. It was close enough to spark the reminiscing.
Apre, Micheala, Claudia, and I sat up at the bar, turned around, and stared outside. It was a small bar, we sat, and we stared. This was not how I had foreseen the night developing, and something was going to have to happen soon. Apre suggested a game of pool. It was just the sort of latent background activity we needed to relax, and it almost worked. There were four of us, so we decided on playing doubles, but of course none of us wanted to actually designate teams. I imagine no one wanted to seem too competitive and pick a dead cert team, and no one wanted to immediately side with traveling partners or fellow associated countries. Surprisingly I noticed this, and could sense the tension. I suggested we go by year of birth, and almost immediately Claudia started glareing at me - women and age. I should have anticipated this, but I didn't, and I may have just have taken what slim chance I had at making a first impression and blown it out of the water. "Shit!" I said to myself. To save the moment and mood I added 'odd or even years' - it was a master stroke and she settled down. We had two even (myself and Apre) and two odd (Claudia and the German) and we were off. It was a fairly even matched game, which was nice, both teams were averaging out at 'crap'.
Written by mcgulgamesh on 06 Jan, 2003
I am currently living in a hotel in Malaysia, which isn''t the bed of roses it sounds. I am not accustomed to being pampered so to speak. As an Irish Catholic (and many other Catholics around the world... and other religions for that matter) I…Read More
I am currently living in a hotel in Malaysia, which isn''t the bed of roses it sounds. I am not accustomed to being pampered so to speak. As an Irish Catholic (and many other Catholics around the world... and other religions for that matter) I feel guilty when I''m being pampered. In order to feel content I have to be chopping wood in the howling wind and rain (snow if possible), then I then retire to my log cabin in the wilderness, and sit in the cold cause I feel guilty burning the wood I''ve chopped! I''m looking out my window towards Singapore and writing to MNA (Ireland) from MNA (Malaysia). I am giving them advice on the design of a council office in Monaghan while asking for advice on a new concept in Singapore housing. It dawned on me, what we had was the wrong people in the wrong offices, in the wrong countries, doing the wrong things... This thought started something of a personal crisis, a personal crisis which I was fairly sure was not going to be swept under the cerebral carpet, it was going to seriously interfere with the warm and fuzzy feeling I occasionally get in my gutty-wuts.
I never intended to write this... that was one of the first lines in my notebook, I thought it was a good line, worthy of the first line in a book at least. But I''ve just re-edited this transcript and now its no longer the first line. Shit... it''s a good line however so I think I''ll just leave it in! I started writing on a Friday after, probably, a lot of alcohol. I don''t really remember now. I had just realised much to my dismay that my current location and job were... wrong. That is the best way I can put it, I knew it was wrong for me. I should say of course, that I didn''t know what the hell I should be doing, not many of us do when you think about it. I did know it wasn''t what I was doing and that was enough to get me started, and I considered... possibly... doing something else, as many of us do.
I have for the past few year been following the typical path that any aspiring young architect might take. I studied and my head may even got stuck up my own arse a bit, I''m not sure, then with a hunger acquired for travelling I immediately made off to work abroad, the change was intoxicating if too short lived, for I returned to Ireland to complete my training. At work I even had a modicum of success you might say, having the opportunity to work on a Boutique Hotel with some ''designers'' from London. I was having a few reservations at this point. The more I was exposed to the process of creating a ''designer'' hotel the more I was having trouble swallowing the exclusivity I was helping to create. I was absorbed in the process, working with a very talented interior designer from London I relished her attention to detail, but eventually started to loathe what I was creating and the people who were coming out of the woodwork towards the end of the project. Pompous, arrogant, and usually miserable and or depressing men, usually men. Albeit filthy rich. For me that was too high a price to pay for wealth. So I moved from office to office up the corporate ladder until eventually I was (as many an aspiring young architect hopes) offered a partnership, with a company I''d worked with a few years ago. Things however took a bit of a turn that Friday night as I looked out to Singapore.
What in the hell was I to do now?, I asked myself as my current world started to fall around me... and falling I might add, destroyed by my own hand no less. I figured a first good step would be to throw this out to my partners in Ireland (Desmond and Liz) and see if they would arrive at the same conclusion. I knew before I started that this was going to be difficult. Liz was deft at splitting your point, prism-like, and instead of seeing the bright white light she focuses on each of the multitude of colours of an argument, and will invariably always illustrate to you after an immensely abstracted conversation, usually including an analogy involving Anita Rodick, conclude that you are (more or less) wrong and she is (more or less) right!. It''s a skill of course, but for the life of me I''ve yet to find a good use for it.
Of course I needed to be sure. This was Desmond and Liz''s office they started it seven years ago and I had no illusions that what I was suggesting could spell the end for the Malaysian office. Their first office in one of their first building, I was also aware of the traditional Chinese belief never forgetting where you come from... where things started from. This was where MNA started, this office, this location was a turning point for them and I realised that what I was suggesting here could have serious repercussions, so I needed to think this through and be sure. New Year was approaching and I had decided to go on sabbatical to Thailand. This, I thought, could be a good opportunity to ''be sure''.
The Beach had been showing on Astro, the insanely censored Malaysian version of cable, with all the latest releases lovingly sanitised for (we are lead to believe) the impressionable Muslim populous. However, the impressionable muslim populous have virtually perfected the art of pirating anything which anyone decides to put on a CD, and as such it actually works out cheaper to buy the pirate CD, VCD, DVD, than get the movie channel. If they were pirating the official imported version then this would be neither a problem or arguably as profitable, but, and I''m sure you''ve guessed it by now, The imports they are pirating... are illegal imports. I would recommend any visit to include a trip to Holiday Plaza for some cut price software/VCDs or even DVDs. Living in JB does have its perks!
I was intending a trip to Phuket, but my curiosity peaked upon hearing a reference to Koh Pan Ngan (KPN) in ''The Beach'' on Astro, I checked my guidebook to see what I was missing. As it turned out KPN looked enticing, the Islands blatant abuse and destruction of nature peaked my curiosity, and the monthly ritual of drink and drug taking didn''t really dissuade me either. "Sold!" I said.
Of course this was not just an excuse to go buck mad... I needed to get away, really get away. This personal crisis, I had reasoned, could just be due to work... and a sabbatical is all that might be required to get me back on track. Telling my partners that their Malaysian office was for want of a better work ''fucked'', was not something I was going to take lightly and I needed to be sure I was not fabricating all this in my deluded mind. I need to be sure, sure that these were real feelings and concerns I was having. As it turned out it would take me, in the end, about four months of weighing of pros and cons before finally, eventually giving my ''two cents'' to Desmond and Liz. I didn''t know that yet of course, and for now I was of to Thailand for Christmas and New Year. One of the clients tried every trick in the book to interfere with my holiday, to make me come back earlier or go later. He had ''nearly'' got permission to build some flats and he needed just a few changes to get permission. He had ''nearly'' had his permission twelve months ago and we had been pandering to his whims ever since. I''d had my fill a long time ago and this time I wasn''t listening to him, in fact, I rarely did. In hindsight, that may have been part of my problem.