14.02.2007 - 17.02.2007 39 °C
I didnt expect so many Malays to be traveling on Chinese New Year so, since the buses are all full for Cameroon Highlands (my next stop) ill take some time to update you. As you might have guessed im in Malaysia, but getting here was a bit of an adventure.
Four days ago the rapidly approaching expiration date of my Thai visa necisitated a hasty retreat across the Malaysian border but i really didnt want to fly back to bangkok just to fly across the border so against the advise of the US gov. the thais in northern thailand and my father i decided to continue traveling overland through the south (in case you didnt know there have been some bombings and general unrest in the primarially islamic south). But to make the journy quicker I did opt to take a van agganged by a "travel agent" catering primariallly to tourists rather than taking the boat from Ton Sai to Ao Nang then taking the bus to Krabi to buy a ticket for a public bus to the border. (If it takes that long to explain the "local" option imagine how long it would take to actually do it!)
Anyways, i get on the van headed south with 3 thais, one of whom is sweating profusely and 6 tourists. All is well until we are about 20 kilometers from Hat Yai (100 KM from the border and 250 KM from our destination in Malaysia) when 4th gear on the van blows. Our non-english speaking driver makes a quick apprasial of the situation and seems to deem it safe to continue because he hops back in and keeps driving. So its with an engine racing in 3rd gear and the driver on his cell phone that we pull into Hat Yai. There he drops off each of us at different tourist agents around the downtown area for our "connecting transport." I was the last tourist to be dropped off and not a moment to soon as the sweaty thai had started vomiting profusely into a plastic bag (no worries, i dont have any sypmtoms). So the driver pulls up to another travel angent and seems to tell me that this agent will be taking me the rest of the way as the van is broke. He then jumps in the van a speeds off. Well, that sick feeling i got wasnt some south east asian flu as the people at the travel agency hadnt been informed of any of this. Effectively we had been seperated and ditched half way to our destination!
Since I wasnt sure that the second travel agent wasnt in on the scheme i refuesd to buy a connecting ticket there and went looking for another agent. The cops walking around checking the bottoms of cars with mirrors on sticks convinced me not to do too much shopping around and I bought the first ticket south I could find. Again I was on a van which got us safely across the border, through customs (my visa for malaysia reminds me in bold red letters that drug trafficing is punishable by death...quite a change from Ton Sai where hash was abundant albeit illegal)and 100 km south of the border when we hit something in the road and a giant cloud of smoke errupts from the hood of the van. We pull over and a 5 min check of the van by the driver (in the dark) seems to suggest that its safe to drive becase pretty soon were driving again, 40 min later we arrive in Penang 3 hours late and trailing a plume of burnt motor oil. So who wants to come visit me?
Although geting here was a bit of a hasstle, Malaysia has been great! Really, it has. The people generally speak much more english than Thais and are very friendly. Penang (my current location) is an island on the west coast of malaysia and east of sumatra and is the 2nd largest city in Malaysia with a diverse population of chinese, indians, and ethnic malays.
Since being here ive rented a scooter (Paul, these things rock but get a bit loose at around 110 kmh and tend to fish tail in the rain...yeah, we got caught at night in a thunderstorm while we were lost) and have been crusin around the island and sidestreets of Georgetown while trying to bob and weave through traffic like the locals (i think im gettin pretty good and am absolutly amazed at their off road capabilities; the shoulder and median become extra lanes when traffic gets heavy while the "lanes" themselves are meerly suggestions).
Tomorrow were off the tea fields of Cameroon Highlands to unwind from exploring the city for 4 days. Hoping you all are well,