March 9th 1984

posted in: The way back | 1
Swiss Hotel

Our first action this morning was to move hotels.  The Tye Ann was OK but a bit poky, so we shifted down the road to the Swiss, which had a room with a double bed + its own bathroom, + had a  nicer general ambience all round.  Tho’ not to show ill-feeling, we returned to the Tye Ann for breakfast, where it is reputed to be good.  It wasn’t bad.

Next the Thai embassy, to get our visas.  We had a bit of a disagreement about this, as Val was inclined to leave it, + just take the 15 days one is allowed in Thailand.  My argument was that we always tried to be as flexible as possible, even when it cost us more money, so that it would be stupid to restrict ourselves in this way.  And either because she saw the force in my argument, or because I was the more determined, or because Val realised she was simply being lazy (or a bit of all 3) we went.  It was quite a long bus ride, but we cursed ourselves when we arrived, saw the notice on the door, + realised we’d forgotten to bring photos of ourselves.  We hadn’t known for certain we would need them, but we’d had a bloody good idea, + then we’d gone + forgotten the sodding things.  We were lucky, however.  For once, the embassy was staffed by considerate people who would try to help you if they could, + we were allowed to submit our applications on the understanding that we brought our photos along when we collected our passports this afternoon.  This afternoon!  Efficiency as well as courtesy – we left feeling elated as well as stunned.

Reading the Lonely Planet guide

We took our time walking back, stopping off for the occasional fruit drink – they do splendid ones here – + calling in at the supermarket to stock up with peanut butter + jam, commodities we understand are in short supply in Thailand.  Back at the Swiss Hotel, Val went off to have a siesta while I sat out in the forecourt + read the papers + wrote this.  This almost proved my undoing – it had been agreed that I should return to the Thai embassy to pick up our (we hoped) fully visaed passports.  However, I became so involved in my diary (not a common occurrence, believe me) that I quite forgot the time.  By the time I got around to looking at it, it was 3.30.  And I had to pick the passports up at 3.45!  And they shut at 4.

I grabbed our photos + rushed out to the bus-stop, but with no bus in sight + my anxiety level increasing by the moment, I hailed a taxi.  The first one was too expensive – I wasn’t too frantic to haggle – but the second agreed to take me for M$3, + I didn’t think that was too high a price to pay, tis being Friday afternoon, + the embassy being shut over the weekend.

I made it to the place with 10 mins to spare – I might have made it in time in any case, but it would have been a close thing.  A lot of people there, some applying for, others receiving, visas.  Quite a variety too, from real freaks to couples with kids.  I bussed back to town to meet Val, before heading up to Penang Hill in the middle of the island, which gives good views over the place.  Val wasn’t in a very good mood when I got back, + we had a bit of a row, which nearly called the trip off.  She’s been irritable + tetchy quite a bit recently, but she was annoyed with me in particular when I’d left the room in a mess, + taxed me severely upon the subject.  From my point of view, tho’ I hadn’t expected any thanks for going out to the Embassy, I hadn’t expected a bollocking either.  The result was that we snapped at each other.  We’re both bored with Malaysia too, which means we have little enthusiasm for this sort of trip, particularly if it requires anything in the vicinity of effort.  Eventually, however, we sort of pushed each other into going, + somehow found ourselves on the bus.

It wasn’t an easy trip, requiring 2 buses before we were there, + then an incline railway trip to the summit.  We made it to the top with 30 mins or so to go before sunset, so we wandered around the top for a while.  They have a pretty village up there, almost English in some ways.  Which is entirely possible of course, as it was under British control for a long time.  We spent 20 mins or so playing around in the kids’ playground, then went back to a spot near the rail terminal where we could watch the city change beneath us.  To begin with, the last rays of the sun were upon it, but within half an hour they disappeared, + then the lights of the town came on + grew brighter as the sky darkened.  It was an entirely magical transformation, + alone justified the trip up there.  We must have lost track of time – it was much later than we’d thought, + then we had all sorts of trouble with bus connections + stuff, making it pretty late by the time we finally got back.

Quite a normal sort of day really – domestic resarrangements, some bureaucracy, a spot of sight-seeing, a row… But Malaysia is proving something of a dampener on our spirits. Probably not fair on Malaysia; it could well be the business of travelling is having its effect upon us.

  1. Pamela Blair

    It raises a question for long-haul travelers–when is it time to go home? I dithered about this after my year in Tanzania, thought about crossing into West Africa through Burundi, Zaire (at the time), to Congo Brazzaville, then figure out a way up to North Africa across the Sahara, but realized I just didn’t have the heart (and oomph) for it. I still wanted to give it a try–if I found someone in Nairobi wanting to go that way, I’d try to go with them. But I found no one, so I took a plane to Copenhagen and suffered my first culture shock, entering “Western civilization,” and had two bad hitches, getting to Paris. It was definitely time to end the long, unchartered odyssey I was on. I took a hovercraft to London, got a plane ticket home, and before it left, hitched up to Blackpool and took a boat over to Ireland–the perfect place to spend two weeks, since it was far less developed then than it is now.

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