‘All our Malaysian friends make it sound like if we stepped foot on the streets of Malaysia, we would surely be robbed, raped, or murdered,’ said Joyce. And who was the one who told me there were snipers on every rooftop? DEAN.
KLCC was a picture of peace last night. People were coming off work, teenagers were taking photos and chatting on the steps in front of the pretty fountain. I would like to say there was a group of 11 terrorists, but no, a group of 11 Block C Shearites were creating a ruckus, behaving like Singaporean sua-kus, taking photos of their faces with the twin towers in the background (and they somehow all look photoshop-ed). Then they took videos of their goodbyes to the magnificently lit Petronas Towers and proceeded to film their The Amazing Race inspired sprint to the bus station to catch the 2230 Transnational transport back to Singapore, because nothing major happened that day and Potato is convinced that that means we are going to miss our bus back (put into the context that we girls spent about an hour past the agreed time to leave in Mango, and that some horror happens every day of our trip).
But seriously, I thought the Petronas was exquisite. I couldn’t stop exclaiming, until I saw it at night, and then I just couldn’t exclaim anymore. Because it looked beyond pretty and I ran out of adjectives for it. But isn’t it a waste of electricity if they turn on the lights every night? And my dad said it has low occupancy.
I can’t believe I saw Mr Foo there, when I never ever ran into him in Singapore.
Let me start from the very beginning.
At Lavender MRT station at 0930 (plus plus), we started our walk towards the bus company to catch the 1000 bus. At this point, we realised we didn’t really know our way there. But it’s okay, let’s get some Mr Bean pancakes first.
And then, wait! Where’s the 12th person in the group? And… Who is he?? (Daniel)
Thankfully, we eventually made it on the bus. (We thought the roadtrip would end at Lavender Station!) I have to mention there was some obsession about handsoap between Emily and I (about us not being able to wash our hands clean after using the toilet).
The bus was a bit smelly. But we played Scumbag Daidee (Joyce refuses to use the word ‘asshole’ and scumbag sounds more classy) and slept a little.
Kane met us at the bus station in KL and took us to our hostel by the monorail. As usual, Chris got off after one stop and went back in saying ‘I thought only one stop?!’
Thank you Kane for the Bak Kut Teh dinner that was out of this world! In a restaurant with walls plastered with photos of the owners and Hong Kong celebrities. Emily and I obsessed over the yam rice that wasn’t available anymore and we had to eat white rice. I still want the yam rice.
Horror #2: Emily went missing and we only found that out 2 hours later. Guess what the clever girl did in the 2 hours? She bought 10 pairs of earrings and found her way back asking directions by showing people the photos she took on the way out. Ingenuity.
We settled in a French pub beside the hostel for beer and ‘I have never…’ (after Joyce and I spent an hour odd at the posher Irish pub eating calamari and onion rings, looking out for Emily, and evading the waitress’ requests to take our drink orders. How puerile! I’m glad we won’t be back.) After 4 jugs, revealing confessions, and shocking admissions that rocked the foundations of our beliefs (ahem!), we headed back.
Horror #3 of our trip happened early in the morning, even before we got on the highway towards Cameron Highlands, in fact, just before! Our rented Toyota SUV crashed into our also rented Proton when Kenneth tried to do an illegal reverse into the lane towards the highway. The bonnet of the Proton crumbled while we, in the Toyota, only felt a slight impact. Turning around, to our horror, we saw smoke rising from the front of the car. Only when the smoke cleared did we see the priceless expression on Chris’ face, mouth slightly agape. And then, the occupants of the Proton jumped out for fear the engine might explode. I quote the victims of the accident: ‘So many things went through my head,’ said Chris. And Daniel, from the front passenger seat, said: ‘Our lives flashed in front of us.’ Okay, how dramatic can we get? But really, we are now having to pay a few thousand for the damage of the Proton. (Realise my emphasis.) The Toyota also sports a slightly dented bumper now. Thank God for Chui Fen’s kind auntie though, because there were quite some complications (with the highway police and the car rental company) and she was really helpful and nice about the trouble we put her through.
And so, after an exciting morning, and a really uncalled for delay due to the wait at the highway and the trip to the police station that presented us with a fine (for getting into an accident with our own cars?! Nope, actually for the illegal reverse.), we continued our journey to the highlands. Oh, we got another Proton too (:
Oh oh! I forgot! We also did a ‘Whoosh’ in the middle of a huge carpark that houses damaged vehicles that are way beyond help. Looks like a wasteland. Yep.
On our way down from the top of the world the next morning, we fulfilled Kenneth’s dream to sip tea and eat scones from a place with mountain view. We pretended to be rich English aristocrats but were plagued by unwelcomed flies that were definitely not part of our vision.
Further down, we stopped at a Strawberry Farm that sold the freshest and most beautiful vegetables I’ve ever seen! Gerberas too! (But I wasn’t going to bring them home, they’re one of my favourite flowers by the way, though they’re rather cheap flowers.) Oh my gosh! Pardon my housewifeyness. But the vegetables looked so fresh that they looked artificial. Red, green, yellow capsicums, carrots, brinjals, long beans! And many many more! And so cheap! I had to buy them home. So we did (Emily and I) and we even asked the nice auntie who was selling them for a carton to put our fresh vegetables in. Happy happy. (By the way, to prove all the guys wrong, they’re still fresh and pretty! In my refrigerator now. They actually survived all the manhandling and the hot Penang sun in the warmed up back seat of the vehicle. I’m so proud of my vegetables!)
We crossed the Penang bridge that afternoon. Lots of hype, from the people in the car. A whole 10 minutes of excitement through the bridge that continued into the crazy traffic of Penang, as we INCHED our way into George Town. (G-Town, yo!) Our own drivers actually rose up to the challenge of the native Ah Beng drivers there. Oh, and the sneaky Robert (Hum Ji Hao) actually reached a record speed of 140kph on the highway when we were all snoozing. So much for the nervousness and not wanting to drive, huh.
Penang is a vision of likeness to Singapore. Certain parts probably an outdated likeness but in general, the old colonial shophouses are so nostalgic. I think theirs are more authentic though.
I have a half baked theory about something. Drawing from my 6 week experience in some parts of Thailand, I saw some form of resemblance in the structure (economic, social and otherwise) of their capital cities and other cities. I couldn’t help thinking that KL and Bangkok are quite similar in the sense that these two capitals have huge segregations, huge rich-poor divides that are very starkly visible in their proximity. For example, the slums in Bangkok that are right smack in the middle of an affluent district. And I think most people can see that the obvious and predominant reason for this is rural-urban migration. A huge amount of that. Not surprising for a capital city where opportunities are seen to be rampant. People just fail to recognise that land (physical space) is a limiting factor in this equation and that is sad. I think for countries that are big enough to face a problem like this, the onus is on the government to control the flow of migrants, because if they do not, they are going to have a pressing problem in the hands. With the overpopulation and all, how are they going to effectively develop and organise the city? A capital city. Where the world is going to judge them on. Of course, I do see that that’s easier said than done. And so, I think capitals are overrated. I much prefer the unpretentious charm of another regular city in the country. In the case of Thailand, Chiangmai; and in Malaysia, Penang. Maybe I am still being a little uppish in my perception (I try not to be), but I feel that such cities are surprisingly developed. As we coursed through George Town, it is so difficult to ignore the evidence of Westernization. Just by looking at the names of the shops and private residences, they are so different from those seen in other parts of Malaysia (that I’ve seen on this trip, my opinion could be invalid due to the fact that my experience is narrow). Names like Belle Vue, Bayshore and stuff (I cannot for the life of me remember the most important example that I kept reminding myself to remember!). In fact, the amount of Malay used in the streets of George Town is just a bit more than that used in Singapore.
Anyway, we went jetskiing! It was fun. A lot more fun than my fuzzy first memory of it, riding behind my dad, I was about 9, can’t remember much about it. Wish I did parasailing as well. But I am now suffering from the effects. Muscle cramps and sore thighs. I swear all I did on this trip was eat, sleep and pee at the pit stops along the highways. Almost all our time was spent in the car anyway.
We ran into waves at the beach after that. Sounds stupid and only a lot of fun if you’re doing it yourself. Trust me, that’s true. We managed to entertain ourselves quite hilariously. I kept falling and getting drowned in the waves though. And Joyce apparently rolled 10 meters after being caught off guard by a huge tide and Kenneth couldn’t stop laughing about that while telling everyone else.
Horror #4 isn’t really horror, just unfortunate. Chris got his first summon. ‘I don’t even get summons in Singapore!’ A lot of virgin experiences on this road trip.
The next morning, we drove out to get Tau Sar Piahs and a really stupid thing happened. Daniel somehow managed to lose his slippers. In the car. In the driver’s seat. Oh gosh. And so we have yet another of our many Quotes of the Day: ‘(by Kenneth) Big things can be lost in the smallest of enclosed places.’
Today is also the day, after constantly getting ‘Holland-ed’ (and it’s pronounced Hall-Lahnd, I don’t really understand why but I’m told it means lost because Holland is apparently always the place you end up in after getting lost) and not being able to find ‘Jalan Sehala’ on the map even though we see the sign everywhere on the roads, that we finally found out that Jalan Sehala means ‘one-way street’. Yay. This is hilarious if you hear what our navigator said all the time the past few days: ‘Where is this Jalan Sehala?? It is everywhere and nowhere. It must be a really huge street! But I can’t find it on the map!’
We did not get to eat our Penang Laksa! But we did attempt to eat everything else. And at least we got the A&W that See Mun and Emily raved about throughout the trip. For our very last meal.
And the last irony: the coldest part of our trip wasn’t Cameron Highlands, but the bus journey back to Singapore.
I will never forget the countless AWAS signs we saw everywhere. Just like our Malaysian friends, they eagerly warn us of a danger that we never really encountered.