Hello from Malaysia!

Tuesday, September 17, 2002
We left Chiang Mai, Thailand on yet *another* overnight bus to Bangkok. We spent the day in Bangkok, where I spent the day checking out all the silver shops. Just as we we about to leave, I found out about the big warehouse that's somewhere in Bangkok, it caters to wholesale jewelry selling and that means me!! I'm dragging Carla to it when we spend another day in Bangkok next month. We pass through there one last time on our way to Australia.

We were hoping to spend some time on the Thai and Malaysia beaches (because you know, 3 weeks in Greece and Turkey weren't enough) but Mother Nature had other plans. The early start of the rainy season was still upon us!! In the midst of all the rain, we went to a place called Grabi in Thailand anyway. I just can't believe the way it rains around here. It never really just rains, it pours!! But we lucked out and the day we spent on the little boat touring around the islands turned out to be sunny. Carla even got a sunburn. The "port" where we picked up the boat was really just a small beach with more crabs than boats, but it was also where they make these type of boats as well, so that was interesting. We spent they day anticipating this place called the Fairy Caves... we must remember that caves here in Southeast Asia are really just another name for tremples... and we keep forgetting that! Carla silently put away her spelunking headlamp we checked out the beautiful scenery instead. All in all it was a random experience in Grabi, fun, but random. We found out what low season is all about.... at times, we thought we might be the only people in the ENTIRE town. The room rates were slashed to 1/20th of the original price and we paid seventy five cents each to share a room. Now there's a bargain!

After eating the spiciest food in Thailand (at a joint called Bernies Place, no less) we left Meric at the seaside and we took off to go to Malaysia. Now, as any person who has crossed the border of a country knows, you spend all your loose change before you leave. No point in wasting that last dollar or two... and we are no different. (Much later in the day we found out about the "border tax". Good thing for the retired American couple, thanks!) We bought some soy milk and pringles with our change and happily sank into our shared taxi ride in Thailand... so we thought!! The town of Grabi had other ideas. Apparently it was school vacation week and in Thailand, that means parades. Everyone in creation had turned up to march, sing, dress up or meander around the town, therefore blockading us from arriving at the bus station in time. The few kilometers took hours and we missed our bus. In fact, we were so late, we were just in time for the NEXT bus. Fortunately, we were on good terms with the ticket taker since we gave an "interview" to her niece a few days before. They were doing some class assignment, and we were the first English speakers to descend on the station in days! So, anyway, she allowed us to change our tickets for no charge and we were off once again to Penang, Malaysia.

Penang is this island city, and it's pretty cool! All the roads and around the buildings are what I like to call "mini moats". It rains so much here that there has to be a place for the rain water to go, but they are so big sometimes they look like moats! In Malaysia there are so many types of people and *so* many languages too. People speak Malay (Bahasa), Chinese, Portguese, English and sometimes Arabic. Some people speak one or two of then, others speak them all! Most people speak English to each other if there's any question about what language to speak.

One of the days in Penang we took a rick-shaw to the post office just for kicks. The guy peddling was AT LEAST a hundred years old. He was asleep in the passenger seat before we woke him up. You'd think he was new to the city since his knowledge of the streets was so bad. Carla became the navigator. Good thing that there's not much road rage around here, we were blocking traffic in every which way possible! While Carla was navigating, I got to check out the sites. I found the "Two Ringitt Store" (aka the dollar store!) as well as these signs posted everywhere that said "Follow Me!". Even after 3 days in that city, we never found out what that meant.

We also toured the Tropical Fruit Farm where coincidentally, one of the hashers actually works at! We also went to a hash. It was straight uphill for 2 hours. It wasn't really running, it was hiking. Given my ever slower pace, it was pitch black by the time I finished. It was really fun though! Afterwards, we got to know some of the Malays and met a few who we will see again while in India.

We headed off to Kuala Lumpur and only AFTER we left, did we realize that they have the tallest building in the world. I knew they did, but I forgot. Oh well, I always wanted to go, but too late now!! We spent only a day there but we went running with the hash and checked out some more temple caves where the main attraction were the monkeys that were everywhere! All the female monkeys has little babies with them, they were so cute!

Now we are in Melacca, Malaysia and everything is closed. Literally everything, I kid you not. Everything is "closed for renovation". We trekked out to Mini Malaysia and Mini Asean all for not. We spent 3 hours trying to go and do some sightseeing, to no avail! Oh well, it's been a good excuse to chill out a little. Our hostel has AC like it's WINTER in Boston and they play free movies every night before we go to bed.... so nothing to complain about here!! Headed to a hash tonight and Singapore tomorrow!

Bye for Now! Arison


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