Thursday, 12 June 2008

Day 387 - Kangar (Malaysia)

One of the hazards of staying in budget accommodation is that it is not uncommon to share your room with unwanted visitors such as cockroaches, occaisionally, geckos frequently, but I find them facinating, and ants, all too often. The evening I was in Phangnga I returned to my room with a tub of icecream only to find ants all over the bed. Even the thought of them crawling all over my body is not conducive to a good nights sleep, so I made it all too plainly clear to them that they were not welcome, but I suspected they wouldn't take the hint. Too help eleviate the problem I put the empty icecream tub on the floor at the end of the bed in the hope that they would find that more attractive. When I woke in the morning it seemed that my plan had been successful as there were plenty of ants in it, but sadly so too was the young gecko that I watched the previous evening scurrying around the walls, it was dead, stuck fast in the solidified remains of the icecream. I felt slightly saddened by the fact that I had unwittingly brought it's short life to an end, but I managed to cheer myself up with the thought "What a way to go!" It could never happen to me though, I am sure I could always eat my way out of such a problem, unless it was chocolate icecream of course, then I would suffer the fate as the poor little gecko.

The manager of the hotel tried to persuade me to stay another night by offering me the room free if I went on a day trip on a boat to some of the islands with a couple of other tourists. Being as I had no intention of the trip and it was 8 times the price of the room I didn't consider it was a good deal. So I carried on to Krabi, on a roller coaster road through wonderful tree covered sandstone cliffs. Having kept in email contact with Clement I checked into the same guest house as he was staying, Joelle having returned to France after a 6 week tour. It's ironic really as I had expected to wait a couple of days in Krabi for Clement, yet due to the consequences of the book he had lent me, he ended up waiting 3 days for me. It was like wandering around town with a local, he knew all the places to eat, and the people running them. We called in at the market to buy some fruit and the guy there asked if I was his father.....bloody cheak! I don't know if it is due to the weight loss, but I do look older and I still look in the mirror and think "is that really possible to look like that, I don't feel that old".

This post wouldn't be complete if I didn't write a bit more about the book I read, The Alchemist. Having finished I was still left in doubt as to what was going on here. The underlying story and theme was about reaching out and searching for you dreams, to listen to you heart and look out of omens on the way. Well I am still in search of my dream, but in reality I am 'living the dream', I am also listening to my heart, as best as I know anyway, and I wouldn't know how to spot an omen if I ran it over with both wheels. But did I really need to 'held' in Patong and forced to read a book that told me to basically continue with what I was doing, that just didn't make sense to me. I decided I had to read the book again, I was desperate to anyway, I needed to know and try and understand what this was all about. So that's what I did, I started reading it again, and once again I was amazed I what I was reading, though this time because it was not about me at all. Sure I could see there were aspects that could be applied to me, but what on earth was I thinking. In fact I found this read through very bland, I had none of the emotions of the previous time, but I was still convinced there was something in there that I had missed. I was struggling to find it though and the only realistic thing was that the shepherd fell in love with a woman but was told to continue to search for his dream. Was I about to fall in love, I don't think so. I certainly wasn't looking to and had no desire for such a thing at this stage. Then, when I was about half way through the book I started to read a paragraph and immediately it shouted out "ME, ME, ME". Now you may remember from the previous post that I said I was about to encounter the most difficult part of the journey so far, but what I didn't tell you, apart from one or two people by phone and email, was my solution to the problem. I had decided that I would not deviate to any attractions, but take the shortest and quickest route, not stopping other than for a rest when needed one, and to get to Australia and Sydney as fast as possible. I then slowly read the following paragraph: "Meanwhile, the boy thought about his treasure. The closer he got to the realization of his dream, the more difficult things became. It seemed as if what the old king had called 'beginner's luck' were no longer functioning. In his persuit of the dream, he was being constantly subjected to tests of his persistence and courage. If he pushed forward impulsively he would fail to see the signs and omens left by God along his path" Shiiiit! Well that seemed to make things pretty clear, delivered in writing with a poke in the ribs at the appropriate time, the only thing that was missing was a signature. I knew this was why I had been forced to read the book and I knew if I didn't want to I didn't need to read any more of it. The message had to be clear otherwise I would have been falling in love with every beautiful woman I passed, and there is no shortage of them. Whilst I sat in the cafe though, I did continue, though just a few pages further on I began to feel ill, and soon very ill. I knew I was in a bit of trouble, I quickly paid and left. In the 200m back to the guest house I was sick 3 times, somewhat embarrasing. This incidently had no connection with the book, just bad timing. I told Clement to head out on his own and I was sick again about 90 minutes later, though well enough to read that passage over and over again, I was amazed.

I would like to point out here that I am not a religeous person, though I do believe in a God, though I don't know what form he she or it takes. I don't go to church, I pray occasionally, normally when I need something, but my prayers are never answered.

The following day I was well enough to start cycling again, though I noticed that my heart rate was low and got lower as the day went on, so I probably wasn't that well afterall. At lunch we were joined by a woman that that was far to 'in your face' for my liking, though Clement took it in his stride. I am not a lover of being physically fed by anybody, let alone somebody I don't even know. We made our way to a beach to find somewhere to spend the night and hopefully find food and water. All we found was a large shelter with open sides, good enough to spend the night in. We went to the port, but there was nothing there either other than 3 small boats with men loading them. We managed to srounge some water from them, then they invited us to eat. They gave us a drink from what looked like a beer bottle, but it was gin clear and much closer to gin than beer. We made our way back to the shelter. As the sun went down so the mosquitos came out, we weren't going to get much sleep here, so we set up our tent inners inside the shelter to act as mosquito nets, very affective but too hot.

By the following morning I was dead! I can confirm there is life after death, but unfortunately it is damed similar to life before death, for all I knew I might have been dead for years. Having discussed it with Clement I decided it was the batteries in the chest strap of my heart rate monitor that was dead, not me. We stopped for lunch in a town just as the rain started, it continued for about 3 hrs. We stayed in the restaurant until it stopped. See, it's a tough life you know. By nightfall we were just arriving at Palian and found a nice bus shelter to sleep in but continued to see what else was there. We called in at a temple and were offered some space on the balcony where some monk lived. After a welcome shower we ate the food we had bought, along with other bits that they gave us including coffee. We had a social couple of hours before they went to bed.

By the following morning we were both dead! We got very little sleep. If it wasn't the kitten jumping on our tents and making a general nuisance of itself, it was the nosiest monks I have ever heard. Every they did was at full volume whether it was running water for ages, talking very loud on a mobile phone that was on speaker phone, spitting, belching and farting. I never realised monks were allowed to fart, let alone so frequently and with so much volume. We were up very early, there was no point lying there any longer. We both struggled the whole day due to lack of sleep. Once again it rained, so we had a lunchtime sleep in a bus shelter. We had to push on though as our visas ran out the following day and we still had some way to go. To make things worse at the end of the day we came to a town where all 3 maps we had showed the road we needed, but in reality it just didn't exist. When we asked we were told to go to Satun and take a ferry or have a 70k detour. We tried again to find the road but had to give up as light was fading fast. We found a small shelter in the bush (photo), just a platform 3 ft off the ground with a roof, but it was our home for the night. Once again we put one of the tents up as a mossie net, but during the night my feet hung over the edge of the platform.

I reckoned on about 70k minimum to the border today, and that's if things went well. We made our way to a village and asked the way. Good news, they said it was possible, drew us a map and told us it was only 42k. Just 20k later we were at the border, not the one we had expected to be at or had been directed to, but we were there never the less. Once in Malaysia we could relax a little. My SE Asia guidebook told me that Thailand was in the wet season, I could confirm that, but Malaysia was in the dry season. I just hoped the weather knew where the border was. It didn't! An our later we were once again in a bus shelter and watching very wet life go by, but celebrated the successful crossing by eating dried fish. We made it to Kangar in the light rain that followed. Even after a few kilometers the changes are noticable, though I can't tell you them now as I am running out of time, I will save that for another day.


aoiffe said...

Talking of being sick:
Do you not recall that in the book the alchemist tells of the time the shepherd was out in the fields and was very sick, and his journey down his set path delayed. The alchemist then says that if it had not been so the shepherd would have been robbed of his sheep and murdered.

John Harwood said...

Don't worry Aoiffe, I may be carry alot, but I am not carrying any sheep!

I have uploaded the last Thai photos and started the Malaysian album for those interested.

The Sloths said...

Hi John

we're (the sloths) still tuning in when interent access allows. Beautiful photos as always and a good read too......Belated Congratulations for one year of pedalling....doesn't the time fly. We've almost reached 18 months and have only go to Central Asia...we're calling it the cul-de-sac of the world....

We're still in Kyrgyzstan but have scored 2 out of 3 on the visa front (we got Kazakstan and India but Pakistan's prooving to be a problem).

Gayle and John

jac said...

Hi John, yet more amazing stories! Congrats on reaching Malaysia. Hope you enjoy it there. The Alchemist is a great book - I too tripped over it at a time when it had real meaning for me, a few years ago. It really makes you think, doesn't it. Enjoy living the dream! Jacs