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Published: January 27th 2009
There was a group of NUS exchange students going out Sunday night to watch the fireworks go off as Singapore welcomed in the Chinese Lunar New Year. (Why no pictures? Singapore didn't have any fireworks due to the economy - cheap skates!). While talking to a few friends about where to travel for our Monday & Tuesday holiday, we heard a group talking about going to Desaru, Malaysia. We decided that it was easier than trying Bintan, Indonesia (which required a more expensive ferry, purchase of a visa, and no promise of a place to stay). So began the unplanned Ballad of Francis the Malaysian....
We were leaving Singapore aboard a small ferry aka "Dum Boat" for a short S$10 ride to middle-of-nowhere, Malaysia. We had be given warning that Singapore's customs would be closing shortly and if we left we wouldn't be able to get back in that day. We of course had no reservations for a place to stay, not more than a few Malaysia Ringgit (their currency, 1 US$ = 3.6 Ringgit RM), and no plan of what we wanted to do or how to do it. We took a cab to the nearest fisherman's
village and went to the ATM. After a brief and surprisingly filling lunch we decided to pool our money and pay for all our expenses with the pot. We had everything figured out for the day...
With a good meal and an extremely false sense of organization we set out for the Ostrich Farm! Fun right? We could have fun at an Ostrich Farm couldn't we? We must have walked an hour to get there, attracting stares all the way. Finally we saw the "Main Entrane!" errr uhh "Main Entran ^c e!" We decided to pay 10 RM for the guided tour....."Francis will be your guide."
The guided tour was very interesting. We stood around Francis, the Ostrich Farm tour guide, and listened to him explain the life of an ostrich and uses for their eggs and meat. We got to feed the ostriches and some of us (the lighter looking ones) even got to stand of the eggs (they're strong enough for about 100kg each). We went back to the front for some Ostrich omelets and burgers. As we ate we talked to the owner about where we should stay. He was a great guy (former Singapore
AF pilot -local newspaper artical: He used to fly some much among the birds, but now he works with birds that can't fly at all). He and Francis made some phone calls for us but had no luck finding a place to stay. The owner got us two cabs to take us up the coast to find a hotel at a fair price. Meanwhile, good ole Francis went and investigated the backup plan. He thought we could stay at the local Chinese temple. Haha, Good thing we wouldn't need to use that!
After finding a few full resorts we realized we were out of luck. We would have to make friends with Buddha before the night was through. We turned around and met up Francis at the temple and he arranged for us to stay the night FOR FREE. Was this happening? An hour ago we didn't even know this guy. Then the Ostrich Farm owner came back and drove us to dinner nearby and set us up for a nice seafood meal! We were trying to take all this great hospitality in at once and it was a bit much. Then Francis had an idea....let's all go to
the local party and celebrate Chinese New Year! He called a "wagon" for the 9 of us. We packed in and headed to the local watering hole.
After a terrifying, yet all-time-record-setting van ride (10 stall outs), we made it to a very nice resort (Buddha was on our side, I guess). We hung out for a while and had a great time. We realized how lucky it was that we couldn't find a hotel to stay at. We never would have gotten a good dinner as cabs were impossible, we never would have found the local bar - our night would have been pretty boring. Francis was quite the entertainer.
We made it back to the temple and after a brief walk on the beach, we hit the hay... by "hay" I mean cold hard ground. But hey, as Dad would say, "The price was right."
COCKADOODLE DOOO! Roosters all night. That crowing at sunrise deal doesn't extend to Asia apparently. No one slept much at all. But hey, we had a great story to tell...and it was just beginning. We walked back to the Ostrich Farm to arrange another ride for the day. The beach
was a bit far away, but the fruit farms were in our range. We met Mr. Tay, a Fish Farm owner (a floating dock with a restaurant and rooms for rent) who had just dropped a few guests off with the ostriches. He could tell we needed a ride and for 35 RM each he'd drive us to the fruit farms, the river to swim at his fish farm, feed us, and take us to the ferry on time! Don't ask any of us how, but we keep meeting all of the right people at the right time. It seemed like we were getting a little help from our new friend. Thanks, Buddha!
After some great fruit, a refreshing swim, a nice lunch (with the biggest oysters ever! Only 3 RM each and about 9 in. long) We made it back to the ferry. It wasn't pretty but we managed to be the last 9 people out of there and got back in to Singapore just before customs closed! There were about 100 things that should have gone wrong on this trip but it seems that everyone of them worked out for the best. Hopefully my next adventure will
work out just as well! Best thing was we did the entire weekend for about US$70!
I've been getting a lot of requests for pictures of campus and my living arrangements so expect those soon! And yes, I do go to class!
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