Fear & Loathing

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August 17th 2008
Published: September 26th 2008
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I had finally reached that turning point in my journey where cultural saturation levels had peaked, my brain weighted with worldly experiences, my entire being felt drained of packing backpacks, moving on and sleeping in a different bed every night. I'd had enough of bus rides, tedious train journeys, bilious boat trips, treacherous taxis, taxing tuk tuks even moto experience that had resulted in a seriously impressive leg burn worthy of pub stories to dine out on for ever had lost its appeal. A brutal session of Hanoi acupuncture could not revive my flagging system long term as it was all back, even a rare promise of being confined to a sleep chamber for 100 years with handsome prince waiting for me at the end did not get me tickled. Simply put, I was knackered. I have continuously investigated, observed, perceived, listened too, photographed, done, acted, good deeded & blogged for twenty long fascinating and unforgettable months now, a rare calling for normality began to whisper boring stuff in my ears.

My last sunrise in Kuala Lumpur city and I awoke to the sounds of an old man screaming, id lost my remaining ear plug in the night and felt

This is a scan of my stomach innards.
too clammy and crampt in our stuffy room to care if he was alright. I went for a stroll through Petaling Street for a final time not really fussed about Tiffany silver or Gucci bargains. As I grabbed a fruit juice I handed my treasured Buddha amulet to a smiling monk who stood barefoot on the wet cobbled street next to the juicer. Over the last few days I had grown fond of this one monk and had given him cash everyday, but today I asked him to give me something. I needed a chant of energy and protection as I didn't really feel too clever. The monk chanted protection in Tibetan and I found myself pensively glancing down at my new fine looking ladies Rolex watch that cost me all of five quid to see if it was keeping good time, as the monk chanted his pitch synchronised the same rhythm to the seconds hand. I thanked him.

We boycott the majority of Malaysia and headed straight up the west coast to Penang which is one hop scotch leap south of Thailand. Something I should mention about transport in Malaysia is that we soon realised the modern day Malaysian trains are far far slower than the modern day Malaysian tourist bus, the train from KL to Butterworth including previous delays from the Singapore boarder, engine failure which caused tedious down time, this one journey took 13 hours. Knowledgeable and slightly mocking others later informed us that the bus would have taken only 6 hours. We took a cab at the other end and continued on to the island of Penang in to George Town, but it somehow felt wrong to be there, the black skies and buckets of rain and endless building work inside the hotel did not help changeable moods, so we continued on the next day up the coast to Langkawi.

Our travel insurance had just run out we moved from cheap hostel to mid ranged hotel, we both had enough of hostelling, some times its great but some times the constant door slamming, late night partying, bathroom sharing, grinds on nerves. The other long term problem I have with hostels is that I can never sleep soundly laying upon crunchy waterproof plastic mattress protectors, they nearly always bunch up then slipped off in the night, then there was the dripping taps or constant trickling of the overflow toilet cistern that drives me mental asylum insane. Hostels in this part of Asia are at times primitive compared to those we stayed in China. We checked into a beach front bungalow at the Malibest Hotel we were so excited to have the ocean as our front garden to hear nothing but the sounds of waves, burying both feet in fine golden sand right outside our front door, to sleep on fluffed up pillows on nice beds with clean crisp cotton sheets and the optional use of a fully stocked teas maid if we so desired.

That night we went for dinner, I took a book out with me about travel writing by a travel writer Chuck Thompson 'smile when you're lying', his first chapter is about when he was robbed in a beach house in Thailand, suddenly my vivid imagination swayed into the wild side of intuition, I asked Stu if we could return to the room quicker than normal. We came back to the luxury room and blow me down nothing had been touched, I felt a right idiot. The next morning I woke up feeling excited, relaxed, calm and happy then
A fish out of water. A fish out of water. A fish out of water.

A true metaphor.
I noticed one of my remaining traveller cheques all scrunched up, face up, flattened and fed through the front door. I took a moment to think. How on earth was one of my cheques posted through the front door? Had I dropped one the night before? We had no booze all evening and I had intuitively taken my passport and a number of remaining travellers cheques to cash, but I know I had a couple left in my documents bag, I gulped as I reached for my documents bag, this should have been locked in my backpack but was in a draw, I had carelessly put it there and it had a number of foreign currency notes inside, they were now gone. Damn me, someone with matrix training or a key to this room had robbed me in the night.

This was no doubt an inside job, no forced entry anywhere, secure windows, but no proper locks on the main door and no internal safe deposit box, the robber had a key and they knew where to go to get the cash. They did not touch laptops or other valuables as it is a small island and harder to sell stuff on, why did they return one of my cheques under the door and not both? I would not have noticed anything untoward until at least a couple of weeks later as Id just thankfully cashed some money the night before.

I went to the hotel reception, where I was met by three blank looks from the 'Little Britain' School of hotel training. Under extreme interrogation delivered in slow but firm tones of northern style English I managed to get an admission from the 18 year old assistant manager who told me that this kinda thing had happened before. But they did not care, they showed no concern at all. One receptionist was too busy texting her mate as she advised me to go to the cops which was in the airport. So I did. I sat down in front of Chips looking copper and put my current reading material down on the desk, I suddenly realised the title 'smile when you're lying' was not really the most appropriate title to have on view when accusing others of theft. I discreetly turned it over. The cops were not surprised when I mentioned THE MALIBEST HOTEL it is apparently an ongoing investigation. I found out a young Canadian girl had returned to her room thinking the hotel had moved her to another room as all her stuff had gone, but robbers had taken everything. Just because a hotel is a bit more expensive than normal does not always mean the security is any better.

We moved out, feeling too exposed and vulnerable, whose to say they won't come back to violate further? I soon adopted a private eyes eye as I noticed many young kids looking shifty and texting from various view points around the bungalows, call me paranoid but it felt like something was going down and hotel reception knew all about it. The police sent CID round to interview me, they were clever in their questioning, but as an ex ambulance employee where giving statements is part and parcel and being a serious CSI fan my account of events stayed consistent throughout, I even handed them 'exhibit A' which was the very crumpled returned traveller cheque to take away for finger print analysis, but they declined.

It turned out that ten days later my £20 notes had turned up at the bureau de change cabin as I had on the day in question explained to the man who ran this BDC cabin about the difference in the old and new English £20 notes which he had not been made aware of before, so when a very stupid MALIBEST employee took my old £20 to exchange thinking they were on a home run and scott free, the police were alerted, CCTV retrieved and an arrest was made. It was one of the sneaky lying thieving young texting staff, but I didn't get any of the cash back, nor was I given the opportunity to stand in a dim lit room wearing knuckle dusters, staring at the accused in a menacing manner, which was a real shame.

I found our very own almighty emperor web master on facebook Ali Watters he soon suggested something that was so close to my hysteric epicentre of deep rooted fear that the thought of doing such a silly activity set seismic waves of inner turbulence right through me that gradually surpassed my auric boundaries. Ali, as many of you keen travel bloggers may already know is not only a very geeky web genius but he has other enviable talents which include being a dive master/instructor. Equally, any one who has been reading these blog's of mine over a period of time will be aware that I have a God fearing terror of deep water and the sea, to get my head anywhere lower than bath water let alone under salty sea water full of creatures I would need a shot of vallium while strapped in to some kind of industrial hoist with surrounding cage attached to a sea crane, the kind they use on oil rigs, just to get me in to the sea at any great depths, possibly followed by years of therapy. So an interesting communion abound.

In a moment of sheer insanity I agreed to his suggestions of water rehabilitation, I was to be the Eddie Kidd of the Scuba world, I once could swim in the sea then I had a near fatal accident in the sea in India, hence my fear now. I could not believe that my final cultivation challenge had presented itself and how perfect! I went running which was worthy of some applause and it actually felt great. I ate healthy at a great garden cafe called Red Tomatoesthe food and service was just incredible. I tried reciting positive mantras and meditating while looking out at the amazing sunsets of Langkawi. Anything, but get into the sea itself, so on calm sea days I tried, I really did. I had the best intentions to swim 200 metres against the tide as instructed by email by Ali, but this was wishful thinking, I managed at best 2 meters paddling with the tide as the sea was a bit choppy or it rained hard a lot and fear of further lightning strikes were high or I found other equally viable excuses to convince only myself of not being able to do this.


26th September 2008

Glad you're home!
It has put me off travelling for life, well done Claire, now I can stay home too, but I doubt if I will. I'll stick to Europe Love you xxxxxxxxxxx
26th September 2008

What a great writer you are. Your use of the English language is a celebration of the great contribution of the British people to the world. Please keep writing. You have a lot to say. love, Kent
26th September 2008

Claire, Claire, oh Claire !
Have I told you lately how I love you? Your talent, Your experences, Your inner sanctum treasure trove of writing ability. I have followed you two around the world via this medium, Met you in Hanoi, and still I cannot get enough. ... I watch this blog site regularly to receve the gift of your scripting. Ann and I are doing well. Her mother passed and now we have only each other to to take care of. We are thinking of doing some USA travels in the next year. Ann would like to see the American South West and I want to see America's National Science Musium. I apoligize for not writting recently. No excuse's. I would hope that you and Stu could come here and decompress over the winter before heading home. Love you both, stay safe, Jim & Ann
29th September 2008

Hope you find Nemo!
Claire, we have just read the latest installment of your soul cultivation in our tiny hotel room in HK and smiled at your thoughts of travelling & scuba! As always you are so entertaining and honest it is very refreshing. Can't wait for part 2 of the Malaysian experience, no pressure! much love, Sarah & Mike. xx
2nd October 2008

welcome to Malaysia Claire!! Love all your photos and blog entries :) Keep up the good work and have fun!

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