The end draws near

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December 13th 2009
Published: December 13th 2009
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The boat that whisked me away from Koh Lipe was not, as I'd imagined, a large lumbering (but oh so stable) ferry, but rather a very small and very fast speed boat. Initially I was quite content to clamber aboard, thinking that this boat was merely going to ferry us out to a much larger one. However, I realised my error as soon as the captain let out the throttle and the boat took flight (honestly, that baby left the water almost completely, am not sure I could claim to have sailed to Malaysia so much as flew there).

Each time we hit a wave (and we hit a great many waves) the boat would fly up out of the water leaving only the propellers submerged (and them only barley) returning to the water in a ginormous belly flop a few seconds later. It took a good few minutes of wishing to blazes I was anywhere but where I was, but surprisingly, I did begin to enjoy the ride (I duuno, maybe I'm a little lacking in adrenalin producing activities at home). The wind whipped my hair into a frenzy (small tip here, if travelling by speed boat do remember to tie your hair back before leaving) and the continuous salt spray soaked me through.

A rather unfortunate side effect of the journey meant that I arrived in Langkawi with the biggest hair know to man. Nothing short of full submersion in a shower was going to fix that hair, it was uncomfortably crispy to touch and from the few strands I crunched in front of my face I could see I was also sporting very fetching white patches where the salt had dried. Once again it would seem I was making a fine first impression upon the locals, most annoyingly none of my fellow passengers were in a similar state having all chosen to protect their hairdo's with hats and hairbands.

Tidying myself up as best I could I ventured forth to catch another ferry to Penang, thankfully (for the sake of my poor hair) this boat was indeed a large and lumbering ferry delivering us all to our destination 1 and 1/2 hours late (which is some going for a journey only meant to take 2 and half hours).

Georgetown was a delightfully eclectic little place, the clean line and white facades of the public buildings contrasting beautifully with the bustling and colourful shop houses. I spent two days here making plans and then breaking them as I lost myself in the wonders of china town and little India. Here I ate my fist banana leaf meal (your food is served on a banana leaf, and you must mix it and eat it with your fingers, very messy but lots of fun) and bought my first bollywood CD. The music buying was not intentional, wandering through little India I found myself gently but firmly steered into a local cd shop. Protesting that I knew nothing about this genre of music I was pressed (and I mean pressed, gently but once again firmly) into a plastic chair and made to sit whilst the salesman played virtually every CD in the shop. Surprisingly enough I found I liked pretty much all the music and came away with 2 CD's to my name. I only hope I still like them when I return to Scotland and it wasn't the romance of the moment that influenced me in my purchase.

Having singularly failed to experience the majority of Georgetown's tourist attractions I none the less took my leave, by way of the fastest mini bus in the west. The journey to the Cameron Highlands, supposed to take 4 hours, was completed by our driver in under 3, it's no wonder Malaysia has such a high rate of traffic accidents. Once there I took the obligatory tour around the tea plantations and other such tourist traps. The scenery here would be stunning, were it not for the countless polly tunnels and tourist hotels dotted over the mountains.

The next day I took a slightly different tour. Fist we stopped at an Orang Asli village to experience local life. It was pretty much a waste of time, although I did enjoy the blow pipe demonstration. Next up was a jungle trek to see the raffleasia flower (the bit I'd been looking forward to). If you don't know about the Raffleasia then google it, I've been at this blog for too long now to bother explaining sorry (lazy as ever, I know). To get there we first had to traverse the worst road in the history of bad roads. Our 4x4 bounced and slipped through mud at least a foot or more deep. Thanks to the balance odometer thing (like you find in airplanes) mounted on the dashboard I can tell you that at worst we tipped 20 degrees sideways and hit slopes of up to 15 degree. Doesn't seem much on paper (so to speak) I'll grant you, but when you're bouncing about in the car it sure does. I tell you, I'd have paid the money for that ride alone. Hats off to our driver who never once lost control or got stuck. The car behind got stuck several times (we were a convoy of 3) and we towed them out of trouble twice.

One car which we couldn't tow, was the one that came hurtling towards us in the opposite direction. Now, if I still had my photo's (but I don't - aaaaaaargh!!) you could see how narrow this road was, there was no way anything was passing anything out here. Fortunately it was the other car who had to reverse, which he did with remarkable speed (given the state of the road) until he got stuck on a hill. No matter how many times he rolled forward and revered up at speed he always got stuck. Eventually the poor passenger had to get out and wade calf deep in cloying mud to dig them free. Rather embarrassingly, I was the only one in the car to actually cheer when he finally made it. I must say, if anyone's stuck for what to get me for next Christmas then an off road driving lesson would be just the ticket!

Eventually of course, the car could go no further and we had to continue on foot. It was slow going on the trek, namely becuase most of my group had chosen to embark upon the trek in flip flops. Naturally they all fell many times in the slippery mud and soon our party of 30 had become a party of 10. Once our numbers had been depleted we made much better time but alas, soon we caught up with a tour group ahead who were also flip flop wearers, but just more determined. Once more our progress slowed. All in it took us 2 hours to reach the flower but WOW!! was it worth it. Spanning 75cm across and emitting the most horrendous smell the bloom was everything I'd hoped and more.

The return journey went much quicker because this time we were at the head of the queue and we were back at the car in under an hour. Can I just say, I climbed over and under hulking great tree trunks, scaled impossibly high boulders, traversed raging rivers on wibbly wobbly stepping stones (all whilst ankle deep in sticky mud) and never once did I fall down (I was covered in mud from head to foot of course but that's by the by). Of course self praise is no praise but etiquette be damned, I was proud of myself when I finished that trip!

Ans so, after almost 2 months of running behind on my blogs I am now caught up. A little distraught at having lost all my photo's in the process but I'll get over it. Tomorrow I'm off to Malaka and only have 10 days left of my trip. Where has the time gone...


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