A Well of Tears - Journey to Pulau Penang

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October 13th 2008
Published: October 14th 2008
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How I like to remember Ton SaiHow I like to remember Ton SaiHow I like to remember Ton Sai

..sweet pure fun (baby in better mood)
It is no secret that I left Ton Sai with a heavy heart weighed down by a strong reluctance to leave and a disarming fear that I would never find again what I have here. If it were not for the fact that my visa had already run out I would have stayed longer and perhaps joined up with my girls on the visa run to extend my stay in Thailand. Prior to this I had already changed my departure date many times over for there was no penalty incurred in doing so. When I look back to those days I do recall a little voice in my head that was telling me I should go. I of course refused to hear. It had to shout quite hard to be heard over my self-imposed exile which worked quite spendidly in putting me into a little bubble of bliss. But in spite of that there still remained the nagging voice telling me to see the world.

I left Ton Sai the day after my visa expired so not only was I having to uproot within 24 hours of making my decision to depart but I was also a legal alien in Thailand. It was no big deal. A small payment at the border would have that matter done and dusted. So, on goes the backpack, the frontpack, the handbag, the inordinately large umbrella and finally the two hats. Weighed down by my possessions and a heart that won't stop hurting I make slow passage out of Mountian View Resort waving goodbye to Ashely as I leave stopping only to hand my key in at reception, where the girl behind the desk tells me she will miss me. Damn it I didn't need that. Then the couple from the shop at the bottom of the resort from where I always buy my water and the sneaky beer or few look on in surprise as I wave goodbye to them telling me I should come back!

But on I go, determined to catch the boat, fighting every sinew in my body that is telling me to stay. If I stop I will cry and at this point I really want to see Kelly one last time but there is simply no time. Well, there is enough time but as I load my bags onto the boat I look over the beach to
in the tamil denin the tamil denin the tamil den

indian mens' drinking hole in georgetown
where I know Kelly will be and while it is but just a short walk I know the way back will be far longer. And with a heavy sigh I clambered onto the boat and as I sat there looking back at Ton Sai one last time, as we turned the corner to Railay West, I couldn't help but feel like a prisoner heading to the Tower, unsure of what the future held.

Time was ticking on and my body was already strained by the bags from lack of sleep. Thankfully, I managed to hitch a ride to East Railay upon those little carts that drive around posh hotels. There I would have to wait for yet another boat to take me to God knows where. The wait was long and boring, my mind numb with a hangover and my belly unable to be satisfied. I ate what I could and I waited. When we were finally told we could go, I was half relieved to be moving and half reluctant to go anywhere that would take me beyond walking distance of Ton Sai. But as I turned the corner I saw a familiar face from home and I
the veiw from the ferrythe veiw from the ferrythe veiw from the ferry

...leaving georgetown
leapt with excitement for the only reason that she was linked, as I was, to the place we call hoime and in that we shared a common bond. I said my goodbye to Nasser for she wasn't at the party last night, and I left messages with her for kelly and ashley, sending my last farewells to all.

The boat took an age to set off as we were waiting for more people which meant more weight for the boat to carry and already it looked full to capacity. I could not believe what I saw. Men with wheeled suitcases on a beach! I thought I could read the kind of man who had wheeled bags but this guy looked like an ordinary dude. Where did he think he was holidaying..Paris?? And these are the kind of people that come to Railay. I am not being cruel but really?!

Finally, we set off but I was a little disturbed that there we were heading in an altogether new direction. Not Krabi, not Ao Nang. I don't know where I ended up when we finally reached dry land but by then I had become so disinterested all I wanted was to arrive and be able to start again.

I was told to wait for a minivan which took me far away from Ton Sai. I didn't much like the company or the boys at the back who spoke condescendingly of Asia as they moaned about the lack of organization, the fact they had to wait for everything and could never understand what was going on. Their moaning was grating on my nerves. I wanted to punch them back to the western world.

Thankfully, in Hat Yai, the last major town before the Malaysian border, I changed transport for Georgetown in Pulau Penang but the company I am afraid to say, failed to improve. The couple that I was with were typically British. The type who expect the same health and safety, the same adherence to rules that drives me crazy in the UK, to be practiced in Asia. She was threatening to report the border checkpoint lady to whoever in tourism and he was asking why they had to pay extra. It was all above board but they reacted because it wasn't what they expected. Unfortunately, I was considered to be with them and got the same damaging look they did from the border officials. I wondered when it would get better.

It was no surprise to find out that they were completely unhelpful even though she (the wife) was Malaysian albeit British Malaysian and so as before it was back to me, myself and I to take care of number one. I was left in a dimly lit street at 9pm and my bags rudely thrown to the ground as the van drove off. I could only assume that I was in the backpacker locale. I moved my bags to the pavement and pulled out the travelling bible in order to to determine where the hell I was, which hotel I should go to and whether I could walk there. Thankfully, it was the street I wanted. Now the question of where to stay?

I do not much like it when people call me over to look at their place so I ignored the first guy and asked to look at the place next door. It was awful and so damn expensive (10 pounds a night - 60 ringgits). In the end I did approach the fella hailing me over to his hotel and I checked in. I was paying just 3 pounds a night - 34 ringgits for a dorm room all to myself and a shared bathroom which was perfectly acceptable.

Now, for some money. I had no Malaysian Ringgits on me. Into the night I went without a clue as to where I was heading and with only a vague route in my head. Thankfully, I met some travellers who put me in the right direction. Job done, time to feed my belly. As I wandered looking for food I found little India. I had come home. In I settled into a cheap little cafe and entertained my tastebuds with dahl, chicken curry, rice and sambar. Bliss!!! All the while I was thinking of mum, dad and srikanth and wondered what they would make of all this and whether mother would like it. The Indians who inhabit Malaysia are in the main south Indian, predominately from Tamil Nadu.

While in Penang I kept close to home because I didn't much like the place or the other travellers that I had spotted in the area so it was with gratitude that a local man took me under his wings, so to speak and introduced me to the best and cheapest eateries (the more expensive they are the less authentic the food is I find). He also arranged my ticket back to the Peninsula when I was unable to get passage on the ferry to Suamtra due to the upcoming Malay festival, Hari Riya. I should explain, Malaysia is a cross-cultural country filled with Muslims, Indians and Chinese whose ancestors had ventured over more than 2 generations ago. It makes for an interesting experience in taste and culture.

After 2 - 3 days I left Penang, glad to be leaving. There was nothing there for me and I wanted to see another side of Malaysia. I returned to the mainland peninsula by ferry (which is free for those leaving Georgetown but for those entering there is a charge). On departing the boat I had some trouble in finding the bus station but when I finally found it and saw the distinct lack of eateries I wished I hadn't left Georgetown before filling my belly for breakfast.

And so with my ticket in hand I sat waiting for the bus to my next destination, the Cameron Highlands.


14th October 2008

so sad to leave ton sai!
I'm wishing I would have traveled in the low season... I don't want to run into men with wheelie suitcases. =)

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