Trip Start Sep 09, 2004
394Trip End Ongoing
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It took me a while to get my bearings, and for the short time I pottered about laden with luggage I was truly lost, and truly out of context with my new environment.
I'm staying at a guest house, in the thick of the Indian quarter in Chinatown - where the occasional stench of local sewage tinged with pungent aromatic spices puckers your nose and adds another layer to the dust and pollution you're already wearing after just a few minutes. I'm sleeping in a cardboard room with a rickety ceiling fan. I swear, any minute it'll fall off. It's hot here, still so hot, so humid, and I'm showering under a tiny trickle of water with one eye on what I'm doing, the other on the spiny lizard that clings to the wall just above my eye line.
It took me about a day to adjust. During that time I did what I always do - wander around aimlessly. I walked and talked and stuck my head in a few doorways. I sniffed out the food stalls in the filthy side streets and spent a bit of time down at the mosque. When I eventually made it over to Petaling Street I was overwhelmed, comically overwhelmed that is. The street sellers do everything but manhandle you as you make a beeline for the exit that never seems to materialise. Rows and rows of tightly packed stalls line the long cobbled road through the precinct that shoots off occasionally to other stall-infested pathways. Everything from tees and jeans to bags and watches, roasted chestnuts and ice-cold sugary drinks is thrown your way verbally. In most cases you'll be addressed as Sir but in my case it was 'Wanna new watch mate? Hey mate, how bout a pocket calendar? How bout a haircut mate, we can get rid of that mohawk ah? ' Couple that with the accent in which they actually pronounce the word mate and... well let's just say I was laughing hard, and the majority were laughing along with me. I do like it here.
When I finally made it to the small restaurant there on the east side, I was dripping with sweat and gagging for a cold Tiger. This is where I met Barsie. He'd landed just an hour before and was also taking a moment to regain composure, throw down a couple of swifties and watch the world go by. Barsie's a bit of a Manc-lad, from a similar neck of the woods as me back in England. He's just as laid back, just as happy with the laws of randomness and loves a bit of banter. 'Mad for it' he is. So I've spent the last couple of days with Barsie, flitting about the place and meeting a few locals. Had some great conversations with a couple of Iranians, a Swedish guy who's spent an age walking through China converting to Taoism and a loud bunch of lairy Aussies who were here living it up in the five star resorts. All good. Almost as good as the priceless evening we had last night sat outside an old coffee shop with a couple of Indians and a few Malays I'd met when I first got here. Guitars were out and the table was banterful. Great people.
It's really not difficult to meet people here. I've got more scraps of paper with scrawled down phone numbers in my back pocket than I'd pick up in weeks, and seriously - to walk along and hear a local call out your name, walk over, shake hands, get introduced to a few more friends, shake their hands and get invited out for a brew and a bite to eat is, for me, bordering on perfection..
Where I stayed