A Week of Ground Hog Days
Trip Start Aug 11, 2005
150Trip End May 22, 2006
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Somehow, the bus ride took less time than planned and we made it into Lumut a few minutes before 7pm. Despite wanting to catch the 7pm ferry, Gerald smartly decided to purchase our bus tickets for our return to KL. Knowing that this was a busy holiday week, we didn't want to be stranded on the island since we had already purchased seats on a flight from KL to Chiang Mai on Nov. 6.
We walked the whole 80m to the ferry terminal, fully prepared to wait for the 7:45 ferry. As soon as we entered the terminal, the ticket booth ladies were calling out to us to come to their counter. Now, in our past experiences, when people are calling out to you, they just want to get your business. We were a bit hesitant, but then we realized that they were shouting to hurry because the 7pm ferry was still there. SOLD! We bought two return tickets (a whole $5!) and ran to the ferry
The half hour ferry ride brought us to the island. Getting off the ferry, we hopped into a cab, gave the driver the name of a guesthouse we'd read about and sat back. The taxi driver apologized for the long trip; the usual 15 minute ride took over a half hour. This was due to extremely heavy rains yesterday and the main road was closed (fallen trees). Once the taxi dropped us off and left, we looked around. Hmmm, there was a large, concrete, well lit place right here. Worth a shot. After checking out the room and hearing the great price, we happily checked in. This ended up being the first time that we ended up having a TV in our room. What luxury! A few minutes later, we found ourselves at a local restaurant chowing down on some yummy Malaysian food and washing it down with two Tigers.
While watching Cold Mountain (great movie, by the way) we had our first bug scare of the trip. There were tiny little bugs crawling up the wall and onto the bed. Are these bed bugs, we wondered? Bermuda taught us that heavy rains push ants inside. Hopefully, this was a type of ant and not bed bugs. I borrowed some bug spray from the front desk, sprayed the entire room down (including the non-swept floor beside and behind the bed). For the remainder of the movie, we didn't see any more bugs, but just to be on the safe side, we slept in our sleep sheets and left a light all night
We thought we were back in Bermuda during this storm. We opened the curtains to watch the light show. Once the heavy rains subsided, the frogs started up their chorus again. These regular-sized frogs have a very deep and melodious croak. Regardless of the distractions: the frogs, the lightening, the lights turning on and off, the heavy rain, the wind and the nagging fear of bed bugs, we slept like logs.
October 29 through November 5 - Pulau Pangkor
Having checked out of this spot, we left our bags, took one daypack and headed off to check out the guesthouses for prices and availability. Now, this was the way to do it. We were having fun looking at all of the rooms and especially enjoyed it when they started to lower the prices as soon as we showed that we were not sure and might come back later. Within an hour, we had secured a small chalet (unfortunately not on the beach, although nothing is in Teluk Nipah, the part of Pulau Pangkor where we were going to stay), with an ensuite, a/c, balcony, TV with HBO. The rate included a daily breakfast and we also secured a reduced rate for the entire week even though the prices Island-wide were going up on November 1st due to the holiday and the peak travel season commencing. Great! We'll have to use this strategy again
Each day of the entire week sort of plays out like the movie Ground Hog Day. We sleep late, have a delicious breakfast, which always includes fresh fruit juice, and return to our chalet to read, rest, play cards or maybe watch a movie. Sometime during the day, we take a walk to the beach, check our emails, and then head back to our chalet. It is more of the same until we head off for supper. If it is cloudy we wait until after sunset and if it is sunny, we head to the beach, climb up some rocks and watch the sun sink between two little islands off shore into the Straight of Melaka in the Indian Ocean. Once the sun has set, we head off for supper.
Boring you may think? Oh, quite the contrary. We really needed to "zone out" for a while. No sightseeing, no museums, no long walks, no public transport, no traffic or exhaust just time to recharge our batteries. By the end of this week, we are now really feeling chilled out and are looking forward to hopping back on our "touring" track.
Thursday of this week ended up being Hari Raya. From what we have been told, this is the holiday where Muslims celebrate the end of Ramadan. Ramadan is the Muslim fasting month that requires all Muslims to abstain from food, drink, cigarettes (and everything else fun) from sunrise to sunset. As you can imagine, the termination of this is quite a celebration
Tamalyn walked up to ask if they were opening later. Having recognized us from each of the other nights that we have dined here, this was the response - "The restaurant is closed, but we are having an open house for Hari Raya. Please join us. Tonight, there is no charge. We offer our food to our friends." Tamalyn was dumbfounded. Feeling a bit like we may be invading a private function, we tried to explain that we would go elsewhere, but the owner, TJ, wouldn't allow us to leave
A few minutes after we sat down, two separate couples arrived at the same time. A Canadian couple from Vancouver Island that we had chatted with earlier in the week and an English couple that we had seen a few times during the week at TJ's were both going thru the same hesitations that we had just gone through. TJ explained to them the open house and almost seemed to beg them to take plates and to fill them up. Once these two couples were seated at their tables, we noticed another small group of people arrive. As we all had, they asked if the restaurant was open. This time, TJ and his wife simply answered that the restaurant was closed. What? No invitation to join them? Imagine that! We were touched. We were so fortunate that TJ considered us regulars and invited us in for his open house. I guess that's what you get for frequenting an establishment often and continually gushing over their amazing food
At TJ's insistence, we each had two helpings of the rice, beef rendang, and chicken rendang. We then helped ourselves to some of the dessert. While we were selecting which cookies and squares to have for dessert, we heard TJ's daughter explain that she had made all of the desserts. The feast reminded us of Christmas, how there was plenty of food to go around, and everyone ate more than they knew that they should.
At the end of our meal, we thanked TJ and his wife profusely, telling them that we looked forward to the BBQ dinner tomorrow night. They explained that they would be closed as they were going to go away to visit their family on the mainland. We bid them adieu, and thanked them for the week of wonderful food. Walking back to our guesthouse, we were a bit choked up. We both felt very honoured and blessed to have had such a wonderful experience. And to think, that we contemplated posting our Pulau Pangkor journal this afternoon since we figured that the remainder of our time here would be "more of the same". I guess the old saying is true: we really never know what lies around the corner.
November 5 - Leaving Pulau Pangkor
Well, our drive back to the jetty to catch the ferry to the mainland was in daylight! What a pretty little island. We sort of feel like we gave it a bum review, but I guess that was the "backpacker" (aka "cheap") part of the island. Other beaches looked larger and cleaner. Maybe it was just that the sun was shining or maybe the water did seem cleaner here. Whatever the case, the island has a lot to offer. Does this make us feel bad that we cocooned ourselves in our little three street town and narrow strip of grubby beach? Absolutely not! You've all read our goals for the week and we certainly achieved them. We are feeling very rejuvenated and are feeling ready to tackle all that Thailand has to offer. Chiang Mai, here we come!