Well, hopefully the last post from Malaysia, anyway.
Barring accidents, sickness, natural disasters or other catastrophes, I should be boating across the border to Thailand tomorrow (Wednesday), via the island of Langkawi.
Also assuming that the ferry takes bikes, and that I can find the jetty (the website’s worryingly vague on such points; effectively just saying, “turn up at the port and it’ll all be fine”).
I seem to be developing a bit of a thing for boats in northern Malaysia. A couple of days ago, I was on another ferry, heading across the water to George Town, the capital of Penang. It’s the second city (after Melaka / Malacca) on the coast with a major colonial history.
Unlike Melaka, George Town was all about the British Empire. It was Britain’s first colony in south-east Asia, and, along with the rest of Penang province, remained in British hands for well over 200 years (apart from a few years’ Japanese occupation in WW2).
You can see the imperial influence throughout the city. There’s the old fort, the Victorian clock tower, and the war memorial next to the imposing city hall. It’s a bit like a mini version of Singapore, with the old relics of a global superpower now overshadowed by shiny banks and tower blocks.
It all felt a little strange to me, as if these items (most of which, with the exception of the city hall, would be perfectly at home in any medium-sized town in the UK) have just been dropped randomly into the tropics. They look out of place, especially now that the only Europeans around are a sprinkling of tourists. I guess I’ll need to get used to this before I get to India, where there’s a whole lot more colonial architecture to ponder.
I’m looking forward to Thailand, now. It’s one of the very few countries in Asia that wasn’t colonised by someone or other. So the history and culture will be different, and without the ever-present reminders of home. Though they do still drive on the left, which is nice.
But Malaysia’s been really good. I was thinking about a little summary of good points versus bad points. But then I realised it was a bit lopsided.
The good stuff covers everything from the culture(s) to the history, from the roads to the people, and from the food to the prices.
The bad stuff? It’s been a little bit warm. Oh, and there’s been a nagging head-breeze. Hardly even a wind, really. Not much to moan about at all.
Although… Speaking of barely moanworthy things, I have managed to end up in a slightly eccentric hotel this evening. I’ve travelled fairly extensively in my time, but have never been told to remove my footwear before even being allowed in the lobby.
I assumed that news about the stinking state of my cycling shoes (not at all nice after eight months on the road) must have reached Alor Setar before I did. Or possibly that the foul odour itself had drifted ahead and appalled the staff (but how could that be, with the headwind?).
But it turns out that they make everyone take their shoes off. For ‘cleanliness’.
I worry a little about what they might do to them in the night.