Two Savages in Southeast Asia


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Wheels twist and cogs turn
New scenes, thoughts, slide into view,
Bringing new futures

Shobee headed out early for another fellow meeting, and we bid her farewell. Presumably we’ll see her again, in Malaysia, San Francisco, or someplace else. Thanks for hosting us, Shobee!

We hustle out of the house, crossing our fingers that we can get an early bus from Penang to KL or Melaka. We’ve already missed the 9am bus by the time we get to the station, but we decide to try another company whose bus “leaves at 9:30”.

Everything Shobee told us about the Malaysian bus system seems to be true. We wait at the source bus station for an hour more than we figured, waiting for the bus to fill or perhaps just because the driver doesn’t feel like leaving. We stop randomly for the driver to get a coffee or pee, and when we try to get off and do the same we’re shooed back onto the bus with the admonition that we’re leaving soon. Fortunately we get the chance to stop for lunch, and fortunately the seats are quite nice and comfortable, but the ride is longer than we expect and not so awesome.

Also unfortunate is the fact that KL recently split its bus terminal into two terminals, the northbound and the southbound. We arrive in the northbound terminal, but any bus we’ll find to Melaka will leave from the other. We sigh and take public transit for way too long (around an hour?) to get from one to the other. In the station, we grab some Rocky, which seems to be exactly Pocky, and buy tickets from another bus company for the shorter journey south.

Transnational is apparently the respectable bus company, and we leave on time, arrive on time, and don’t make any spurious stops along the way. We heft our packs onto our backs, with help from the kindly bus driver, and walk into town, picking our way along roads obviously not designed with pedestrians in mind. Night is upon us and we grumble until we find ourselves walking on a canal path, lined with street art, fancy hotels, and cafes. One section of the path abuts on a shantytown which has been screened from view by a Christmas light curtain; it’s obvious that this place’s UNESCO designation has encouraged upmarket development and tastes around here.

Along the canal, we enquire at several guesthouses but are turned away at each due to fullness. We walk a few streets off the canal, and the story is the same. It takes us many tries to find a place with vacancy, but eventually we do and gratefully shed our packs in the room.

We step out to explore the Jonker Street Market, which is brimming with delicious food smells (our stomachs remind us that in all our bus travel we haven’t eaten very much today) and bizarre souvenirs. We splurge and spend 3 ringgit on a Domokun passport cover.

To pass the rest of the evening, we find a riverside cafe and order a couple beers. They are both larger and more alcoholic than we expected, and we find our conversation devolving into the sort that inspired our bike trip. We don’t drink enough to be confused, but we certainly drink enough to be brash and stubborn, and it settles in our minds that we’re tired of the heat and haze and scams and this trip, and we just want to do something else, so why don’t we go hiking? It’s frustrating to be shuttled around by bus and train and plane, and why can’t we do something where we get to go where we want to, get back out into nature where we can see some truly amazing stuff? Maybe we have to fly to New Zealand or Korea or Who Knows, but we want to get out of these places that we feel like we’re just following in the dust of thousands of tourists before us. Our plans are ripening in our minds as we go to bed; tomorrow, research.