(written by Dave)
Our new room turned out to be nice and quiet overnight. It had no window so it felt a bit like a cave but a quiet cave, so we were happy. We had brekkie in the room before heading next door to Auntie’s Kopitiam for a coffee. On the way out I snapped a couple photos of the whole in the wall the guys created yesterday. Pretty ragged and to think they did it all from the inside without anything (or any large bits anyway) falling to the ground. There was wall where there are now two open holes. And the window below the holes was our old room – no wonder it woke us up.
The ride today was almost completely flat and very straight. The straight is not that good for us as it lets the traffic get up a head of steam. There were two lanes each way, which is also not great as that means no shoulder. We didn’t have any close calls however as traffic was pretty lite. We came across one truck driver who was not so lucky – the remains of his truck and cargo still blocked our side of the road. Cars just drove nonchalantly around it using the oncoming lane – there were no police or official looking folks to be seen.
We called today “going bananas” because we saw bananas on the side of the road all day long. Not banana plantations, but rather the side of the road was lined with semi-cared for banana plants for almost the entire distance. I’m sure that someone was grooming and harvesting them because the plants were all trimmed. But it wasn’t clear if it was the individual land owners, a company of some sort or the roads authority. We’ve heard that Malaysia produces lots of bananas but so far the most we’ve seen have been 1 to 2 acre small plots of them. The fruit is everywhere in the stalls and markets, but we are not sure if they come from roadside plants one by one, or if there is some form of mass production farming that we’ve just not seen. Great question for a local, except for the fact that anything more than basic English is getting harder to find.
We arrived in Sungai Besar pretty early and Nancy even suggested that we push on and ride tomorrow’s planned 50k as well. (I guess her cold is better!) We gave it some thought but then agreed it was getting a little hot and we should stay here. Based on out internet research we had heard that there was one, not so posh, hotel in town. Once again, the research was correct. We are in the Ocean View hotel and it’s not great. Adding to our proposed new hotel stars rating system, this hotel reminds us that a nice hotel bathroom should have a separate shower enclosure, rather than just a shower head that drenches the entire bathroom (which are pretty common in our ‘budget hotel’ travel). Separate showers that don’t leave the entire floor soaked for hours seem pretty obvious to me but that’s just me. We are thinking that hotels should lose “micro-stars” off their rating if they have all in one bathrooms (and dodgy faucets as we mentioned the other day).
Cleaned and refreshed, we headed out to get some lunch. We checked out a restaurant that we’d read about, then started walking back towards town. Two steps down the footpath, right in front of a paint store, I spotted a 100 RM note on the ground. Wow, what luck. We agreed that we should try to find the owner so I went into the paint shop (the only shop open in the area) and tried asking folks. The shop was run by an older Chinese couple. They, along with all the customers in the shop spoke no English.. The owner’s wife fetched her son to help out. With some English and lots of miming, he figured out that I found some money and he proceeded to ask everyone in the shop if they lost any. Everyone checked their pockets and wallets – but we could not find the rightful owner. A quick group discussion in Malay followed and the son reported that everyone in the shop agreed that since I found the money, I should keep it. Until now, we had not discussed the quantity of money I found. When the son asked, I pulled the 100 RM note from my pocket. Everyone’s eyes lit up and suddenly his mother spoke near-perfect English, exclaiming loudly “Today you lucky day”. Everyone smiled, congratulated me and sent us on our way. We both felt a little bad as someone will miss 100 RM for sure when they discover it gone. While only about $30 USD/AUD, 100 RM is a lot of money here in Malaysia.
For lunch we went to a Chinese restaurant just round the corner. With a bit more miming and pointing, we managed to order some tasty Thai-style tofu and some black pepper pork (editor’s note: yeah, finally a break from chicken!). I think we were overcharged but it is not polite to argue on one’s lucky day. We spent the next hour wandering town trying to find a nice quiet coffee shop where we could settle in for the afternoon. We eventually wound our way back to the place just near our hotel. As we get further north we are finding less English, poorer mobile/internet service and fewer yuppy-ish coffee shops. I think it will be this way at least until we reach the Cameron Highlands 3 or 4 days from now.
After lunch Nancy returned to the room and I went down to the river to get some photos. There were lots of fishing boats coming and going on a pretty small river. Looks like nets are the favourite method for fishing and most of the fish caught are small. The boats don’t look like they would make long ventures from port but I’m sure these guys have more courage than I do. It was a rough looking crowd, though everyone seemed to smile at me.
For dinner we headed to the Indian restaurant that we skipped at lunch. We did not find any money walking there… I tried something new tonight, Murtabak Ayam or Indian pizza with chicken. It was more like a stuffed roti than a pizza but as per normal it was very good. Nancy stuck with roti canai. We splurged and had a roti tisu (sweet roti) for desert.
Off to Teluk Intan tomorrow, another short day. Hope for a good night’s sleep in our ‘budget’ hotel room…