“You need hotel? I know really nice hotel. Cheap cheap. Ten dollar”
“No, thanks. I have a reservation”
“…You need hotel? Ten dollar”
“I… no, really. It’s fine. Thanks. I have a reservation. Could you tell me which way the cathedral is?”
“That way”, he says, pointing down the road.
So after ten minutes of walking in the wrong direction, I finally figured out the correct way to go, arriving wet and cold in the dark. Bastard taxi drivers have it in for me wherever I go. Continue reading →
The first decision to make upon planning a journey in to Malaysia is which direction to head in once you leave Singapore. Do you go north east and follow the coast to tropical paradise? Or do you realise it’s monsoon season and go north west and follow the culture?
No prizes for guessing which one I ended up doing. The eastern coast of the Malaysian peninsular is known for the Tioman and Perihentian islands and their unrivalled seas and pristine beaches. The annoying storms that shut down the ferries for months at a time were in full swing however, and so the day before I left I discovered my next few weeks of planned travelling were completely destroyed. Not to worry. We think on the hoof in these parts. Continue reading →
After leaving Hong Kong, one of the first things that caught me by surprise in Singapore was the accented English. Singaporeans and to a lesser extent Malays, speak English as native speakers with (to my ears at least) Indian accents complete with mannerisms such as the head wobble. The usage of the word “lah” here and there in a fashion that is impossible for the outsider to crack in a short amount of time, supposedly has its roots in Chinese. Given the colonial history of the region, this isn’t a huge surprise, especially with the large number of Indians who have made their homes here for well over a century. I was expecting to English to be swept aside in toto as soon as I crossed in to Malaysia but this did not happen. True, the primary language switched to Bahasa Malaysia but I was certainly surprised by the number of locals whose grasp of English was that of a native speaker or close to it. Continue reading →
The crossing in to China was a painless affair, assisted with beer purchased at the border from the convenient supermarket. A quick look at the shelves and it was clear we were no longer in Kansas. Vacuum packed pickled pig trotter anyone? And that was one of the few items that were identifiable. Many more nondescript but-almost-certainly-some-kind-of-offal lined the shop, and the fruit juices became all the more esoteric. Beer, thankfully, was easy to spot and with nary a crazy fruit or animal organ to be found in the bottle, it was about all I needed to take me to Beijing. Continue reading →