Posts Tagged With: throughhelenhighwater

Readdy for the end…..Hell no!

‘Clunk’…….’Bang’…….’Crash’ came the noises from downstairs. Stirring, I rubbed my eyes and peeled back the clutches of my thick duvet. Mama was making a racket downstairs in the kitchen. ‘What the……’ Well, the first thing I actually thought was where the heck am I!? Staring around the room, I could see familiar childhood teddies, dog-eared and dusty books balanced on the shelves, framed photos of my brother and I, oh and piles of clothes on the bedroom floor! Nothing’s changed then I thought haha!

“I’m home!! I can’t believe I am home!” I muttered to myself. There was no time to be checked out by, no worry about where I had to be, no need to repack my invisible man, no need to worry about tripping over any fellow ‘hostellers’ and no thought was needed as to where I was getting my next breakkie from….I was HOME! Now staring through the objects in my room, I drifted off into my usual day dream….’I think I just woke up from an 8mth long dream! Did any of this actually happen?! Wow, that was some dream I tell thee!’ It actually felt so surreal and I’m sure any fellow traveller will tell you the exact same thing!

“Morning darling! I’ve made you a lovely cup of tea, it’s on the table for you” “Ah thanks Mum!” Came my zombie and jet lagged reply. “Righto, I’m just off to work but we’ll look at some of your photos later!” With that Mama rushed off to work that Tuesday morning. At the kitchen table, there I sat (and probably with the most vacant expression on my face!) still shell shocked and repeating the same line over and over in my head…’I still can’t believe I’m home! The Readders is back!’ Staring into the steaming hot cup of tea, I drifted off into another day dream and one where I wanted to stay with all the monks, monkeys, tigers, temples, markets, bugs, beaches, street dogs, kangeroo’s, deserts, mountains, volcano’s, jungles, spiders, tuk tuks…….(now if this was a movie, my voice would now fade out and the scene would go black to make way for the next bit hah!)……so que fade out about now!

So let’s rewind a bit and transport ourselves back to the last leg of my journey. On goes the transportation hat and Malaysia…..here we come (if only!)

< < < < REWINDING, please wait a moment…..!

So I’ve wheeled my invisible man out of the airport at Kuala Lumpur and found my shuttle bus waiting point. I was starting to feel uncomfortable standing there in the sweltering heat of the afternoon but I let the little beads of sweat sit on my forehead knowing that the aircon of the shuttle bus would soon surround me and make me feel as though I’d then stepped into the antarctic! I was actually beginning to wonder if I was indeed standing in the right place as the shuttle was rather late but then again, looking around, the traffic was horrendous! I could see cars, taxi’s, buses and coaches all at a stand still either waiting for people to move out the way or get in them!

Suddenly a shuttle pulled up opposite me. The tinted window of the passengers side smoothly slid down in slow motion revealing a dark skinned Malaysian man. “Helen??” The driver seemed to instinctively know I was his pick up! “Yup, that’s me!” With that, the driver hopped out and lifted the invisible man from the trolley. “Woah, you must be a strong girl haha!” He said huffing and puffing. The invisible man clearly squeezed every molecule of air from the drivers lungs as he lifted it into the back of the shuttle bus. “Hah! It’s ok when both straps are on your back! Even better when you find a trolley to take the load!” I chuckled. I then gave the driver my hotel voucher and climbed into the back.

The driver was a nice guy, same age as me too. Turned out he had just had a short holiday in Penang with his friends! We exchanged our stories of ‘Did you see this?’ and ‘Did you see that?’ and laughed saying we’d probably walked past each other or maybe even eaten at the same cafe one day hah!

“Anyway, why are you staying at the YouniQ Hotel? You know there is nothing around there, nothing!” The driver seemed quite curious as to why I’d booked the hotel he represented and I was curious to know why he was keen to slate his employers haha! ‘Ahhh’ I thought to myself….I could see why once we’d pulled up outside! He was right, there was literally nothing around the hotel, it was in the middle of nowhere. It was a real tumbleweed moment! “Well, I’m only here for a few days until I fly back to England you see and being close to the airport and low on budget, I thought this would be a good place to chillout?” I replied. “Well, it’s only a 20 minute train ride to the city so you can always do that if you get bored!” (Which actually, he was wrong, you were looking at 2 x trains and an hour of window gazing!)

After signing in, I went straight up to my room and whipped my hiking boots off (I always wear them when I fly as they take up so much room in the back pack you see haha!). “Ahhh….I can chill and watch a bit of telly!” Thankfully the hotel was a nice place to relax in and well, it made up for being in the middle of nowhere, it had to! I slapped the cheap, plasticky, white kettle on and unpacked a sachet of Milo (Asia’s version of Cadburys hot chocolate) and settled down to watch a bit of telly. “Hang on a minute…no movie channel?! Oh great!” How annoying! Nevermind, MTV it was…I had to catch up with what was new in the charts right!

A hot chocolate later, I ventured outside to see what was on offer around the hotel. As I said, it was literally in the middle of nowhere so I wasn’t expecting to find a nightclub (even though that would have been uber cool!) or any swanky bars to get merry in but I did find a small tuck shop and a restaurant. Feeling hungry I sat in the restaurant and ordered some noodles and a teh tarik which is my favourite…If I haven’t already explained, a teh tarik is basically a malaysian tea made with condensed milk, yummy! Not sure that would work in the UK! Can you imagine that…PG Tips made with tip top hah eww!  :p After I’d chowed all my noodles down, I went up to pay. “Thank you Miss. Do you come alone Miss?” I was used to this kind of response by now but I tell you what…out of all the countries, Malaysian’s were the most curious hah. I think this is because they are used to seeing women with husbands….their husbands pretty much tell them what they can and cannot do etc so I must have either looked completely rebellious or um, divorced and on the rejection pile?! Who cares I thought! After I’d explained that yes, I was on my own and yes, I was fine with that he bunged the change in my hand and let me go.

I then went back to my hotel room, switched MTV back on and fell fast asleep!

Knock, knock….”Hello?” KNOCK, KNOCK! “Excuse me, hello?? You want room cleaned?” The repetitive rapping and tapping was just starting to break through and into my wondrous dreamland but it was the final “HELLO!” That woke me and caused me to sit bolt upright with hair flopping over the front of my face! “Huh, what!?” It felt so early. “Go away!” Oops, I didn’t mean to sound so rude but I’d only just checked in and was thinking ‘my room can’t be that bad already?’ haha! Eventually I could hear the maid slope off down the hall and wheeling her squeaky trolley with her. Checking the time, it was 10.30am! I really didn’t do very much that Friday apart from chill, watch MTV and eat haha!

Big City…Big Disaster more like! 

‘Hey Helen! I’ll meet you at KLCC around 3.30pm’ Shazreen’s message popped up on the screen of my tablet Saturday morning. ‘Fab! Looking forward to catching up with you matey!’ Came my reply. I could’t wait to see Shazza! I started my journey with her and was abouts to close it with her too (which of course was also kinda sad!) :/ I found out how to get to the KLCC (which is the huge mall right next to the KL’s Twin Towers) and got on my way.

Urgh, well, what a disaster! Getting there was fine, not a problem at all….as I mentioned, it was x 2 trains and about an hour or something silly…but I had didn’t have a watch on me or my mobile (because I didn’t have any credit) haha! I was relying on my tablet and a free wifi spot so I could tell Shazza where I was. Well, it all backfired on me! The Readders was so distracted by all the bright lights and shops that she totally forgot the time didn’t she!! By the time I’d realised, it was gone 4pm, oh noooo!! ‘Oh Helen you wally! Right, need to find a cafe with wifi’ But could I find any wifi? I was walking around with my tablet as though I was ‘dowsing’ for the slightest sniff of internet to tap into. ‘Coffee Bean’ Aha…bingo! I managed to connect or so I had thought but it kept saying the signal was too weak and disconnected me! Rarrr! I then found another spot ‘Starbucks’ but the same thing happened! Well by the time I’d faffed about trying to find any wifi, it was now getting dark so I decided to catch the train one stop back. Eventually I found some wifi that seemed to be stronger there but Shazreens messages were all coming up with “Where are you? I’m by the giant book store”…”Oh Shazreen, I’m so sorry! Time has completely run away with me this afternoon” I then explained the whole situation with the wifi etc…I was hoping we’d catch each other on the Sunday as I wasn’t due to fly out until the evening but unfortunately Shazreen wasn’t available! I couldn’t believe it. How gutted!

Feeling like an idiot, I tucked my tail between my legs and hopped on the next train headed for my hotel * sighs! Lesson here;  on my next travelling trip, I am going to get myself an iPhone with blimming wifi hah! As soon as I got back to my hotel it was about 9.30pm…yep, 9.30pm! I bought some tinnies of Tiger from the tuck shop next door, packed my invisible man and fell asleep!

Let me buy you lunch!

I was up pretty early in the morning and slipped into the clothes I’d purposely left out the night before (made sense as I could pack the invisible man up with minimal Helen faffings).

Checking out at 11am I then had about 7hrs to kill in ghost town! I ended up finishing one of my blog entries as well as had a go at piecing a few ‘movies’ together with clips I had taken the day before (which are now in the Readdy to Playlist tab).

I was actually getting pretty hungry which was good timing with what happened next….

“Hello Miss. Do you need taxi?” Looking up from my tablet, I could see a short Malaysian guy standing before me extending his arm. Wedged in between short stumpy digits, he offered me his business card. “Not right now thank you but later, yes please!” I replied. Of course, with that the taxi mans ears pricked up! “Ok. Where you go later?” “To the airport for about 6.30pm” “Ok great. I charge 50 Ringgit” “FIFTY!!” I blurted! If I was drinking at the time, I’m sure I would have spluttered it all over him haha! “That sounds way too much. I haven’t even got that much in my wallet!” Fact! I was skint and I really didn’t want to take anymore money out on my last day…and where was the nearest cash point around here anyway?! “Ok, ok….40” He had me by the short and curly’s really because I didn’t have any other options at the time. “Look, I need money for lunch too so even if I paid you 40, that means I will have to go hungry” I wasn’t in the mood for being ripped off on my last day either. “Lunch? But it’s Sunday, no where is open nearby. Look, I am kind man, I will drive you somewhere so you can have lunch. If you eat at the airport it will be very expensive. I will charge you 35” Checking my wallet, it seemed I could afford that and also something cheap to eat. I knew I’d get fed on the plane but I needed something before then. “Ok, deal” I said. “Great. I will take you for lunch in say 20 minutes. I won’t charge you for the ride because I need to clean my cab anyway so while I do that, you can eat next door” “Ok, lovely. That’s very kind of you, thanks” With that, the taxi guy walked off but as promised, he came back 20 minutes later!

I was grateful for the aircon in the taxi as it was sweltering outside. “Very hot today right!” “Yup. But I’m not going to complain as it’ll be so cold in the UK when I touch down!” “Haha. So what food you want? Noodles? Rice? Spicy?” “Nothing too spicy. Maybe some noodles” “Great, I know good place and very cheap. Oh and I’m Dahari. What is your name?” Dahari held his stumpy digits out towards me and waited for me to shake them so gently squeezing his hand, I too introduced myself. “I’m Helen. Nice to meet you” With that Dahari pushed the gear stick into 1st and drove us out of ghost town. He was right though, nothing was open so I was pretty grateful he offered to take me somewhere for lunch however, part of me was also thinking ‘Why is he doing this for me?’ ‘Is this so I can pay him the full fare later?’ Haha! Isn’t it funny how our minds can easily become so suspicious! It’s true though, if this happened in England, you’d automatically be searching your mind for answers to questions like ‘What does this person want from me in return?’ Hmm. So as I mentioned, nothing was open! When we did pass a shop or cafe, the shutters were all locked down and not one person was about. The only thing that was missing, was the noise of a slight wheezy breeze, a huge tumble weed lazily rolling past and the dull droning of a clock tower haha! “Today is a day of rest” “Oh of course, because it’s Sunday!” I responded. It hadn’t even crossed my mind that nothing would be open today.

Wow, clearly the whole town knew this cafe was the only one open! I could see a mix of Malaysians and Chinese people filling each and every table until they were spilling out on to the ‘overflow’ tables surrounding the cafe outside.

Dahari parked up and walked in with me. “What would you like?” Dahari said passing me the menu at the same time. Staring aimless into the menu, it took me a few moments to realise it was in fact all in Malay anyway so I didn’t have a clue what to order. “Um…just some noodles will do nicely, thanks! Oh and a teh tarik!” Of course, my fav Malaysian tea, yummy! “Great, I’ll order for you and then go and wash my car” “Thanks!” With that, Dahari ordered my meal for me and then disappeared to put his car in to be washed (coincidentally right next door!). Sitting on my todd, it felt as though I was getting glared at from each and every direction! Stares of the usual ‘Where is your husband?’ and ‘What is that white girl going to have to eat?’ type of looks. But then again, that was more than likely to be my imagination going crazy as usual!

Dahari happened to appear at my table at the exact same time my food did but thankfully, he was more full of chat than I was so shoving greasy (and slightly spicy) noodles into my gob, I was just happy to hear him go on. In fact, Dahari was doing nothing but gloat about how much of a nice person he was….”I found a diamond ring in my taxi last month. I could have kept it but I didn’t. Thankfully the owners came back for it. I did get it valued but I still didn’t want it” (hmm…he must have thought about keeping it if he went to the trouble of getting it valued right?) In between the smug stories (yes, they kept coming!), Dahari lit up a cigarette and practically exhaled the smoke into my noodles!  “I also found a Gucci watch on the back seat of my taxi too. I held onto it to look after it for the owner incase he showed up again (which he did)! He tell me I was good man and gave me a reward”. Wiping the now smoky flavoured noodle sauce from around my chops I just uttered the odd acknowledgement that I was kind of listening “Oh that’s very nice of you!” “Yes, yes! And now I take you to lunch because I am so nice and I help you or you go hungry haha” Hmm….*que suspicious mind, tick tock, tick tock! I was still really wary of him and as to why he took me for lunch!? But get this, even after I’d eatern…the waiter came over with the bill and Dahari paid! “It’s ok, I will sponsor you” Flicking his cigarette butt on the floor, Dahari fumbled in his pocket for some Ringgits. “Dahari, don’t be silly, I can pay for myself!” But despite my efforts of extending my hand with the exact money pointing palm up, Dahari got in front of me and paid my bill! Afterwards, we went next door to pick up his squeaky clean taxi!

“Ok, so I pick you up from the hotel lobby at 5.30pm yes?” I’m not sure if Dahari was asking or telling me at that point hah! “Um, sure, ok” “I know it is early but at least you will be able to watch people running all over the place at the airport hahaha” Dahari coughed, spluttered and then wheezed as he laughed out loud…his smokers cough was more apparent than earlier, maybe he’s just recently started smoking more? “Yeh sure, good point!” He was right though, at least I could day dream and ‘people watch’ and spritz on all the latest expensive perfumes as you do haha. Once Dahari walked off to do whatever it was he said he was doing, I logged back onto the hotels computer to kill some time.

Readdy to fly?

“Helen. You ready?” I smirked to myself as Dahari obviously didn’t know my surname but for some reason I found that rather amusing hehe. “Yep, I guess so” Dahari took the invisible man from me and puffed and wheezed as he did so. “Oooffff. You don’t travel light lady!” “Haha…it’s all the souvenirs!” I waved goodbye to the reception staff of the hotel as Dahari opened the taxi door for me and ushered me in. “Well, this is it. Let the journey home begin!” Pulling away, I took my last look around the ghost town I’d been staying in for the past 3 days and was in fact, soon looking forward to delighting my eyes with perhaps ‘too much’ to look at hah…

“So where did you say you were from again?” Dahari asked as he slid some sunglasses on and up his nose. “The UK” “And how long your flight tonight?” “Um…something like 14hrs in total. I have 2 to catch, here to Singapore and then Singapore to London” “Wow, long time in the air then!” Dahari exhaled almost as though he was sighing in relief that it wasn’t him up in the skies that evening! “Oh well, I’m looking forward to watching movies and listening to music on the main flight. I’ll pass the time no problem” No problem?? What was I saying that for? Although actually, I probably could…I’m like a pro when it comes to day dreaming and ‘time wasting’ haha! “Hah. Yes, lots of movies then”

And there we were….Kuala Lumpur’s International Airport came into view and for some reason, I suddenly got a slight rush of nerves…maybe it was because I knew this was the last stop perhaps? Dahari parked up in the taxi rank and immediately hopped out to get the invisible man out the boot and while he did that, I hopped out to get a trolley. Wheeling it over to Dahari, he dropped (and I mean, literally dropped!) the invisible man onto the trolley as though he was relieved to be shedding the whopping 19kg’s from his stubby arms, hands and fingers hehe! I then leaned into the taxi and left my 35 ringgits in the glove box.

“Ok, thank you Miss Helen. Have a safe trip home” Once again, Dahari extended his stubby fingers to shake my hand goodbye! “Thanks Dahari and thanks for coming to my rescue at lunch time. I’ve left your fare in the glove box ok” “Thank you” Then with that….I looked up, found my terminal and wheeled my trolley over to start the last and final trip. Watery eyed, it was as though I was walking (and rolling my trolley!) in slow motion and oh boy, what a journey its been!

I sailed through security and immigration in a hazy day dream and found my gate straight away. I think I was pretty numb and shocked at that point to the fact that I was actually going home! Sitting down, I realised I must have been staring at the floor when a black man came and sat next to me and abruptly disturbed my day dreams….”Excuse me Miss….Hello? Can I use your phone?” “My phone? No sorry, I don’t have any credit” There was something about this guy that I didn’t like! Well, for one, I didn’t like the fact that he seemed to single me out and I was sitting in an area all on my todd at that point. “Ok, well, can I just put my sim in your phone then?” I then realised he was staring at my tablet..”Look this isn’t a phone by the way and no!” I responded by asserting a more ‘stern’ tone in my voice. “I need to get hold of someone” He seemed a bit agitated now. “I’m sure if you ask the porters they will be able to help you. Plus, there are computers around where you can access the internet for free” I was trying to help him as much as I could. My mobile didn’t have any credit and was pretty flat at the same time haha! The fella then stormed off dissatisfied with my answers but I was kinda thinking ‘oh well, I did try!’ I then took a wonder and found a book shop where I bought a travel book (a backpackers adventures around Hong Kong, China and India), and a book written by a guy who trekked the length of the Amazon rainforest near Peru…something for the plane or indeed inspiration for once I was eventually home.

The first flight to Singapore was nice and easy and being only an hours flight, it certainly did whizz by up there! The flight was late coming into Singapore but I didn’t mind at all because I had about 3hrs wait in between. It didn’t seem like I was waiting all that long before I heard my call; “All passengers for flight SQ522 headed for London, Heathrow….we are now ready to board. Would passengers in seat rows 20 to 30 please head towards the check in crew with your boarding tickets” Came the announcement over the tanoy. ‘Ooo that’s me!’ Heading over with my ticket sticking out of one hand and my rucksack dragging on the other, I took a slow walk over. The crew of Singapore Airlines warmly welcomed everyone as we all crammed in one by one.

Yay, window seat for me! Settling into my seat ready for the monster 13hrs ahead, I took a peep around…..hmm, spare seat next to me, Singaporean lady in the aisle seat, ooo hot guy 2 rows behind ;), nice looking couple directly behind, French family sitting in front of me and more families and couples in the other nearby seats. I started chatting to the Singapore lady next to me who was lovely. Phew, sometimes you hear about people sitting next to horrid passengers on long haul flights haha but so far all was good! For some reason I felt it appropriate to tell everyone near me that I’d been away from home for 8mths and that in 13hrs time I’d get to see my Mama and Papz again haha! Of course, they didn’t care but I was rather excited at the thought of seeing my folks and I wanted to shout about it lol! Well, in fact, it was such a bitter sweet feeling….yes I wanted to stay and keep on travelling in the world but the thought of seeing my friends and family was also making me grin so far across my face that it must have looked humanly impossible to stretch a smile that far!

Finally, the plane is slowly creeping along and turning around until we’re facing the long stretch of runway ready to take off. Again, listening to my take off tune of ‘One day I’ll fly away’ (which in my head I had now changed to ‘One day I flew away’), I’m staring out the window and into the night sky with my eyes welling up faster than I could dab them with the corner of my sleeve, sniff sniff 😥 Speeding up and up until that G force rush kicked in for the last time….now in the air, I sat there slightly dumb struck.

Once I’d snapped out of the ‘Oh my God’s’ whizzing through my mind, I flicked through the entertainment system in the back of the chair in front of me. MOVIE TIME!! And well, that was it….I was determined not to sleep and watch movies back to back hah so I did just that! Even when all the lights in the cabin went out I was still sat there watching movies hah! The bright blue light from my lil TV screen must have lit up my row and the row behind oh well…everyone seemed to be sleeping with eye masks on or at least trying to sleep and didn’t seem in the slightest bit bothered as to what I was doing or watching haha.

So….a dinner, snack, breakfast, several swigs of tea and cups of orange juice and 7 movies, yes SEVEN movies later and we have the announcement to ‘buckle’ up for landing as we were now approaching Heathrow O.M.G!!!

Back to the start! 

The Airbus touched down at 6.20am with a slight scrape and screech but it had to be by far the best landing of the whole trip! I knew my Papz was waiting for me in the International arrivals lounge and I couldn’t wait to get off and see him! (My Mum was picking me up after you see). What is it with airlines…as soon as you land there seems to be a massive hold up until people are allowed off. Well, I think that was me being rather impatient because of course I couldn’t wait to get off! Looking around, some people were still seated and others were either standing in the aisles all lined up ready to pile out and others were standing up where they were sitting with their heads slightly crouched to one side because they were standing directly under the air blowers. As soon as the line of people started shifting forwards, that was it, I grabbed my rucksack and tagged along following the rest of the sheep out in line.

Brrrrr!!! First thing I noticed was the weather, well, the lack of sun and heat! Of course, that was to be expected right but woah! I’d been so used to stepping off planes and being greeted by mother nature waiting at the exit with a hot blanket to immediately smother and wrap around everyone she came into contact with but this time it felt like Jack Frost was there pointing and laughing as soon as he’d sprinkled his cold magic on us hah!

I was becoming out of breath from the speed I was walking. Again, passing through all the normal ‘I have nothing to declares’ etc…It was straight to the luggage belt to collect my battered and bruised invisible man (who to be honest, looked like he needed a holiday himself haha!). Ooo ooo, there it was! My bright red backpack, wire mesh and pink scarf must have been the 2nd to come round the belt…right slap that straight on the trolley and let’s go find my PAPZ woo hoo!! Suddenly I felt as though I was in an episode of supermarket sweep or something….I’d already scooped up the jackpot and dumped that into my trolley but now it was a race to find the finish line (aka my Papz!). So whizzing around people, dodging other trolleys and masses of suitcases I finally see the exit signs! It felt as though everyone was in my way and doing all they could to block my path (which is always the way when you need to do something or be somewhere right!) Wheeling my invisible man out through a set of double doors that was it…..’Hang on, is that Papz? OMG, OMG!’ A rush of excitement and goosebumps ran through me…Firstly, I still couldn’t believe I’d touched down at Heathrow and secondly, I couldn’t believe that this was the first time I was seeing my Papz after so long! I got a glimpse of my Pappa’s outline between a bald headed man and another guy in a big fluffy hat and again, it seemed as though they were walking in slow motion! So guess what I did….I screamed haha! “WOO HOOOOO!”  And with that, it was as though the sea parted….the sea of people that is haha. Everyone just moved out the way for me so with that, I gave my trolley one almighty push, pressed all my upper weight on the handle bars and I lifted my feet like a kid so the trolley propelled itself along and heading straight for my Papz!

As soon as my trolley was in reaching distance of ma Papz, I ditched the trolley and ran over and gave him the biggest, longest squeeze! “SWEETIE!! I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU’RE BACK!! Let me take a look at you!” Shouted my Papz. “AHHH, I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M HERE!” Of course, I was balling my eyes out by this point haha….I think even my Papz  quickly dabbed his eyes ssshhh 😉

I tell you what, it’s not that I didn’t feel safe abroad but right at that very moment, I felt SO safe and like nothing could touch me haha…And I didn’t give 2 hoots what anyone around us thought either….it was as though everyone became invisible for just those few moments and everything stopped in it’s tracks! Once everything started up again, Papz and I went off for a few cups of tea and had a good old chinwag in the nearby cafe 🙂

Afterwards, my Mum came along to pick me up outside Terminal 3…yup, where it began all those months ago! My Papz waited with me until my Mum arrived and there she was….I could see my black Corsa pulling in and parking up and I got the same rush of goosebumps. “YOO HOO!” I gave my Mum a big squeeze and waved my Papz off. All the way back Mum and I were munching on Galaxy chocolate and talking about this and that and then suddenly, as the adrenalin began to wear off….that sleepy slump feeling began to creep over me.

I dragged my invisible man up the stairs behind me bumping it on every step until I’d reached the top. It felt kinda sad that it was going to be unpacked for the last time and then slung in the corner of my room. It was also sad staring at the invisible man now weighing next to nothing and slumping over itself as it’s ‘guts’ were now all missing! As the kettle boiled downstairs, I gathered all my souvenirs and skipped downstairs to show my Mum this and that and to share the weird and wonderful sachets of strange teas and coffees that I’d accumilated along the way oh and also to give her some of her pressies too 😉

Back with a bang….wallop more like! 

Well, well, well! It took a good few days to realise the Readders had made it back to the good old U of K! Looking back on my photos just made me think it was a dream….’Did I really do this and did I actually do that?’ ‘Did I really climb a mountain?’ ‘Did I really sit behind a Tiger?’ My mind has taken quite a long time to ‘settle’ down and essentially get over having ‘English’ culture shock hah! 

So, here I sit writing to you from the comfort of my own home using the free wifi (courtesy of Mama), tapping away on my pink laptop (which by the way feels ginormous compared to my 7 inch tablet!) oh and plenty of english tea on tap haha! So…..I should be super happy right? Well, one quote I mentioned earlier was ‘bitter sweet’, well, that is truly the best way I can sum up being back I’m afraid haha and I’m sure many a traveller perhaps feels / felt the same. I have felt like a bird of paradise roaming the world doing as I please and exploring this utterly special plant we live on…..but now I’m back, I have to get back to ‘reality’! :/

UH OH….I have to get a J.O.B ARRGGHH!! Hmmm 😦 I can’t bear the thought of being cooped up in an office from 9 to 5 BUT….I shall view it like this – This is just a stop gap, for the Readders WILL get back out there and go on new adventures and explore new lands. I’ve already decided to follow my intuition and plan for Peru, Costa Rica and Cuba so BRING IT ON! I’ve already gone out and bought a book about Peru to ‘geek’ up on. Plus, I’m looking into Amazon adventures and hanging out with the tribes there so trust me, I’m sure my next blogging adventures will be worth tuning in for and I seriously can’t wait to share it with you all! 😀 

Finale!

Ok, so this feels weird! I don’t want to use the word ‘goodbye’ as we know this will NOT be the end! This is simply the beginning! I reckon, this first adventure was more about giving me the courage, the savvy, the ‘you CAN do this’ and almost the ‘what to expect whilst travelling’! It really is an amazing world out there and I’m SO so glad I grew a pair and stepped out of my comfort bubble to chase my dream.

I’ve seen and experienced things I could have only ever imagined and would have kept on imagining if I didn’t do anything about it! Anything is truly possible if you really want it! And that is exactly what I told those kids in the school in Thailand…I really believe that! Sounds mushy but follow your heart and do what makes you happy, do what gives you that thrill!

Instead of thumbing through the soggy pages of a National Geographic magazine (that I’d clearly drooled over) fantasizing over the many photos and articles from the comfort of the armchair wearing my fluffy bunny slippers…I felt as though I’d been transported to the middle of the jungle and had ditched the remote for a journal and Indiana Jones cap to become the editor haha! (Que any travel magazine employers out there hint hint!) I have loved each and every minute of it! The good, the bad and the ugly and well, the super seriously ugly! The ups and the downs, the cheers and the tears….it has ALL been so very worth it.

Thank you to each and every one of my friends and family for being there and keeping me going when I’ve needed that extra push the most…and of course thanks to all the wonderfully fab people who have chosen to follow my blog and my adventures too! Please keep me on your follow lists readdy for the next chapters! 😉

I hope I have also managed to aid any other travellers currently out there doing it or the people who are thinking of doing it and looking for ideas…just GO FOR IT! You will NOT regret it and don’t worry if you don’t have too much of a plan, just follow your heart and go where feels right…for sometimes the unplanned things are the greatest plans of all haha! And also a big shout out to each and every awesome person I’ve met along the way and much gratitude to the many friends and families out there who’ve extended the comforts of their own homes to me! I’ve met so many wonderful and kindhearted people and made life long friends – people that I will never forget! Thanks to all the travellers who have let me be part of their journeys too 😀

So, enough of all my waffling and until the next time….this has been Through Helen Highwater and by God, what an adventure and what a great beginning!

To be continued……………

*Awful computer game alarm then goes off….

Helen reaches a hand out from under the duvet and whacks alarm…..”Wow! What an amazing dream!!”

Back to the start!

Back to the start!

Haha! Just had to put this in for a laugh (My friend Simone will have a chuckle over this hehe!)

And just out of interest really;

End of Transmission

*Cue fuzzy radio noises! …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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The Thai of my life!

Yesss, I finally got a window seat for my flight to Bangkok! Although saying that, I felt kinda blue peering out of the window and watching Penang shrink into nothing more than a ‘toy town’ below! I was sad because I knew that Bangkok was to be the last destination. Now, each time I board a plane, it feels as though it’s bringing me closer to ‘that day’ when I finally have to step onto the last airport shuttle headed for Heathrow 😦

Phew! Ok, so I’ve touched down in Bangkok…again haha! But this time of course, it’s for the last time on this leg of my journey *sighs. But anyways, I was really looking forward to seeing my Thai pals and hanging out in the city once more. I know my way around and well, just where to hang out and let my hair down so I will be making the most of my final week or so.

I got through immigration and customs all ok and had another stamp bashed into my passport allowing me up to 30 days stay. Hey, hang on a minute, I tell you what…I managed to get through Penang security AND Bangkoks with a 2ltr bottle of water in my hand! How that happened I don’t know but hey, that could have been ‘bomb’ liquid for all they knew muwahahah! That’s never happened before…I normally get my water taken off me but not that time haha! Just a random observation…

My fab friend Ken (or Kendoll as I call him) offered to come and meet me at the airport which was sweet of him. He even assisted me with my luggage and getting me to my hotel which was great actually and it avoided hearing all the ‘Excuse me Miss, you want taxi’ etc. Once I’d checked in, we went straight to the movies! Well, I had some movies to catch up on hey lol! So we had some food and watched Gravity (which is FAB for anyone who loves their space movies!)

30 degrees of Rain!

Oh noooo! The rain’s followed me all the way from Penang! And it’s determined to scrub off all proof of the slight jaundice looking tan I’ve achieved right before I hit Heathrow haha! Nevermind. I wasn’t going to let the rain put me off having a good time either on my final week of being a free spirit!

I tell you what though…I love the rain abroad, it’s so warm! Who needs wellies when you can wade through the puddles in yer flip flops! * Sighs, if only the rain was like this in the UK…wet and warm haha! The only bummer is that yes, you still get really dirty feet haha. Sometimes I’d look down and think, ‘Huh, since when did I get black grubby toes!’ hah! So yup, I will miss the ‘hot rain’ 🙂

The Flower Market

My friend Kendoll told me about a Flower Market near Koh Sarn Road and asked me if I’d been there before. “No, I haven’t. I’d love to see it though before I leave Thailand” I excitedly replied. “Yes, it will be good for your pictures”. So Kendoll agreed to take me there and show me around. It was amazing, I loved it! Plus it was a brucey bonus having a local to hang out with and speak ‘Thai’ to everyone for me haha!

It was just gorgeous! I could see the market folk all setting up their stalls ready before the customers flocked…although saying that, it didn’t actually get all that busy but again, another bonus for me! I could see trucks delivering bags FULL of flowers! Some Thai words were exchanged from the drivers to the stall owners and they’d then drive off. I watched as the marketers then opened each bag and literally picked out flowers one by one and ‘arrange’ them either in glorious bouquets or just singly in their rows.

It was just fascinating to take a slow walk around and see stall upon stall, row upon row and bouquet upon bunch of flowers in every shape, size and variety! Oh and the smells….WOW! For once it disguised that Bangkok ‘stench’ that I had become all too familiar with haha! It wasn’t just a flower market….it was like walking through a perfume factory! Oh and the colours, you would not believe it but the sellers even decorated their stands with the flowers by colour! So red with red, pinks with pinks etc…now that must have taken forever but it was quite an impressive display.
I found a Rose stall and stood and watched for a few moments as the market lady picked out what looked like a dozen roses and bundled them up with speed. Can you believe, that a dozen red, pink or yellow roses were the equivalent to 1 English pound….yes 1 POUND! Everyone would be buying their Mums or lovers a huge lorry load of them if they were that price in the UK right? Although it would probably cause our roses to become extinct at the same time too!

Once the flower stalls diminished, new stalls were revealed with a different variety of produce to entice… Wow, fruit and vegetables! Most of the fruit and veg still seemed so foreign to me (of course) well, I mean, a lot of it I had now tried but to name them….ppfftt, forget it! Un-hygienically, the stall owners even let their pets crawl all over their produce! Hmm…2 cats and a puppy – if that happened in the UK, they’d probably get shut down! It was cute all the same though because I wasn’t IN the market for buying that evening haha!

Bo in the Big City

Yay, my friend Bo from the School in Nang Rong came all the way over to Bangkok just to see me and party one last time woo hoo. So Ken, Bo and I all went out for dinner as soon as she arrived. It was sooo good to see Bo and I immediately threw my arms around her when I spotted her getting off the train at Thailand Cultural Centre. “BO…..how are you! So good to seeya again!” I screeched! “HELEN! I missed you!” Awww….

After a huge (and of course, rather cheap) plate of salmon and veg, we had a walk around town before hitting the city centre. It was rather funny actually because we found some 3D paintings on the walls….you know, the kind that you stand in and it looks like you’re abouts to fall into a black hole or something when really it’s all an illusion! That was fun. After much mucking about of pretending we had angel wings or were surfing the ocean, we then caught a tuk tuk into the Big C itself…

One last hit…

We all hopped out the tuk tuk (and probably all looking rather windswept too!) and took a slow stroll around Koh Sarn Road.

“I can’t believe you’ve never been to Koh Sarn Road before Bo?!” I said, giving Bo a wide eyed look. It made me chuckle though…’Hah, an English gal showing a Thai national around her own city!’ hehe.

It was so amusing to see Bo’s face as we walked past the usual stands selling all the tat I’d seen many a time….the wooden ‘croaking’ frogs, the brightly sewn bracelets with every obscene word you can think of, the ‘slinky’ penises! And then there were the stalls selling the edible bugs – scorpians and tarantulas on sticks, the giant locusts, bowls of hot fried meal worms YUK! Oh and don’t forget the clothing stalls displaying T-shirts in vivid colours with slogans of ‘I love BKK’ or ‘Chang Beer’. And then there are the club promoters bombarding you as you walk past their bars….”Hello Miss, you come inside. Buy one get on free bucket” Oh my goodness…and how could I forget this…”Hello Miss, you want to see Ping pong show? Or how about a happy ending?” You have to laugh at it all really. But I’m also glad I saw and heard all of that and glad Bo experienced it too even if she did look kinda shocked (same as me the first time hah!) And again, you have to avoid the limbless beggers sitting in the middle of your path which of course, is horrific to see but I have been told they are professional beggers who have made a trip specially from Cambodia because Koh Sarn is where all the tourists go! You know, when we were walking around, I was thinking to myself; It’s kinda like….you have to experience the darker side to see it and believe it – believe that it all goes on so you can appreciate all of the good, the beautiful and the wonderful things of this world if that makes any sense!?

We were pacing in slow motion for a while and in silence for most of it because I wanted Bo to take it all in. After hearing the many chants of “Excuse me Miss” this and that and the constant flow of hard and heavy bass music mixing into softer tones of live acoustic Bob Marley to Green Day variations, we decided to hit a club….yup, the one and only ‘The Club Koh Sarn’. I laughed to myself again thinking ‘The amount of times I’ve stumbled out of this club hehe’ Well, it just had to be done one last time……

Heights, Flights and….Hangovers!

Yup! You guessed it! Bo, Ken and I all had a wicked night in ‘The Club’ on Koh Sarn that night. Bo and I were also loving mucking about with the free glowsticks you get given when you walk in which immediately makes you feel 12 again haha, funny that! It was also fun chatting to the many different nationalities and hearing about where people had been or where they were off to next… One guy from Dublin came and sat with us and immediately plonked down 3 shots on our table “Drink with me!” He slurred and then promptly hiccuped! “No no, you go ahead” I replied….I really didn’t fancy doing shots that night as I knew that would kill me! The Irish fella was harmless though, just way more drunk than we were haha. He downed all the shots, chatted to us for a bit and then……threw up right at our feet! GROSS! Shame really haha. What a conversation killer that was so yup, we moved away sharpish and left him for his mates to clean up hahaha!

Ok, so falling out the club at 4am we grabbed a cab back to our destinations. We weren’t that drunk (well, not as bad as the Irish dude that’s for sure) but we were at that ‘happy state’ lets say! “Oh my Buddha! I have to be up around 8-8.30am to get ready for my flight!!” Stumbling with my words was a sure sign I needed to hit the hay….well, the TIME was a sure sign I needed to hit the hay hahah! Saying our goodbyes, we all headed our separate ways.

As soon as my head hit the pillow….well, actually, I can’t remember that bit but I do remember the horrid video game alarm of mine going off at a most unholy time! “Oh nooooo!” I groaned but miraculously was up, out and in a cab to the airport to catch my final flight to KL. I was feeling dehydrated, a little nauseous and ached from all the dancing we did the night before. But above all of that, I felt sad and had to fight my watery eyes from actually turning into waterfalls haha!

Finally boarding the plane to KL, I sat and watched the air crews usual safety routine of ‘what to do if’ and then sat staring out the window (yay, another window seat!) whilst listening to the tones of my ipod playing ‘One day I’ll fly away’. The rain outside was hitting the window (another symbolic moment hah!) as I stared blankly out into the distance. I then watched the run way lines gradually speed up and up until they became one continuous line….then the ‘G-force’ facelift feeling hit and we were up! Once more, I watched the airport, the buildings, the roads and cars all turn into nothing more than a ‘toy town’ below. It was almost as though the higher the plane went, the more ‘fake’ the toy town below became hah! Nausea crept over me once more and reminded me how much of a blast I’d had with my friends just hours before! Heavy eyelids encouraged me to make use of the 3hrs ‘free time’ to sleep the hangover off so I gave in resisting and soon drifted off into a sweet slumber…

“Hello Miss….MISS? Can you please open the window shutter” That must have been the 2nd or 3rd time the air hostess had muttered those words to me but the nudge from the person in the middle seat abruptly brought me back to ‘reality’ when they interrupted my slumber with their pointy elbow! “Sorry! Are we landing now?” I stuttered. “Yes, we are now arriving at Kuala Lumpur” Came the reply. “Great stuff!” I tried to sound enthusiastic but I was kinda blue knowing that actually, this was to be my final 3 days before heading home!!

I found the shuttle bus to my hotel straight away and was soon on my way to ‘hibernation’! No, I won’t really be locking myself away for 3 days but I am looking forward to taking it easy and catching up with some telly etc…oh and MTV, who’s at number 1 right now, I have no idea haha? I will also be looking forward to catching a few of my Malaysian pals too and seeing what they are up to.

I will also have to think about what I’m going to do with my blog right? 😦 I have thoroughly enjoyed writing this but I guess I won’t have a lot to write about until the next time I explore the world and believe me, this is just the beginning (until I save up again!) Now I know I can do it, I have well and truly been bitten by this beautiful bug and I don’t intend to stop now! 😀

But this post isn’t the last one, don’t worry! I still have another one in me yet but that one may be coming to your screens from the good old UK!

So thanks again Thailand and for giving me the Thai of my life! 😉

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Pee-nang!

So, I’ve made it to Penang and oh my, what a difference to Bali! I’m missing Bali so much already and of course the wonderful friends I’ve made. But ho hum, that’s what the life of a traveller is all about 😉 Each and every moment is being stored, recorded, experienced and locked away for my memories 😀

Well, it took all day to get to Penang and theoretically speaking, it’s only 4hrs away from Bali! So anyways, I left at 9am and arrived at 9pm, phew! I slept well the first night, I tell thee haha!

I was pretty tired and groggy when the plane finally landed but I knew I could relax a bit as soon as I got in a cab. Waiting for my invisible man to finally make an appearance on the revolving luggage belt, I stood for a moment just taking in my surroundings. I must have been the only white person there but hey, I was pretty used to sticking out like a sore thumb now right hehe.

The invisible man and pink scarf…(yes, STILL clinging on in it’s now battered and rather dulled down shade of pink) slowly came round the belt. The whole back pack I must say is beginning to look just as tired as me haha! Hauling the invisible man onto my luggage trolley, I then joined the que for the customs and security checks….and straight away I was approached by one of the airport workers.

“Excuse me Miss, where you from Miss?” A stern looking Malaysian man started to walk over to me, his eyes narrowing the closer he got as if he was already trying to work out what he was going to say to my response! “I’m from the UK” I replied. Taking a dry gulp, I started to feel that nervous flutter rising up from the pit of my belly which of course is really silly because I hadn’t done anything wrong but in good old fashioned Readders style my mind was naturally awakening with it’s ever enthusiastic curiosity! “May I see your passport?” Asking with authority, I immediately passed it over, “Of course”. I was then beginning to wonder why I had been singled out from the line of other people…’Hmm…why is he not asking other people the same question?’ I thought to myself but of course, what can you do apart from follow orders! “How long you stay? “Oh just 9 days” “For holiday?” He asked…’Um, well, YEH!’ I was thinking….what else for haha…then my mind flashed to a comedy programme that I used to watch with my Dad ‘How not to live your life’ and my mind was then whizzing through all the things that I should NOT say at that moment LOL! But anyway, it was all fine and dandy and he left me alone after that…very odd! But at least I didn’t get strip searched lol! Without naming any names, I have met someone on my travels who has unfortunately been a strip search victim and this person is the most innocent looking person you could ever meet haha! 

To me to you….to LAZY BOYS please! 

Finally escaping the airport, I was greeted by a waft of heat…30 degrees of it engulfed my whole body and infact, it felt as though the heat was almost punishing me for enjoying the air conditioned environment inside! I wheeled the invisible man out to the front and followed the signs for the taxi rank. With the address of the hostel screwed up in one hand and the other pushing the trolley, it wasn’t long before I was approached by hoards of “Excuse me Miss, you want taxi?” Well, I’ve learnt to ignore these and follow the signs for the official airport taxi’s as you are bound to get a better rate. Chatting through the glass window of the taxi office, I was immediately assigned to a cabby man who slung my back pack straight in and ushered me into the car. This taxi office was actually a pre-paid service which I thought was pretty good…ok, so they could have been charging over the odds however, at least you knew that you’d already paid and didn’t have to worry about what the fee was going to be at the end of the ride! So, sliding into the back of the cab (note to ladies….I strongly suggest you always take the back seat…not that anythings ever happened to me but I just think that this is safer plus I just feel more comfortable in the back!) and we were off.

Wow, Penang is just lovely! It felt as though I was back in Kuala Lumpur except without the hustle and bustle of the city centre. I was then reminiscing about the start of my journey which began all those months ago…8 to be precise! I was also then day dreaming out the back of the taxi’s window as to how far I’ve come! ‘Hey, you’ve done the full circuit you know Hels, you should be proud of yourself!’ Said I to um, me haha! * Sighs! Re-focusing out of the window again, I could once more see familiar street food stalls selling whole chickens that were hanging in rows by their feet (heads included), noodle stands, hot and spicy mixtures and rice stalls oh and the all too familiar street dogs sniffing around for the odd scraps! Gorgeous palm trees, outdoor restaurants decorated with a multitude of bright lights trying to entice people in by their fancy-ness and locals going about or should I say buzzing about on their scooters! Note to self, I really want to get myself a pink scooter when I’m back in the UK haha, they are so much fun!

An hour passed and I was beginning to wonder where we were. “Um, do you actually know where Lazy Boys Guest House is?” I questionably asked. The aged taxi man seemed a bit lost in my opinion. “Yes, yes….Lady Boys I know!” Stating the wrong guest house whilst scratching his head was a clear giveaway that he didn’t have the faintest idea! Good job I wrote the full address and phone number down! Then literally a few moments later…”Crazy Boys eh?” “No, Lazy Boys!” I emphasized on the pronunciations of LAY ZEE BOYS as best I could haha! “Yes, yes that’s what I say to you!” Grrr…in my sleepy state, I was trying hard not to get annoyed but after the 10th time, yes TENTH or so time of hearing every variation of Lazy Boys, I suggested that he pulled over and called someone! “Ok, ok,, I ask my friend” Phew, finally we’re (hopefully) getting somewhere. The old man then stopped at the nearest street food stall and asked the worker if he’d ever heard of the place rarrrr! I made a firm but polite suggestion when he got back in the car “I have their phone number, just call them!” What is it with men and directions, they just don’t like just calling direct do they lol?

I think the taxi man was just as excited as me when we finally pulled up at Lazy Boys Guest House except I think his was more of a proud and boastful victory ‘Yay, I found it!’ kind of moment haha! Dumping my invisible man at the front door, he promptly sped off. Hauling the back pack up with both hands, I just couldn’t lift it, I didn’t have the strength to pull it on my back so I wobbled and hobbled with it swaying from left to right finally dropping it just inside the doorway so I could sign in.

Aww the owners are soo nice! I was warmly welcomed by the husband and wife who immediately took my things, showed me around and made me feel at ‘home’. So pleased I picked this place. The reviews all seemed fantastic on Trip Advisor and they weren’t wrong! My single room actually looks like the kind of bedroom I had as a teenager so straight away I felt pretty comforted by that. Hey and perks of staying here are; FREE laundry service, FREE cups of tea and coffee, use of kitchen and utensils oh AND there is a mini music room fully equiped with a drum kit, keyboard, acoustic and electric guitars woo hoo! After letting Mama and Papz know I’d arrived safely, I quickly whizzed to the 24hr convenience store next door and ‘stocked’ up! Yay, I could buy cereal and milk! After buying my essentials and labelling everything as ‘Helens, do not touch’, I then went to bed where I had the best nights kip I’d had in a while! ZZzz…

Lets go to the beach beach

Oops, I woke up at 10.30am Saturday morning haha, guess I needed it! The good thing about the room is that it’s so dark, although, could be a bad thing because I thought it was still the middle of the night when I woke up haha!

Rising from my slumber, I stumbled to the shower rooms to snap out of my sleep drunken state! A bowl of cereal and a cuppa tea later and I was readdy to explore my surroundings woo hoo.

I took a walk around and to be honest, there doesn’t seem a lot to do in the sleepy town centre but of course a bus ride here or there opens you up to a lot more. I know there are botanical gardens, a butterfly farm, the JUNGLE, beaches etc..but just for today, I felt a beach day was in order!

Finding the beach, I took a walk up one side, then the other and just enjoyed taking in the fresh air, the ‘fizzing’ sounds of the waves caressing the sand, the sights of people on jetski’s and gentle music wafting in the wind from nearby restaurants. “Ahh, this looks like a good spot” I thought to myself. Unrolling my beach mat (kindly lent to me by the guest house) and plonking myself down, I popped my ipod on and opened my journal. “Right, I’d best get updating ready for my blog”. I must have only scribbled a few words when…splodge….hmm, wiping off the small droplet of water I carried on. SPLODGE, SPLAT, oh noooo!! Smudged biro letters turned to water and began running down the page! ‘Dammit’ I had to run for cover because a few splodges and splats turned into the heaviest downpour I’d seen in a while. Hiding underneath what I can only describe as a ‘grass umbrella’ I waited for the rain to stop or at least subside. I waited..waited and waited some more until I had to give in to the rain! At least I found the bus stops on my jog around town…oh and MacDonalds too, oops! Well, after a month of detoxing and eating nothing but veg and salad in Ubud I thought ‘why not’ ! Haha.

So the first day was pretty much a wet beach and chill day…well, actually, it turned out most days were peeing down hence the name of the blog hehe!

Butterflies, Bugs and Beetles = 😀 

Ok, so Sunday I decide to get up early and find out where the Butterfly Farm was. I figured that if it was raining again then an indoor activity would be best. The hostel owners gave me a map of Penang and also a list of all the bus numbers and routes which was fab. So, armed with my map, the bus journeys and my camera, I was off…

Wow, what a seriously hot day! It reached 30 degrees and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky! ‘Oh, so today looks like it’s going to be hot as and I’m staying inside!’ Typical, I thought to myself but oh well…maybe I could hit the beach afterwards? I found the bus stop no problems, sat myself down and popped my ipod on and waited. It wasn’t long before I was approached for a ‘taxi’. A dark skinned Malaysian man came and sat himself down next to me and asked “Where you go Miss? I can take you” Turning my head towards the man I firmly said “No thank you, I am taking the bus out of town” Finally, he got the message and walked away but minutes later another Malaysian man came over and plonked himself down on the metal chairs. “Where you going?” He asked in a monotone voice. “For a day out” I replied, well, I didn’t want him to know exactly where right! “You need taxi? I give good price” “No thank you. I want to take the bus” I gave a firm answered and then popped the right headphone back into my ear to make it clear that I wasn’t interested in talking to him. He too got the message and thankfully bus 101 then appeared in the distance. Wow, it was only 1 Ringgit and 40 cents to get to the Butterfly Farm (I know 1 RM is about 20 English pence so less than 30p to get there!) A cab would have still been cheap but FAR cheaper to get the bus, plus it’s more fun to stare out the window and travel like one of the locals hey. Oh and the hostel owners warned me to ‘watch my valuables’ on the bus as other guests have complained of having things stolen…so just have your valuables at the front of you (so bags on laps ok!).

Oh my word, the bus driver was a maniac! He was driving so fast that I seriously thought we were going to make it round the bends on 2 wheels! I had to hang on to the bars as tightly as I could! One poor tourist let go for a split second to re-adjust her bag but a 2 wheeled turn of a corner and she went flying tee hee! Her partner had to catch her! No language was needed at that moment either, all of us tourists were exchanging looks of ‘Strewth! Are we there yet?’ haha.

Phew, finally the bus driver came to an abrupt stop almost causing me to head butt the person in front of me and shouted “Butterfly Farm” Ooh fab! So I hopped off (probably looking rather green in the face at this point along with the other tourists hah) and like a Lemming, I followed them for a few metres thinking they too were heading the same way. We walked up the road in a crowd of mixed accents and languages but they all soon veered off into the Toy Museum leaving just me, myself and I exposed. Hmm…I guess the Butterfly Farm is further up, so I kept walking until about 5 mins later there it was! I did actually spot a huge monitor lizard blocking my path and typically, once I managed to get the camera out, it slid off, boo!

Wow, the Butterfly Farm was so cool and I recommend anyone who makes it to Penang to make the trip out. It’s so close to Batu Ferringhi and just under 6 english pounds to enter. I could see every variety, every colour, shape and size of butterfly fluttering about and doing butterfly things haha. Then you take a walk through the bugs and reptiles corner which of course is my favourite woo hoo! Ooo, snakes, scorpians, spiders, beetles and reptiles 😀 In actual fact, I could identify (not by name) a lot of the bugs and reptiles that I had seen on my travels too which amazed me! I then realised just how much wildlife I had encountered along the way!

I then came to a platform showing illustrations of all the different bugs, animals and wildlife etc in the world and just how different it is all over. Next to the ‘Nature’s Atlas’ there was an option to play some music so I loaded up ‘What a Wonderful World’ by Louis Armstrong and it was amazing! The display then seemed to light up all the different mammals, landscapes, bugs and plants etc in sync with the music and just at that moment, I smiled to myself and actually, I didn’t care that I probably looked like a smiley freak haha because yes, it is a wonderful world and the music carried me off into a day dream about my travelling adventures to date and made me feel so very fortunate to have discovered just some of the world 🙂

The Perfect Stranger…

After much butterflying and bugging around, I then took a walk back to the bus stop and headed for Batu Ferringhi to find a spot for lunch. I quickly found a nice place (the most packed one around of course! It’s common sense to always head for the one where all the people are at!) I sat down and ordered some chicken and fried rice and did a bit of people watching. There was just one other white couple and the rest were all locals…a good sign really because I wanted to go where all the locals ate and avoid the temptation of going back to MacDonalds haha! I also spotted a nice looking Chinese guy sitting on his own…I watched as he slurped up his snake like noodles and sipped the soup from his bowl. After a short while, the Chinese man went up to pay his bill and um…..MINE!! I didn’t realise he’d paid my bill until he was walking out..”Hey, that handsome Chinese man just pay your bill Miss” Shouted the Waitress! Omg! Well, the whole restaurant turned to look at me and as usual, I went bright red! My mind was racing with questions like ‘Why? Why would he do that? Who was he? Why didn’t he just say hello if he wanted to chat with someone?’ “Huh?! Really? But he’s a stranger to me” I stuttered…I didn’t really know what to do! Looking through the open flaps of the restaurant (which was literally a glorified marquee) I caught his gaze as he walked around the corner and before he went out of sight I managed to mouth the words ‘Thank you’ He smiled back and then disappeared.

Soon the buzz of peoples gossiping, points and stares disappeared and thankfully went back to focusing on the food on their plates once more. And I too went back to finishing my plate but I couldn’t help ponder about the kind stranger who wanted to randomly pay for the food I was eating! But then I was battling with my independent Beyonce alter ego of ‘I can pay for my own food thanks’ hahah…hmm, Penang is a small place so perhaps if I see him again I can find out why he wanted to do that or….I could just leave it for what it was – a kind gesture from a beautiful stranger 😉

Kek Lok Si Temple, Penang Hill

Wanting to explore more of Penang (and secretly hoping to bump into the perfect stranger again), I decided to catch another very speedy bus out for an afternoon so ended up at Penang Hill. There you can visit Kek Lok Si Temple which is beautiful! A huge white temple surrounded by wonderful grounds, a wishing tree and a wishing pond packed with Koi Carp! The temple itself is like a mix of Thai, Chinese and Burmese styles so it was different from what I had seen before.

As soon as I got there, I was busy looking around until I came across the wishing tree. You basically buy a ribbon with your chosen message (from the options they have on display) and hang it on one of the branches. I chose ‘Constant Happiness’ of course 😀 Then I took a walk over to the wishing pond although, couples were crowding the wishing pond and enjoying their ‘moments’ together so I sat there feeding the hungry carp with some bought fish food pellets hehe…that was fun though. I spotted a big black fish in there which wasn’t a carp but more like a cat fish? I wanted to stick my finger in the water to see what it would do…so I dapped a small stick in and ‘SNAP’ the black fish had hidden teeth and attacked the stick as though it could have been some kind of small prey for it’s lunch hah! Phew, so glad I didn’t risk my finger in there lol!

After much pottering about, I decided to grab something to eat before heading back. A local told me “If you want to try local food, then you have to try Laksa” Laksa is basically a spicy fish soup. Hmm, sounded pretty nasty to me but hey, I wanted to try it and eat as a ‘local’.

So, taking a seat in a local street cafe, the waiter plonks down a bowl of this Laksa. “Enjoy!” “Thanks!” With chopsticks, you pick up the noodles and fish with one hand and then plonk the mixture onto a spoon with the other and well, slurp it up! To start with I wasn’t too sure but actually, I started to rather like it! I believe the fish was mackerel but it tasted a bit like spicy tuna and I love tuna so I ate it all up hah!

Turns out, the owners have been running this cafe for 57 years! Yup, 57yrs of knocking out the same dish, day in, day out…oh and get this…that is ALL they make! It all became clear once I’d taken a glance around the packed seats…everyone was in fact eating the same dish! “Everyday people come here to eat my Laksa. Some ordering 2 / 3 bowls per time” The owner seemed to proud to be able to boast this as fact of course. I was then day dreaming and thinking ‘I bet every line in the cafe owners face could tell the story of how all this began!’ In fact, the table I was sitting on starting filling up as there were no seats left! ‘Wow, people really do fill this place up fast!’ I thought to myself, taking a final slurp from my spicy fishy dish. But what a fascinating story hey and one that the cafe owner will continue going on and on no doubt.

Busy doing nothing!

The following days were complete wash outs…the heavy rain was as persistent as an army of a thousand drummers and stormy winds seemed to scatter the rain like seeds leaving limited dry patches to take refuse under! “Hmm, what am I going to do with myself?” I thought…well, it’s a good job the hostel owners and guests were easy to get along with at Lazyboys. I really didn’t do much at all apart from laze around, chat with other travellers and sink a few Tiger beers whilst listening to Azlan (one of the hostel owners who yes, shares the same name as the Lion from The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe haha!) playing his own rendition of ‘No Woman no cry’ on his acoustic guitar…”Azlan, you keep missing out the verse that repeats ‘Everything’s gonna be alright, everything’s gonna be alright!’ Haha” “Ah yes, so I do haha…Oh well, this is Azlan’s version!”

I was desperate to go trekking in Penang’s National Park but I felt rather jinxed by the weather, oh and the fact that I was alone too was another issue! Hmm. Grabbing a Tiger beer from the fridge, I peeled back the ring pull hearing it snap and fizz. Once the bubbles crept back into the can, I took a slurp and then pondered for a minute or two. “Azlan, do you think trekking is possible alone?” “No. You will need a guide but really it’s better in a group. Also, with the rain, you could slip and fall or worse still, lose the path. But also, even when the sun is out, it will be too hot to trek and it’s not an easy walk” He seemed quite serious. “Oh” I didn’t really know what to reply…it seemed a harsh catch 22 situation because yes, I could have hired a guide but I really didn’t want to just go off into the jungle with a stranger either…I would have rather fancied going in a group, safety in numbers and all that.

Life’s a Beach

So with trekking looking more like a ‘could have, would have’ scenario…some kind of mass laziness came over me haha! I thought to myself, you know, you’ve done so much trekking, you’ve seen so many jungles why not just take these 9 days to do absolutely nothing! With the beach conveniently over the road, I spent much of my time there and loved it 😉 I loved sitting there and taking in all the sights, sounds and smells….lovers taking a romantic sandy stroll together, children playing volley ball, families taking a horse ride up the shore, locals trying to catch the slightest glare from tourists so they could rent out their deck chairs and umbrellas, watching teenagers fall off the banana boats and seeing the odd over weight, white balding man wearing things he really shouldn’t hahah! And trying to resist the succulent smells of barbequed food which would gently waft under your nose and turn into a seducing and beckoning finger – (just like it would in a cartoon) until your tummy would give in and grumble to it! Or watching the sand dogs (like street dogs but um, well, sand dogs) curl up and find a spot to snooze in….

But do you know what else I really loved about it all….the sitting there and not being noticed. I could just blend in and be ignored, I could be anyone I wanted to be on that beach. I mean, travelling is a great escape if you’re looking to escape anything (which of course I’m not) but there is something about sitting on a beach and watching the sun-setting while your favourite tunes gently serenade your ear drums – it’s so peaceful, so beautiful. But then, sometimes, I would feel a slight hollowness trying to rise up…hmm, what is this? Then it hit me…’Oh my god. I’ll be home in a week….ONE WEEK!’ Of course, I can’t wait to see my family and my friends but I just can’t believe that my wonderful journey will soon all be over. Day dreaming at the sinking sun sounds rather sentimental I know but it also felt rather symbolic to me too.

One afternoon, I sat on the beach to scribble an idea for a short novel (just an idea that I may pursue once I’m back!) and a sand dog walked right over to me and just stood just a few metres directly in front of me and stared. ‘Ok, just stay calm, just stay calm….’ Telling myself to stay calm was just not going to happen but I had to try and stop the fear from breaking through my pores and giving the sand dog the green light to bite! I dropped my gaze to the sand because I didn’t want to try and play a stare out game with what could potentially be a dangerous dog right?? ‘Ok, um, try and look busy’ I carried on scribbling to through off a ‘Bothered, do I look bothered that you’re standing there?’ demeanor haha! And then the sand dog curled up, sighed and started to snooze right there in front of me. ‘Aww, he seems alright’ Phew! My fear began to disappear and I felt relaxed that the sand dog and I had made our ‘peace’ of sharing our space together.

Moments later, the sand dog got up and stepped even closer to me and laid down once more to kip. In fact, the sand dog kept getting closer to me until he was literally sat by my side. It was rather cute actually….the stray sand dog, my bodyguard haha! “I guess you get lonely too sometimes hey lil one!” I said, giving him a lil tickle on the head. So there I was, scribbling the drafts for a potential novel whilst taking in the most beautiful sunset of the week with my stray sand dog. I bet it looked rather funny to the locals casually walking past too hahah but I know it made me chuckle!

Georgetown

Wow, time to check out of Lazyboys and head for Guest Inn Muntri in Georgetown. 7 nights in Penang seemed to fly by but hey, now it was time to explore the main town.

I arrived at my new hostel and was immediately shown to my room and woah…it was like a prison cell (well, from what I’ve seen on telly haha!). I’m not claustrophobic but the room was so small that I feared I may actually develop the phobia just from staying there! So picture this….a tiny room that even the invisible man had trouble fitting into, no windows to peer out of and nowhere to hang your clothes…oh AND, I got eaten alive by mozzies before I’d even got into bed that night! There does seem to be more mozzies here than in Bali so I well and truly paid the price for forgetting to apply my bug repellent that day.

Avoiding hanging around at the hostel, I went off to explore my new town! I must say, I much preferred Penang. Penang is quieter and I was also missing ‘my’ beach! Georgetown is more about the history and the buildings. However, the buildings are very pretty…they seem to come in every pastel shade going! I saw pale minty green buildings along with fine yellow, orange and pink structures, it was rather stunning. There were also a lot more tourists and a lot more bars to walk in and fall out of but I wasn’t too impressed hah. ‘Oh well, just another night and I’ll then be heading back to Bangkok to see my friends’ I thought to myself and hey, whatever the situation…it is what you make of it.

I did actually check out of the hostel to avoid being suffocated and bittern to death by mozzies and pitched up in a much nicer place so I could enjoy my final night in Penang in comfort 😉

Getting a cab back to the airport was funny, well, not so funny actually. The day I checked out was typically a ‘monsoon’ day and the rain was bucketing down. I hailed a red and white cab down and asked for the airport. I trusted the look of this cab because of the ‘This taxi is metered, no haggling’ sign on the door…’Great stuff, this’ll do’ “Hello, taxi to airport please?” “Yes, get in” comes the enthusiastic reply from the taxi dude. I firmly responded with “Meter” as I chucked my bag in the front seat. “No, no…fixed price, 50 Ringgits” “Forget it!” I couldn’t believe it. So it wasn’t metered at all then!?

I hailed the next red and white cabby down and opened the door and asked the same question. “Metered taxi to airport please” “No meter. I do fixed price only” “Well, why say you’re a metered taxi when clearly you’re not!” I was getting a bit hacked off with not just the taxi guys but just at how tourists can be treated in this way. I told him to get lost and walked away leaving the door wide open for all the rain to come pouring in haha! It was funny seeing this Malaysian taxi driver ranting what I can only assume to be bad words at me. I stood under nearby ledge for shelter from the rain and smirked to myself watching in amusement as the cabby driver frantically tried to reach to shut the door of his cab to stop anymore rain seeping in. I could then see him dapping the inside of the door with tissues before he then wheel spinned off…..good punishment for him really hehe!

A chinese man and his daughter saw the whole thing (and no, sadly it wasn’t my perfect stranger coming out of nowhere to whisk me off haha) but he asked what happened and was I ok. James was his name and his daughter was called Nikki. “I just picked my daughter up from her computer class. I live right by the airport so I can take you there” After much umm-ing and arr-ing, I thought it would be pretty safe as he was with his daughter and she’d be coming along for the ride too. So James and Nikki drove me to the airport and all for free, he wouldn’t take a dime for his efforts even when I insisted. There really are some wonderfully kind people out there…always trust your gut and go with what feels right and you’ll be ok! My instinct has kept me safe and believe me, your intuition grows tenfold when you’re out in the world.

And that was beautiful Penang! It was short but it was very sweet. However, I feel I need to come back just for the trekking one day!

Someone once told me ‘A wise man said, leave some things undone’ I’d like to interpret that to mean….’Because you can come back and knot the bits you left for they will then become the best bits!’ 😉

So farewell Penang – Bangkok here I come just for one last hit! I’m looking forward to saying my final goodbyes to my Thai pals and catch up with the movies, bowling, drinking etc 😀 Then it’s one final trip back to KL where it all began….

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