1: Arrive in Malaysia, seeing all the relatives. Struggling to adapt
because no one speaks English and I’m being generally ignored.
Day 2: Ditto. Move to Thailand. Tour guide explains things in Mandarin = sleeping on the bus.
Day 3: Getting used to the food, very bored + lonely. Stopped in Myanmar, met beggars, birds and street urchins.*
Day 4: Chinese New Year. Traditional gambling over card games ensued for the next week. Visited Laos by boat.
5: Elephant Park** and orchard. A man on the road had set up a shooting
gallery with a home made crossbow, 20 baht per shot, which is about 5
shots for 30 cents. Traditional Thai massage that lasted for 2 hours. I had no idea you could draw it out that long.
Day 6: Back to KL, Malaysia. Felt very ill.
7: Strangely weak + ill. Visited my millionaire uncle’s farm and the
mansion he has there. Rode a pony and fell off it after ten seconds
trying to avoid a branch. Visited a massive Buddhist temple at night.
People were selling things both inside and out- Jesus would have
overturned a few tables, I think.
Day 8: Idling. Shopping. Paid a
corrupt police officer RM20 for not wearing a seatbelt so we didn’t get
into trouble. He was wearing an anti-corruption badge.
Day 9: Yoga
with my beloved cousin Yi Qian- an amazing experience. Seriously
contemplating taking up yoga this year. Spent the day with Yi Qian,
eating cheesecake and catching up; the happiest day of the trip.
Day 10: Began to feel sick. Spent most of the day dry wretching. Shopping + brief stint of internet.
Day 11: Very sick. Moved to Penang, where I’d spent most of my holidays as a kid.
12: Continuing to recover. Very nostalgic, getting slightly better.
Attempted to climb Penang Hill- just like Mt Kinabalu, it crushed my
naive adventuring spirit. Lots of gambling.
Day 13 + 14: Missing. Mostly gambling, reading, internet.
Day 15: Return home. Still sick, but getting better.
So that’s pretty much my whole holiday! As to the asterisks…
Myanmar, beggars could be found every few meters. Some of them
children, some of them old women, one of them with a bent-back leg. All
of my relatives cautioned me against giving them money, so I didn’t. I
just turned away; it was easier to ignore them because everyone else
was too. Looking back, I gravely regret that. Poverty in Myanmar is
astounding, and some of the girls that walked around with trays of toys
and paraphernalia just looked so desperate to sell things that I got
the impression their survival depended on it. I felt very guilty to
constantly walk away. However, one such girl was selling little hollow
reed-baskets about the size of baseballs. I wasn’t interested, but my
uncle told me what was inside and I bought as many as I could (though
not nearly enough). In each basket was a tiny native bird, trapped
without food or water. If you bought the basket, you could set it free.
I released seven, but had I only split that 1000 baht note I could have
freed them all. Once again, my relatives stopped me from wasting money.
When I left Thailand, I had 6500 baht leftover. ($1AU = 30 baht)
rides initially appeared to be a form of profit-based animal cruelty.
The driver kept yelling at it and hitting its head with a stick, or
sometimes a metal hook. I felt so guilty, and refused to feed the
elephants or encourage the park in any way. However, the elephant show
eventually warmed my heart again because they looked like they were
having a fairly good time, and it was incredible watching them paint
(they’re better artists than me, for sure), play soccer and challenge a
woman to a dart contest. I eventually decided that they were looked
after fairly well, being fed treats all day by tourists and protected
from predators and enemies.
So that was my whole holiday, in a nutshell. One more thing: Yi Qian! Hurry up and get over here. I have to pay you back for Secret Recipe!