Monday, April 25, 2011

Recently, my colleague sent me a booking confirmation for our room for our Borneo trip. The content said bla bla bla, and it ended with a (bold) font size 12 We Look Forward To Welcoming You!! (in Verdana, no less), which gave me an unpleasant flash of Psycho and The Shining. It was too happy. It read like something from a Stephen King book. I would be slightly unhappy if the innkeeper looked like an Asian version Jack Nicholson.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Straits Chinese v Mainland Chinese

Is there a major difference? I don't know, I've only been to China once, and just a small part of it at that (actually just Zhu Hai and Macau, I went to Hong Kong when it was still part of Britain so I don't think it counts), but I sure didn't like it there. People were pushy, rude, and boy were they loud. I even gave a small girl a back-kick because she was pushing me to go into the lift. Honest to god. Did I feel bad about it? No, on the contrary, I felt smug. Yes I'm a big bully, but she was bloody pushing me! They spoke at the top of their voices, and woe be your ears if you were to pass between two talking people. Stereo surround. Ouch.

I'd like to think that we Straits Chinese, who have been here for generations, have adopted Malay gentleness and English courtesy. My view is that we are more soft-spoken than our mainland counterparts (except when there's alcohol involved, or when my aunts and my mom converse in Cantonese). We queue, goddamit. We say 'excuse me' (or just 'excuse') when we want to walk past you. We only spit when we are at the wet market, or if we're old men, or if there's a drain nearby, or if we've got a really, really bad case of the phlegm. We try not to litter. We've stopped eating dogs, bear gall, tiger penis, pangolin, monkey brain, although animal parts like shark's fin and miscellaneous pig, chicken, cow, and goat parts (bishop's nose and bull penis come to mind) are still part of the select menu. We look at goods made in China with caution (melamine comes to mind).

I'm pretty sure I'm biased, I'm damn sure that what I've written is not entirely true, I've not sampled enough of the population to know, and I sure as hell know that there are exceptions to the rule, but I'm Straits Chinese, and I'm also Malaysian, so I'll stand by my points. Also, I have this nagging thought that I feel so because I can't speak Mandarin.

I know they have the Great Wall and a three-thousand-year-old civilization, but do they have Nyonya kuih in China?

Also totally contradicted my previous post on driving. Heh.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Driving in Penang...

... is a total bitch. We are selfish, inconsiderate, retarded drivers. Most of us only got our licenses by giving coffee money anyhow. So here's a tip when driving on the island's only highway. Keep left. It gets you to point B faster. Let me explain in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1: Usage of a three-lane highway
As you can see, the right-most lane ought to be the fast lane, but in Penang, it tends to be the slowest. This is because everyone wants to go fast. Everyone thinks that they're going fast, from beat-up old rust sacks to 60-wheel timber trucks. They drive at 60 km/h and their adrenaline's a-pumping, their hearts a-racing. Oftentimes, I see one tiny little Kancil doing 60 km/h on the fast lane, with a loooooong almighty long line of cars following (seemingly) patiently behind. This lane is also for cars who want to overtake the really slow cars moving on the middle lane. However, they overtake by doing 2.5 km/h faster than the middle-lane cars. Not very efficient.

The middle lane is arguably the slowest. The mentality of drivers doing the middle lane is that they're going moderately fast. I mean, 40 km/h on a highway IS moderately fast, innit? They sneer at the ones going really slow on the left-most lane, and they sneer at the ones going really fast (remember, 60 km/h) on the right-most lane, thinking they're such speed demons they'll crash and burn someday. The middle lane however is the most efficient when you are weaving in and out of traffic to overtake retardedly slow drivers. Middle-lane drivers are at least constant, you can cut between them with a space of less than two meters and rest assured, there will still be enough space for you to do that trick.

Then there's the left-most lane, which is the fastest. This is because nobody likes to think they're moving slowly, and the left-most lane is after all the slow lane. Therefore, nobody uses it, except for considerate garbage truckers, good bus drivers, and occasionally the old granny drivers. This is by far the best lane to drive on, because even if you do encounter those really slow cars, you can still cut to the middle lane (remember, middle-lane drivers although slow are constant drivers) and then cut back.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Why I watch football

Okay, some matches can be thrilling to watch--the excitement, the intensity, the strategy. The thrill is one of the reasons. But the bigger picture is, you have 22 very fit men on the field, running after a ball, groping at each other, testosterone-charged and antsy for a fight.

I repeat. 22 very fit men. Some with very, very tight shirts. And I so love that thing where sometimes they take their kit off after a goal. Awesome. You're wishing that Maria Sharapova did that too, huh. Too bad. Don't mind me whilst I wipe the drool off my chin.

Granted, some of them might look like Tevez. One of them might actually be Tevez, but the probability is that there'd be at least one cute guy out there running in the green. Kaka, Ronaldo, Torres, Muslera, Pique, Fagbregas (oops did I spell it wrong?), Higuain, Forlan, Suarez, Ibrahimovich, Heinze, Robin van Persie, Messi, Casillas, amongst many others.

And anyhow, what's wrong with Tevez? He exudes this raw... caveman aura. Very primitive, very animalistic. Hence, very sexy. Yes, I like them that way too. Puyol, Ozil, Ronaldo (the ugly one), Ronaldinho, Gattuso. Oy, when Gattuso's shorts came off after he slid forward on the grass to tackle a player... that was a sight to behold. Also, youtube football bulge. Nosebleed.

It's like getting all the contestants of America's Next Top Model to play beach volleyball in their tiny bikinis. I get the thrill of a football match, including 90 minutes of pure ogling to boot. Life can be sweet.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The process of forgetting

First, you forget what you used to say to each other in the silence of a car, over a meal, over a cigarette. You forget the topics that ran through your tropical mind, you forget the random things he used to say. You forget how you used to talk to him, and you soon forget how to talk to him that when you encounter him again, you are at a loss for words and he would think that you've changed. You haven't. Only your memory has.

Then you forget his voice, and even though technology has made things so much easier, you still won't pick up the phone to call him, because you can't. You forget what he sounded like, his tones and thrills, how his voice would be at a higher pitch when he was excited, and short and curt when he was annoyed. You forget how sad he sounded when he called you late one night when things were still good between the both of you, you forget how depressed he always sounds anyhow.

Slowly, you forget how he looks like. You forget how he looked at you with an irresistible melancholy, you forget how many moles he has, you forget which direction he parts his hair, you forget how surprisingly soft his hair was, you forget how rough his stubble was against your lips, how it made your mouth red like you just smeared wine all over your jaw. You still remember the sort of clothes he used to wear because it's always the same damn thing, you remember details down to the color of his laces, but you can't remember how tall he was.

Lastly, you forget those little things, the sound of his footsteps, his stupid idiosyncrasies, his dreams, his favorite food. You forget thinking about how things could have been if you had handled it differently. You forget to miss him, and you forget to regret, but on bad days, you wonder if you've even forgotten anything at all.

How he smells like, you'll always remember. Stale cigarette breath and a scent like comfort.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Wordsworth under the stars

Oliver and I tried out best to wipe the deck chairs dry (it had drizzled earlier during dinner but the stars were out now) and laid down to just look at the sky. He had studied literature as well, and I was enthralled by being quoted Wordsworth under the stars, absolutely enthralled. I counted four shooting stars, and made more wishes.

We couldn't stay out too late because we had to wake up early to check in at the immigration hut the next morning, so after goodbye hugs, Mann Chyun and I went back to our room and slept. With the light on. Because I was too scared to turn it off.

(On a side note, at night, the hotel's CCTV looked like the eye of Sauron, all red and burning with eagerness)

The next morning, we checked in, had breakfast, took our showers, and checked out. I dipped my feet in the clear waters of Lipe for one last time, and climbed in the boat. I'm a sucker for clear waters and meeting travelers who can quote poetry. I loved Lipe in 2011.

So long, farewell, it's time to say good-bye

In which we make a new friend and discover that politics and alcohol don't gel

Our new friend was German, and had been making nearly annual pilgrimages to Koh Lipe. He had been on the island for two weeks, and said that we were absolutely lucky because it had been raining all the while. We settled on a beachside bar, lying down on Thai mats with a beer in one hand and the stars in the other. That was when I vomited the bile of Malaysian politics to a foreigner in a foreign land, entrenched in alcohol and uninhibited. The morning after, I felt that I had talked too much cock, and felt abashed.

We decided to go on an island hopping tour the next day, if the weather permitted. It did. It was drizzling on Koh Lipe when we boarded our private longtail boat, but by the time we arrived on the designated snorkeling spot, the sun was shining albeit weakly through the clouds. We snorkeled, and discovered that there were invisible organisms nipping at us all over our bodies. Fellow male traveler and I were stung, whereas fellow female traveler claimed that because she's a bit darker-skinned than us, she wasn't affected. It's a rather creepy feeling, you start to get paranoid because you're getting stung all over by things you can't see. Later on, German friend would explain that he had no idea what it was either, but the more splashes you made in the water, the likelier you are to be stung. I made a fucklot of splashes whilst clinging on to male traveler out of fear of sharks, which might explain why we both got stung.

We spent two hours on Koh Ravi because there were so many fishes and we had too much fun playing with them to leave. By then, we were tired of swimming, and decided to skip the next snorkeling spot to head back to Lipe.

Male traveler and I had another massage, while female traveler pigged out in the room.

After taking a nice, long shower, we all took a nap from which male traveler and I woke up realizing that we were both sunburnt (fellow female traveler said that she was too dark to be sunburnt, lucky her).

We went for dinner at a family restaurant where we sort of said that we'd rendez-vous with German friend, and pleasantly enough, there he was, having some pla-muk (I can't get over that word, it means squid).

After dinner, we invited German friend over to our hotel because we bought beer from Langkawi and couldn't possibly finish it all by ourselves. We passed by a lady selling paper lanterns usually used for Tet, and decided to buy one and release it for a wish.

Oliver and lantern

I wished for luck, Oliver wouldn't tell me what he wished for

We then decided to settle on the deck chairs by the beach, whilst Mann Chyun decided to hunt for souvenirs and Kevin went back to our room to grab the beer.

End of part two.

How anyone can get lost on a tiny island such as Koh Lipe is beyond me

The immigration office is a hut

But that was what happened to us anyway. Upon arriving and checking in at Koh Lipe, we decided to go for a dip in the sea. But genius Tan here decided that the beach in front of our hotel might not be good enough, and suggested that we look for the other two beaches: Sunrise Beach and Sunset Beach. So, we took a walk past Walking Street, on the advice of a friendly traveler who said that everything is goddam nearby. You just walk to the end of Walking Street and voila, you will hit the next beach. Bullshit.

Guy with his back turned to us, partially hidden. He said 'Just walk straight and you'll reach the other side of the island.'

We got to the end of the street alright, where we were met by a fork in the road. One side said Sunrise Beach, the other Sunset. Seeing that it was already late afternoon and we had good weather, I decided on Sunset Beach, with hopes that we might catch the sunset there. So we walked. And walked. And walked.

Still no beach. And it's a tiny island, mind you.

The sun was beating us down, we had to climb uphill and downhill past tsunami evacuation points (at least we got that covered). After some time, I saw that the ground was filled with the dead bodies of my many-legged nemeses. I started to panic a little. Then, further inland, we started seeing live ones. Big, huge, motherfucking live ones. Screams came naturally, as well as digging my nails into a fellow male traveller.

Finally, the path ended at a construction site. No more path to walk on. Asking for directions in minimal Thai, the lady pointed to somewhere down the road, so we decided that was where we were going to go. Retrace our steps, surely there'd be a sign somewhere (road signs are non-existent, all you get are scribbles on wood). We passed by a village which we had ignored earlier on, and decided to take a turn into it, walking past the stilted houses of the Chao Ley, hoping and praying that they won't machete us for trespassing.

Then we found the beach. And it was a sorry sight. Mayhaps it was due to the rain, but rubbish littered the coastline. Planks with nasty nails from a misconstrued BDSM nightmare glared at us from the sand. A few weary travellers asked us if we knew any nice hotels, they must have hiked here to be disappointed as well. So, we trudged back, over hill and dale and nemeses galore, till we finally reached our beach and plopped on the deck chair and died.

Pattaya beach, our beach

And revived and went for a dip and then a beautiful oil massage.

We had two beers (male traveler and I; the other female traveler wisely avoided drinking on an empty stomach), then proceeded for dinner where male traveler and I had another big bottle of beer. After dinner, we stopped at a pub because I needed to pee, and we had yet another mug of beer. By then, I was properly tipsy, and walking back to the beach (we wanted to look at stars, by god they were beautiful), on a street nearly devoid of tourists, we bumped into this nice looking guy, and because I was properly tipsy, I asked him to join us for a beer by the beach.

Slightly desolated at night

End of part one.