Our trip to Malaysia went pretty smoothly. Sure, there was the time in Penang Airport when we discovered that the booking company we had used had failed to add our bags to our Air Asia booking, even though we had a receipt from them showing that they had done so, but that was easily fixed.
There were also wierd moments, like the sign outside the Caholic Mission Society in Georgetown advertising ‘We have Bacon Pizza and ice cream’, which I thought was a touch insensitive for Ramadan in a Muslim majority country.
But the best story was when we were on our way back from the Danum Valley conservation area where we had been trekking round the jungle looking for Orang Utans, and other endangered wildlife.
To treat ourselves after a few hard sweaty days we’d arranged to go to a resort on Gaya Island, where, while we intended to do some kayaking and snorkelling, relaxation was definitely on the cards.
The only problem was that transport didn’t really line up. To get to Gaya Island from Danum Valley involved a two hour drive, mostly on dirt roads, to Lahad Datu, where there was an airport and we caught the local puddle jumper’s evening flight back to Kota Kinabalu, universally known as KK, and then another minivan across town to Jesselton point ferry dock where we would get the 9pm boat to Gaya.
We half hoped that if we were lucky and the plane landed early, we got our bags back in time, and the traffic was light we might get to Jesselton point for the 7pm boat, but no, when we arrived it was chucking it down, and everything took twice as long as we hoped, so it was 7.30 by the time we got there.
This posed another problem.
We’d be too late to eat on Gaya, and while we’d had lunch, that was seven hours ago.
There was a little food court on the pier so we went looking. Most of the stalls were fairly tired and listless, and quite a few were shutting up early, the rain having put people off. Most were offering iftar specials, which wasn’t really what we wanted, we were thinking more about noodles and beer.
And then one of stall owners slid up beside me and murmered ‘we got cold tigah’, obviously they were going to be a little coy about advertising that since it was Ramadan, but with that phrase they had us.
Two bowls of fresh cooked singapore style noodles, an instant audience of the local stray cats, and a shared big (640ml) bottle of tiger chilled to a near zero, with two equally ice cold glasses and a little bowl of soup each.
The cost – 40 Ringitt plus a tip – say something like twenty bucks. The experience was worth much more, sitting in a food court with the rain banging down on a tarpaulin strung over the tables –somehow the experience seemed to connect with the real Malaysia …