Christine and Chris in Asia
16th Nov 2006
More Rabid Anecdotes from Malaysia
We tried today to see if we could book an earlier flight back to New Zealand, but Singapore Airlines is fully booked on all of the days preceding the 25th, so we will have to move slowly down the Malay peninsula and beg for mercy if we arrive in Singapore a day or two early!
Today we started out well, riding the bike out to Air itam where there is a huge Buddhist temple with a pagoda overlooking the city from the mountain. We then cut back to the cable railway to the top of Penang Hill which was a precipitous version of the Wellington cable car, curving upward to an almost impossible gradient and just when we thought the ride was over they dumped us out of one train and into another to ascend to the peak, which did have simply fabulous views, far better then the occluded views from the 60th floor of the Komtar complex I paid 10 R for yesterday.
In the afternoon, we began trying to find a suitable hospital for Christine to get her next rabies shot. We covered the options in the Lonely Planet and the internet and first made a beeline for the general hospital only to find it bursting at the seams with impecunious Malaysians with waiting queues a mile long in every department and of course they didn't have the Vero vaccine Christine had been taking.
Then we did a break for a private hospital called the Island Hospital navigating the one way circuits by memory. They were very helpful but didn't have the vaccine either, but they did phone to the Adventist Hospital and found they did have it, so we set off getting hoipelessly tangled again in huge one way loops taking us almost back to Batu Ferringhi beach before we found the Adventist in time to register and see a doctor, but then we found that the vaccine cost almost $140 NZ, five times the cost in Thailand and half the cost of our entire time in Malaysia so far. So I had to run berserk through an adjacent shopping complex looking for an ATM and finally Christine had her fourth shot. Apparently the reason is that there is so much rabies in Thailand that they have entered into a joint partnership to produce the vaccine in Thailand for a fraction of the cost. Malaysia, which has much less rabies because Muslims kill a lot of the dogs, has to import the international variety.
We then went back to our Indian restaurant to make up for a hectic day with little food only to find when we had eaten most of our curried chicken breast that it was running with blood. Just as I was remonstrating with them for the second time that all the chicken they had given us was either full of camphylobacter or salmonellqa, a huge tropical storm broke out scattering everyone in the restaurant deeper in the building to seek cover from the wind rain and lightning. Although the humidity remains at around sweltering 90% in the 30s, every day in Penang seems to start out a blue sunny sky, but by around 4 pm heavy thunderstorms billow up short circuiting in heavy thunder and torrential rain as the evening sets in. The third time around they gave us some reheated chicken pieces and we took off through the storm almost getting stranded in a street flood deeper than a bucket on our fiesty Honda dream 100 racing home to swallow a doxycycline to give us confidence we weren't about to get gastroenteritis or typhoid fever.
Some people are jamming accordion, guitar and mandolin in the little eating space in the back of the SD Guest House. Tonight I'm about to go see if there is a free concert of music and culture in Little India, just down Chulia a block away.
Later: Went to see the concert but it was a washout - not because of the rain but because of the lack of a program - just a few drummers and men dancing with sticks in the street and a lot of restaurant stalls.
Later I really blew the fuse in the hotel in a flash of blue flame trying to download our photos to the hard drive using the funky connection from Tibet for the back light that left my fingers blackened, crashing the air con and power points in our room and had to then do an expionage job on the hotel wiring, sidling past the security cameras to find the trip fuse for our room and reset it (successfully) so we haven't made out name mud. They are already tolerating our tregia stove spilling burning alcohol on the tables!
Friday: Today we went out to the snake temple after visiting three other clan house temples in Georgetown. We had to ride the freeway which made Christine rigid with anxiety but we finally found the temple near the airport and after a round of confusion where the snakes were, suddenly saw them suspended on the temple altar on a wicker trellis. They reall were mesmerized or else so full of chicken egg that they could barely move. Small green and deadly like those around an ancient Greek oracle!
Saturday: Today late starting and trying to decide whether or not to struggle south to Pulang Pangkor when the SD Guest House is so luxurious - a delightful room so quiet we sleep in for ten hours, air con, hot water, toilet paper, soap all for 35 R!!
Well we failed to get out of Penang. Too luxurious, too hard to wake up in a quiet dark room and still interesting here. Looked around for a few gift trinkets after having our previous collection stolen in Thailand. We then rode out to the reclining Buddha temple. We are frankly sick of idolatrous Buddhist obsessive-compulsive culture, especially the South East Asian ticky-tacky variety, but it is still vivid and imaginative, although repetitious. Chinese, South Indian and Buddhist temples here stand out florid and artistically wild by comparison with the restrained, restricted, conformist architecture of Muslim mosques and Christian churches. Even though these pretend to some limited innovation with different interpretations of Muezzin towers and some, as in Iran, sport Arabesque mosiacs, the basic theme is conformity. If you depict anything, your head might go! A bad throwback from the comandment not to make any graven image.
Tomorrow we'll really try to get out of here as early as possible.
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