Wasting time waiting for camera repair
17.05.2008 - 03.06.2008 30 °C
After the disaster at Tubbataha, we headed back to Manila, and then flew to Singapore, to hand Alan's brand new camera in for repair, as on top of everything else, it had broken down.
In Singapore, we arrived late at night – so in order to ensure we had a place to sleep, we had booked a room through Hostelworld. This did us no good in the end, as we turned up at the hotel only to have to search the whole place to find the owners – they had not left a key or a note out, even though we had specifically pointed out in the booking that we would arrive at 2 am. When we finally found them, they were rude and angry because we woke them up, and it turned out they did not have the room we had booked, only a dorm was available. When we would not take that, they eventually said we should leave, and we ended up on the street at 2.30. Luckily , Singapore is mostly quite safe, and we caught a taxi to another hotel. They charged by the hour, and were full of prostitutes, but at least it was clean and we got some sleep.
The next day we handed in the camera at the camera shop, to be repaired. They seemed to think it would be covered by the warranty, as it should, since we had not done anything to it beyond normal usage. We then booked a bus ticket to Kuala Lumpur for the next morning, as waiting in Singapore would turn out too expensive.
We arrived back in Kuala Lumpur, and foolishly decided to return to the same hotel, Pondok Lodge, where I got completely eaten by bed bugs last time. We naively thought that they might have dealt with the problem, and when we asked them they indeed said that they had sprayed everything and there were no more bed bugs. Lies. That evening, I was in the bed for half an hour, when the bugs started biting again. We could see them crawling down the walls. Disgusting. So once again, we were on the street at 2 am, after they gave us back the money for the room. We moved to a place next door, Summer’s Guesthouse. The rooms are really small and windowless, but it’s very clean.
While in KL, we went to the Indonesian Embassy to sort out our visas for Indo. We were worried it might be problematic, after the fiasco in Manila. Online, we had only found information about Singapore, where it seems to take several working days. Here, it was a holiday, and so we had to wait a day to hand in the passports. When we did get there, they told us we needed an onward ticket, but that is standard for Indonesia. Once we had that, a copy of the passports and Malaysian visas, and two passport photographs, we could pick up the visa the next day, with no hassle. Apparently, they normally do same day service, but on account of the holiday they were a bit backed up. Next day, we happily returned and collected our passports, now with a 60 day Indonesian visa sticker inside. Excellent. We then went to sort out the Indian visas as well, as we have to get one to go through there on our way to Africa later in the year. Here, there is a five working day approval process first, in which they have to verify your identity with the Indian embassy in your own country. They don’t keep the passports for that, so we set that in motion and headed off for some beach time at Tioman island.
We caught at bus and then a boat, and made it to Tioman. Pulau Tioman is a small island located 32 km off the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia in the state of Pahang, and is some 39 km long and 12 km wide. It has eight main villages, the largest and most populous being Kampung Tekek in the north. Yet, the densely forested island is still sparsely inhabited, and mostly covered by jungle. Its the nearest beach escape to KL and Singapore.
We checked into a very simple hut right at the pier on ABC beach – although we later moved a bit down the beach when another hut opened up. It was the school holidays in Malaysia now, so the island was fairly busy. This was not too apparent though, and the place felt relaxed and not at all overrun. We were looking to do some dives, but all the shops wanted $20 US or more per dive, and since there is not much to see we decided to scrap it. So we just relaxed, suntanned a bit on the beach, drank fruit shakes and watched the sun sets.
This being Malaysia, the island was full of monitor lizards, they were all over. Rummaging through garbage cans, swimming in the small streams, walking down the beach. Some were small, but some were quite large. Always a cool sight.
On a walk into Tekek village, we also saw trees full of bats – large ones, and right out in the sunlight, just hanging there. Also a very cool sight.
In many of the trees, there were also somehuge, scary-lloking spiders hanging out.
Not bad, and we did enjoy it. However, we were both restless from waiting for the camera, and from the fact that we were not supposed to be here at all, but in Indonesia by now. So in the end, we headed back to KL.
Back in KL, we waited for our visa clearance. We just hung out in KL in the meantime, and ate the great food on offer here. Chinese, Indian or Malay (one of the favourite cuisines for both of us), it’s all right there, and then there is so much fresh fruit and juices to choose from for dessert – what more could you ask for?. The real restaurants can easily come up to Western prices, but the street food is unbeatable, and we had mini feasts every day. Alan was especially happy eating the Malay dish beef rendang – and the Chinese duck also went down very well.
KL is great to me, exactly because of its mixture of different cultures – Indian, Malay and Chinese. Unfortunately, not all its inhabitants seem to fully appreciate this fine mixture – at least, we met one who clearly does not. We were in Chinatown, buying some pirate DVD’s to make the waiting time seem shorter. While we were waiting, a little old Chinese man (Malay Chinese I guess – lived in Malaysia all his life), came up to us to chat, and at first I thought he seemed really nice – asking some standard questions about us etc. He then went on to brag about his grandson, who lives in England, and quoted us exactly how much this grandson earns per year. Great, I thought it was a bit over the top, but a lot of old people can be like that. Then he went on to talk about how KL is great, but there can be many snatch thieves. He then looked at me and said that I did not need to worry about them though. Only if you are dressed nicely will they try to steal from you. Not so subtle insult and I was starting to get slightly annoyed, but none of us said anything, and he just kept on talking. He then said, and I quote: “You can never trust a dark skinned man, they are dangerous people.” I was stunned. I mean, who does he think he is talking to??? Alan then said to him – well, my father is a dark skinned man, and he is very trust worthy in fact. The guy was undeterred – he just said: “Oh, your father is Indian, I am sorry”. Then he went on to talk about how all the Indians came to London in 1947, and how since then, East London has been a horrible place. How when he went to school, you could not throw a piece of paper in the street in London without being fined, and now in East London there is human faeces in the middle of the street. This guy was uncanny – so what, was he indicating that Indian people in East London shit in the streets??? At his point, we had to walk away, and found a different place to wait out the rain. What a depressing encounter – although I decided not to let it take away from my experience of KL in general.
Once the clearance was ready, we went back to finalize the Indian visas. That sorted, and with the news that Alan’s camera was finally ready, we were good to leave Kuala Lumpur and finally head for Indonesia.
On the third of June, after a quick breakfast in KL, we headed off on an early morning bus to Singapore. The bus left at 7 am, took us smoothly through immigration into Singapore. By one in the afternoon, we had some lunch in Singapore, and Alan picked up his camera from the store. Then, we caught a taxi to the ferry port, and bought tickets on a three thirty ferry to Pulau Batam in Indonesia. By 5 pm, we were in Batam, and checked into a hotel. At six we were having dinner in Indonesia. And that is how we did three countries in one day (in 10 hours in fact). Not bad, nice to finally be moving again. The next day, we then caught a flight to Jakarta in Java.