18 September 2008
Seremban, Malaysia
2°41'17.12"N 101°58'0.27"E


After the tropical paradise (and evil monkey population) of Tioman Island, we headed up the coast to Cherating. It should have been so easy. We got the mid morning ferry back to the mainland and decided to overnight in Mersing. We already had an idea on how to move on. Comfortable bus. 3 hours. Easy. Except it wasn't. There was only one daily bus and it was full for the following day. A young man who took unhelpfulness to an extraordinary level begrudgingly told Peter that he didn't know if there was any spaces on the bus the day after. He couldn't be bothered to look at the computer. Oh well, we can always bunny-hop the towns on local buses. And we did. From Mersing to Endau, Endau to Romkin, Romkin to Pekan, Pekan to Kuantan then onto Cherating. 4 buses (2 bone shakers, 2 even lower class) and almost 10 hours. We got to have breakfast in one town - of course the bus timetables (where such things exist) don't compliment each other in terms of town hopping - lunch in another, snacks in another. And all of this on mostly ancient and overcrowded buses. With no luggage compartments, of course.

We had a very uneventful couple of weeks in Cherating then Kuantan. Uneventful in Cherating village because there was nobody there. I was surprised at how few we were sharing the beach with; we just about had the place to ourselves. Of course that meant that the mozzie and sand fly population had a more limited menu, and out of necessity ate us alive, which meant going onto the pretty deserted beach wasn't an option day or night. The two mini marts in the village didn't sell newspapers, and the surreal feeling was compounded because of Ramadan - apparently most of the visitors to Cherating are local, and during Ramadan Muslims don't do any unnecessary travel. Eating wasn't too easy either if you were hungry during the day.

Things were quite different when we checked into the Legend. Still not too many people, but a bit more to do than walking along the single street and back and watching monkey's tricks (Peter particularly liked the trick which involved strewing the contents of a bin over the floor of an open kitchen restaurant). The monkey population actually outnumber the human one, but at least these ones weren't spitting at me.

I had been looking forward to going to Kuantan, probably the biggest town on the East coast, but apart from the magnificent State Mosque was disappointed with the lack of things interesting. We did find an abundance of very cheap, good food and Peter found a new aspect to massage. Last year, an expat had told us (in great detail) about the bodily functions of the lady who regularly visited his home to give massages. We were highly amused at the undoubtedly exaggerated tale of local thinking that giving massaging takes the energy of the masseuse and releases their toxins by way of a constant stream of belching and farting during the process. It wasn't exaggerated. Although he said it was a great massage, Peter said he thought he'd be sick at several stages.

Having spent longer than we should have on the east coast, we found ourselves in the novel position of running out of time - we're hardly ever on a fixed schedule but had a flight booked to Melbourne - so, at the bus station (naturally), decided to ditch our plans of going to the Cameron Highlands for a few days and head straight for Seremban to catch up with Praba.

At least this time we got a direct bus, complete with padded seats and air con. And a 30% government approved surcharge for the Hari Raya (end of Ramadan) period.

The 4 hour journey was a bit tiring and as we got into familiar surrounds we were both a bit relieved, just wanting to have a good stretch and get out of the sub-arctic temperature (air con is usually NOT a good thing on Asian buses). Peter pointed out a bar where he and Praba had spent a very long night just before we pulled into a garage. For goodness sake - we were less than 2km to the bus station. Did they really have to fill up? It was a bus, it would take ages. But it got worse.

We had pulled into the petrol station just on 7pm. I know this because we were supposed to arrive at the bus station at 6.30. People on the bus started fidgeting the way you do when you're not quite but almost there. By the time the driver had put the hose back into the bowser, it was 7 minutes past. I can say this with some confidence, because all but 3 other people on the very full bus joined a stampede to the exit.

7 minutes past 7. Breaking of the fast in this part of Malaysia. D'oh! A few people went to one side and lit cigarettes, but most headed for the kiosk or the small stall which had set up on the adjoining land and bought snacks and drinks. The driver realised that the fast must be broken and chain-smoked 3 ciggies before going to the kiosk, paying for the diesel and buying food. And eating it. We didn't leave the garage until 7.35. It's all in the timing, eh?

At the weekend Roshan drove us to the State Palace for a bit of touristy sight-seeing which was amazing, although we declined to try the turtle soup. As we told the story of the bus, he and Praba thought it was very amusing that we'd stopped for so long so close to town, but on the way back when I pointed out the garage they fell about laughing in disbelief. They'd thought we meant a highway garage a bit further out of town. And probably that we were complaining for nothing!

Anyway, by the time we finally got to the hotel we were too tired for anything, even food. I'd been looking forward to going to the Curry Leaf - the best Indian food I've ever had - for months, but I just wanted to go to bed. My feeding frenzy had to wait until the next day, and when it came it was every bit as good as I'd remembered. The owners remembered us too - they don't get tourists in Seremban - and continued where they'd left off last year by bringing us small portions of foods we probably wouldn't have tried (or known about) otherwise.

And yes - Roshan is as broad as he is tall.