“For two months, we suffered through in-your-face cultural exchanges that gave birth to a defensive posture and a subsequent withdrawal from that which we came to experience. In truth, that became the experience, the thing remembered, the story told. That experience shaped our perceptions and responses like a storm shaped clouds. Often, we became the mirror image of the various faces surrounding us. Smiled at, we smiled back; shouted at, we shouted back. When the odds of success diminished, we hid. It was, in short, an adventure heavily weighted towards survival of the strongest ~ mentally, physically and spiritually. When we stepped off the ferry on Penang Island, Malaysia, a feeling of comfort enveloped us that we had forgotten could exist. We knew, at least for a while, the survival adventure was over and the vacation was about to begin!”
Excerpt from On Our Own A Bicycling Adventure in Southeast Asia
We pedaled into Cenang Beach, a Muslim fishing village converted into cubicle guesthouses at one end, a five-star international resort complex at the other. The resort cost sixty dollars a night. Our thoughts of luxury faded in the brightness of the price tag. We made the rounds of the Muslim guesthouses. No beer or alcohol was allowed. Muslim law plunged a knife into our vacation expectations. Relaxing on the beach without a cold beer in hand was not exactly relaxing!
Salim’s Chalets had no guests, likely due to the extra-ordinary level of discomfort they offered in the form of plywood beds, unscreened windows, plentiful mosquitoes and hot-as-a-sauna room. So they did away with Muslim law. Now, Salim’s creaky A-frames bulged with budget tourists clutching beer cans. It seemed a very smart and practical compromise! We moved into chalet number 3. The two frogs living in the bathroom croaked a cheery welcome. They entered and exited as they pleased through the hole of the floor toilet. It led to the repository directly on the other side of the wall.
But it was the beach, white sand, clean, lined with tiny restaurants offering tastes from around the world that soothed our weary souls and bodies. The plan was to stay through full recuperation.
It was while wandering Cenang Beach that we came upon a new adventure. “Sail to Phuket” was posted in a local grocery. It took us a week to arrange. The scenic grandeur of Malaysia and Thailand was through the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean. The bicycles remained at ease. The week long journey would complete our recuperation. Thus, we really did not spend much time bicycling Malaysia…we sailed it!
Ellard Krauss, a former merchant marine ~ strong, wise and confident like a kingly lion securing its domain, ~ began building his dream fourteen years ago: wood, glue, fiberglass, aluminum and cloth. Forty-four feet long, it boasted three bunkrooms, a tiny shower and toilet cubicle and a large galley with lots of storage space. He and his wife Eileen left South Africa in this hand-made sail-away home three years ago on a round the world jaunt, but have been stuck in Thai-Malaysian waters for the last three months.
“No particular reason to move on,”Ellard says. “It’s lovely here.”
“Lankawai beach faded to our stern; a sprinkling of tiny upright islands loomed ahead, silhouetted in the rising sun like great lone trees on a vast prairie. For six hours, we glided through a kaleidoscope of colors. Deep rich dark blue, the Andaman Sea rolled beneath our hull, toward the see-through turquoise of the shallows that lapped against the bright white sand beaches. Prolific tropical foliage smothered the mountainous islands in almost-black green, fresh and shiny new green and translucent yellow-green. The sun shone like through the leaves like twinkling stars. A polarized blue sky wrapped around the scene like a mammoth awning.
Ellard heaved to and lowered the sails in lee of a long finger-like island covered in soft white sand. We stretched our legs along its pristine shoreline, examining a world that appeared untouched by man. Only the receding tide had left evidence of its presence: a line of pulverized seashells just heavy enough to resist leaving. Our footprints would stay only as long as it took a soft breeze to blow them into ripples.”
Excerpts from On Our Own A Bicycling Adventure in South East Asia
By Anne & Mike Poe
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