Our first days in Krabi were spent exploring the night market (which luckily starts at lunchtime) and making repeated visits to our trusted jackfruit lady to buy inordinate quantities of the fruit.
Having exhausted all culinary options we decided to head to Railay beach for a day which involved taking a rickety longtail boat from Ao Nang. The day involved melting in the sun and cooling off in the water with the imposing limestone karsts forming a beautiful backdrop.
The next day we flew to Kota Bharu in Malaysia where we met up with my dad before heading to the Perhentian islands for 10 days of idleness. Our days revolved around planning our next meal and floating in the hot, shallow crystal clear water. Every night included eating barbecued fish whilst digging our feet in the white sand and the occasional narghile under the moonlight.
Veronica joined us for the last few days where we continued in our coconut drinking and eating habits and fitting three of us into a bed. Once the Malaysian elections were over and we had exhausted all excuses for prolonging our stay we decided to hit the road once more, or as I should say, the 12-hour Jungle Railway.
We caught a 7am train from Kota Bharu hoping to get all the way down to Gemas, from where we could catch a bus to Melaka to meet Gideon and Daniel. Unfortunately, we didn’t realise that the whole country would be on the move as Malaysians have to vote in their home towns and were therefore making their way back en masse. After initially being told the train was full, some seats magically reappeared and we were sold tickets to Gua Musang which would have brought us halfway to Melaka.
As the train meandered its way through the jungle-clad Malaysian interior we managed to get the ticket collector to sell us tickets all the way to Gemas, although Astrid and Veronica had to give up their seats after Gua Musang. Fighting off the urge to let the train cradle us to sleep we managed to take in some of the stunning limestone karsts jutting out of their thick green coat (which had been the aim of taking the train). Once the scenery changed to endless palm tree plantations we finally gave in to our exhaustion.
We arrived in Melaka two bus rides later and made our way to our hostel, run by the gregarious Howard, to meet up with Gideon and Daniel.
The next three days in Melaka were spent exploring the quaint little streets and boutiques of Chinatown adorned with red lanterns and breathing in the swirls of incense. Across the river we found Little India which had a more genuine touch to it with shops selling saris spilling out onto the street along with loud Bollywood tunes. Regular stops were made for Gideon and Daniel to sample endless blocks of Indian sweets (mainly butter and sugar in different colours).
Veronica’s boyfriend Haider joined us with his friend David on the second day. It was nice to finally meet him and hear their stories from living in Sri Lanka.
The only blemish on the trip was having my bag snatched by a passing motorcyclist as I was strolling through Chinatown. Luckily there wasn’t a lot of money in my wallet but the main loss was my camera with all the pictures I had taken so far.
True to form we didn’t miss an opportunity to try out Melaka’s culinary delights. Our days started off with a lavish dim sum breakfast where we pointed at the various steaming types brought to us on a tray. We then moved on to Indian restaurants where we learnt the art of scooping up curries and rice served on a banana leaf with one hand.
On our final day we rounded off the trip by browsing through the night market where we sampled poh piah, fresh spring rolls stuffed with slow-cooked turnip, tofu, and beansprouts.
We parted ways with the group in search of cooler climates and made our way to the Cameron Highlands, an old English hill station. After over two weeks without jackfruit we were ecstatic when we spotted some jackfruit peels in a bin. We returned to the spot the next day to buy 2 kilos of jackfruit from an incredulous vendor, who was even more shocked when we returned later that day for more.
Our stomachs stuffed, we set off to find some strawberry picking. Luckily for our guts, we were met with more of an urban strawberry farm rather than the wide sprawling fields we had been hoping for, so we contented ourselves with sampling the juicy strawberries from a box.
We are now in Penang where we have been strolling around Chinatown, Little India and the colonial district. With its blackened buildings and reeking open-air sewers, Georgetown has the charm of those somewhat dilapidated towns that were once grand, like Naples. The winding streets and colourful late nineteenth-century houses are beautiful, if a bit rundown. We enjoyed spotting original street art murals on ur long strolls.
We were lucky enough to catch Vero for a beer before she headed to Kuala Lumpur to meet her parents. Sitting on stools on the side of a dingy street we gulped down Tiger beers amongst sweaty, often shirtless, locals bearing their heavy beer bellies.
The day after tomorrow we will head to Kuala Lumpur before flying to Yogyakarta in Indonesia.
(Astrid’s camera has died so we will put up more photos later on.)