Oh, to be in Asia, now that Valentine’s here. Following on from the wedding anniversary spent on a Chinese hard-sleeper train, we managed to spend today on a bus. Malaysian buses are pretty impressive, compared to normal Asian standards, but there are still elements of Asia in the organisation. We had tickets for the 9:30 bus, with a warning to ‘check in’ half an hour before. So we did – what idiots! We turned up at 9.00, and although our bus was there, waiting in the bus park, we weren’t allowed to board until the driver parked it beside the terminal – which was at 9:45. If only we’d known, we’d have crossed the road for breakfast, but as we weren’t sure, we thought we didn’t ought to take the risk! Anyway, at 10:00 sharp the bus roared out of the terminal, and we all tilted our seats back and had a rest. As well as the four of us, there were four other passengers, so it we were all able to spread out a bit.
We’d been told it would take 6 hours – which we thought meant we’d arrive in Lumut at 3:30 – plenty of time to catch the ferry connection. But that isn’t how it worked out! At 12:30 the bus stopped to drop off the other four passengers in Klang (about 200km north of Melaka), and pick up two new ones, and then we sat on the forecourt of an Esso garage for an hour. The driver said it wasn’t a lunch stop, so we didn’t go and get any food, but fortunately we did buy some drinks and go to the toilet. Then, as if he’d suddenly woken up, the bus suddenly lurched away again, and off we went towards Kuala Lumpur. Then we got stuck in horrible traffic, caused by the Tour de Langkawi cycle race (hmm, getting used to massive detours thanks to that!). At 3:30, after finished our drinks, and then realising that we really, really did need the toilet, we stopped at a roadside restaurant for lunch. Emily spent the whole time inside clutching her nose, because of the smell of rotten fish. Come back, Happy Eater, all is forgiven. We knew we must be behind schedule because (i) buses are normally arranged to stop at lunch time, 12:30, rather than half past 3 in the afternoon and (ii) because we still had 220km (130 miles) to go! So our great plans to link up with the ferry were no more. Eventually we reached the town of Lumut at 7:30pm, and decided to find a hotel in town rather than take a night ferry crossing, and arriving on the island of Pangkor in darkness. Fortunately we found a nice Chinese hotel (called Hotel Indah for some reason) and stopped our hunger pangs with a Chinese meal. (Malaysia is a lot cheaper than anywhere we’ve been before – the bus cost us £4 each; the hotel room cost £8 with bathroom and air-conditioning, and the meal cost us £7, including beer, a whole sweet and sour fish, and other dishes.)
All in all, not the most romantic of Valentine’s days, but hey, nothing’s normal when you’re travelling!