Mak Long Teh’s Guest House
(behind the mangroves)
1st March 1986
And so, I’m further south, towards Singapore and the equator, Auckland with a 23 hour stopover, and finally Fiji with an international date. I’ve nearly achieved the ultimate goal of my travels; I said I’d visit E. somehow, sometime, and I’ve nearly made it.
An obvious question is whether I would have attempted this year if I’d had any concept of what it would entail. This last week has shown the correlation between ‘travail’ and ‘travel’. Now, this week I have come to realise that they have a common etymology with ‘trivial’, a word which came about because, according to the Reader’s Digest, Romans exchanged small talk at the junction of three roads: tri via.
When entering Malaysia, for the first time on my travels, my luggage was inspected by the Customs, albeit cursorily, . That night I got bitten by a monkey and my money was stolen by a polite 54 year old Englishman while I was in hospital.
Today, while still suffering the after effects of that episode, tender testicles – my monkey glands, a goat, so idyllically wandering around the huts here, climbed on my table, finished off my lunch and in so doing knocked my camera to the ground. That seems to now have a short-circuit resulting in a permanently switched on light meter.
Finally, I hope, my left ankle gave way for the umpteenth time while I was strolling around the area and is once again sore and swollen.
A catalogue of woes. As an Englishman I first saw in Kuala Trengganu limping after falling in a storm drain has just asked me: why travel?
Maybe because travellers have a bond. The club first joined in Kota Bahru, then expanded in Dungan, has come together here. Yep, the gang’s all here.
Today I hitch-hiked for the first time; it was only about 50kms and I could have taken a bus. Instead I chatted about tourism with a motel owner and nothing very much, due to our language barrier, with two speed merchants who brought me literally to the door.
Each day is different,, but I’m now looking forward to a little uniformity: a regular bed and access to a kitchen. In short, I need a home because I need a holiday.
Tuesday (?) 4th March
The weather here has been uniformly English for the past three days: grey and wet. Even though this makes a change – a European can have too much sun and heat, it is beginning to to somewhat disturbing. A heavy downpour on a corrugated iron roof is not very conducive to smooth slumbering.
Mealtimes are therefore key focal points of our days. With Granny’s fine home cooking eaten at communal long tables and copious amounts of tea and coffee to follow, we travellers are beginning to stray from the regular conversational paths of recommended routes and rates of exchange.
Last night, an American teacher of sports on a three month sabbatical was rash enough to comment that unemployment was the fault of the unemployed, after all, they can always uproot themselves. That was naturally an attitude which is anathema to the rest of us for whom an elements of choice in choosing personal paths is paramount.
So, for a while resentments over the siting of Cruise missiles in foreign lands, Coca-Cola and other aspects of American imperialism surfaced, albeit politely, and national allegiances were reinforced.
Given better weather, we would have had sunnier dispositions.
– Mak Long Teh was the pioneer, so her Guest House has been the subject of an academic thesis (in bhs. Malay): download. I recall that a regular guest was an accountant who’d leave his home in Kuantan in order to work in peace, with regular meal times.
– According to John Brunton, the delights of Cherating remain relatively unchanged. Other websites suggest that more upmarket tourists are now catered for.