East Malaysia (1)

Lan’s Guest House
Kuala Dungan,
28th February 1986

It is pleasurably surprising here in East Malaysia. No “hey you”, and “hellos’ are accompanied with a welcoming smile. A little school girl on her way home by rickshaw called out “Hello Darling.” It may have been her only English, but it made me smile.

The pursuit of wealth seems to be a west coast stricture. To be sure, there are fine tropical beaches on both coasts, and there are high rises in Kuala Terengganu. Oil has contributed to increased wealth on this coast, but there are no major ports for sea or air.  It isn’t possible to ‘drop in’ to East Malaysia* as it is to Kuala Lumpur and Penang to the west, and Singapore to the south. So travellers are necessarily more adventurous. We’ve already been to other places, seen other lifestyles and cultures.

A little club seems to be forming. Here, everyone, first met in Kota Bharu, is heading south We may have a limited time available, flights to catch, but we’re still travelling easy. There’s no need to rush on an overnight air-con bus. There’s no dependence either on on Lonely Planet because we network details of interesting places to stay. And it was Mummy Hitec who turned us on to this place.

Lan inherited from his grandmother a large beach-side wooden house on stilts with a corrugated iron roof which was surplus to his living needs. It has only just joined the travellers circuit, and I was just the 14th person to register – $4 inc. free tea and coffee. Already one can detect a growing ambiance. Although the beds aren’t as comfortable as the sofa, the chance to play carrom, a table board game which is a cross between shove-ha’penny and pool, the never ending cups of Lorry brand tea (lightly perfumed and refreshing) and the overall friendliness of neighbours and local youth, should make Lan’s a regular watering hole for years to come.

It’s a pity that the afternoon winds are preventing an afternoon of fishing: yesterday the boat capsized. Today, the house shakes so, being a Friday, the Muslim Sunday, life is laid back. The diary gets written, tapes and carrom are played.

*It is now: there’s a newish airport at Kuala Terengganu.


About Jakartass

A Brit Abroad
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