The down on the rollercoaster
The bus was cold from over-excited air conditioning, a child was snoozing on my lap covered with our micro-fiber, quick drying towel, and I just could not fall asleep. This was the plan – we take the night bus, sleep a bit and save up on accommodation. And here I was, jiggled by the swaying bus, waiting for Godot.
We arrive early in Penang, too early indeed: 4:40 in the warm moist morning. The bus terminal is barely awake. My bladder is threatening to burst, so I decide to relieve myself as soon as possible. “Me, toi!” demands the little boy and soon a group of three of us are in search of a toilet. Up, down, darkness and locked up tandas. After inquiring, I find out that there is one open WC just over there next to the police office. We head there. A queue. Some strange, but kind man, chats us up and I find out that he is from KL, visiting, and its his first time over. He gives us his turn and I swoop in with Miss Fab behind. The view is not pleasant – dirty, wet, toilet that has not even been flushed. The Dod whines, but I am not putting him to sit on that thing, so I hold him hanging style. He is not happy, so refuses to go. Fine! I am bursting anyway. I hover over the seat and finally get some relief. Ahhhhh.
“Somebody in” – I hear faintly from behind the door.
Then clink and the door is open with a guy half way in. I scramble some kind of modesty move and the now embarrassed man is out.
“You forgot to lock..” – I mumble under my nose to Miss Fab while putting my pants on. What is there to discuss, no more words needed.
Her turn to hover.
Back in the dark terminal and we find the rest of the family and pile of bags. After some inquiring we find out that our options are either to pay 30 ringgits for taxi or to wait for the first bus at 6am. We all decide that we have done much harder things to save $10 so far and waiting for an hour is nothing, so we find the bus stop and settle down. The girls play battleship, the new game I taught them at dinner the day before. I feel a bit like crap. Just tired, I think.
The buses start coming. Then our bus is here. We line up to get in and our turn comes to pay. “Exact change?” I hear Mr.Blab exclaim. Oh, great. I hold the Dod, my back pack is heavily leaning on my leg and I just want to be off with the bus. Another scramble, this time for coins and notes. The kids pitch in. The whole bus is waiting on us. I dont really care, I am not coming off.
Mr.Blab comes through and we are all paid up and the wheels are rolling.
Moment of peace. Not for long, as the driver must have got out at the wrong side of the road and was letting it all out on the pedals. We were nothing more than a sack of potatoes. I am sure Miss Fab was in a horizontal position at some point, holding up onto the handle. Seriously.
Then I realize that there is no map of stops anywhere, no one is calling the names of them as they approach and really, there is no way of knowing when to get off. Some asking around and we have an idea, sort of.
More people shaking in the bus.
Suddenly, we are told “this is it” and we are in the midst of dozen bodies trying to get off. The bus rides off, the people go into various buildings and we are left there, in the quiet dark morning, not sure quite what happened. Not sure quite where we are or where we are going.
More asking around. A taxi driver shows up and we try to get some directions from him. Its far he says not walking distance. Yeah, right. I will take you there for 10 ringgits. Yeah, right. We are not sold. To have an idea how penny pinching we are, we are talking about a bit more than $3 here. Three dollars. Still, tired and over it, we still dont take the offer until we have realized we are really so over it that the three dollars are worth it a few minutes later.
The ride there is uninspiring. Georgetown looks run down, especially after our favorite Melaka. My head is starting to hurt.
The people behind the counter look at us blankly. “What name?” the man asks again. I tell him. I have been emailing with the guesthouse for the last week or so organizing the room. Do not look at me like you dont know me. The two of them and their shirking shoulders make my head boil. G-reat! Just great.
“Ooooh, its you” – one of them exclaims after what seems like eternity. And then follows an almost comical array of come see the room, oh, the room is taken up by others (which means the door was opened to people sleeping) which was followed by its too early to check in and a lot of other disorganized nonsense in between.
I send Mr.Blab to see the other place I had looked at and sit down to wait with the kids raiding our bag of supplies.
He comes back after what seems like eternity and other than being propositioned by hookers on the next street, he found out that the other place is a bit further than we thought and there is a more expensive, but nicer place on the other street, but eventually we take up the offer that comes in from the two men to rest in another room while ours is being vacated. We are simply too tired.
As soon as our bodies touch the beds we are out. All of us.
We get into our 4 bed dorm and my head is killing me. My face feels heavy and swollen and I have no energy to speak of. We feast on some street cart Manchester United burgers served by a fat Indian man and bbq corn. I was hoping for some beer with ice. Did not get it.
Looking forward to a shower, I took Little B with me and we went down the hall to wash the day off us. There is not a place to put your bag on. Not one little area to set your shampoo on. I am looking around, by now ready to give in to poor frustration, and there is nothing. I somehow attach the cosmetics bag, the two towels, my pants, my top and a pashmina we use for a towel when need arises, on one little hook. Dont know how, dont care.
By now I am feeling quite sorry for myself. I am sure that I am down with something, as my nose is blocked and I am feeling pretty crappy. I am tired. I want to eat something fresh. I will kill for a big bowl of fresh salad – divine red tomatoes, tasty onions, crunchy cucumbers, fresh lettuce with aromatic herbs, calamatta olives, salt my life feta, rings of capsicum, a beautifully soft boiled egg on top and drizzle of lemon and extra virgin olive oil…I need to pause here…I will kill for it. Asian diets may be many things, but fresh they are not. Give me crunch that is not a fried something.
Achy, tired and full of whatever they served us on the street, I fall asleep.
And so ends the day when I wanted to be home and an owner of a kitchen.