Malaysia 1995

Malaysia Trip Summer 1995

Courier Run to Bangkok

By Julius L. Heinis, Florida

Getting ready: First thing of course is to buy an airline ticket and then catch the plane In my case I needed to get from Tallahassee, Florida up to New York.

I did this by flying my plane to a place called Kupper, New Jersey where I could park the plane. From there a pilot gave me a ride to New Brunswick, N.J. where I took the train to New York. My son Steve was there to help me go by subway to his apartment in Jamaica, N.Y.

I stayed there one day and then took public transportation to Kennedy. After waiting quite a while, I boarded Northwest Airlines for Tokyo. It was a long trip, and I changed there for Bangkok.

Bangkok, Thailand: It was near midnight when I finally got there. Customs presented no problem. I then changed 100 $ travelers check into Bahts. This was in a big hall where I was soon surrounded by people wanting to sell me a hotel room, and taxidrivers. Being so late, I was discouraged from taking a cheap room downtown. Each taxidriver I talked to quoted 400 Bahts, and when I offered 200 B, they walked away. Finally, being very tired, I paid 1500 B for a room at the Jumbo hotel. A taxidriver took me there for 400 B. I was frustrated that he knew no English and could not explain to me in which direction Bangkok was. Well, the hotel was nice, airconditioned, TV and all.

Next morning I discovered that breakfast was not included in the 1500 B. I then took bus 52, wanting to go to Kasetsart University. Nobody on the bus could talk English and understand me.

After a long time I noticed something that might have been KU in the middle of lots of buildings. But by that time, I just wanted to go back to the Jumbo hotel and get out of town. Returning to the hotel without help, and nobody could read my scribbling, I nearly panicked.

Bangkok

First rule is to have the exact location in writing before stepping out. Luckily I found the hotel. It was close to the Laiksi railroad station.

I packed my bag and wanted to take the train from Laiksi to Hualumphong Railroad station. It would have cost only 5 B and would have been much faster, but the hotel manager offered to drive me to the station. I could not understand that he wanted 500 B for the 3 hour trip in heavy, heavy, smoggy traffic. I had to pay.

I got to the station on time, though. I purchased a sleeper ticket for Butterworth, Malaysia for 676 B and found my seat (12- 21). My wagon was not air-conditioned, but I managed. It took 23 hours to reach Butterworth. On the train I met people from Italy, Australia, even a Swiss couple. I rather enjoyed the trip.

Malaysia: The train arrived in Butterworth around 1 pm, pretty much on schedule. I started walking and met the Australian who was in the train next to me. It was rather close to the ferry, and we paid 1R for the round trip. After 15 or so minutes we arrived in Georgetown, avoiding taxi drivers and walked till we found a guesthouse (Tye Ann at Lebuh Chulia) where we checked in for 6 R. We unloaded the bags and walked through town. A market was in progress where one could buy all sorts of things from a T-shirt to food. After having a Carlsberg beer across the street from the guesthouse, I turned in. During the night it rained a bit.

Penang: Next morning I wanted to take a bus-tour around the island, but it was sold out. So the Australian lady and I took bus 93 to Teluk Bahang at the northern tip of the island. There we had a Seven-up but could not leave our bags in the Chinese restaurant. So we walked to the beach where we put on our swimming suits and swam in the Indian Ocean. It was nice. Later we found a water hose for a shower. Around the corner was a cultural center. From outside we could see some Malaysian dancers performing in colorful dresses. CultureCenter

Eventually we got to another restaurant for beer and coke. We waited for bus No. 66 to continue the island tour, but instead there was a bus 67 which we let pass, thus missing to circle the island. When the regular bus (93) came, we went back to Georgetown.

Now I wanted to see the botanical garden. We took bus No. 10 for that. The garden was nice with beautiful orchids, palms, tropical trees and shrubs. I soon got tired and had to sit. At this time a good-sized band of monkeys came. Park visitors gave them peanuts etc. It was almost dark when we took the bus back to town, passing by Fort Cornwallis.

Train to Kuala Lumpur: Late at night we took the ferry back to the Butterworth train station and went to Kuala Lumpur. The train was very cold, and it took 6 hours to get there. We arrived at about 6:15 am and it was pitch black, so we did not admire the interesting moorish architecture of the train station. Walking at night in a very strange city with few people knowing English to show us to the Puda Raya bus terminal was a problem. It was daylight when we arrived. Crossing the street was difficult due to traffic.

The Australian wanted to go to Malakka, while I wanted to go to Serdang. So we lost each other. The bus station was awfully crowded. I got on my bus (109) and rode it till the bus driver, after circa 1/2 hour, indicated this was it. It was a large Moslem type of building, Pertanian University.

Tropical Fruit Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, Singapore, Johor Bahru to Kuantan: Tropical Fruit: At the Moslem Pertanian University I only saw 2 women. One of them asked me to get out of my shoes. (Conclusion, wear shoes that you easily can get out of in Moslem areas.) A young man came and he had a portable phone which allowed us to contact Dr, Khalin. He soon came with a car and took me to MARDI's guest house. After depositing my large bag, Khalin took me to a place to eat and change money.

Then he took me to the agricultural experimental farm. He showed my starfruit (carambola) which grow real well and tasted very good (not sour like I had in Florida). Most fruit had a brown bag wrapped around it to prevent damage by fruit flies. At the same time there were many small, pink flowers on these bushy small trees. Next we saw Soursop and other members of the Anonaceae family. Khalid said they taste good, but the fruit set was rather small.

Soursop

There were also some Durian trees with large fruit hanging down from ca 20 cm long stems. They were not ripe, though. (I tasted a Durian later, but did not care for it! Locals, though cherish Durians.)

Jackfruit

Jackfruit also grow on trees. They are very large, 50 cm long and about 20 in diameter. You eat the flesh around the seeds, and it wasn't too bad. Many trees were dying, starting with some wilted branches. Khalid asked me to find out what to do about this, and I told them I'll check with fellow plant pathologists at Oregon State and in Florida. There also was a nice plantation of papayas.

Other tropical fruit I saw and tasted were rambutan, which looks like a red-brown capsule of about 5 cm in length. You break the thick skin and eat the white pulp inside.

Fruit

There are also pummelo and other citrus. Surprisingly oranges and other citrus don't grow so well. They seem to prefer Florida and other areas where it is less hot the year-round.

Mangosteen is another preferred fruit. I tasted a small piece of one. They seemed to ripen in July-August, and I was there just a bit too early. Mango are more oblong than the Florida varieties I know. They are not as colored, yellow to greenish when eaten. Watermelon, bananas, pineapple are also grown. In the mountainous regions, I was told there are even apples. - I mean real apples, not just the Malay apple which is quite different.

Next morning at 5:10 I heard Muslim prayer-songs over the loud-speaker. This is the same all over Malaysia, several times a day, including late in the evening. It lasts 1/4 to 1/2 hour.

After I had breakfast Khalid came back and showed me some more interesting agricultural experiments and also a nursery. In the afternoon, I gave a talk and presented some slides to a group of researchers.

Malacca: I would have liked to see more horticultural stuff, but Wednesday was a religious holiday and MARDI was closed. So a chauffeur drove me from Serdang to Kuala Lumpur (ca 1/2 hr) to the Punta Raya bus station, where I bought a ticket to Malacca. The terminal was very crowded, bus smoke and noise was barely bearable. My ticket cost 6.50 R. The bus finally took off at 10:30. The road was very nice with lots of flowering shrubs in the center lane and on the sides. We passed through mostly country with lots of oil-palm and rubber-tree plantations.

After 1 1/2 hours we reached Malacca (spelling varies!) I wanted to walk to the ocean and eat my lunch. But I could not reach it on foot. So I walked back to the city where I saw an antique Portuguese ship which served as museum. There were also many nice red Dutch buildings I saw.

For the night I found a room in the Hostel Temasik for 15 R. It suited me fine, no problems. I walked a bit more in the 90 degree heat, and my feet got very tired and blistery.

Singapore: Next morning I caught the 9 am bus to Singapore. The road, again, was excellent, and I particularly enjoyed seeing blooming Bougainvilleas, Plumeria, Allamanda and others. Midway, the bus stopped at Patu Pelat. I bought a Sprite and some biscuits. Toilets cost 20 c all over Malaysia and are holes in the ground.

We went through Malaysian and Singapore customs without trouble (Non Malaysian and Singaporans have separate, less crowded gates to go through). The bus then drove on to the Singapore bus terminal. There was a street money changer and I changed 20 $ travelers check. This gave me 60 c which allowed me to take the bus downtown. I got out near the YMCA which charges 85 S$/night and decided to stay in the Bencoolen House for 35 S$/night. I had my own room with balcony to see part of the city, a TV and felt OK with a fan but no air conditioner.

From there I walked to Raffles shopping center. There I exchanged some more money at an official Money Changer (Banks close at around 3 pm!). I treated myself to a full meal at a Japanese restaurant. It was Beef Stroganoff with tea and cold water. -I always was very thirsty.

Me and Merlin

I bought an Anchor beer and sat on a nice bench for awhile. A German tourist shared the bench with me - and he also had a beer. In this park I also saw a very tall monument put up by Japanese as war-memorial for the civilian who died during the Japanese occupation 1942-45. Back at the guesthouse I discovered blisters on my feet!

Botanical Garden: Next morning after 8 am I walked across a couple of streets to the YMCA where I caught airconditioned bus 106 and paid 60 c, exact change is required in Singapore. I rode to the botanical garden and stopped for a coffee. Later I bought 2 soft drinks @ S$1.50, while water was 2.-S$.

The garden is really beautiful. There were huge trees forming a jungle, beautiful water lilies etc. Most fantastic was the orchid garden. Flowers were magnificent. An expansion of this was built but not yet open to visitors. There were lots of Japanese tourists with signs on their clothes. They enjoyed it. After walking and being real tired, I took bus 106 back to the Bencoolen House. I laid on my bed for a couple of hours, then walked back to the Raffle Center, where I knew there were some cold water fountains, and the place was cool. For supper I ate a Chinese kind of spaghetti with small shrimps and had a 7-up.

Singapore-Johor Bahru: I left Bencoolen House at about 7:30 am and walked on the same street to Rocher Road, turned left one block and got on bus 170 for 1 S$. At the border people had to get out of the bus and walk through customs, first Singapore, then Malaysia. It was crowded. Somehow I got back on a different bus and ended up at the Johor Bahru bus terminal. There I asked 2 places for a ticket to Kuantan, but buses were already full. Luckily, at the 3rd place I got a ticket for a 10:30 pm departure.

So I walked into town to the Sultan's Palace. Next to it was a modern shopping Mall. This was a good place to rest. I went to Dunkins Doughnut and bought doughnuts, coffee and orange juice. Later I bought more 7-ups, pineapple juice, Pepsi and an ice- cream cone. Boy was I thirsty.

Several times I run into Adi, a young Indonesian. He said he was going for a swim, and I walked down to the straight of Singapore with him. I could barely understand, and I got real tired walking 2 or 3 miles in great heat. But we got to the water where lots of people were playing in the water. I went in, too -while Adi said he come later, he wanted to use the prayer room first. I swam a bit to get wet, but thought the water was not very clean and did not go back. I sat and rested near an umbrella where an Indian family was sitting. The man offered me some Indian bread and even a soft drink. That was very nice.

After Adi came and swam, I stayed a bit longer then walked back to the shopping mall. There were a lot of shops to see, including some shoe stores. I thought I should use my Visa or Master Card to buy some gym shoes, since me feet hurt so much. But I needed size 12, and this size was unavailable in Malaysia. (I checked several stores in Kuala Lumpur, but only back in New York was I able to buy size 12 gym shoes - "Made in Thailand" of all places!). Talking was always a problem, English is not well understood and spoken. The mall also had an interesting aquarium with most colorful fish and corals.

After 9 pm or so, I slowly walked to the bus terminal and waited. Lots of stands offered hamburgers, softdrinks, fruit juices, etc. So I bought another Pepsi. Lots of busses came and went. It is quite a trick to locate your bus. Eventually, though, I got into Capat Express from Johor Bahru to Kuantan on the East Coast.

The bus was very cold, and at night I could not enjoy any scenery. I put my book "SE Asia on a Shoestring" in the net- basket in front of me and tried to sleep. At 4:30 we arrived in Kuantan. It was pitch black and I had a small stomach ache. Also I discovered I left my travel book in the bus - and the bus was nowhere to be seen.

In the dark I walked toward town. There was a huge mosque with many blue little towers and illuminated. I sat on a bench and rested. At 4:30 am loud prayer songs started and run 1/2 hour or so. First I wanted to take a bus to Telok Chemopedek where turtles are supposed to be the attraction, but then decided that I needed to be back in Kuala Lumpur by Sunday afternoon.

I got the 7:30 am bus to Kuala Lumpur out of Kuantan. First there was a lot of smog. I saw quite a few lumber mills with reddish lumber. The road was rather curvy and went through some forests and small mountains. Not too many Oil palms and rubber trees were there. The bus made one rest-stop and arrived in Kuala Lumpur at 1:30 pm. From near the Puta Raya bus station, I called Dr. Locke, but it took till 10 till 3 before he came. He took me to 2 motels, one charges 60 R, and I took the YMCA for 33 R. It was a nice room, bed, fan and breakfast. The following night I was given an airconditioned room for 60 R, but I changed back on the third night there. I hardly coughed at all with fan, but did with air conditioner. After lodging me, Dr. Locke got his family and we went to "Kenny Rogers" restaurant for a chicken.


Kuala Lumpur to Khota Baru Kuala Lumpur: After breakfast at the YMCA in Kuala Lumpur, I tried to get a taxi, but could not come to terms, so I walked toward the National Mosque, and the Rail Road Station. After a few turns I got to the big park (Lake Gardens). My first visit was to the Bird Park, which was a large enclosed aviary with many interesting birds. Several species of large hornbills were especially impressive. It cost 3 R to get in. Next I walked on to the Butterfly Park where the admission was 6 R. As the name implies beautiful butterflies were all over in a beautifully landscaped area, tropical scenes, water-falls and many many flowers. In addition I saw interesting entomological exhibits of rhinoceros beetles, walking sticks etc.

Another attraction in the same park was the Orchid Garden with gorgeous flowers. I bought another 7-up to rest my feet (remember I had blisters and could not buy size 12 shoes in Malaysia!). Next was the Hibiscus Garden which also was most impressive. The Orchid and Hibiscus Gardens did not charge admission. Neither did the Deer Park that I walked through on the way out of the park. It took me about 1/2 hour to get back to the YMCA

In the afternoon, Dr. Locke came and took me to lunch, after which he set me off at the National Museum. Admission was 1 R and I saw interesting costumes over time and of different ethnic groups. Shadowcasting, weddings, and stuffed wildlife were also exhibited. After a couple of hours I walked back to the YMCA, and my feet were killing me.

My Internet-friend Poh Soon Chew came in his car with Chris, his wife, and took me to dinner. First we shopped around, but I could not find size 12 gym shoes. The elaborate dinner consisted of Chinese food: duck, chrysanthemum tea, rice, beer, etc. Later Poh Soon drove me a bit around Kuala Lumpur at night. Back at the YMCA, late I received a call from him, about e-mail he received from my home. I tried to call back, but couldn't, the switchboards seemed to be closed after 11, and I could not manage the pay-phone outside the YMCA. Since the word "emergency" was used, I slept poorly.

Oil palms and more orchids: Poh Soon came next morning and took me to his office. He is engaged in research with oil palms. One of his co-workers took me out to a large oil palm plantation.

Oil palm

I could see how oil fruit that come in large bunches where cut down with a sharp curved knife on a long stick. They were then transported to the collection station. Much of the work I saw had to do with breeding good oil-palms, selection, cleaning and distributing only high quality seeds. I was also shown an oil palm nursery. Malaysia really has huge oil-palm plantations. After my return and some lunch, I showed my slides. On the way back to the YMCA Poh Soon took me to one of his friends who run a beautiful orchid nursery. He sends cut and potted orchids to places like Australia and other countries. It seemed a very profitable operation.

On June 7, Poh Soon came to the YMCA and drove me to his office. On the way I saw a deadly accident, where apparently a moped collided with a large truck. Traffic in Kuala Lumpur is terrific. There were lots of cars, trucks, buses and even more motor or moped cyclists. All of the latter wore helmets.

While Poh Soon was working in his office I was shown a very impressive oil-palm tissue culture operation. Here clones of the best varieties and breedings were propagated. There were a dozen or more people wearing lab coats, and gloves working in sterile, laminated hoods. Some short distance away was another building were seeds were sorted and germinated for distribution to oil- palm planters.

Later Assam, a driver, took me to town. After 3 tries I managed to buy a bus ticket for Kota Bharu for the following day at 9:30 am. (cost 20 R). At a nearby mall I bought a T-shirt of Malaysia. No # 12 gym shoes there, either. Assam came back around 1 pm, and he drove me to the Batu Caves.

Batu Caves

Many, many steps led up to a cave the size of a cathedral. It had Hindu temples and monkeys, chicken and pigeons - also waste paper, were there. It is a very impressive attraction. From there, Assam drove me a bit through the outskirts of K.L. We saw interesting trees, but could find no fruit stand selling mangosteen.

After 5 pm Chew drove me back to the YMCA in town. I went to a China restaurant and had chicken and rice with a beer for supper.

Kuala Lumpur to Khota Bharu: On June 8, 1995 I woke up early and left the YMCA without the complimentary breakfast at 7:30 am. Poh Soon, the day before suggested I leave early and take a taxi before heavy traffic starts in Kuala Lumpur. This was good advice, and I got to the Bas Putra terminal on time. The driver got 10 R. At 9:32 the right bus came and Zuki, who helped me get a bus-ticket yesterday, and I got our seats. The road turned out to be narrow at places, winding and through mountains. There were tall trees all over and quite a few karst-like calcareous mountains.

At around 2 pm the bus made a lunch stop. Bus stop

I got my 7-up plus a little grub. Several people were eating with their hands! After 7 or 8 hours we reached Kota Bharu, rather Zuki and I got off at a village before KB. He took me to his parents and then drove me in his parents' jeep to Kota Bharu. He said he had a friend with a guesthouse, which was the Windmill Guesthouse in downtown K.B. My room only cost 8 R. It was primitive, but had a fan. I stayed there 2 nights

Next morning I walked to the central bus station and waited for bus No 10. It took quite a while but it came. I paid 70 c for the ride to the beach. Soon In was in my swimming trunk and enjoyed the water of the South China Sea. It was a good beach, other men came, too. Women came also, but they were Moslems and apparently not allowed to put on swimsuits. I saw 3 girls lifting their long robes and wading a bit in the water. One young man came with his 2 little daughters, parked them under an umbrella for some shades, and went swimming and frolicking in the water with 2 other young men. The girls, though, could not go into the water! I stayed there almost till noon. Real nice sandy beach, but not much shade close by.

Towards noon I walked back to the bus stop. No. 10 came after 1/2 hour or so, and I paid my 70 c. Close to 1 pm the driver stopped - it was his lunch hour - and he said he'd take off at 2 pm. I wanted something to drink, but the folks nearby did not have cold soft-drink. So I walked into what seemed to be a park, and deep inside I found a cold mango drink to buy. I did not realize it, but it was a Crocodile farm.

Back in Kota Bharu I rested a bit in my guesthouse before going out again and walking around town. It was a Friday, which is a Moslem holiday. I could not call home. I ate a bit and spent my last Malaysian money on a slice of watermelon.


Hua Hin and home Kota Bharu to Hua Hin then Bangkok: At the Windmill Guesthouse, the manager, who said he used to be a Buddhist Lama and spoke good English, gave me good instructions and a map. So I left the place at 8:30 am and walked 2 blocks to the bus station, where I caught No. 29 bus. It cost exactly 2.60 R and it reached the Thai border in about 30 minutes. At the end station everybody got out and walked to the border besides many trucks loaded with red lumber. First I passed the Malaysia customs, then walked across the friendship bridge to the Thai immigration and customs. Everything went very well, and there was no big crowd. Across the border I saw many more large trucks with heavy loads of red lumber.

I walked about 2 km to the Sungai Kolok railroad station. At the counter I bought a ticket for Hua Hin. There were no vacancies for the 2nd class, so I bought 3rd class. After waiting about one hour I could board the 12 o'clock train to Bangkok. Finding my reserved seat was not too easy because some numbers were missing on the seats. The seat was slightly upholstered, and the long ride was tolerable. This being a Saturday, the train soon got filled, but again, it was not too bad. We rode through flat land with a few Karst-like mountains mostly on the East side. There were rubber plantations, but I could see no oil-palms. Rice fields were in abundance. The train stopped at some of the larger cities. Additional people came in, nobody got out, everybody seemed to be bound for Bangkok, which was a 20 hour ride. Across the aisle were an orange-clad lama with his sister (?) and sitting across were 2 Muslim in white suits. I thought it looked good and wanted to make a picture, but the Muslim waved me off. Later the Lama and his sister moved and 2 more Muslims came. One had a compass. After a while one of them put a blue towel on the train double-seat and started to do his prayers. Then each one of the Moslems did the same thing.

Every few minutes vendors of cold soft-drinks and beer came by. Some food and coffee also could be bought, and at every station where we stopped, food vendors carried their trays on their heads and walked along the train.

Around midnight or so, I started to worry about finding Hua Hin and getting out, and tried to stay awake. I did get out at the right place in the middle of the night. Finding a toilet was not easy, nobody could understand me. It was a hole in the ground, and one needs his own toilet paper.

Hua Hin: Taxi drivers approached me, but I had no specific goal in mind and started walking, trying to find Damnoenkasem Road. It was still night, signs were in Thai writings and unreadable to me. Then came a moped-taxi and I hopped onto it. I asked him to take me to a guesthouse, and where the ocean was, so I could get my bearing. He said nothing, and him being deaf-mute was annoying. Finally I was able to get off, "money" seemed to be the only word he could say. Luckily it was near a street along which I saw several guesthouses. Only at A&B Guesthouse did I see somebody, so I talked to the man. First he wanted me to pay for the rest of that night, but I bargained with him to get the coming and the following night (2) for 400 Bahts (200/night). The room turned out to be exceptionally nice. A very comfortable bed, TV, airconditioner, a balcony and a toilet next door. In addition there was a swimming pool which several guesthouses shared. I was able to call Florida with my AT&T card. Then I walked to the Hua Hin beach. This was nice and sandy, but when I got into the water I found it to be very shallow. When I got up to my knees into the water, I noticed many jelly fish (white globes, the size of a softball) and decided it was not fun to swim there. This was right at daybreak and sunrise was admirable. Later more people showed up, and there were a few horses which folks rented for a spell. I also saw some interesting sea-life in the sand.

After about an hour there I wanted to return to the A&B guesthouse but could not find the right peoples exit. I saw many "Don't Enter" signs. I had to go through one of these "private" places. Two people were there who said nothing when 2 dogs were following me and gnarling all the while. I felt ill at ease till I got to out to the public road.

Later I walked around town, saw Buddha shrine, Temple in Hua Hin

and stopped at the Tourist Office where I got some info and train schedules for Bangkok. In town I found an Italian restaurant and treated myself to Italian fried chicken, French fries, a milkshake and later beer. There were at least two super deluxe hotels in town, where you can have a room for 2,825 to 22,990 Bahts (I paid 200 B!).

The hotel Sofitel Central was nicely landscaped with topiary art (plants trimmed in the shape of elephants, rhinoceros, and other creatures). Other meals I had in Hua Hin were Chinese rice and beer. On a stilted building I had "Golden Shrimp" and beer. It was good, but I had a hell of a time to get salt. People just could not understand "salt", and I was brought vinegar, steak sauce etc. before I got a salt shaker. There were many more restaurants, Swiss, Italian, Chinese, etc. as well as lots of guesthouses. 200 B seemed to be the going rate for a room. On the way back to the A&B I saw a Chinese photographer and brought him my 4 exposed colorfilms. I was able to pick up the photos, and they did an excellent job, even putting the pictures in a small album. It cost me 500 B.

At the Tourist Office I got some information on seeing Khao Takinab. After waiting for a bus (or was it a passenger pickup truck?) I ended up getting on a moped-taxi. It was a nice ride for perhaps 15 miles. We came to a large rock with lots of Buddhist buildings, gorgeous Bougainvillea, Plumeria (Frangipani) etc. The ocean there looked beautiful. It was hot, and I bought 2 Pepsis from the Lama there. There were no postcards or T-shirts! After the taxi man and I each drunk the Pepsi, we road back to Hua Hin on the moped. I saw a couple more Buddhist shrines on the hills. In town I needed to change 100 B which the lady in the restaurant did. She said, I should pay only 40 B, not 60 like the driver wanted. So I paid 50 B, and he was a bit mad. Then I had a coffee. Nearby was a telephone central where I could make a call to Bangkok, also a post office where I could mail a couple of post cards.

Back at my guesthouse I bought a beer and went to the swimming pool to relax. There were a few people, some of them girls who swam. This was quite different from what I saw in Kota Bharu, Malaysia where only males are permitted to swim. One man, I talked with, worked for the Red Cross in Cambodia. He said he had no trouble there, and he often comes to Hua Hin on R&R to play golf. There were one or 2 quick rain-showers, but otherwise the weather was always good (also in Malaysia and Singapore). Back at the motel I saw some American shows, like Donahue, CNN, etc. The manager even run a video on Murphy as policeman in LA.

Thai fruit basket

Hua Hin to Bangkok: My motel manager called me at 4 am. After packing I walked 100 meters or so to the Petch Kasem Road. Soon a moped-taxi came and took me to the train station. The motel manager told me the fare was 10 B, but the driver wanted 20 B, so I settled for 15 B! I called a train man who came to the counter and sold me a ticket to Bangkok, 3rd class for 64 Bs. The train from Sungai Kolok came on time at 4:36 am. Since this was not a weekend, there were plenty of seats free. As the sun came up, I saw lots of coconut and other palms and much rice in wet fields.

Close to Bangkok we crossed a bridge and then saw many terrible looking slums next to open sewage. The train arrived in Bangkok and I started walking with my heavy bag over my shoulder. Traffic was awful. It was not easy to find the Wat Traimit temple. I made a couple of pictures but did not pay to get to see the Golden Buddha. I then was directed by one of few English- speakers to bus 23 which would take me to the Grand Palace. But I could not locate No. 23. Somebody told me the Grand Palace was closed that morning due to the King's 50th anniversary in power. That was enough for me and I walked back to the train station. The ticket to the Don Muang airport cost only 5 B.

It was an easy ride. I had to save 200 B for exit tax. The rest I spent on cold drinks, some bakery and gave the remaining coins to a charity box at the airport. So I waited at the airport. A man named Peter (from the Courier Service) came at 9:15 pm and gave me my ticket back to New York. There were lots of Japanese and Chinese tourists in groups. Like several other folks, I tried to sleep some on the airport chairs. Around the corner were clean toilets and a most welcome cold-water fountain. Nobody bothered my bag during my frequent trips to the fountain.

Return flight to New York: The airplane from North Western took off at 6:10 am. I got on board after paying the 200 B tax. We flew over mountainous areas which I thought might be Vietnam, then some ocean and clouds. After 6 1/2 hours we reached Tokyo. I had to wait 2 hours for my connection. I still had to pass through Customs, but had no problems. All I did was buying a bottle of Sacci for 24.70 $US, but I saw nothing else of Tokyo. Then came a very long 12 1/2 hour flight to New York. US customs was no problem, either. Then I took bus Q10 then 96 to go to my son's apartment in Jamaica, N.Y.

Epilog: This was a most successful trip. Being a courier, it still costs, but quite a bit less. Only the son of an airplane pilot could make the trip for less (like free)! Traveling solo has advantages, you can eat, sleep, swim and travel as you please. Guesthouses are the most reasonable places to sleep, and some can be very neat. Of course toilets are separate. Nowhere did I have problems with bugs, mosquitoes, flies, roaches, rodents etc. Every week I took a Malaria pill.

Busses and trains are excellent modes of transportation. Taxis can be used when necessary, but buses and trains are a cheaper and avoid traffic problems. I saw many nice places, but missed quite a few. Going back is always an option.

I did not like Bangkok, mainly because of traffic, smog, strange writings and difficulties communicating in English. Communication in Thailand was difficult, also in Malaysia, but a bit less in Singapore. I was told, the English some people learn comes from teachers who themselves have a poor pronunciation.

Traveling light and doing some laundry, carrying toilet paper, travelers checks, credit cards are other suggestions.

Street names are in English in Malaysia and Singapore, but rarely in Thailand. Good travel literature even with lodging prices are easily obtainable. For Malaysia I found "Budget Accommodation" after I left! Singapore is one of the cleanest countries I have ever been in! I'd like to return.

Money can be changed on counters of official "Money Changers" or banks. Street-changers may not be the best way, but I had to use one when I arrived in Singapore.

Exchange rates: When I travel I always think in the local currency since it is of no use to convert everything into US $. I got the following rates:




1 $ travelers check in Malaysia:



                  brings  2.32  Ringit May 29,95

2.438 R May 29,95

Airport, Bangkok 24.452 Bahts May 25,95

Hua Hin, Thailand 24.56 Bahts June 6,95

Singapore 1.36 S $ (Aug. 8, 95)

Plugs for my electric razor: I could use my shaver in Thailand, but not in Malaysia and Singapore, where they have strange 3- pronged outlets.

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