Arrived in Penang after setting off a tiring 28 hours ago. I have been assured that it will take less than 45mins to get to the hotel, and that elusive soak in the bath! As I set foot out of the airport, the first thing you notice is a peculiar aroma that pervades the air wherever you go in Malaysia and Indonesia outside the cities. It is a mix of heat, durian fruit and rokok, and once you have been here and smelled it, then you instantly associate the smell with the Far East.
Durian fruit is the Eastern version of Marmite – known as the King of Fruits, you either love it or hate it. Some people regard the durian as fragrant; others find the aroma overpowering and offensive. The smell evokes reactions from deep appreciation to intense disgust, and has been described variously as almonds, rotten onions, turpentine and gym socks.Most shopping malls refuse to stock it at all, as the fruit odour is so pungent that you begin to smell it a good 5 minutes before you even see it! Animals can detect the smell of the Durian up to half a mile away.
The Rokok are the local cigarettes, and even for a confirmed non-smoker as myself, the intense flavoursome mix of cinnamon, cloves, dark chocolate and smoky woods has a pleasurable aroma. You dont even need to get too close to the actual smoke vapour as the whole atmosphere is pervaded.
I have been watching Nothing to Declare in readiness for my trip – a ‘behind the scenes’ show of customs in Australia, and as I walked through the green lane, I could see people lined up with open suitcases and rows of packet foods ready to be confiscated. You’d have to be mad to try and smuggle anything into the country here and to be fair, they do give you fair warning on the plane – our captain told us as we landed that any drug trafficking automatically receives the death penalty! Well, that was enough to persuade me that the free peanuts I hadn’t eaten could stay on the airplane and so I fished them out of the pocket of my handbag and left them firmly on the seat tray!
I slept really well, the bed is very hard, just fine for my back! Woke up to the sound of rain lashing against the window, and sure enough a storm was rolling in….but its hard to feel hard done to – I can just make out the vague shape of a mountain range across the sea vista…..the sound of the sea crashing onto the beach below my window is a sound to savour no matter how wet and wild the weather outside.
I think its time to don a loaned sou’wester and go for a wild n windy walk!
I saw a lizard! I swear it was one of the komodo types, properly swaggering in the distance, but the moment I tried to find it amongst the rocks it completely disappeared! (when I mentioned it to Wong later, he thought i had been very brave to try and find it, brave warrior woman that i am!)
Tonight was a litte surreal, we started off with a trip to the Hard Rock cafe for our evening meal – which was fine in its own way, quiet though, and they sat us underneath Noel Gallaghers guitar, I mean come on, I’ve only just left Manchester – at least give me an American…. but hey ho, they did make an amazing Mojito
The evening ended with Nat n I waltzing on the dance floor to Pitbull, leaving poor Wong holding his head in his hands in complete despair!! Well – you only live once…..
Dont forget to stay tuned next week for my further adventures down in Kuala Lumpur.