Saturday, July 23, 2011

Week 18

Mon. July 30    Penang to Butterworth

Woke to find it pouring with rain and us very wet, so we moved under the veranda of the hut and cooked breakfast. Had a swim afterwards in a really rough sea. It started to get wet under the veranda, too, so we went and had some fish and chips in Georgetown. They were good, too. Went from there to the British Council reading room to read and write letters. We did our shopping and then crossed back to Butterworth where we reoccupied our old campsite.

Tues. July 31    Butterworth to near Ipoh
Drove to Ipoh and had a look at some of the famous cave temples. You climb hundreds of steps to get into these enormous caverns, which are all richly decorated with dragons and various statues of Buddha.
Found a camp-site in a jungle clearing and settled in. Dulcie says there were tigers and bears crashing about near us. I don’t believe her, myself.

Wed. Aug 1    Ipoh to Port Dixon
Late start. Drove to Batu Caves outside Kuala Lumpur. Again, very impressive limestone formations with huge stalactites. Passed through K.L. without stopping and made straight for Port Dixon.
Set up camp on the beach and swam, lazed about and just generally enjoyed being in such a beautiful spot. It is a great pity, but our little holiday is almost over.
It has been so good to travel so relaxed, without any sense of urgency and to be just tourists. When we get back to Singapore we have all the headaches of getting the land rover on a ship and then trying to find some way of getting ourselves to Australia.

[First diary ends here]

There is a 5-day gap in the diary now. I guess not very much happened in those first few days back in Singapore.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Week 17

Mon July 23    Cameron Highlands to Butterworth
Miles 206
Spent the morning looking around the Highlands and then motored on to Butterworth through really beautiful country.
We are camped right on the beach here and we saw the most wonderful sunset this evening.
However, we have a new hazard in our lives, coconuts. It is necessary to exercise great care when deciding where to set up the camp beds to make sure that we are not in the line of fire. You hear them falling all around and the evidence is there in the morning.
Figure 4.14: Butterworth

Tues. July 24    Butterworth to Trang
Miles 243 
A beautiful run, first along the coast and later through thick jungle. The people are embarrassingly friendly. Drove via Alor Star to Trang. The last stretch of the trip was through a national park. Very scenic country.
We started to pitch camp by the roadside, as usual, when a whole lot of villagers came out and started picking up our gear and carrying it into the village.
We thought it would be a good idea to follow it, which we did.
The headman shepherded us into a hut, some of the women brought food, and they showed us a makeshift shower that they had rigged up just outside the house area. They were extremely kind to us.

Figure 4.15: Thai villager

Figure 4.16: Trang

Wed. July 25    Trang to near Takua Pa
Miles 253
Up early and had a traditional Thai delicacy prepared for us. It  consisted mainly of fried bananas and it was very nice, too. Got away and then drove like hell until nearly at Takua Pa.
Had lunch and discussed our chances of making it through to Bangkok. It was going to involve some serious driving and there was always the chance that the monsoon rains would render the road impassable as the next 400 miles was unsurfaced. We decided to go back and enjoy a leisurely drive around Malaya instead. This seemed a much more sensible option as we had a deadline to meet to get the land rover on a boat in Singapore.
So, we about turned and drove back to near Krabi.
We are camped for the night in a garage attached to a house.
Drove through some interesting limestone country today.

Thurs. July 26    Krabi to Phattalung
Miles 141
Had a leisurely breakfast and a late start. Drove to Trang where we did our shopping. From Trang we carried on to Phattalung. Just as we were passing a little village we got a puncture. We had a hell of a job getting the inner tube back in, It took us about 2 hours.
The villagers invited us in and gave us covered sleeping space in the market and then brought us food.
Terrific people, dead friendly. Since entering Thailand we have met nothing but kindness.

Fri. July 27    Phattalung to Songkla
Miles 84
Up early to find ourselves surrounded by what seemed like the whole population.
Had breakfast, took photos and hit the road. Drove via Sadao to Songkla, where we found a very fine beach. Spent the rest of the day writing letters, reading and sleeping.
Bread and potatoes are impossible to get here so we are existing mainly on fruit, which is astonishingly cheap. About 4p for a whole branch of bananas!
Our beach is quite something and, so far, we have not been troubled by any malignant marine life, though we have heard rumors about sea snakes.

Sat. July 28    Songkla to Butterworth
Miles 145
After an early dip in the sea, on the road in a sharpish thunderstorm. Drove to the Thai border and got through after a lot of argument. It was an expensive crossing.
Carried on to Alor Star where we did our shopping. Made tracks to Butterworth and reclaimed 'our' bit of beach.
Once again, we had a beautiful sunset.
Figure 4.15: Butterworth
Sun. July 29    Butterworth to Penang

Lazy breakfast and across to Penang on the ferry. Drove along the beach until we found a fresh water stream crossing it. Did all our washing and had a swim, then took a tour right around the island. Great scenery. Went for a Chinese feed at the Hong Kong café. Had a marked difference of opinion over the bill. We won. Went to see Blood and Bones at the pictures and bloody awful it was, too.
Drove back to our bit of beach and turned in near the scout hut.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Week 16

Mon. July 16    Singapore
Hospital again for a change of both treatment and doctor. Swelling still getting worse―down to my wrist now.
Met the girls and did the usual round of travel agents and banks, very tiring. Eventually signed on in the Chinese Y.M.C.A.. We can stay here for about $2 a day - all found. It is full of interesting, young travelers, mainly Australian. Had a good Chinese meal for $1. Had a haircut after tea and then got dragged out to go bar crawling.
After a strange sort of evening we got to bed about 3 AM. Some of the others had a rough time, getting beaten up, chased by gangsters, and then robbed into the bargain.

Tues. 17, Wed. 18, Thurs. 19 July    Singapore
Time spent in and around Singapore making arrangements for our trip to Australia. At least everything is very central here. The girls are getting their land rover repaired after all. My arm is responding now that I am having daily treatment.
We have a few problems, such as finding a boat to Aust. for us and the land rover that is not booked solid for months to come. Another difficulty is money as the shipping end of things is way more expensive than we had been expecting. I have been making inquiries about working my passage but I will need to stay at Connel House for that to happen.
Another possibility is the great cod-liver oil caper. Where you wear a white coat and travel round with a Chinese salesman who introduces you to prospective buyers as our chemist from London, Zurich, Munich, depending on your nationality.
It seems as though John has enough cash to get himself and the land rover out and I can always look after myself, one way or another. Almost all the travelers at the Y.M. are waiting for funds to bail them out!
One thing is clear; staying in Singapore is not a good idea ‘cos it is too dear.
With that in mind we have decided to head away up country for a couple of weeks. We have unloaded some of our gear to make extra room and Dulcie and Jackie will travel with us while their land rover is undergoing repairs.
Sally has disappeared and Dereck left us in Calcutta to hitch-hike back to U.K.

Fri. July 20    Singapore to Malacca
Miles 167
The hospital signed me off so I met the others downtown.
We got on the road by 12 and crossed Singapore Island to Johore Bahru. Entered Malaya and drove up the coast to Malacca.
This was a beautiful drive, which took us to a beautiful town. It was good to be on the road again!
Found the Malacca Swimming club and sweet-talked our way in where we swam for ages. In fact, we are camped for the night in the club grounds ― right on the beach.

Figure 4.9: Mallacca

Sat. July 21    Malacca to Port Dixon
Miles 61
Drove in leisurely fashion to Port Dixon and selected the best bit of beach. After buying food we settled down for a day of lotus-eating.
We swam, slept, sunbathed and read, while occasionally eating banana butties. A very pleasant day spent on a really beautiful beach.

Figures 4.10,11,12: Port Dixon

Sun. July 22    Port Dixon to Cameron Highlands             
Miles 225
Rolled off our camp beds and straight into the sea to start the day with a swim. Then breakfasted, packed up and headed off towards Kuala Lumpur. Got to K.L. about 12 and had a very bad chicken and rice.
Drove on up into Cameron Highlands which is a hill station about 5000 ft above sea level. We are camping in the jungle just outside the town. It is pleasantly cool.
Figure 4.13: Cameron Highlands

Week 15

Mon. July 9  At Sea
Usual lazy time. Weather bad, so no sunbathing. Read, slept and talked. Nothing new to report.

Tues. July 10    At Sea
Another day, just like yesterday, with nothing at all to do, smashing!
Played cards; rummy and seven-up. Slept in the afternoon and then played cards again until after midnight.

Wed. July 11    Penang
Got ashore after lunch and went to see the Chinese snake temple.
John and I photographed each other with vipers coiled around our necks.
Figure 4.5: Snake temple, Penang.

From there we took a trip on the Penang hill railway. There were terrific views from the top but it was a bit overcast for photography.
Back to the ship for chow and then ashore to the Mariner’s Club. Met up with the cook and the chief steward off the Maron and got wonderfully drunk. Also present was Jimmy, the Aussie junior eng. off the Santhia. Went back on board and carried on drinking with some of the 1st class passengers. Had words with Neil, the other Aussie junior. His mouth is a bit too big for my liking.
Thurs. July 12    At Sea
Ate, slept, drank, played cards, as usual.
Some of the friends we made: Toby the Dane, Sherwood the American, and not forgetting Dennis and Ian from Brisbane who will appear again in this story.

Figure 4.6: M.V. Santhia from Singapore

Fri. July 13    Into Singapore
Ship docked early and we went ashore as soon as possible to make inquiries about the next stage of the journey. We found several leads that looked promising. We will follow some of them up later.
Made inquiries at the Y.M. re accommodation but it was much too dear for us.
Land rover unloaded O.K. and is stored in a warehouse overnight.

Sat. July 14    Singapore
Left the ship early in the morning and, after a fantastic amount of messing about, managed to get the land rover off the docks by about 12.
Took myself up to the British Army Hospital to get my elbow seen to, then we motored up to Changi Beach. I was feeling so ill that I had turned in by 4.30. 

Later in the evening a whole lot of people arrived and started having a barbecue with loud music, dancing, and general jollification. Eventually we gave in and moved away.

Figure 4.7: singapore

Figure 4.8: Singapore

Sun. July 15    Singapore
Up early and away to the hospital, as I am still feeling lousy. Found Connel House (the Seamen’s refuge) where we had a good lunch and the use of an excellent swimming pool. All this on the strength of my merchant navy discharge book.
Felt ill again in the evening. We drove for about 40 miles looking for a place to sleep. Finally slept out on a patch of grass right in the middle of town.

Week 14

Mon. July 2    At Sea
6 A.M. bed tea. It was too hot to sleep so I got up and did a pile of washing. Breakfast was at 8.30.
Afterwards we loafed and read and walked about the deck until lunchtime. By this time we were moving down the Hooghly River. Turned in until 4.30 P.M. then sunbathed on deck until dinnertime.
We spent the rest of the evening in the lounge and on deck.
We went down into the hold this morning to look at the girls’ land rover, which had been dropped by the wharfies while loading it. Apparently it had landed across a coil of wire and the chassis is badly bent. It will be a big job.
Weather - hot and cloudy.

Tues. July 3    At Sea
Passed the morning reading, talking, and sunbathing. Arrived in Chittagong at 12 noon. It is a mangy looking place if ever I saw one. Passed the afternoon in slumber and the evening in writing.
Weather – hot.

Weds.. July 4    At Sea
Spent the afternoon in my customary fashion.
Later, John and I got mixed up in a booze-up with some of the engineers. Finished up in the 3rd engineer’s cabin at about 2.30 A.M., drinking with him and the Chief engineer. We were all quite drunk. The 3rd engineer was later found asleep in the W.C.
Weather - can’t remember but I think we had some.

Thurs. July 5    At Sea
Left Chittagong about noon. John and self not at all well this A.M. Dulcie decidedly unsympathetic!
Spent most of the morning in bed, and then the afternoon sunbathing. Sea getting quite rough by teatime.
Had an early night.
Figure 4.1: Sunbathing aboard M.V. Santhia

Fri. July 6    At Sea
Sunbathed and scratched about as one does at sea. Read a bit, slept a little, and just plain sat for a bit. Sea quite rough today, great.

Sat. July 7    Arrived Rangoon
Got in at 8 A.M. and anchored in the river. The morning was spent getting Burmese visas so we could go ashore after dinner. John, Reg, Sparks and the 3rd mate invited us up to the Rangoon Yacht Club.
We had a marvelous afternoon sailing up and down the lake, must have another go at that sometime.
We were sitting on the terrace afterwards, having a beer when a great rattling noise broke out. It sounded just like kids throwing gravel on the tin roof.
We looked around to see that we were the only ones still sitting at our table, all the others being under theirs.
The noise was rifle fire over by the university. Later we saw the tail end of a skirmish between students and police when we followed a jeep back into town, which was carrying two people who had been shot, one through the back.
Back on board, we went up to Reg’s cabin to drink beer and view slides. Got waylaid on my way back to our cabin by a Scots couple who insisted that we go back with them and drink more beer. It’s a hard life!

Sun. July 8    Rangoon
Wet morning so we stayed on board. Staggered ashore after lunch and made our way to the Shwei Dagon Pagoda, which is also known as the golden pagoda on account of its being covered in fine gold leaf.
The whole area was interesting as there were lots of smaller temples and pagodas, with people coming and going all the time. Bought a new pair of straps for my ying-tongs after a lot of bargaining.
Figure 4.2: Rangoon

Figure 4.3: Shwei Dagon Pagoda. Photo by John Ireland

Figure 4.4: Shwei Dagon Pagoda