29 August 2020
“I work in the jungle”
Now that’s not a reply you’ll hear everyday. A response I got while chatting to a local at one of our tea stops during our whiz around Malaysia.
Most of the time, we were on fairly quiet, even deserted back roads cut through the dense Malaysian jungle and oil palm plantations that cover most of the place. Touring by motorcycle is different. All your senses are on high alert, or should be if you don’t want to skid down the road on your bum. Eyes scanning the road ahead, hands and fingers touch sensitive to the brakes and throttle, body feeling and adjusted to the balance, olfactory senses going, “what the heck was that smell”.
It was easy riding but one of the downsides to only getting on a motorcycle once a year, other than trying to keep it upright, is that after an hour, assuming we ever wanted to walk upright again, we had to take a break. Fortunately, Malaysia is crammed full of their equivalent of Starbucks, impromptu knock-up shacks that a modest breeze could fell. Some even boast walls but the majority are al-fresco. What you wouldn’t believe is the range of freshly cooked dishes on offer, even in the middle of nowhere. Chicken with rice. Chicken with rice and veg. Rice with chicken. Veg with rice and chicken. That’s unfair. Some of it’s curried. No, that really is unfair. These stall holders-come restauranteurs create amazing dishes every day using fresh ingredients and all but the simplest of tools. No Aga, no Le Creuset pans, no Jamie Oliver cook books. Just a flaming wok and a few pans and under a tin roof. After eating in dozens of restaurants and hawker stalls across SE Asia, seldom paying more than a pound or two for a full meal, the only time I’ve had “Delhi Belly” is after dining in the swanky, white linen, Ye Olde Smokehouse in Cameron Highlands. Fastest hundred metres I’ve done in a long time.
And then theres the refreshing tea. First, pour a half inch of sweetened condensed milk into the bottom of a cup. Add hot water and toss in a bag of genuine Malaysian tea. Stir to taste. Enjoy. Fix dental and diabetes checkups.
If you want iced tea, just add ice and wait ‘till it cools down. Simpls.
It’s just as well we’re enjoying it as it now seems we’re here through January 2021. The latest invitation to stay longer at the Malaysian government’s pleasure came through last night. We had thought our time here might be over and had been getting psyched up to head for South Africa via La Reunion. It wasn’t a run I was much enthused about. Reunion is closing schools again. Madagascar, the Plan B bolt hole if we couldn’t thrash far enough south is closed and South Africa by invitation only. It would have been a fast ride though. Twenty plus knots on the beam according to the GRIBs. However, with four metre seas, we might have spent much of that airborne.
And so, we’ve resigned ourselves to the ongoing “Hell” of Langkawi. We might even join the golf club.