Wednesday, 25 April 2012
Day 33 - A classy hotel, money trouble and a great meal in Phatthalung. (Malaysia/Thailand)
After our beach mishap we had a good couple of days in Penang, staying at the cheapest guesthouse in town. It turns out their main clientelle aren't so much Western tourists, but more of the "ladies"of the night type. Definitely one of the more culturally diverse experiences we've had so far. Not that we're unfamiliar with the idea of prostitutes, we just usually assume they're actually women and we're not really used to seeing the transactions take place in front of the building we will be sleeping in. As it turns out, Malaysia is not as strict a Muslim country as I was led to believe.
When we left Penang we headed for Thailand. Tunkles was getting pretty itchy, looking forward to beer being under $1 each again. Although Thailand is much cheaper for most things though, we knew petrol was going to be more expensive than it was in Malaysia, so we wanted to fill up before crossing the border. However, we had all budgeted so well that we had just enough money for lunch and nothing else. So Ben was to take some money out of the ATM at the shopping centre we had stopped at for lunch. Unfortunately the ATM switched off during the transaction and Ben's card was not spat back out, which was pretty inconvenient. Luckily the lady at the shop right next to us was incredibly helpful and spent a while on hold, trying to ring the bank for us, before eventually organising that someone would come to help us. So we waited. And waited. And waited. Every person in a uniform that walked past we jumped on, but alas we waited some more. And about two and a half hours later, a SafeGuard van pulled up and the lady from the shop told us that was who we were waiting for. So we waited while they got out the car. Except they didn't. They sat there for a while longer, just staring at us. Then about another half an hour later, two ladies in bank uniform rocked up. And they just stood looking at us for a while too. This was starting to get a bit ridiculous. Apparently we were waiting for one more SafeGuard guy, who eventually arrived and opened the ATM up. How many Malaysians does it take to open an ATM?
The Thai border itself was a non-event and we made it to Phatthalung in Thailand. Not before stopping for a beer at the first convenience store we came across, and marvelling at how good it feels to be rich. This is not a place where tourists come, so when we headed out for dinner we found a restaurant where there was not a single thing in anything other than Thai script and nobody spoke a word of English. We were handed a menu when we sat down, and a notepad and pen to write our order on. Obviously having no idea what any of the dishes were, we took it in turns to copy out random lines of Thai. When we eventually finished, the girl came over and looking at our order, burst into laughter. We weren't sure if it was because we had ordered something ridicuous like a bowl of ice-cream, some chilli flakes and an entire pig, or because our writing must have looked like that of a four year old. I'm not sure if we actually got what we ordered, but it was probably our best meal so far, and I believe we have still avoided eating dog.