Back on the road

Today… Another moto taxi, a boat, another mini bus, a plane, a mini van, another mini van, 7km walking, more mini vans and a hired scooter… Eventually brought us to Minglanilla.

Never heard of it?  Neither have we!

I was in high spirits this afternoon getting on the plane. Cebu was supposed to be the land of milk and honey where we’d no longer need mini vans to get around and we might even get in the water at some stage!

There was a strange quiz on the plane, where they gave prizes for the first person to hold up a…

Pair of sunglasses. BAM! Dean wins a crappy toiletries bag


The safety card.  DOUBLE BAM!! Dean gets told off by the hosties

“that’s enough for you sir, please give the other passengers a chance…”

Anyhow. It turns out winning the toiletries bag is the highlight of today.


We eventually hired the world’s worst scooter, overpriced Chinese junk that makes my ebike feel fast, and rode from the airport down the island we landed on, in choking traffic, dust, heavy vehicles and tricycles jamming the streets.  Eventually we arrived in shitsville, paid too much for a terrible hotel room with a shower that literally  feels like someone is standing there urinating on you.


The fine white sands of Boracay now a distant memory, we’re back on the road again, the beer we drank over dinner has never tasted so good 🙂


And another bus….

It’s Sally here now, writing an update to our forever changing plans here in the Philippines!So we arrived in Sablayan after a very bumpy ride on unmade roads, not the kind of roads you expect leading to a top dive/tourist area! I was starting to have my doubts and getting off the bus in a quite dusty town confirmed them – this wasn’t the dive place we were hoping for!  

We asked around for a cheap hotel and where the scuba shops were only to be met with confused looks. Apparently there were two hotels in town and no one seemed to understand scuba or dive – awesome!

So we found a hotel and thankfully a helpful lady who did know about diving. After about two hours on the internet searching and some hard to understand Skype calls we seemed to have a vague plan for the next day to go diving or at least some people we could call. It was adding up to be very expensive to dive in the Apo reef but since we had travelled so long to get here we thought we would swallow the cost and at least make all the buses worth while!

The next day we seemed to have a plan. After some brief emails with a guy who had some huts and a dive operation on a small island not far from the mainland, we got on a small boat to take us across to Pandan Island.

It was really beautiful approaching and we started to feel excited! We went to the reception to meet the man I’d been emailing. A fat topless stereotypically arrogant Frenchman came out, barely saying hello and told us with a shrug that there were no boats going to Apo reef and if we wanted to go we would have to hire a boat on top of the already expensive costs. 

There had been a miscommunication in our emails and he thought we had just wanted to dive locally, despite my emails specifically asking if there was a park entrance fee. He didn’t seem to care at all and was very dismissive, where as we were totally deflated. It was way to expensive to consider doing the local dives where we were told we may see a turtle… so we got the boat man to take us back to the mainland.  

We asked in the one other place that dived in Apo reef and were met with the same response- we would have to hire the boat to get there and the cost would end up being about $500.

So we finally admitted defeat and with our heads hung we got on the next bus to take us back to San Jose where we had left the previous day. Once there we then got another bus to take us to Bulacalcao where we could get a fast boat to Boracay at 10pm.

The bus from San Jose started with an hour ride through farm land and dirt roads in search of 11 people who also wanted to get on the already full bus. We finally found them and crammed them in the van as well as on the roof and headed off… Think about 25 people in total on a 12 seat bus!

We arrived in Bulacalcao pretty tired and groggy and went straight to the boat terminal. 

Tickets bought, we had a couple of beers whilst waiting to board the boat only to be told after waiting for an hour and a half that the boat had a problem and wouldn’t be leaving tonight but it should leave tomorrow morning… Deep breaths.

Dean and I have been scarred a little by Indonesia and are reluctant to believe anything we are told. If this had been in Indonesia and this had happened, it would have meant that they hoped it will go tomorrow but in reality, it could still go tonight but it probably won’t go for at least two days.

We found a hotel room which had a view of the boat and sat up watching in case there was any movement and the boat was going to take off. It didn’t and today it left just half an hour late. 

It’s so refreshing to be clear about things and for people to be straight with you – we are really loving the people here.

The boat is clean, ordered, it is environmentally friendly and despite the prayer that was played on the flatscreen before we left (and that they are screening titanic) we think it’s great!

Let’s hope things start going our way from here on!

…. And we have made it to Boracay 🙂

From a Mini Bus in Mindoro.

We’re sitting on the back seat of a mini van headed to San Jose, there are seats for 9 people, but we’re 17 on board, including two on the roof!
This is bus no. 4 for today, and if all goes well the last one. Sally is predictably asleep on my shoulder, somehow she is leaning on me through one of her sunglass lenses, which while a bit uncomfortable for me seems to be working for her.
Bon Jovi’s ‘Slippery when Wet’ is playing on the stereo, and every now and then the other passengers join in with ‘it’s my life’…
There’s a steel bar pushing into my bum, and I have to leave my right arm and shoulder out the window as it’s too narrow for 4 of us across the seat, (from which fatigued metal creaks and groans as we bump along), sometimes I put my head outside and imagine I’m a dog with the wind running around my face 🙂
It’s getting dark now, but for most of the day we’ve had rice fields or a jungle view, scattered with small towns, really pretty.
That steel bar is really digging in, I hope some people get off soon!
We arrived here (Manilla) without much of a plan except to see some islands and get some diving in where possible… Turns out that wasn’t such a good plan as its not an easy place to get around. Especially when the Manilla airport is closed due to the ASEAN Summit for 5 days… What luck!
Hence the 4 buses, 2-3 hrs each, and then a 7hr boat trip tomorrow, assuming there is actually a boat.
This is going to be quite a statement given the trip we’re on, but I feel this is likely to be the most dangerous thing we do on our trip, an overloaded mini bus on mountain roads in the remote Philippines, if you’re reading this then we’re OK though. No WiFi here so will post later.

… Later same night
Arrived last night around 8, no boat today, hopefully tomorrow.

…next day now
3pm – Just found out that the boat tomorrow is now the next day… Maybe.
So we’ve decided instead to take a mini van to Seblayan, (2hrs away), and try to get a dive on Appo reef from there instead.  Then return back here again and further back up the road an hour (direction we came from yesterday) and then get a fast Cat (boat) to Boracay. 
Getting a mini van here is pretty easy, they park at the local bus station with a sign on the front window saying where they’re going, so you find a van and then wait until they have enough passengers to leave, and off you go. That could take ten minutes, or two hours.  We’ve been here half hour now, and while we’ve been told we leave at 4.30 we’re not holding our breath.
Doing things this way means that we’ll no longer get to Palawan, which is disappointing but that’s life.
Times like this, it feels like we’re in an episode of Race Around the World, it’s quite chaotic! Half hour ago we were supposed to be staying the night here (in the hotel we already paid for) then getting a 7hr boat to an Island south of here and spending a week or ten days in that region. Then in the space of ten mins we changed plans and now I’m sitting in a mini van headed in the opposite direction, with no plan to go to Palawan at all any more. 
But these are the joys of travelling in these countries.  Just because there is a boat schedule, it doesn’t mean there’s actually going to be a boat.  When a man tells you to hurry because the bus is leaving, you may then need to wait for two hours. Taps on walls of the shower don’t mean there is running water, and the half eaten pork chop in the fry pan on the sink, surrounded by someone’s dirty laundry, next to the toilet with a broken off seat that you need to move to get under the shower (which is all in the same room as the pork chop!), but isn’t actually a shower because there is no water… Should not be surprising.
Good times.
We spent today walking around this little town, trying to find a bank that doesn’t charge ATM fees (equivalent to the cost of a room for the night!), talking to a travel agent to get some tips on what to see and do, going down to the port to find out if our boat was still leaving in the morning, and now waiting in a hot mini van for departure.
First thoughts on the Philippines… I like it here, the people are really warm, the food is OK, and the scenery is beautiful.  The people seem to be more honest than we’ve gotten accustomed to as well, the change is always right, and the tricycle (tuk tuk) riders don’t try to charge you 3x the going rate because you’re a tourist.
The prostitution is really in your face though, lots of old men with young girls in Puerto Galleria, and groups of girls who looked as young as 14 or 15 were walking the streets in Manila when we arrived at 4am the other night. 
Cheat hotels cost from $9-25 a night, and meals are $1-5ea. A beer costs a dollar.  The internet is terrible.

Hey it’s 4.26 and  we’re moving!

4.37 and we’re back where we were ten mins ago, seemed too good to be true. We just went out to fill up with diesel.

This Appo reef better be good!

4.47 and we’re off again…

Quick Update from Cambodia

Cambodian street food - fried insects... yummy!!

Cambodian street food – fried insects… yummy!!

Here we are in Siem Reap, we’ve come here as some friends have offered us a place to leave the bike while we fly to the Phillipines – Thanks to Sue and Peter!!

After the last update we took a couple of days to get to Bangkok, spending the night in what ended up being a dodgy hotel upstairs from a prostitute pick up bar, fortunately for me, it was Sal who found this one, so no blame on me for a change.

The lovehearts painted on the walls were a nice touch though.

From there we headed to the downtown area in Bangkok where we found a nicer place with a secure park outside for Betsy, and spent the next few days looking for new tyres, some other spares, a gps repair centre… and a hairdresser.

The street food in Bangkok is always a highlight, and we spent a few nights cruising the streets in a tuk tuk, hanging out in a blues bar, and just soaking up the sights and sounds of that enormous gritty city.

We rode to the border with Cambodia in a day and exited Thailand, avoiding the unexpected border scam of trying to convince you to buy a visa for Cambodia at a non official office.

We arrived on the other side an hour after the Cambodian Customs office had closed for the night, and were told to come back at 8 to get our paperwork done for the bike.  We couldn’t work out whether they meant 8pm or 8am the next day, but as we were sitting across the road eating dinner anyway, I went back in at 8:30 just in case there was someone there.

Of course the office was empty, but as I was walking out laughing (at the idea of anyone coming back in at 8pm!), a car pulled up with two drunken customs officers inside.  They weren’t there to work, only to pick up a car after a ‘party’ of some sort, but one of them smiled and invited me into the office, turned on the lights and the computer again and got the temporary import done for me.  I cant think of too many places in the world where that could happen.

We spent the rest of the night drinking $2 Margaritas before a long hungover ride into Siem Reap the next day.

I’d forgotten just how friendly and smiley the Cambodian people are, they’re accustomed to seeing foreign people so they dont stare, but will still sneak a little look at us sometimes, especially when we’re on the bike.  Then it just takes  a little nod to say hello and they light up with big beautiful smiles.

We’re off to the Phillipines tonight so the next update will be from there 🙂


Hello Thailand

We left the Penang mad house this morning after a sleepless night courtesy of a new noisy inmate whom i call bearpigdog… and rode 160km to the border, then another 390km to this town called Surat Thani.  Not much of a ride as it’s all highway, we got some more rain, only the third time since leaving Aus though so cant complain.

There’s a little night market here, where we indulged in some delicious raw crab papaya salad (hopefully that one doesnt go badly for us), a bit of shit on a stick and some sweet desserty things.  Loving the food here already!!

yes that's raw crab in there... delicious!

yes that’s raw crab in there… delicious!

Tomorrow either Bangkok or somewhere in between, good to be back in the thick of it, even if we’re only riding again for a week before the Phillipines.

dm xoxo

Diving in Sipadan, Malaysia

sally taking it in

sally taking it in

After 5 days away diving in Sipadan, we are back ‘home’ in the mad house in Penang… truth be told, we have kind of missed these guys J We were greeted with the slightly crazy bare-chested Ihock who revved a pretend motorbike in the air when he saw us and shouted us to our room. Ali was no where to be seen which concerned us to start with, but then we heard a loud snorting/shouting noise which sounded like pigs and/or dogs fighting which we finally identified as Ali sleeping. Westy came scurrying out of his room, walked around the reception area clutching his coffee cup laughing and then returned back to his room but Hussein the blind man is nowhere to be seen… hopefully he will pop up again soon…

So, Sipadan…. a place that has been raved about as having some of the best diving in the world (like most places are) where the water is warm and the visibility is ‘amazing’. The water was warm and that was fantastic. The visibility very average but I don’t believe in good visibility anymore so I wasn’t too disappointed, the diving was great, we saw some really cool stuff, many things we hadn’t seen before, a huge diversity of sea life and lots and lots of turtles… but was it worth the money it cost and the effort it took to get there? Probably not, and having dived in Komodo a couple of months ago for half the price, we were a little spoilt.

Sipadan Island, Malaysian Borneo

Sipadan Island, Malaysian Borneo

What’s it like to dive at Sipadan?

We backroll into the water from the too-high-to-backroll-from boat, and consequently I’m met with a hard slap on the back of the head from the water… GOOD MORNING SIPADAN!!!

As i surface air is gushing from my regulator and I’m still fumbling around trying to find it and then turn it over to stop the air bubbles, when Sal says “Look into the water!”

I pull on the mask and stick my head under to see a school of Trevally closeby, hundreds, no thousands of fish, thick in the water in a tight group slowly circling in the warm waters just off the coast of Sipadan Island.  They’re smallish as far as Trevally go, maybe 50cm long, silvery coloured, with black stripes and dark eyes looking around.


schooling trevally

The divemaster mutters something and disappears below the surface before I can even put my regulator into my mouth, he has a camera and is off to take some pics… we’re not feeling much love from him.

Anyway, the water is 29 deg warm and we’re diving what’s supposed to be one of the top 5 places in the world, so we’re happy anyway. We play with the Trevally for 10 mins taking lots of pics as they slowly circle around us, before moving onto the wall nearby which we follow for the rest of the 45m dive. 

sally surrounded by the trevally

sally surrounded by the trevally

There are more sharks than I can count, out in the blue off the wall, they come to say hello and then glide away, turtles too, either diving or resting in any of the series of small caves in the wall, really beautiful.

sea turtle at sipadan

sea turtle at sipadan

For some reason (“it’s just the rules”) our dives are limited to 45mins, which is frustrating  when it’s this expensive, (and we keep coming out of the water with half full tanks!), but on the upside it means we can fool around a bit more in the water without trying too hard to control our breathing.  So I’m often off chasing a puffer fish, or trying to get a bit closer to a sleeping shark for a picture, or just rolling around on my back facing the sky, where the silver shimmer on the surface looks like some magical mercury ebbing and flowing in the rippling waves. 

the shimmering surface of the ocean from underneath

the shimmering surface of the ocean from underneath

a porcupine fish saying hello

a porcupine fish saying hello

I sometimes stay a little behind and watch Sal and the other divers suspended as if in mid air by wires, it’s unlike any other experience you can have, really special.  Most of the dives in Sipadan are bottomless, that is, the bottom is at more than 100m so you can’t see it, and when you’re deep enough you can’t see the top either, so it just feels like you’re floating in mid air alongside the vertical coral wall.  I feel a gush of excitement as a big school of fish pass by, or a turtle swims past on it’s way to the surface. Diving can be a stressful panic stricken affair sometimes, but at times like this it’s bliss, and I feel really privileged to be in such a place, seeing such amazing things. 

lots of reef sharks here, not at all dangerous

lots of reef sharks here, not at all dangerous

At one point our divemaster has completely disappeared for a few minutes, and then returns wanting to show me the pics he’s taken of a couple of giant mantas that were ahead of us – nice of him to be looking out for us like that!!  We get the air pressure check symbol from him, I’m at 100bar (1/2 a tank), Sal has 120 but the other diver is at 50 so we have to ascend to do the safety stop and end the dive.  Even at only 5m depth though we still see more sharks and turtles, I even saw an octopus, which was a real highlight.  It sneaked away from me and under some coral before I had a chance to take a pic, amazing creatures, it changed colour from dark blue to grey, then back again, and hid back under the fan coral with a series of little lights glowing on and off along all it’s tentacles, what a crazy little light show. 

The ‘divemaster’ gives us the ok, then thumbs up symbol, it’s time to surface.  We pop out back into the normal world, and inflate our vests to wait for the boat to come pick us up…  “did you see that shark? ….  what about that turtle on the pinnacle… that snapper was amazing! 🙂 DM

So the dive operators were very disappointing, there was no ‘dive vibe’ and it questionable if the dive masters were actually properly trained and accredited. Still it was some of the best diving we have done and we’re really glad we went.  Unfortunately the island (Mabul) that we (and every other diver) stayed on has been, and continues to be completely ruined, which made us really sad.

They have built accommodation on stilts in the water surrounding the island as there is not enough land to accommodate all the tourists, and in true Asian style it has been done really poorly with little regard for the wildlife and environment surrounding it.  They also have no real sewage system on the island so every bathroom has a hole in the floor and everything goes straight into the sea, right under your room – and there are a lot of bathrooms so the smell is pretty bad! Along with general plastic litter in the water there are also nappies, backpacks, petrol containers, toilet paper and other nice toiletries floating around.

our accommodation huts, oretty but it's  a shame they dump sewer directly to the ocean

our accommodation huts, oretty but it’s a shame they dump sewer directly to the ocean

They have even built some ‘exclusive’ accommodation (that looks like an oil rig!) right on top of a reef, and are in the process of building an underwater restaurant commissioned by someone senior in the Malay Government… It is just so sad as it doesn’t seem that anybody sees the value of the beauty they have at their fingertips.

local kids from Mabul paddle over to the huts to beg for money

local kids from Mabul paddle over to the huts to beg for money

After walking around the island in search of a place that sold beer (as it’s mostly run my Muslims), we came across one of only two bars – ‘Scuba Junkie’, another dive operator, no doubt run by westerners – which had the dive vibe… and a nice bar.  We ended up spending all night there trying to forget about the rest of the mess in Mabul. We’d decided against diving with them when we were booking as they had a minimum diving package which was more than we wanted to do, but if we were ever to go back again, we’d go with those guys, as for us diving is about the whole experience, not just the time underwater.

sunset from Mabul

sunset from Mabul

After two nights on the island and two nights in Semporna we commenced the long journey of taxis, planes and buses back to Penang where we arrived last night.

Tomorrow we are back on the bike and we head up to Thailand and then on to Siem Reap where we will meet up with Hannah’s parents and leave Betsy with them for a few weeks while we fly to the Philippines! SC






catching up on a few things

As we have about a week here, we’re catching up on a few things we need to get done, and didn’t do back home as we ran out of time and some things are much cheaper to do elsewhere.

This sectíon could be called ‘tips for other travellers’

Like going to the dentist, where a checkup and clean costs about $200 at home, but only $25 here, and getting vaccinated for Japanese Encephylitis, $275 at home, $26 here.

Those two little gems saved us about $850 – thank you Malaysia!

I also went to a skin specialist to get a couple of moles checked out, no reference, no appointment, 30min wait and was greeted by a specialist from Australia, here to help his dad out in the local clinic. Dr Lim is a ‘Fellow’ no less, second in charge of skin related stuff at the Alfred hospital in Melbourne.

Ten mins later he’d whisked the mole off and sent it for testing at KL, no followup appointment necessary, just call me in two weeks.  Total cost $95.

It’s not all good news though, as the dentist tells me that I’m most likely going to need a tooth removed… might leave that one till we get home 🙂

Our plan from here is to head to Sipadan for a few days diving before returning to Penang and riding more or less straight through to Siem Reap, with a short stop in Bangkok to try to preorder tyres for the rest of the trip and get the laptop repaired.

From Siem Reap we have f’ights to the Philipines where we’ll roam aimlessly for about 3 or 4 weeks.  Then it’s back to Cambo’ pick up the bike and make our way through Laos back to Bangkok, apply for some visas and then Myanmar through to India.

Poor Sal had a bit of a sleepless night last night, too many people screaming, vomiting and showering in close proximity.  So she’s put in earplugs and is sleeping in a bit this morning while i do this.

There’s no curtain on the window so very bright in here,  I just need to share this…


S Clark, always in style!

They are brand new nickers though 🙂



Penang and the Pin Seng hotel

home sweet home

home sweet home

We’re in Penang, home to some of the most delicious street food we’ve ever seen, and a handful of completely crazy people – who live in our hotel.

We did our usual roaming of the streets in town looking for a good deal on accommodation, made more difficult by the tichiness brougt on by 4 hours of belting rain that we rode through to get here, and had almost settled on a quite nice looking heritage building, converted into a modernish hotel, for 60 ringgit a night, when Sal walked down an unlit alley and emerged with good news.

‘hey this palce has a garage to keep the bike in… the room is pretty shit though, 30 ringgit a night’ ($10)…



the laneway to crazy

Little did we know…

The old chinese man at reception, Ihock, wearing just a pair of khaki coloured shorts, was talking flat out when we came in to register, initially we didn’t realise it but he was talking to us, (about how cheap his hotel was), and he went on to explain that ‘hetdbfh hegc I see bike  hfhch hdhchf hfhc h one towel per room hfhv hf hf hfbff my place very cheap gjgbg ghgnlflg gjgng gj!!!!!!!!!!’

‘ok, so which room are we in?’

‘hff kcd dididndhtdbedyd eneyfteue 6’

‘room 6?’

‘yes, 6 6 nuba 6, GO GO go to YOUR ROOM NOW!!’

Ihock at reception in between breaths

Ihock at reception in between breaths

it turns out we are in the Unesco heritage listed part of town, full of cool bars, coffee shops, lovely guest houses and quaint old chinese stores… and the Pin Seng Hotel.  Home to the most odd ball collection of residents that we’ve ever seen.

When we arrived there was an old man at the door smoking a cigarette, dark skinned, over weight, stained t shirt, middle eastern looking, with a bum bag around his waist, and sweat trickling off his forehead.  I thought he was security… now we call him Ali. Crazy man No. 1.

Ali lives here, Ali smokes cigarettes, Ali asks us if we smoke, EVERY TIME WE SEE HIM. No sorry Ali, we still haven’t started.  The rest of the time Ali talks to himself with arms flailing in incomprehensible sentences. Ali also asks everyone who walks through the door ‘do you speak French, do you have cigarette?’ (Ali doesn’t speak French!?).

ali on guard out the front

ali on guard out the front

Then there’s the blind (actually vision impaired) gentleman who fumbles his way along the corridors looking for his room, the toilet, the cupboard containing warm beer, or it seems our room which he’s quite fond of…  we call him Hussein ‘ no Hussein, this is still not your room’. Hussein is crazy man no. 2. Hussein is drinking warm beer from before we wake up, until after we go to sleep. He sits at a table crouched over the beer, with a jam jar half full of brown water water and old cigarette butts. We wonder if he ever confuses the jar with the glass as they are both equally close to his mouth. Hussein will respond to any voice he hears as though he’s being spoken to, but the responses are hard to make out.

Now i come to the craziest of the lot, ‘the Westerner’ we call him.  I walked out of our room into the hallway yesterday to find him standing just in front of our door, both hands stuffed into his mouth but still trying to talk, I actually screamed. He didn’t flinch though, just went on talking through his fingers. He’s proper crazy. Caucasian, maybe 60 years old, 5 foot tall, thin and always wears the same white tank top and blue shorts.


we cant show his face, he may be wanted for something.

Westie has apparently taken it upon himself to take care of the other crazies in the place, he empties ashtrays, pours hot beer into dirty cups for Hussein, and bums cigarettes off strangers for Ali.

It all sounds a little exaggerated, but i kid you not, this place is stark raving mad. And we love it!! The Chinese owner Ihock sleeps in the store room next to the front door, which is a room about the size of my mum’s pantry. He locks the steel bar front door around midnight, presumably to keep us all from leaving.

During the course of the night, we hear noises that range from a yet to be identified woman vomiting next to our window, to something that sound s like a waterfall, which I’m slowly deciphering as being something to do with Ali, and his wash room routine.

Any request from Ihock at reception is responded with in totally bizarre  shrieks and grunts which eventually we can now sometimes understand.  The handful of ‘normal’ looking people here all have the same bewildered look on their faces, that ‘what the fuck is going on here????’  look.

I left my helmet outside this afternoon, quick as a flash Ali brought it to our room ‘helmet, grunt, outside, grunt, you have cigarette?’.  It was all i could do not to laugh.

sally sitting outside our room to get wifi

sally sitting outside our room to get wifi

Every now and then, a couple of ridiculous looking backpackers wearing zip pants and money belts wander in to ask how much the rooms are, it’s priceless… the owner flat out starts screaming at them, explaining that his rooms are really cheap, and clean, and there is nowhere else in town for this price’

They make their excuses and run away… we laugh, Ihock grunts, Ali asks them for a cigarette and Hussein bumps into them with his walking cane, while Westie is still trying to eat his fingers while hopping up and down on one leg in the carpark.

True to his word though, it is very clean.  Our room is at ground level, it’s unremarkable except the fan on the ceiling which is enormous, like Ihock stole it from an aircraft hanger.  On the lowest setting it blows more air than we could ever want, but it’s hot here, so we leave it on, and consequently it’s gale force wind all the time.

the pic doesnt do it justice

the pic doesnt do it justice

We have a wardrobe and a small sink, but no bathroom, a small table and two plastic chairs.  The bed is thin foam, the floor is concrete painted deep red, the walls are pale blue and there is one fluoro tube on the wall for light.  There is one power point on the wall, just a bit too high for any of pur cords to plug into and reach the floor, so there is usually something balancing precauriously on the outlet.  The showers are cold, but not brutally, so even a rinse at 12am is quite comfortable…  It’s about 1am now and Ali’s washing routine has begun, it sounds like Niagra falls in here, where the fuck does all that water come from???

Ihock spends the mornings cleaning, he mops the floors and does the washing.  Quite novel to be somewhere so clean after Indonesia.   He even puts the pillows out in the sun, arranging them in rows on top of the cars in the laneway leading to reception, if anyone out there can think of why he might be doing this please let us know!

Ihock adds the bills with an abacus.

The row of communal toilets at the end of the hall is very well ordered, they have western style toilets and squatters too, toilet paper provided – what luxury!  Sal went to the toilet in the middle of the night though to find Ali perched on top of one of the bowls in the dark with the door open, as she opened the adjacent door and went into the cubicle, Ali leaned close to the wall and shouted ‘BOO!!!’ She had tears in her eyes from laughter as she told me the story in the morning.



I’ve described the three main protagonists in this show, but there are many other supporting actors too.  At any time off the day there will be between 3 and ten people in and around reception and the hallway leading to our room, usually just sitting alone on a plastic chair, rocking forwards and back and mumbling quietly.  It’s quite nice the way they all seem to take care of each other though, like when Westie steals a cigarette for Ali, or Ihock sees Hussein stumbling in the hallway about to walk into our room and gentle guides him past.

This place could be the basis for some weird show at the Fringe festival, I’m just not sure anyone could do it justice… At ten dollars a night it’s the best entertainment we’ve had in a long time.

It’s also the cheapest room we’ve found since that pearler upstairs at the ferry office, but we dont talk about that anymore.

So we’re here for almost a week to explore Penang’s street food and vibe, after which we fly to Sipadan for what’s supposed to be the most amazing diving in the world.

‘It was AMAZING, we saw an angel fish and a snapper’

Katie Clark 2015