Showered by 09:00 and well rested we descended from the seventh floor for another Hotel Malaya breakfast. After breakfast I braved the heat and took my three novels and two travel guides out with me in the hope of being able to exchange one or some or all. I was fast approaching completing my final novel and with a 6 hour bus journey ahead of me today I needed ample reading material! I spied a hostel across from the bus station and saw someone come out through the door. Having crossed the road by the only safe method, a pedestrian footbridge, I entered the hostel and asked the chap if I would be able to exchange my books. He welcomed me in and indicated the virtually empty bookshelf. Within seconds I had ascertained that ninety per cent of the books were useless to me, they were either old travel books, German, Dutch or Italian or missing covers, pages or more than half of the book. I found one English novel which didn't appeal to me at all but then neither did a 6 hour bus journey without a book! So I reluctantly exchanged a book that was bought in Katoomba in Australia for this one, figuring that anything is better than nothing. Then I ventured up three flights of stairs to another hostel and asked the man if he minded me exchanging some books. Unfortunately, he was less welcoming than the last guy and refused me to even look at this several bookshelves crammed with hundreds of English novels unless I was staying there. Knowing I wouldn't be able to persuade him otherwise I descended the stairs back down to street level, frustrated at seeing so many books I could be reading!
I returned to the Hotel Malaya, risking life and limb crossing the road whereby three buses had blocked off the zebra crossing, and cooled down in minutes. Then we checked out of the hotel and walked back to the bus station.
We collected our tickets and proceeded to the instructed platform across the road where we waited for 20 minutes with our luggage. Then a man appeared while we were admiring a very plush coach which only had three large comfortable chairs abreast. He beckoned us outside to wait by the side of the very busy main road. As we left the platform and climbed the stairs Ian pointed out to me the bus that was scraping his roof along the steps that we were climbing, oblivious, or ignorant, to the damage he was causing! The man replaced our tickets and told us to wait there. Outside the queue of buses trying to get into the bus station had increased to six or seven and they weren't too patient about it, honking their horns every now and then. It was quite irritating, especially as it had no effect on proceedings.
Our bus arrived in the road, distinctly different to what we expected, and we loaded our luggage onboard. In a matter of minutes we were seated, somewhat uncomfortably, and headed out of Kuala Lumpur at 11:40. Pretty soon I buried my head in my book and tried to ignore the constant squeaking of the seats. At least we had air conditioning. After a 30 minute stop which wasn't announced and whereby the driver left the vehicle and disappeared, leaving the passenger door closed and everyone guessing, we set off again on a bouncy, bumpy, African reminiscent, journey towards Kuantan. We had bought and eaten a packet of biscuits when we stopped. I buried my head in my book again and Ian tried to rest. It wasn't long before a regular bouncing object came into view out the corner of my eye and I turned to see Ian bouncing in his seat, looking like a mad old geriatric sitting in his rocking chair, his eyes closed, his entire body rocking in the chair that was moving with every slight movement of the bus. It must have been extremely frustrating for him, but for me, it was pure entertainment!
There was another stop, if only briefly, at Kuantan to collect more passengers, then further on, another unannounced 30 minute stop which seemed to go on forever. By this time it was 17:00 and we had expected to be in Kuala Teregganu by now. We were still over 100 kilometres away.
The rest of the journey was pretty unamusing, especially the passing of what looked like a horrific road accident. Naturally, being on a bus, we rubbernecked, but I'm not sure what the twenty to thirty cars that had parked up on the side of the road and their respective passengers were doing. They had all left their vehicles and formed a crowd right next to the scene as police and paramedics tried to assist the injured victims.
As we continued north along the coastline of the South China Sea we passed numerous oil refineries and power stations, most of which had enormous flames burning from chimneys or towers. It was a curious sight, one I hadn't expected to see.
Our 8 hour 30 minute journey came to an end at 20:10 and I was very relieved to get off the bus. It had been a very long, dull day and I was pleased to reach a hotel where Ian secured us a room in a short space of time. We ate at the hotel restaurant as I couldn't be bothered to do anything else and wasn't feeling on top form. We wrote our journals before retiring at 22:30, me with a headache.
Copyright 2003 Helen Fuller. All rights reserved.