Monday, August 9, 2010


When I was on Penang, I went to the part of Georgetown where covered food stalls cluster together in little food courts with tables facing the water and the sky. Mutton satay and crab spring rolls with a bottle of beer stuck in an ice bucket may be one of the best meals I've had this year, and looking across the street at open water was a great way to spend time while chewing.

On the way back, I passed a knot of taxi drivers, which was fortunate because it was a long march back to my hotel. They offered professional services, I accepted, and then looked happily at the words painted on the side of the taxis indicating that meters were used and no haggling was allowed. I expressed my joy at finding this out and the driver who was leading me to his car, looked, smiled, and said, "Twelve ringgit, okay?"

"But I thought the fare was metered," I objected and he smiled even more sweetly and said, "Yes, but we like to ask for more."

(I'd paid a rickshaw driver significantly more and this request was what the guys at my hotel said I'd pay for a taxi, so I paid--but it was the sweetness with which this was done that completely charmed me--suckah!)

On my way to the ferry when I left, I was passed by a small man wearing gold brocade polyester pajamas with such confidence and aplomb that for a moment I wondered why nobody else was. (And yes, they were pajamas--the kind you can buy at any Target in the states. The savoir faire with which he wore them is a bit harder to come by.)

And then, while embarking on the hellish trip home, I met my favorite traveler to date, a large pink aging man with an over-sized backpack sprouting from his spine who spoke basic Thai loudly and quite badly--even worse than I do--to Malaysian railway workers who addressed him in rather good English. They gave up on him at last and I went over to see what I might be able to do. Turned out he spoke no English nor any other languages but Finn and Thai--by all means the two lingua franca of East and West! (Somehow he managed to make it to the Thai border, so obviously this works for him.)

(And then there were Judy, Bou, and Phyllida--all of whom made me remember how much fun it can be to thaw out and chat for a while--thanks to all!)


Judy said...

Janet, finally I find you and get to tell you what fun I'm having reading Tone Deaf in Bangkok, which, by the way, I take every opportunity to blab about to friends in Melbourne who have been to Thailand or Penang ;) I'm stretching out the read as long as possible, as your words help keep fresh all my Thai and Penang experiences. I certainly intend to read about wherever you decide to go to or stay in next. Thanks, too, for leading me to the Cathay Hotel; for the best Guinness I think I may recall having; and for the companionship and conversation on the night train from Bangkok (Surit Thani, for me) to Penang. Happy adventuring and home seeking! Judy.

Jessi Cotterill said...

Your blog is fun and adventurous.

Will you be in BKK the first week of Oct?

janet brown said...

Thank you for reading and telling people about Tone Deaf--that is the best gift anyone could ever give me. And I look forward to more Guinness and conversation!

janet brown said...

Hi Jessi--
Adventure? This from a woman who just feasted her way across Europe?
Tell you what--you come and eat with me in Penang and I'll come and eat with you in Vientiane.
Looks as though I'll be gone by October 1--so start planning your Penang visit, okay?