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December 23, 2004
Jody writes:

A 66-year old man peddled us and our luggage to our bus on Sunday morning. He didn't even break a sweat. We were leaving Penang's chaotic Chinatown to take a winding journey up to the peaceful Cameron Highlands. The day got off to a strange start when a marathon (see photo) delayed the arrival of our bus, but it wasn't until we reached the Highlands that the madness really kicked off.

When we arrived at our destination we headed for a bite to eat, settling for a seat in a restaurant opposite a smiling Indian man. We starting chatting - he lived out of town and said he owned his own retail business - and it wasn't long before he'd taken over our meal, ordering the staff to bring us extra chillis and sauces. We were unable to stop him paying our bill before he invited us to join him and his family for a tour of the Highlands.

Before we knew it we were sitting in a van with his wife and three kids heading to Brinchang - a village a few miles away from where we're staying in Tanah Rata. They took us to an Indian temple and a Chinese temple, stopping off at the occasional market and plant shop along the way. Mr S (as we'll call him) and his wife were jolly and talkative, but his three kids were sour-faced and appeared annoyed that Amy and I were getting star treatment. I don't know why, but I sensed tension in the family and felt that Mr S was only running the tour for the benefit of Amy and me.

By now Mr S had knocked back a few bottles of Guinness - when we met him in the restaurant he'd drunk at least two, with an additional two at stops along the way. I was concerned that his reaction time might be hindered when driving around the windy, blind corners up in the hills.

I bought some chocolates for our kind adopted family and they repayed us by showering Amy with gifts - sweetcorn from a street vendor, a Cameron Highlands T-shirt and a keychain made of plastic strawberries. The children looked on, unamused. The mother said that this was their first holiday in 16 years (and it was only one-day long) - the last was their honeymoon, also in the Highlands, and that time they took an Australian couple for a tour, staying out late and missing their 'honeymoon', so to speak.

After our three-hour trip, we agreed to go for dinner with the family. But first Amy and I headed back to our guesthouse to change into warm clothes. We've had our fair share of cold weather in the Highlands after almost two months of sweating through the rest of Asia. It's around 23C in the day and 14C at night.

Arriving back at Mr S' hotel, I was surprised to see his wife and kids were in bed and that only he was joining us for dinner. Slightly saddened by this, we left the family behind and went to the same Chinese restaurant where this all began. We ordered a steamboat - a traditional Highlands cuisine consisting of meat, fish and veg cooked in one of two stockpots left heating in the centre of the table on a gas burner. Our host hardly ate a thing - earlier in the day he said that he didn't even like steamboats and it seemed that he was only doing this for our pleasure. We said that we liked prawns and he bought an additional plate of them. When Amy said she liked eggs he asked for another basket full, but I stopped him.

He was silent during dinner and I tried hard to keep the conversation flowing in repayment for his kindness. When the bill came, he refused to let us pay, so I decided to show our thanks by buying him a couple of large beers to take home. This is where it started to get weird.

He said that he couldn't take alcohol home with him - a man in his 40s, afraid of drinking in his own home. It was if he lived his life by a rule that drinking was only allowed in the Highlands. He'd binged on it all day and said that when he was a bachelor he would drive to the highest point to get smashed on whisky while watching the view, but would never think of drinking at home.

By now the restaurant was closing so we moved outside. Drunk and tired, Mr S went on to reveal how he doesn't love his wife but can never leave her and he resents her for being old and in poor health. He said that he never looked after his children when they were babies because it wasn't his role.

He then lectured Amy on her duties as a woman. Apparently it's her job to cook the food I want to eat when I want to eat it. Although Amy's cooking is pretty good now, I don't think I could stomach it seven days a week. I explained how things are different in England and that both partners share responsibilities, but he couldn't get the idea that Amy was having an easy ride out of his head and spat out her duties once again.

"What do you do for him?" Mr S asked. "I sing and dance," Amy joked. Mr S then said that if I wanted to see girls sing and dance I could pay for that, while Amy stays at home preparing my dinner.

Noticing our distress he left the table, standing a few feet away to compose himself before returning to apologise. But the conversation was still much the same and I was keen to leave. Despite his kindness that day, I wasn't prepared to sit through another lecture on how to run a 1920's household with all the perks it brings (children that fear their father! A robot wife whose only interests are cooking, cleaning and washing! No divorce no matter what happens!).

So we walked Mr S to his hotel. I wished his business and family well. He's undoubtedly a kind man - he bought his children gifts while we were out and offered another couple in the restaurant a lift back to their hotel when they enquired about a taxi. He strongly believes that if he is kind to strangers then god will be kind to him. Though we're grateful for the money he spent on us, I hope that he'll put his family first in the future.

posted at 7:12 PM | link

5 Comments:

  • Just stumbled on your blog by accident but it's really fascinating reading about Mr S and the story about the tasty looking dessert that turns out to be minging! I went to Thailand for a few weeks with a mate and we ate loads of mystery meat from stalls at the side of the road - got one that looked good but turned out to be chicken necks - all skin, pipes and neckbones! Great photos too. Makes me want to quit my job and head over there.

    By Blogger Hakkuna Mattata, at 11:44 AM  

  • well - what can i say to all that?!
    not much i suppose... apart from, there are some bizarre people in this world, and meeting them is what makes travelling fun (but sometimes a little unnerving).

    ames, was lovely to speak to you the other day, from our old haunt - Father's Guesthouse - forgot to ask if there was any honey cake? and large bottles of tiger beer? one of al's favourites.

    anyway, work to do (well not really today being my last before the big xmas break)... so better get on.

    love to you both - i'll say merry xmas now, but hope to be saying it again (over the phone) to you on the actual day.. just not too late - i want to remember speaking to you!

    XXXX berg XXXXX

    By Blogger The Berg, at 3:02 PM  

  • Wow. Just read through the whole blog. -First timer on the blog-. Amy's only just given me address. Sounds like your having an *amazing* time. We all miss you Amy, but as i can see from the photos, you and Jody, are having a well deserved break.

    Miss you,

    Matteh x

    By Blogger Matteh, at 7:40 PM  

  • Happy Christmas/Boxing day!

    I've just been listening to the news about the waves that have flooded parts of Thailand and Malaysia. I was rather relieved when I checked your blog and saw that you've now headed to the highlands. Hope you're both OK.

    By Blogger Big H, at 12:41 PM  

  • Hahahaha, how kind - a man who'll move heaven and Earth for a couple of randoms (you know what I mean!) yet won't take his family on a holiday rofl xD - sorry but that's just tooo funny!

    Can't believe I've missed so much!
    I really do miss ya Amy, and I haven't even met Jody, yet I'm missing him - you guys need to stop it and come home rofl!

    You could always Mr S everywhere you go - he'd probably be more than happy to pay ;)

    *mwah* *huge hug*

    Kai x

    By Blogger Kai, at 2:06 PM  

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Jody and Amy have finished their 10 month adventure around the world, that began Nov 2, 2004, and ended Sep 2, 2005. They're back home in London now, doing normal things, like going to work and drinking tap water. You can see a map of what was their planned route, but we didn't quite follow it.
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