Saturday, April 01, 2006

Singapore, Day 6, Jahor Baru, Malaysia

A van picked me up to take me from my hotel to Clark Quay where I met the others going on our adventure to Malaysia. There was a family that looked Indian but was from South Africa, Marty, a female, from California, and Kris, from Austrialia. To Kris, the glass is always half empty and she’s kind of a bummer. I found out later that she was an English teacher that a brain tumor and radiation. Marty sees the glass as almost brimming; what an optimist. For example, Kris worried that the whole day would be spent at immigration checkpoints. Marty found this a singularly interesting part of the trip. There were four checkpoints: exit Singapore, enter Malaysia, exit Malaysia, enter Singapore. The checkpoints were a breeze. See picture of causeway from Singapore to Malaysia.

The first stop in Malaysia was at the oldest Victorian mosque in the world, Royal Abu Bakkar Mosque in Johor Baru (no picture available – see larger and gilt Ubudiah Mosque, Kuala Kangsar, Malaysia). Tourists were not allowed in as one had done something sacrilegious and ruined it for the rest of us. It was a beautiful mosque. Cheap prayer rugs and batik were for sale on the hillside all around the hilltop site. I didn’t buy anything, but I think Marty did.

The next stop was a small cultural and crafts center. Old wedding garb, carvings and musical instruments, some that looked like xylophones and also drums from around the world, were on display. There was a huge drum at the entrance. I also remember some very pretty embroidery hanging of shiny beads on velvet depicting chickens and butterflies, and beaded fringe. It was lovely.

We passed both Muslim and Chinese cemeteries and learned that Muslims are buried on their right side facing Mecca and Chinese in a womb shaped cement enclosures. The bus went by too fast for pictures.

Then we visited a typical Malay house. This was really embarrassing; I could not bring myself to go into the house. Women came out and danced for us. Ugh, it was so touristy. I did not take pictures. They had a pet monkey, mynah, and squirrels. I didn’t notice the shop in the back until it was time to leave, but managed to get some water.

We passed the Sultan’s old house. The driver told us the story: the Sultan had married and English woman and had five children. The heir is English, but has no real political power. The Sultan divorced the English lady and remarried a local woman and had another five children.

Then it was on to the batik factory. There we saw how batik was hand made. As soon as we stopped watching, the work stopped too. The batik was not pretty as the designs were too large and sloppy for my taste. None of us bought anything.
We did get some Malay money (Ringgits) for our coin collections. There were fish tanks outside and I wondered if they kept the fish for pets or for food. There were also turtles. In the shop there were also wooden puppets for sale as well as blue morpho butterflies and scorpions in plastic. Blue morpho butterflies were for sale all over Singapore and to see them here in Malaysia made me smile. I once asked a shop keep in Singapore if these South American butterflies were native here and he said, “Ah, yes, grow here Miss!” I guess I can’t blame them for trying to make a buck.

Then I saw something that really caught my interest. It was a large (3 x 6 foot or .91 x 1.83 meters) framed, raised embroidery of a dragon. The embroidery was decorated with beads and glass and gold colored threads and looked antique. It hung on a peg board only inches from the floor. The board had stains from earlier flood damage that were very close to the artwork. My first thought was, “I want it.” My second, “How will I get it home?” Then, all of the complicating thoughts began, how much, how to pack, will they sell, will I be able to afford it, afford shipping…? So, I deferred and only took a picture. I have seen similar smaller embroideries of elephants in a Thai restaurant near my home. Some day I will have to ask the owner about them.

We all piled back onto the bus. On the way back, I looked wistfully towards the fish farms in the Johor Straights.

Back at the hotel, I telephoned the LOML. Even though I consider myself an intrepid traveler, having been away from home for at least a month at a time, I felt lonely here. I think it was because on past trips I was routinely with work associates or at least clinical staff, whereas here there was really no one. I was totally alone. Being with people on the tour only highlighted this effect. It was a comfort to talk to him. Only a couple more days and I will be home. It seemed so silly to be on the adventure of a lifetime and be lonely, but there it is!


mr tickle said...

Sue, great post with nice pics!

The correct spelling should be johor (new spelling)/johore (old spelling) and baru (new spelling)/bahru (old spelling)

Sue said...

Thanks Aron. I will correct post. I am so glad that you are still reading my blog!

mr tickle said...

Why wouldn't I, ma'am? ;-)

Btw, you must have been the spelling bee champ in school -- look at the title...

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