Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Georgetown, Unesco World Heritage site

I just lost today's photos. Lost in import - the moral is, never choose 'Delete from card when copied' until you have seen that they have actually copied.

I'm staying at the Chulia Mansion which is not the most atmospheric accommodation in the Heritage Zone, but is very comfortable with nice touches like free drinks at happy hour at the rooftop bar and free laundry every day. There's a mosque on one side and a Chinese temple on the other so probably a safer spot than some, given that there is now a travel warning out for Malaysia.

There were a bunch of older English people on the train from KL and we ended up sharing the tiny shuttle bus service at the ferry from Butterworth. They turned out also to be staying here, and I got talking to Peter and Shona at the bar. They live in Hexham, up near the Scottish border, and have a house in Bordeaux that they go to every summer. Peter is a music therapist. In the seventies he did a long trip through Malaysia and Thailand, and across to India, finishing with visiting China and Russia. He travelled in those days with a violin in a case he carried over his shoulder. He rented a little hut in the north of Thailand for a time, right on the border with Burma, which was inaccessible in those times. One evening he was sitting outside playing his violin when a gentleman emerged from the river, bowing in greeting. He had heard the music and swum across from Burma, with a chess board on his head to talk to the foreigner and enjoy a game. Another time a young, good-looking, thin European man on a motorbike stopped, who turned out to be a circuit court judge and an expert in the sueng, a kind of lute, a traditional instrument, and who promptly said, come to a party, and off they went on the motorbike.

They introduced me to Shona's mother. She is the reason for this current extended family holiday in Malaysia. She lived in Singapore in the early fifties. Her husband was an army officer as had been her father. In 1955 she moved to Ipoh with her two-week old first-born baby, and he was directed to go off somewhere up country for the first few weeks they were there ('a horrendous experience, just terrifying, you have no idea. Of course we just accepted that that was what it was like when you were married into the army. So different from today.') A year later the Emergency was declared and she was shipped back to England, along with all the other wives and children who were rounded up, journey that took eight weeks because of the Suez crisis. This is her first trip back to Malaysia and she seemed both bemused by the changes and delighted by being able to feel some familiarity.

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