Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The final countdown

Symbas and Bigfella's big KTM with the G-town po-po
Our last week in Georgetown... what a sad statement. Actually it was about a week and a half. Before we left Tana Ratah, Colin received a message from a fellow ADV-er, Bigfella (Ian), that he had just arrived in Georgetown and was wondering if we were there. We arranged to meet up with Ian for dinner at Kapitan (mmmm, tandoori chicken) and then introduced him to our oh so classy favorite local watering hole, the “Corner Bar.” We traded stories and laughed until late in the night. 

Heartbreak Dave, aka Poose
It was such a good time that we did it again the next evening. After filling up on dim sum at De Tai Tong, we ambled back to the Corner Bar, stopping to see our favorite Chulia Street residents, Heartbreak Dave (aka Poose) and Krishna, the travel agent and bike renter who keeps an eye on her, on the way (as we did virtually every night). Back at the Corner Bar, the three of us were sitting at a table in the street, when an elderly Chinese man came and stood next to us with a beer in hand. We struck up a conversation with him, and here met Lim. He told us he was 18 years old (but said he was born in 1930), was born on the island, and was here during the Japanese occupation of the island during WWII. Colin, Ian, and I were about to leave when Lim brought another round to the table. He then sat down and continued to tell us tales of the Georgetown of old, along with stories of his travels in other parts of southeast Asia. Lim, as he reported, has been to Bangkok over 50 times. The Lim family has a temple in the city, and they meet in Bangkok annually to pay respect to their ancestors. For some reason, he also felt it necessary to fill me in on the “ins and outs” of Thai women, ie, what “activities” are safe, and what are not. While Colin and Ian laughed and talked about something else, I, was huddled, lips (his) to ear (mine) with Lim, so neither of them was privy to the indelicate nature of our tete-a-tete until later, when I had to share. 
who knew NASA offered Nepal-Thailand directs?
The rest of the week we spent getting the bikes ready to ship, changing oil, replacing the crusty old and abused batteries, and cleaning them up to finally letter the leg shields with our route, after all these months. We originally wanted to get flag stickers from each country we visited, but we weren't able to find them in many places. Instead, I got a permanent marker and wrote it out using the two-letter country codes and dotted lines. Fancying myself an “artiste,” I drew airplanes between the countries where we flew. Now it would appear to the average viewer that my Symba hitched a couple of quick rides on the Space Shuttle. The bikes did need to be crated before they were delivered to Eva Air, so we rode across the big bridge to Butterworth one last time to drop them at the crating company. We did the usual disassembly one last time (sob) while the craters double-checked our measurements. Once we'd finished, the crater kindly gave us a ride to the ferry back to Georgetown. It was a sad day.

Chew, at his childhood home on the jetty
Chinese Recreation Club verandah
On another day, Chew (who replaced Lim at the Star Lodge (the one who taught me never to let a drunk Chinese man touch my feet)), and his wife picked us up one morning to take us to the Chew Clan Jetty. The clan jetties are an interesting piece of Georgetown history. When Chinese immigrants came to the island, they would live and work from the jetties. Most of the men fished or as stevedores on the ships in the port, and each family had a jetty. Over time, each family more or less specialized in a specific business, some handling cargo from Indonesia, some from China, others in fishing, etc. Chew was actually born on the jetty and lived there until he was seven. He and his wife, Cristina, took us on a tour of the jetty, where they showed us his childhood home and introduced us to members of his family, and then drove us all over Georgetown to see the parts the tourists don't get to see. They then took us to the Chinese Recreation Club, which is a beautiful old country club in the middle of the city. Chew has been a member since 1972 (his wife refers to it as his second home since he is there every day). There isn't a golf course, but they do have tennis, badminton, basketball courts, football fields, a gym, and an outdoor, olympic size pool. It is a gorgeous place where you automatically feel very “colonial” sitting on the verandah sipping iced tea overlooking the pool. Oh, and they have what is reputedly the best Chinese restaurant on the island. Chew and Cristina treated us to lunch in the dining room, and it was truly fantastic food, service, and company. Colin and I had a great time (although we both felt underdressed for the occasion). We have met so many terrific people on our trip. I hope that we can provide the same kind of hospitality in return someday.

Fraser Hill

the start up to Fraser Hill
Feeling extremely discouraged the next morning by the weather and the issues with Colin's bike, we headed out into the gray, uncertain what our next destination would be. Our original itinerary included a stop at Gunung Stong National Park, but since it had poured overnight and still looked threatening, we forewent that option and instead, decided to ride to the little known, Bukit Fraser (Fraser Hill), which is a colonial hill station reputed to have a gorgeous road leading to the top. Beyond that general description, we had little information, including nothing on food or lodging. After a leisurely breakfast (with a second cup of tea enjoyed while waiting for the fog to lift), we loaded up and headed out. The roads were smooth, curvy, and much less populated that the previous day. To make it even better, the weather improved, with only scattered light showers to deal with. 

The house where we stayed with Philip and his family
We made it to the single-lane road that led up to Fraser Hill as the sun appeared. The road was all the rumors promised- corner after corner, rounding the mountain, climbing through the trees, and at the top was a beautiful, British colonial hill station, with buildings of gray stone and gardens galore. We pulled into the village center and stopped to look at the map of the area with the hope of finding a place to stay for the night. As we stood there, a man walked up and asked where we were from. Assuming it was an intro for yet another photo op with the crazy foreigners on motorbikes, we cautiously said we were from America. We were wrong. His name was Philip, he was a State Representative from the state of Selangor (on the west coast), and he had just arrived with his family for their holiday. 

Tree ferns
The state of Selangor maintains a bungalow on Bukit Fraser for public servants to use. Philip asked us where we were staying and immediately invited us to stay with him and his family. Not wanting to intrude in their family vacation, we considered declining, but he was so friendly and welcoming that we agreed. We followed him further up the hill to the bungalow, and what a nice place it was. The caretaker said it was originally built in 1938, and it was grand. The ceilings must have been at least 14 feet high, and the rooms were all huge. We were given our own room, where we unpacked, took a quick shower, and came out to meet the family. In addition to Philip, there was his wife, his four children, a niece, and his mother. We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around looking at the beautiful gardens and hillsides and talking with Philip. Later in the evening, we hopped on the Symbas and followed the family back into town for dinner. We went to a nice Chinese place, where Philip ordered for the whole table. We had lots of yummy food and good conversation. The mist had rolled back in earnest and visibility fell to 200 feet or less. After dinner was over, Re and I went for a short ride around town before finding our way back to the bungalow in the dark and fog. We spent the rest of the evening talking with Philip about life in Malaysia. 
two of the many amazing moths
The next morning, Philip and his family invited us to join them for breakfast, so we enjoyed more conversation over coffee and kaya puffs (kaya is a coconut custard, the puff part is pastry. Yum is all I can say). After breakfast, as we prepared to leave and Philip's family waited for the fog to clear enough to go hiking, it started to rain. So we all hung out on the large porch and admired the hundreds of varieties of moths which had gathered overnight (since the porchlight was left on) on the columns, walls, light fixtures, and our bikes. They were amazing. Everywhere you looked, there were more, varying from the size of my pinky fingernail to the size of my palm, and colors from vivid red to green to all shades of brown. 

Once the rain tapered off to a mere spit, we geared up and thanked them all heartily before saying goodbye. Accepting an offer to stay with strangers doesn't come naturally to either of us. It felt incredibly awkward, and knowing that people have limited time and resources for holidays, we didn't want to intrude on their family vacation. But staying with Philip and his family was really an incredible experience; they were so welcoming, friendly, and as excited to talk with us as we were with them.

amazing spiderweb and wild orchids
From Fraser Hill, we rode back to the Cameron Highlands for a second attempt at hiking. The weather cleared once we got to the bottom of the hill, and the ride was beeeyootiful- more graceful curves, nice pavement, and sunshine peeking through the trees. We spent the night at the same guesthouse in Tana Ratah and enjoyed an evening stroll and dinner at a busy hawker stall. Shortly after we went to bed, we heard roaring thunderstorms, which continued through the night and left huge puddles of standing mud and water the next morning. Sooooo, no hiking. Instead, we decided to....go home to Georgetown.

Shipping Arrangements...check. Touring Malayisia...check. Bike Problems...check.

view of Penang from the ferry
Much of our time in Georgetown was spent trying to sort out the return of our bikes to the USA. Colin had read reports on HUBB (a round-the-world travelers forum) that it was simple and cheap to ship bikes using Malaysia Airlines' MASKargo. Unlike many carriers, they don't require that the bikes are crated. Instead, they strap them to a pallet, tightly wrap them in plastic, and send them on their way. They fly from Kuala Lumpur to Los Angeles, and we figured the ride up the west coast back to Portland would be a good finale to our journey. It sounded great. Too good to be true, you might say. After many days of getting nowhere, playing phone tag with MASKargo sales and service agents, we rode out to the cargo terminal at the Penang airport to meet with an actual person to arrange our cargo shipment. They were extremely nice, but politely told us... no, they could not fly our bikes to Los Angeles, because of a US government ban on “personal effects” on passenger aircraft. After the toner cartridge bomb plot two years ago on UPS and Fedex out of Yemen, it has been determined that it is unsafe to carry any kind of personal effects on board passenger planes, so in order to get our bikes back to the US, we would have to put them on a cargo only aircraft. I did some research and found the carriers with cargo planes, made a bunch more phone calls, sent more emails, and after being told no by numerous people, finally found someone who could help us. Ms. Goh from Worldlink Cargo was our savior! She arranged for shipping on Eva Air (a Taiwanese airline), which flies a gigantic freighter out of PENANG (we didn't even have to go to Kuala Lumpur (KL)!) to Taiwan and then on to Los Angeles. The bikes did need to be crated, and she coordinated that as well. Her rates were lower than if we left from KL, so we booked it, bought our plane tickets on Malaysia Airlines, and tried to enjoy the rest of our limited time in Malaysia.

Lake Temengor
We did actually leave Georgetown for a ride through the middle of the country to see the mountains and enjoy the twisty roads. We set out one morning after breakfast, said goodbye to Robert and Chew, and told them we'd be back in about a week. The weather was the usual mixture of sun, puffy clouds, and humid heat as we rode the ferry across to the mainland. Traffic was heavy in Butterworth and continued to be as we headed northeast into the state of Perak and around the very large and scenic Lake Temengor. Since we arrived at lunchtime and there was food to be eaten, we stopped for some noodles and tea at the lakeside park. The sky in the east had begun to grow dark, so we decided it would be best to get back on the road.  

some of the oldest forest in the world
A short while later, we crossed into the state of Kelentan, where the road became twisty and more enjoyable. In some of the tighter corners, it felt like the back end of my bike was moving around a bit, but I really didn't pay any attention and put the feeling down to not having ridden in a while. Dumb dumb dumb! After a while turned south toward Jeli. As we pulled away from a stoplight in Jeli, I shifted from first into second and had no drive at all. The engine was turning but my rear wheel was not. Since I was halfway through the intersection, I shifted into first, twisted the throttle, and got the same lack of response. I tried second again but got nothing. My first thought was that I had either done something wrong installing the clutch or was having a transmission problem. 

not what you want to see when you remove the rear wheel
About this point, Re pulled up and said she had seen chunks of my cush drive coming out the back of my bike. Well now, that can't be right. I duck-walked the bike through the intersection and a little farther up the road. I looked back to see that, sure enough, there were chunks of cush drive rubber in the intersection. I looked at the rear end under my bike and could see that the rear wheel had pulled off the splines that are attached to the rear sprocket and drive the rear wheel. What didn't occur to me at this point was that I shouldn't be able to see inside my rear wheel with the axle securely fastened and a non-bent swingarm. While I ran back and gathered the rubber pieces, Re rode a bit ahead to scout for a suitable work area. She found a nearby parking lot, so I pushed my bike there and got to work. Once I sat down and looked at the rear end again, the reality sank in that something was really wrong. As is pretty standard, the axle goes in one side of the swingarm, through a spacer, through the wheel, through the other side of the swingarm, and then into a nut, which holds it all together. Somehow, I now had an extra half inch or so of space where there shouldn't be any. This can only mean one thing. Sure enough, I looked at the other side of the bike and there was NO AXLE NUT! Maybe that was why it felt like the rear end was moving around a bit in the twisties. 

Re volunteered to go back and look for the axle nut while I was in a mild state of shock and left before I could stop her. I think that the nut had been gone for a long time. Quite apparently, I am going to have to fire our mechanic, since that asshole didn't tighten the axle nut after that moron changed the chain... A minute later I went to call Re back and noticed that around the corner was a motorcycle shop. It just couldn't be any handier! With Re's help, I removed the rear wheel and started to inspect the damage. While I did this and got out our spare cush drive rubbers (thank you Alliance Powersports) Re walked around the corner to the motorcycle shop with the axle and returned with a replacement nut. By the time she returned, I had removed what was left of the old cush drive rubbers, but I couldn't get the new ones installed. I carried the wheel back around the corner where the nice folks at the shop showed me how to install them. When I returned to the bike, we started to reassemble the rear end and that's when I noticed two other things: 1) the nut and washer from the right side chain adjuster were gone, and 2) the rear swingarm was indeed bent. The right side of the swingarm appears to have bent near the pivot and is now about a half inch too wide at the axle. Our swingarms appear to be made of molded, flat sheets of steel that have been welded together at the edge. I inspected the swingarm and didn't see any obvious cracking or wrinkles in the metal, so I levered it back into place while Re tightened the nut. One more trip back to the motorcycle shop got us a replacement nut and washer for the chain adjuster, and then everything was back together. I took the bike for a quick ride around a couple of blocks to make sure it was okay and then we decided to get back on the road since the sky was getting very dark. I wish I knew the name of the bike shop in Jeli since we couldn't have done it without them. The only money they would take was one ringgit (0.33 USD) for the axle nut. 

We were now heading south toward Dabong and then it began to rain. There was supposed to be some kind of government resthouse in Dabong, but we couldn't find it in the rain. There also didn't appear to be a petrol station, and we needed some. Between the rain and the bike problems, I didn't feel like messing around anymore today, so I made the executive decision to head further south to the town of Gua Musang. It was supposed to be a bigger town so hopefully, accommodation will be easier to find. Back on the road, it didn't appear that we would have enough fuel to make it, so we stopped in another small town along the way and bought some bottles of gasoline at the local mini mart. The extra liter each gave us enough fuel to make it, so we motored the last 25 miles into town. And what a 25 miles it was. Shortly after refueling, the rain went from steady to torrential. As we came over a rise, it was like somebody turned out the lights. Even though it was only around 6:00 pm, it suddenly became night. Between the rain and the wind, we decided to make a dash for the awning of an abandoned gas station. We pulled underneath to hide from the rain and waited about 30 minutes for it to slack off. Not wanting to be riding in the rain in the dark, we decided to continue on once the wind died down. 

Pulling into Gua Musang around 7:00 pm, we saw some crummy looking hotels on the main street. We kept looking and Re spotted a sign for the Titiwangsa Hotel. You know I had to go check it out. It was a bit of an odd arrangement, above a healthfood store in a newer strip mall that was mostly unoccupied, but the room was nice, the price was okay, and hey, it's called the Titiwangsa (it's hard to believe I am not 12 years old sometimes). The rain had let up by now, so we unloaded our stuff in the room and hung everything up to dry, turned on the fan and A/C, and went out for dinner. Just to make the day complete, I discovered a sore tooth while eating dinner. Great.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

And We Worked on the Bikes

Colin and Jacob, replacing the clutch
Way back when, a couple of posts ago, I mentioned that Colin's clutch was preparing to expire, and that he had contacted someone in Taiwan to get a new one. That was on a Monday, and he received a package (yay! It's like Christmas!) on the following Friday. Over the weekend, we removed the old clutch and put in the new one with the help of a local man named, Jacob. 

After draining the oil and removing the leg shield, I removed the oil screen cover and oil screen and then the eight bolts that secure the engine side cover. When I pulled off the cover, a fair bit of oil drained out, and a couple of parts fell into the tub. Once I had the side cover off, I removed the clutch lever and cam plate. After that, I removed the clutch outer cover and discovered that there was a gasket between the outer cover and the clutch assembly itself. Since I didn't have a replacement gasket, Re carefully used a thin knife blade to separate it from both pieces. Fortunately, we were able to keep it intact, because we will need to reuse it. With the outer cover removed, I could see our big problem of the day. The clutch unit itself is secured to the output shaft by a special “anti-loosen locknut.” The anti-loosen locknut requires a special tool which we don't have. Basically, the tool is a socket with four prongs that project from it that engage the notches in the locknut. The locknut sits down in a well in the center of the clutch unit, so getting to it with any other tool is difficult. I unsuccessfully tried to loosen it using a hammer and screwdriver but couldn't get a good enough angle. I knew from viewing a Youtube video on replacing the clutch on a Honda Passport, that the Hondas use a similar nut. So while I worked on removing the gasket from the engine case and case cover, Re walked over to one of the repair shops we'd seen while out walking to see if they had the needed tool. I figured if we couldn't borrow the tool, maybe we could push the bike the five blocks or so to the shop and have them remove the nut. 

While she was gone, Robert from reception asked what the problem was. I explained that we needed a special tool to remove the clutch. Fortuitously, Robert's friend, Jacob, happened to be visiting this morning. He came over to look at the problem and said that he had the tool at his house. About this time, Re returned with news that the shop was closed. Jacob said that since it was Sunday, every shop would be closed. I guess I am used to the schedule of motorcycle shops in the US, which are usually open on Sunday and closed on Monday. Jacob said if we could wait for about an hour, he would ride home and get the tools. While he was gone, we finished cleaning up the gasket surfaces and wiped up the oil from inside the cases. Jacob returned with the special wrench and an assortment of other tools and gasket sealants. With his help, we were able to remove the locknut and get the new clutch unit installed. Since we still needed to get a replacement clutch adjustment bolt, this was as much reassembly as we could do now. We reinstalled the side cover temporarily and cleaned up our workspace. We rolled the bike back across the street and then got cleaned up. Since it was now about 2:00 pm, we decided it was time for lunch. We took our adjuster bolt with us and walked over to our favorite chicken and rice place. After lunch, we headed up another street that had several motorcycle repair shops on it, but they were all closed. Since it didn't look like we'd get a replacement bolt today, we hit the grocery store for a watermelon.
We were able to get a new adjuster bolt the next day. Apparently, it is the same as one for a Honda, so the bike shop we wandered into in the morning was able to get one by early afternoon. Later that afternoon, we installed the new adjuster bolt in the side cover, and it was a perfect fit. I then used some gasket shellac that Jacob thoughtfully brought by, on both surfaces, and then carefully installed the gasket. After I installed the last couple parts, on the inside of the side cover, Re carefully helped me slide it over the kick start shaft and dowel pins. With the cover in place, it was just a matter of installing all the bolts, the oil screen and cover, and the kick start lever. After that, we reinstalled the exhaust and leg shields. We refilled the engine with oil, adjusted the clutch, and then, nervously, thumbed the starter button. It started up fine – the clutch seemed to engage and disengage normally, and best of all, there were no oil leaks. I wanted to take it for a quick test ride, so while Re picked up the tools, I ran inside to grab my helmet. I jumped on the bike and began rolling it backwards and noticed that it wasn't rolling very easily. I looked back to see that I had a flat rear tire. So we got the tools back out and grabbed one of the spare tubes and got to work. Twenty minutes later, we had it all put back together and then I went for my test ride. Since it was getting late, I only went around a few blocks, but the bike was shifting normally, and even hitting it hard in second gear didn't produce any slippage.

Ooh, shiny!
In addition to the above, we also did an oil change on both bikes, finally changed Colin's front tire after over 20,000 miles (who knew it would just keep on going?!?), replaced his chain, and gave them a good scrubbing with the "super sunday sponge" to remove the scuffs and stains the bikes amassed.  Because the culture in this part of the world is much more small bike-oriented, parts are widely available and cheap.  The prices we were given at the bike shop nearby were typically a quarter to a third of what we would pay in the US.  Since we plan to keep riding the Symbas once we get to wherever we're going, we went ahead and bought two spare Dunlop tires (real rubber harvested in Malaysia, not the synthetic crap of our original tires), an extra chain, sparkplugs, tubes, and two batteries (we abused ours riding in the high temps everywhere, they boiled nearly dry more than once, and we refilled them with whatever tap water was available. we promise to take better care of these).  

Saturday, June 23, 2012

How We Occupied Our Time in Georgetown Besides Eating

Even though we spent a fair bit of time in Georgetown on our backpacking in southeast Asia trip, there were a few sights and activities we missed.  Someone once told us never to do everything in a place you visit, because then you have no reason to return.  This time around, we saw and did some of the things we skipped last time.  

Kuan Yin, Goddess of Mercy
Kek Lok Si Temple was one of them. It is supposed to be the largest Chinese temple in Malaysia, with a huge bronze statue of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy. The statue is set in an intricately carved stone pavilion and is beautiful. We wandered around the temple grounds, admiring the temple buildings themselves, with their vivid paint jobs, but it all seemed more commercial than either of us expected. At every turn was another gift shop selling typical Buddhist amulets next to Chinese zodiac charms and “Anger Birds” flipflops (no copyright infringement here). On the way to the temple, we rode past it and up the winding road to the dam at Air Hitam (a beautiful reservoir). We got off the bikes and started across the parking lot to have a look at the water and were met by a local woman who told us about the area and that it is possible to ride around the reservoir and all the way across the island. Which we did another day.  

Malaysian blue coral snake
The ride around the reservoir and to the other side of Penang started with a left turn at a locked gate across the main road.  We started up the hill, following a sign in Chinese with a red arrow pointing toward something that way (unable to read Chinese, we had no idea if it indicated an event, a temple, a firing range, a home for wayward kittens, or perhaps, a frog sanctuary), indicating that it went somewhere.  We followed the road, up and up, and farther up a steep, narrow road covered in wet leaves, until we reached a fork.  With no more signs in Chinese or any other language, we shrugged at each other and chose the path to the right.  It led through jungle-y vegetation and what looked like a plantation of waxy, pink proteas (think Little Shop of Horrors) and then to...a dead end guarded by a pack of Bumpus hounds. 

Green tree viper
So we returned from whence we came, stopping to inspect a dead snake - it was another red-headed krait (or more specifically, a Malaysian blue coral snake, which is a subspecies) which appeared untouched but unmoving.  Continuing on, we stopped again, at the entrance to the road around the reservoir, to see what other people were staring intently at.  Apparently, it was a snaky kind of day, because the object of their attention (and now ours) was a small green tree viper (another venomous variety).  

Another day, we decided to go for a walk up Penang Hill.  Many people do it for fun, exercise, or the challenge of it.  Penang Hill is the island's "hill station," being the highest point and several degrees cooler than the surrounding area.  In the British heyday, it was where people went to escape the heat, being carried in sedan chairs the 2300 feet to the top.  Nowadays, there is a funicular train to carry visitors up and down the hill (less colonial, but easier on the locals' backs).  We took the bus to the Botanical Gardens, where we located the trail at the Moon Gate leading up the hill.  The first part of the trail was all stairs.  The second part, which was much easier to manage, was a trail that wound through the jungle and eventually exited onto a road that continued the rest of the way to the top.  

Unsure where the jungle trail went (it just seemed to end at the road, although we'd heard it was supposed to go all the way to the top), we took the paved road.  Almost immediately, we realized we should have looked harder for the trail.  The road snaked back and forth up the hill, with each straight section no longer than about 100 feet.  That doesn't sound bad at all, right?  Well, if not for the 30% to 40% incline (literally.  that's really what the road signs said.  it wasn't just our imagination) it would have been just lovely.  Instead, we'd trudge from one curve to the next, stop and sit on the guardrail, gasping for breath, and I'd say, okay... I can... make it... to the next... curve.  Fun.  When we finally got to the top, we were drenched to the skin.  We staggered into the cafe at the top, ordered some food, and collapsed on a bench.  Once we'd eaten and our legs stopped wobbling, we took the funicular train back to the bottom.  

We spent a fair bit of time at the beach at Batu Ferringhi, camped out under the trees, reading a book.  The sand is rather coarse, the water is somewhat cloudy, but it's clean, quiet, and makes a good place to spend a couple of hours.  We also went bowling.  On the waterfront in Georgetown is a bowling alley.  It's air-conditioned, cheap, and fun.  Neither of us is going to win any tournaments. We saw movies.  In any given week, there are at least three American movies in the theaters.  Most of them are blockbuster adventure type shows, but they are, again, cheap.  We almost never go to see movies in the States because of the expenditure, but when a ticket costs no more than 3 USD, why not?  We saw: The Avengers (twice), Battleship, The Cabin in the Woods, Dark Shadows, Men in Black III, Safe, Snow White and the Huntsman, and Prometheus.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Eating in Georgetown

Georgetown is, without a doubt, my favorite city in the world. We spent nearly seven weeks there, off and on, between trips to Thailand, the F1 race, and the Malaysian highlands.  I will try to summarize how we spent our time to fill in the last month's gap.  

As you all know by now, love to eat. We ate. A lot. We developed a list of our favorite dining spots and rotated through them, adding new establishments and dishes all the time. Since the main three ethnic groups in Malaysia are Chinese (70% of the population of Penang), Malay, and Indian, we know our way around the Chinese, Malay, and Indian menus in the city. 

Wonton mee
We have our favorite hawker stalls for a variety of mee (noodle) dishes.  It is interesting how many types of noodles there are, and that each kind is perfectly suited to a specific dish.  My favorite would have to be the wide, soft rice noodles, particularly when they are fried in a wok to give them a slightly charred-around-the-edges flavor and texture with beansprouts and just about anything else.  Colin is a fan of the eggy, wheat noodles, particularly when a whole block of them is fried until crunchy and served with a pile of stir-fried vegetables and meat heaped on top.  Our very favorite noodle dish is probably wonton mee.  It's a simple dish of thin, soft wheat noodles served in soy and mushroom based sauce, with char sieu (bbq pork), steamed greens, crisp-fried pork fat, pickled chilies, and soft wontons. The only kind of noodle dish neither of us enjoyed was chee chong fun, which is a sheet of rice noodle that is steamed, rolled tight, and cut into sections, and served with globs of hoisin, chili sauce, and some sesame seeds. It's not that they taste bad, they're just kind of unexciting compared to everything else.  

The best coffee man in Georgetown
We found out that the Chinese kopi (coffee) shops are infinitely better than anywhere else for a good, strong jolt of caffeine. Each morning I walked to the corner to get coffee to takeaway, and as soon as the man who takes orders saw me, he yelled my order back to the coffee guy, without even asking what I wanted. As you stroll the streets of Chinatown, you smell the roasting coffee bean aroma wafting in the air throughout the day.  The beans are delivered to the coffee shops daily, so it is always fresh, and many of the individual shops have their own 'special' roast.  

Nasi kandar at Line Clear
One style of meal particular to Malaysia is nasi kandar, which is rice with other stuff, from beef rendang, to curried squids, to okra.  To order, you walk up to the counter, on which is an array of meats, egg dishes, and vegetables.  The server puts a pile of rice in the middle of your plate and you tell him what else you want.  For the very best flavor, once your plate is loaded, the man will dip into each of the different pots of meat and fish curries and spoon some of the gravy over the top of everything.  There are nasi kandar restaurants on virtually every street in Penang, but the very best is called Line Clear.  It occupies an alley between two buildings and has been there, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for something like 70 years.  I hope it never shuts down!

Sultan, hard at work on rotis
Virtually every morning, I would walk to Yasmeen for roti canai.  Roti just means bread.  It is a flat bread, made from flour, water, salt, and ghee.  The people who make them are masters, flattening balls of dough with the meat of their palms and then flipping the dough in the air until it is paper thin.  The dough is then folded several times and placed on a hot griddle with more ghee and cooked until golden and crispy.  You can get them with bananas, eggs, onion, even sardines folded into the middle before they're cooked, but the best is a fresh plain one, served with a bowl of dhal (spicy lentil stew).  My buddies, Mohammad and Sultan at Yasmeen made the best ones we found.  Colin and I miss them terribly...

Tea cart on Lebuh Cintra
No matter where you go, at any time of the day or night, you will always find something delicious to eat or drink.  Hawker stands set up for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, everywhere.  If you happen to be walking down the street in the evening and feel the need for a cup of herbal tea and a pancake, it can be had.  If you want an ear of roasted corn, a preserved egg, and some grilled squid skewers, that's yours, too.  You name it, you can probably find it.  It is virtually impossible to go hungry in Georgetown.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Party's Almost Over...

As usual, I have been extremely negligent in my blogging duties. We arrived in Georgetown on April 29, so...I am over a month behind. Since we have remained here since then (with the exception of a several day ride through the center of Malaysia) I will try to summarize our time. Georgetown is, for the two of us, very, very comfortable. We've come to think of it as our second home (considering that we don't actually have a first one, I suppose it is home sweet home). It is a good combination of old and new architecture, and has a walkable old town, with good public transportation to get farther afield. Healthcare, as well as other essential services, is modern and and much less expensive than in the US. The city has a better multicultural mix and feel than virtually anywhere we've been, and it benefits from its long history as a trading port in the variety of foods, sights, and festivals. The residents are relaxed and friendly, and you don't feel like a tourist here. We don't want to leave.  But in less than 24 hours (at 9:00 am local time on June 11th), we will be flying back to Los Angeles.  It should hopefully only take us a day or so to get the bikes released from Customs, and then we will ride back to Oregon.  We'll be taking the "scenic route" (or, not the interstate) through eastern California and stopping to see friends along the way back to Portland.  Once we get there, we'll load our remaining belongings, including the mighty Symbas, into a moving truck and drive it all to North Carolina.  I will be posting about our adventures in Georgetown, because we have had some excellent times and met some very interesting people along the way (we will be held hostage on a variety of airplanes for approximately 18 hours, so plenty of time to write).  Look for updates soon (along with our smiling faces!).

Friday, June 8, 2012

Our Savior, Gorilla Tape

Gorilla Tape solution
It's a two-day (really one and a half) trip to get from Koh Phangan to Georgetown. Our plan was to get to Hat Yai the first day and then have an easy half day to G-town. Once we rode off the ferry and onto dry land, the weather was hot, but the roads were flat and smooth, making for an easy run with Colin's clutch. I continued checking periodically for signs of an oil leak as we rode, and all seemed fine. But when we stopped at a gas station to refuel, Colin noticed an oil dribble down the outside of the engine case. We pulled behind the station and removed the nut from the clutch adjustment bolt, took off the makeshift Gorilla Tape seal, and discovered the heat of the engine caused the now molten adhesive to liquify and ooze out between the tape layers.  Since we were still 15 miles from Trang and 75 miles from Hat Yai, I decided to try a new piece of tape and hoped that it would work. The replacement tape seemed to be holding, and Re pulled alongside every five miles to check for leaks. 

With about 25 miles to go to Hat Yai, Re gave me the thumbs down signal. Double crap. We pulled off on the side of the road and got out the tools and tape once more. Once again, the adhesive was squishing out from between the layers of tape, clearly the heat of the engine is causing the adhesive to liquify, and this means the nut is no longer held by the “springiness” of the tape layers. As we worked on the bike on the side of the road, a group of old Honda Cubs with interesting paint jobs and loud pipes blew by. A few minutes later, they all returned to see what we were doing. Old Honda Cubs must be hip in Thailand now, since these riders would be “hipsters” in the US. They all wore skinny jeans, had funky haircuts, pudding bowl or three-quarter helmets, and goggles. None of the seemed to speak English, but they did all stand around until my bike was running once more. Since we had no other real alternative, we made a new tape seal and crossed our fingers that it would hold. Colin let the engine run for a couple of minutes to see if it would start leaking again, and when it seemed to be working, we packed up the tools, waved goodbye to the “Cub Club,” and hit the road again. In an effort to minimize the vibration and heat, we rode the last 25 miles at a reduced speed. Re continued to check for oil leaks, but thankfully, we made it into Hat Yai, to the Park Hotel, with no further dribbles. 

After unloading our stuff into the room, we walked out to the night market to find our favorite khao mok kai (KMK) vendor. As we approached the familiar corner, there was no KMK to be seen. What?! While Re went to look for another vendor, I bought fruit shakes and a nearby stand. The woman making the fruit shakes was Muslim and wore a headscarf and veil, so only her eyes showed. The farther south you go in Thailand, the more Muslim it becomes, and English seems to be less widely spoken. So I was pleasantly surprised when the fruit shake vendor turned out to speak English fairly well. She was able to explain to me that our usual KMK vendor was taking a ten-day vacation to go to Phattalung for his sister's wedding. Since she seemed so friendly and knowledgeable, I asked her if there was another KMK stall around. She was able to point us to another stall that was just a few blocks away. We quickly found it, ordered our dinner, and sat down to another delicious meal. On our way back to the room, we stopped again at the 7Eleven for a couple of Changs. Back in the room, I had a moment of ennui when it occurred to me that this would be my last Chang of the trip and maybe for many years.

The next morning, we made the now familiar trip to the Thailand/Malaysia border. The new tape seal held, with not a drop of oil seen, all the way back to Penang. We kept our speed down (not that it's very high to begin with) in an attempt to minimize the strain on Colin's clutch (it was slipping pretty badly) and to keep the tape seal from melting. The border crossing was easy, stress-free, and quick. It did take a few minutes longer this time than on our previous crossing, but that was only due to a border officer's excited interest in our current adventure and our hope to settle in Malaysia in the future. 

We made it back to Georgetown, pulled up in front of the Star Lodge again, and paid for two weeks. Mr Lim, the older Chinese man working the reception counter, said it was his last day and gave us quite a nice discount on the room (20 percent off!) as his parting gift to the owner. I believe Mr Lim had started 'celebrating' his last workday much before our arrival. As Colin and I sat in the lobby, he proclaimed the merits of traditional Chinese medicine and reflexology. After giving me a recipe for a concoction to improve our eyesight (which consisted of one potato, one tomato, one carrot, and half an apple, all peeled, pureed together, and to be eaten each morning with no other foods), he shared another Oriental secret to longevity: exercise. Mr Lim reached out and squeezed my forearm and said, “you are solid. You need to stay solid.” He then took off his shoes and stretched out one leg in front of him, resting his heel on a table, and bent over until his chin rested on his thigh. Realize, this man is 60 years old. Never in my life have I been able to do this. He then sat down on the floor and demonstrated some other stretching exercises before jumping up, lifting his shirt, and pounding on his abdomen to prove his superior strength. Next came his lesson in reflexology to me: never let a tipsy, old, Chinese man rub your foot (that wasn't his intended message, but that's what I got out of it after squealing in pain as he dug his thumb into my instep to 'massage' out the toxins left there by the rubbish we ingest. I had a bruise a week later). All the while, Colin tried to keep a straight face and maintain focus on the computer screen in a search for a new clutch source in the area. Unable to find one in the area (they import SYMs to Malaysia, but not the Symbas, and nothing with the same engine) he emailed a contact in Taiwan, named Cam, to inquire about getting one shipped to us here. 

Having done what I could do for now, Re and I decided to go to dinner. We've both been dreaming of dim sum for a while now, so once again, we found ourselves walking down Lebuh Cintra to De Tai Tong restaurant. As usual, the food was excellent, the service was friendly, and we ate too much. After walking around town a bit, we made our way back to the Star Lodge. Re came down with a vicious headache, so I left her in the room with the lights off and posted some ride reports from the lounge. When I flipped open the laptop, I was surprised to see that Cam had already sent an email that he would check on parts availability for me in the morning, and if the parts were in stock, he would send them out by noon on Monday. Wow!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Thaisland Part III: Koh Phangan

More view from the ferry to Koh Phangan- it's purrrty!
There was a massive storm overnight that killed the power, and it didn't return until about 7:00 am. Consequently, there was no A/C or even a fan. This made for a very hot and sweaty night (not the good kind). Although it was a miserably moist night without much sleep because of my insane itching (I even woke Colin with my scratching several times), I felt, overall, better in the morning. I was able to walk down the road to the 7Eleven to get coffee and yogurt without keeling over. If only I could ditch the rash! It was painful to wear my sandals, which have a textured base, but it hurt even more to go barefoot.  

one of many gorgeous sunsets on Koh Phangan
The morning was beautifully clear after last night's toad strangler, so I set myself on the porch, while Re walked out to the 7Eleven (yes, they even have them in paradise). We spent the rest of the morning reading on the porch and generally being lazy. Around lunchtime, we made the quarter mile walk into town and had a lunch of curries at a small Thai place. Back at the bungalow, we did some more reading before putting on sunscreen to head out on the beach. The water here is fantastic- clear and warm, and the beach is powdery, white sand. After the sun set, we returned to the bungalow to shower and then head out to dinner. One of the reasons our bungalow is such a good price is that it is the end of the season. One downside to this is that all the restaurants on the beach are basically empty. We chose the best sounding place and sat down at a table on the beach. We spent the next ten minutes trying to get the attention of a waiter or waitress, but to no avail. While we sat there, we both decided that the poutine at Crave sounded pretty good. So we gave up and walked to Crave via the main road. Unsurprisingly, the poutine was delicious. Re had hers with ground beef, and I chose pulled pork. While we waited for our food to arrive, we made use of their free wifi to research dengue fever.

After reading an online list of the symptoms, we are both pretty certain that I have dengue fever. It starts with a high-ish fever accompanied by severe aching, then you feel better, then the fever returns, then nausea and vomiting may set in, then a pink, itchy rash may appear, starting with tender palms and soles. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick...yup, that about sums it up. Classic dengue fever. We had no idea, because the symptoms didn't occur simultaneously. Anyway, there's nothing to do for it but rest, take analgesics for the aches, and drink lots of fluids. I added antihistamines for the itching, but there's no miracle fix that a doctor can provide. Just for education purposes, dengue fever is transmitted by mosquitoes (yet another reason to despise them). There are four serotypes of the disease, and having one of them gives you immunity to that serotype only. If you get dengue fever again, you are likely to have a much worse time of it. The ultimate variety is the hemorrhagic version which will put you in the hospital and can be fatal. Yaaayyyyy... Dengue is coming to a tropical paradise near you- there have been outbreaks in the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, and in Key West, Florida (in 2009), so USE BUG SPRAY!!!!!!! In the grand scheme of mosquito-borne diseases, there are certainly worse ones (malaria and Japanese encephalitis to name two) to get, but I would strongly advocate avoiding it.

Our bungalow
We spent six nights on Koh Phangan, relaxing in the hammock on our porch or on the sand, reading, swimming, walking on the beach, and scratching (just me). In and amongst our busy daily schedule, I managed to squeeze in a beachside massage one afternoon as well. The woman knelt on me, pulled my limbs all a-kilter, and rubbed with her elbows until I felt like a puddle of jelly. We also got to enjoy a couple more huge, overnight thunderstorms (minus the power outages, thankfully). One night, the winds blew so hard, that water actually came in around the windows! It was quite a light show on the water that night.

the green light isn't an UFO, it's a squid boat on the water
Our original plan had been to spend a couple of nights on one beach and then move to another one for another few nights. But since our bungalow was so comfortable and cheap, and the food was so good, we decided to stay put on Had Yao for the entire time (also because we didn't know if Colin's clutch would make it over the next hill, let alone back to the ferry dock when we did need to go). We finally found our island paradise! Since we were there during the off-season, there were very few people on the beach, and every place was quiet. My appetite returned over the next several days, and I am sure the restaurant proprietors were quite pleased to have us as guests. We found a great beachfront place where we ate dinner three nights, trying a variety of curries and pastas with fresh squid and prawns, green papaya salads, tempura vegetables (try pumpkin, enoki mushrooms, and green beans sometime, in addition to your onions and broccoli), and we returned to Crave one more time (Okay, now try a burger topped with melted brie, crispy bacon, and homemade mayonnaise. Then have a pulled pork sandwich with bleu cheese, homemade pickled jalapenos, and bbq sauce as a patty melt. Muy delicioso!).

Listening to some tunes on the ferry
This too, had to come to an end (so we wouldn't grow roots), so after six days, we rose early (5:00 am) and rode to catch the 7:00 ferry back to the mainland.  :^(    Colin's bike made the journey to the port without event, and we arrived at the ferry dock with plenty of time.  The morning was sunny and breezy, and because of the winds (I guess), the return boat ride took about an hour longer than the outbound trip. 
On the ride we met a Swiss couple who were riding their bicycles from Switzerland to New Zealand. We spent some time chatting with them before plugging in our earbuds, plopping ourselves on the deck, and watching the islands slowly slide by. It was a beautiful morning, with clear skies and a nice breeze. Around 10:15 am, the ferry docked at Don Sak and we were, once again, riding toward Malaysia.

Alive and Itching: Ride to Koh Phangan

Raja ferry to Koh Phangan
To end the suspense, I did wake the next morning. Without feeling nauseous! The itch on my hands and feet, however, spread everywhere else overnight, and I had a rosy, flat rash from my neck (but not my face) to my feet. My palms were as red as those of an adolescent boy in the midst of “self-discovery.” It was truly awesome. I managed to eat the remaining package of crackers and drink the second "fauxterade" Colin brought me last night for breakfast, showered, and felt pretty okay (except for my need to scratch). Colin loaded the bikes once again under a clear, blue sky, and we hit the road at 8:40 am to catch the 10:00 ferry to Koh Phangan. Aaaagghh we were late

view from the ferry
Typically, if we get a late start, it really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. But this morning, we had a 35 mile ride to get to the ferry, and with our cruising speed reduced by Colin's failing clutch, we were hard-pressed to make it in time. Traffic was relatively light, and the weather cooperated, so we made decent enough time, but about 20 miles into the trip, the crackers and syrupy sweet electrolyte drink I ate for breakfast wanted to make a second appearance. I signaled for Colin to slow down to ask how much farther (because I really wasn't concentrating on my odometer at that moment). Since we were over halfway there and really didn't want to miss the ferry, I said I was alright to keep going t0 the ferry (C0lin did remind me that if I felt the need to hurl, to open my face shield beforehand (good advice)). So we did, arriving at the ticket booth for the car ferry with about ten minutes to spare. I used the time wisely and ran to the restroom to barf. Feeling much improved afterward, I stopped in the convenience store and bought some water and potato chips (they're good queasy food to me for some reason) and then rushed back to get on the bike, since Colin said they'd sounded the horn to GO! while I was inside. As soon as we rode down the ramp onto the boat, they raised the ramp and got underway. Fortunately for Re, the ferry was huge, so the ride was smooth. Re was able to eat some food on board and generally felt better before we arrived at Koh Phangan. 

The ferry docked at around noon, and we rode off into a scorching hot day. We didn't know where we were going to stay but had written down the names of some promising beaches to scout. The beaches we were interested in were on the northwestern coast, so we headed in that direction, through the center of the island. Once we reached the north shore, we turned left onto a smaller road that was extremely hilly. As we made our way south down the west coast, my hill climbing ability continued to diminish. Just before we got to Had Yao (Long Beach) I found myself in first gear, only at about a quarter throttle, and actually duck-walking my bike over the top of a hill. Afraid to go any further, we decided to stay in Had Yao. Re started scouting bungalows, and soon returned with great news- she found us a beachfront bungalow, with A/C, a fridge, and a hot shower for only 600 baht. 

The beach here is beautiful, Re is feeling better, so maybe things are looking up. We spent the afternoon relaxing and walking on the beach before turning our attention to dinner. In one of the little tourist guides in our bungalow, there was a review of a restaurant here in Had Yao called, Crave. The reviewer said they serve excellent burgers, and since the owner/chef is French Canadian, they also make some great poutine. Both of us have been craving a really good burger for a long time, so we decided to try it for dinner. Today actually is our 23rd wedding anniversary, which gave us all the more reason to skip a cheap Thai meal and splurge on something different. Crave lived up to the review, with great food and friendly owners. I had a thick, juicy, most excellent burger with real blue cheese, sauteed mushrooms, and onions, while Re had the “Monster Meatloaf,” which was a one-inch thick slab of meatloaf on a bun, with bbq sauce and homemade dill pickle rings. Their fries were excellent as well, and we really enjoyed our meal. I was definitely on the mend, but I couldn't finish my dinner. Colin didn't mind though, he reaped the benefits and cleaned my plate.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

I'm Not Dead, So We're going to Surat Thani.

I had to get out of there. I don't like being sick and am definitely not good at it. I had pretty much decided that no matter what, if I wasn't dead, we were going to move on to Surat Thani the next morning. But my body decided that it hated me and added yet another new symptom overnight- nausea accompanied by vomiting. Undeterred by this new development, I went out and got cereal and yogurt, had dry heaves (yay.) when I returned, ate, felt better. Colin was unconvinced by my pronouncement that I was fine, but I told him there was no way I could spend another day in bed, we had to go.

So we finished packing, loaded the bikes, and took off for Surat Thani. As par for the course, a gentle rain began to fall as we left. It rained, on and off, for most of the day. I actually did feel pretty decent for most of the morning, but toward lunchtime, my nausea returned. Colin spotted a roadside bbq chicken stand, and we pulled over. Hoping that putting something in my stomach would settle it, I nibbled on a chicken leg and ate a few balls of sticky rice before handing the remainder over to Colin to finish. Once we were back on the road and I'd had a few minutes to digest the food offering, I did actually feel better. 

We continued on our ride, and the rain continued to fall intermittently. In one of the sunny breaks between the raindrops, we stopped to refuel the bikes. After filling the tanks, I sat down next to my bike (feeling a sudden and urgent need to nap), while Colin adjusted his clutch in an attempt to reduce the slipping (unfortunately, the recent oil change didn't fix it). I still had the 14mm wrench in my daypack from my brake adjustment in Koh Lanta, so I didn't even have to get off the bike to adjust it. Extremely bad move. Sitting in the seat, I leaned my head over, put the wrench on the nut that locks the clutch adjuster, and gave it a turn. It seemed stubborn, so I pushed a little harder. And then I felt the unmistakeable feel of bolt threads collapsing. Somehow, from my vantage point in the seat, I was not loosening the bolt, I was tightening it. I got off the bike, attempted to loosen the lock nut this time, and to my dismay, the nut simply rotated in place. To make matters worse, there was now oil dribbling out from around the clutch adjustment bolt. The clutch adjustment bolt sticks out through the engine side cover and passes through an oil seal on the way. Between the lock nut and the engine side cover, is a washer. Apparently, if this washer is not held tightly to the side cover, the oil seal doesn't really seal. Now that the lock nut was stripped and loose, oil was dribbling out. Oh no. We broke out the tools, and after much fiddling, were able to get the lock nut off the clutch adjustment bolt. I had hoped to have only stripped the nut, but unfortunately, the threads in both the nut and the bolt were crushed. There were a few good threads left on the bolt near the oil seal (they had been protected by the washer), and so we looked around on the bike for another nut that could maybe work on the bolt. We couldn't find another suitable nut, so I gingerly threaded the stripped nut back onto the bolt and hoped that it would catch on the remaining threads. It did, and so I tightened it as much as I dared. It seemed to be holding the adjuster, and so I reached up and thumbed the started button, only to watch oil come pouring past the nut. Huh (that's not actually what I said, over, and over, and over). We were in the middle of the countryside, with no real place to get parts or help, so we needed to fix this now. I explained what was going on to Re, and she said, why don't we just use some Gorilla Tape? I think she meant to use the sticky side against the engine case (that was what I meant), which might hold the oil in momentarily, but not for long. But it was still a good idea, which I changed a little bit. We took a small piece of Gorilla Tape, folded it over, sticky side to sticky side, and then cut a tiny hole in the center. We slipped it over the clutch adjuster bolt, carefully pressed it against the oil seal and engine side cover, and then threaded the nut on top. Basically, the double layer of Gorilla Tape was taking the place of the washer. We adjusted the clutch and then carefully tightened the nut as much as we dared, crossed our fingers, and I reached up and thumbed the starter. Yay! No oil ran out this time

For the remaining 60 mile ride to Surat Thani, every five miles, I rode up next to Colin's bike to inspect it for leaks. It was a pleasant surprise to us both that the tape held for the entire journey! But the break in the rain did not. As we neared the city of Surat Thani, somebody pulled the rain lever again. It poured. When it turned into a veritable deluge, we decided to seek shelter and pulled off the road under an overpass for half an hour, during which time, the rain didn't even stutter. Since it was getting late, and riding in the rain and the dark while searching for a hotel in a city for which you don't have a map is even less fun, we forged on. We did manage to find the hotel we were looking for after another 45 minutes of riding (no it's not the only place in town, and we did stop at others along the way, but as soon as I would reach the reception desk, they all said, “full,” so we kept looking). 

When we arrived and the woman at the counter said they had rooms, even though the rate was 100 baht more than the online rate, I was delighted. Cold and soaking wet (the reception lady actually had to get a towel to soak up the puddle under my arm as I completed the registration form) feeling like crap again, but delighted. While Colin unloaded the bikes, I carried our helmets and daypacks to the room and got out of my riding suit. I was chilled and thought a nice, hot shower would help, but first, I had to stop to worship the porcelain god and make an offering of dry heaves. Once showered, warmed, and dried, I climbed under the covers and went to sleep. Since I really didn't feel like eating anything, and it was now dinnertime, Colin walked out to the market and found some pork and noodle soup for himself, and returned with soda water and crackers for me (he is such a sweetheart!). Then, since I thought I might like a Gatorade, he went back out and brought me two of the Thai version of Gatorade (much sweeter and more syrupy) as well. The crackers and soda were sitting well, so I drank one of the fauxtorades. It sat well, and I felt much better. Except that now, my palms and soles of my feet were tender and itchy (could this really get any worse?). Doing my best to ignore them, I brushed my teeth, got back under the covers, and went to sleep for the night.