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.

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