Peggy and Randy Ford Authors- FOUND OUR WAY 39th Installment

14. Hat Yai We spent somewhat longer in Bangkok after out trip north than we planned. I was sick with amebic dysentery. But a big supply of pills put me back on my feet.

Early one morning we left Bangkok by bus with our bicycles on top. Immigration told us that we had to be out of the country within a few days. It took us three days to reach Hat Yai, the southern-most Thai town of any size. There we visited the Seventh Day Adventist doctors we stayed with in Phuket, then in Bangkok (they were transferred to Hat Yai at the beginning of the month) and the boy who taught us Thai numbers when we first came into the country.

The next morning we took off by bicycle to cross into Malaysia. We cleared the last Thai checkpoint about 4:00 p.m. (nobody asked us anything about Chanee) and made it to the Malay immigration customs checkpoint at 5:15 p.m. Thai time (5:45 Malay time) and before they closed the border. The time between the two checkpoints was a little eerie because it was in a border security area due to trouble from communist terrorists (in the jungle we came upon a tank). There was actually no danger during daylight hours, but we were still relieved to get into a non-restricted area.

1. Malaysian Border The Malaysians seemed to have gotten stricter about who entered their country … maybe because Singapore had cracked down on hippies and thus most young Anglo tourist. But we had no trouble, while they didn’t allow a German into the country. He apparently didn’t have a required sum of money. They however thought we should have had an import paper and Thai health certificate for Chanee, but they weren’t concerned enough to do anything about it.

After finishing with immigration-custom officials, we went to get Malaysian money. But all we had were traveler’s checks and nobody wanted them. And we learned that the next day was a legal holiday. We were ready to despair, but it worked out after all. We had one Malay dollar left from when we were there before … 33 cents in U.S. terms, and we found a Catholic church and got permission to stay in a big hall there. (We weren’t the only travelers stuck there that night.) From previous traveling, we still had a tiny bit of Chinese tea, lots of sugar, and a can of sardines. We bought 10 cents worth of rice, 20 cents worth of kerosene, set up our stove, and boiled tea water (and drinking water for the next day) and cooked rice. We also had four oranges, so we had quite a feast.

The next morning we boiled more water and re-re-re-used our tea leaves, boiled eggs that a Frenchman who was with us bought, and had a can of pineapple that had been given to us in Bangkok. Then we loaded up and headed for the next town (Alor Star), where there was the Methodist minister (Irish) whom we stayed with on the last trip through.

2. Alor Star When we got to Alor Star at 12:30 … hot, tired, and hungry … we learned that the minister and his wife were at a conference in Penang. We explained our money situation to friends of theirs who were at their house, and they took us to another friend who very kindly cashed a traveler’s check for us. So we were rich again.

The next morning we took off again, this time for Penang, sixty miles and many hills away. It was really a beautiful ride … through jungle, rubber plantations, and green rice fields. We had forgotten how much more beautiful Malaysia was than Thailand. Penang was also a very nice city (actually the island Penang and the city Georgetown, but everyone called the city Penang.)

3. Penang The next morning we took Chanee to get a health certificate. It was a good thing we did because we probably wouldn’t have gotten out of country with him if we hadn’t, but it had a very sad outcome: he was placed in quarantine. He was perfectly healthy, but officials were justifiably worried about rabies. When we left health officials escorted him to our boat. Quarantine wouldn’t have been so bad if Chanee could’ve understood why he couldn’t be with us. We went to see him twice a day. His cage was nice and big, but he didn’t know why he had to stay when we left. He survived the ordeal, but he was very quiet and skittish.

We contacted a shipping company that went from Penang to Medan Sumatra (where we wanted to go). They weren’t sure when they would be sailing next … maybe within a week or so. They didn’t even know what boat was coming in, so how could they know when anything was leaving. We had to leave from Penang because of Chanee, so we just waited. Meanwhile we applied for Indonesian visas and got customs approval to take our bikes out of the country.

While we waited we visited Chanee, did a little shopping (but not much … we had to be careful with our money), did a little reading, and caught up on laundry. We noticed that FUNNY GIRL was showing across on the mainland, and MIDNIGHT COWBOY was to be a special midnight show. So we went to see a couple movies. The next day we went to church and then to the beach. So we had a good time … only we wished Chanee weren’t in jail.

Peggy and Randy Ford

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