Today we learn that dogs that are tame or feral are not to be trusted, a tea plantation is not only beautiful it’s also incredibly interesting too, Sharmila at Tanah Rata Bus Station is a mine of information and a thoroughly nice person, and there are new facilities in the lavatory of a hotel in Kuala Lumpur that do things for you that you wouldn’t believe. The latter is a must-read!
The drive to Tanah Rata is picturesque but also scarred where farms have been established under plastic sheeting similar to what can be seen in Spain and Portugal to extend their season. I’m not sure why it’s used here as the seasons are either warm and wet or just warm either way they get the heat.
It takes us a little time to locate the apartment that Emma had spotted on hotels.com, three bedroomed and two en-suite and it is quite new. She’s done a great job identifying this one and it’s great value too.
We unpack and decide on a walk to Robinson Falls, it’s not as far as we’d planned but that’s alright we just don’t have the amount of day that we thought we’d have.
It leads us out of town and the internet illustrated many of these walks but the cautionary observation that is made with all of them is that once out of town they’re well marked but finding the track from the town is a nightmare. We’re lucky and find the track and once out of town they’re right, it’s easy to follow and in this case, it’s doubly easy because we’re following the river.
We’re approaching an old hut and next to it is an elderly man with only the odd tooth and I’m not sure about the state of one of his arms but the slightly alarming thing is that he has three dogs one of which is a bitch and she’s clearly feeding some puppies somewhere. All of the books tell the same story, ‘don’t get bitten by an animal especially a dog’ and ‘if you do get bitten then get it seen to within 24 hours’ (we read conflicting views of one day to six days but C double checks and it’s 24 hours)
He’s clearly got no control of them and is wielding a short stick and, by the sounds of things, is threatening them, especially the one that’s bolting towards us. I hold the back of my hand out for it to indicate friendship then withdraw it as it shoots past us. The old man follows gesturing with his stick; no matter, they’re behind us and we walk on.
The track is generally down which means that when we come back we’ll be out of breath and that’s good for us. We pass several falls but none of them is enough for us to identify as Robinson’s Falls then after more ups, downs and meanderings the actual force is there and it’s worth the walk, it’s a reasonable height and we get a few nice snaps.
Further down into the gully and we’re happy that we’ve seen the best and decide on our return and it is indeed ‘up’.
We round a bend and there’s our toothless friend again with his three canines zigging and zagging like the feral animals that they are. They rush past us and we’re breathing a sigh of relief when there’s a scream.
“It’s bit me!”
Now there are several things that I’ve learned over the years. C is not prone to screaming and certainly not for anything trivial. I look back and she’s grasping the back of her thigh. The man with the stick, who actually doesn’t look a full shilling is shouting something in a language that I don’t understand then he goes quiet and just looks. He’s not actually focussing, he’s just staring. Certainly before the incident further upstream earlier he didn’t look like he had all his faculties but he’s vacant now. C first lifts her shorts but we can’t see properly although the promising thing is that the material looks unbroken. She drops them down so we can look properly and, bugger, there’s quite a bruise but worse than that, the skin is broken. There were only a few seconds of the shout followed by some well-chosen words at the imbecilic old man then she’s well in control and we set on a mission to return to the town and find a clinic.
If rabies is present in an area then a precautionary vaccine needs to be administered within 6 days according to some sites; however, nearly all of the others suggest it should be within 24 hours so we’re on a mission.
Tanah Rata Hospital
As we turn away from the river and head back to the main road we see a sign indicating the local hospital is only 500 metres along the main road so that our destination. It takes less than quarter of an hour to reach the hospital and another 5 to find the A&E so all should be fine.
No, they won’t look at her without her passport, who knows what would happen if she’d been bleeding to death but that is the verdict from the triage person so we grab a taxi and head back to the town centre and, hopefully, a clinic.
It doesn’t open until 2030. OK, we agree to go back to the apartment and then return to the hospital complete with passport. Luckily C is now well on top of it and back to usual form of ignoring anything I say in favour of what she intends to do. The moment she’s in the hospital she asks the most important question, “If I need or want the vaccine, have you got it in stock?” Perfectly reasonable question for an area that, according to the internet, may have rabid animals and all sites say you should get checked out.
The consequences are dire if you do get rabies and you haven’t started the course of injections that stop it progressing. It’s certain death and it’s not a pleasant way to go.
I suggest we go to Ipoh, it’s about an hour and a half in the taxi. “No”, she says, “the private clinic may have supplies so we’ll go there and if not then we’ll go to Ipoh or KL”. I’m still unhappy that we’re not dealing with it immediately but that’s me and, in fairness, we’re still in the 24 hours that’s the established critical window so I don’t argue.
We present ourselves at the clinic at the appropriate time. There’s another lady in front of us and numerous others milling about on the pavement or in vehicles trying to stay cool but there’s no doctor. One girl explains that he’s usually reliable and that he lives not far from her so he hasn’t far to travel but still no sign. We’re giving up hope and begin to discuss the taxi journey to Ipoh then twenty minutes late, he turns up and there’s suddenly quite a crowd of people appears from who knows where but we’re second in and maintain that presence.
The GP at the clinic is upbeat and cheerful, he checks the wound and reassures us that in 35 years practice in this area he’s never seen or treated a case of rabies. He then prescribes some antibiotic cream for topical application and within 5 minutes including a quick chat about where we lived in the UK we’re out minus 60 ringets (about £12).
As we walk down the road there’s a lot of relieved banter but still a serious undertone. “So are we going to Ipoh or KL”, says I expecting a decision to favour Ipoh as it’s closer. I’m surprised and disappointed at the response.
“Na, if he’s not seen anything in 35 years let’s go to the Irish pub and eat”, is her decision.
Although I hear the upbeat reply and I have made my feelings clear I’m overruled and spend the next couple of days in a state of anxiety, rabies is a nasty illness and I don’t really want to see another protracted and unpleasant demise of someone to whom I have formed so deep a bond.
BOH Tea Plantation
We make some minor modification to the following day’s objectives and commute the longer walk to a visit to the local tea plantation. This has the combined effect of giving C a bit of a break and also allows both Emma and myself the opportunity to fulfil one of our objectives for being here in the Highlands.
BOH Plantations was founded in 1929 by J.A. Russel, a British businessman during the British colonial era in Malaya. He was optimistic about the tea plantation business due to huge demands despite the worldwide Great Depression at that time. As a result of the potential, he applied for and was granted a concession of land for his first tea garden in Habu, Cameron Highlands.
The visit is exceptional but does get off to a modified start, We thought the bus took us to the plantation but it drops us at a shopping mall at the end of the access road which is about five kilometres from the plantation and from the evidence of activity, most people appear to be hiring a taxi to reach the farm and factory so that becomes our plan.
I’ll not go into detail but the guy looking after security at the shopping centre rings his mate and offers us a price which is a bit steep; in retrospect it’s probably alright for what he’s offering which is to take us up there and then wait until we’re done then bring us back which is, apparently, standard practice.
We don’t know this of course and when we try to explain that we only want a lift one way so that we can walk back and take photos we’re either misunderstood or ignored.
We’re talking about this in the cafe and the guy that’s serving us has a friend. He calls him and minutes later ‘the friend’ turns up in a boy-racer-vehicle and after some discussion, both he and us don’t conclude a plan and he scoots off with a comment about ‘taxi’.
After numerous phone calls to our waiter’s ‘friend’, we’re sitting on the steps just outside the cafe when a registered taxi makes an appearance, he’s fully conversant with our plan only he’s not who we expect. None of the locals seem to be able to accept that anyone could possibly want to go one way to the tea plantation, they really find it hard to appreciate anyone with the means to pay for transportation could possibly want to walk.
The trip to the plantation is pleasant enough but it is all downhill which means our walk this afternoon is going to be ‘up’! It’s even better for the heart although maybe a little taxing in the heat but that’s OK we’re used to it now.
The visit to the plantation is excellent with a free trip around the processing plant which consists of mostly old equipment but well used and still very much operational. Outside in the waiting area. there are clippers and trimmers that are used to snip and harvest the tips of the leaves of the plants and I’m demonstrating them to C when she points out a sign about the size of a billboard that says please do not touch. Oops, they must be used to it now because no bollocking ensues and I’m not aware of any heavy duty stares from the staff.
As we walk through the Visitor Experience area There’s the inevitable shop and we make use of it utilising the knowledge gained not twenty minutes ago in the factory.
There’s also a cafe area that’s clearly been built to take full advantage of the astonishing view across the valley which has well-tended fields of tea bushes across the slopes and the added beauty of sub-tropical vegetation around and above.
We begin the return walk from the cafe and follow the wooden walkway that has little concession to safety, it’s OK for adults but the Malaysians like most of our Continent Cousins expect parents to look after their kids, I think in the UK the scene would be destroyed by safety fencing and signage that states the obvious, e.g. 300 metre drop – beware! Why anyone would need a sign that says in words what is perfectly obvious with the eye is beyond me. End of rant…
As we pass through the living area we observe a school and a clinic room surrounded by simple accommodation with only a few people moving around, I assume that the majority are still at work and the children are just finishing school, certainly the ones that we see are impeccably dressed in school uniforms and all are clean and pressed. I’ve seen this many times in many different countries even desperately poor ones. I was walking in the hills of the Dominican Republic once and the children there were from little more than slums but they went to school in absolutely flawless uniforms and the moment they returned home they changed into rags to work and play. School is to pay for and must be taken seriously and some have to walk some significant distance to even start their lessons. Here is no exception and I really hope that the school is subsidised or even paid for by the company as it would have been in the day of the pioneering Quakers who looked after their workers so well in the chocolate factories in the UK.
The walk back is excellent although we do stop under a small dutch barn for ten minutes when the rain becomes significant. It’s filled with bags of lime for the plantations and some of it is open from recent activity. Emma is well ahead and tackling the incline easily considering it’s us that are supposed to be the fit ones.
We reach the main road and I take advice from a local shop regarding the next bus and receive the disappointing news that it’s already gone and the next one is another hour so I call the taxi driver who still can’t take in the fact that we walked back and goes to the plantation to pick us up; it takes several calls and some clear directions as to where we are before he gets the message and makes an appearance. He’s just in time to avoid the huge thunderstorm that’s been threatening for the last hour of the walk. Fortunately, he knows the hotel that we want to go to and completes the transportation in heavy rain dropping us just far enough away to get our fronts soaking wet with our backs still dry as we run hell for leather over the front of the drop-off-area. The cocktails are a great treat and leave us feeling relaxed and mellow. Beautiful!
C is looking good and she’s happier than yesterday and feels more confident about the result of the bite but I’m still not comfortable and would much prefer a trip to Ipoh!
The next day I’m up early and spend a couple of hours working through the on-line timetables that allow me to link bus with train; bus with bus and taxi with train. The best option is a bus to Ipoh then train to Kuala Lumpur. I present this to C who is not happy with this having spoken about a different route the night before. I’m not thrilled about this having been given leave to ‘just sort it your way’ and having done the permutation of routes including the jungle train and all failing due to links or, in the case of the Jungle Train a twelve hour journey that didn’t thrill me and I’m still not comfortable with what may or may not be multiplying in her bloodstream. All of this is seriously compounded when she goes on-line to check my findings. So, there’s a degree of tension as we head for the bus station where the tension is mitigated to a degree when we meet someone that is special in every sense.
Tanah Rata Bus Station – Freesia
Sharmila is looking after the customers who use the services in this neck of the woods and she is an oracle of knowledge of the Malaysian transportation services. There’s an immediate friendship between the four of us and we discuss every route including the use of the Jungle Train but it does take over many hours and the links at either end are tenuous. Her recommendations favour a reworked route that obviates having to find a way across Ipoh from the bus station which, she tells us, is a good forty minutes walk from bus to railway station. The reworked plan is to go directly to KL at a princely sum of six quid, it does mean no rail journey which is an experience that I had looked-forward-to but that’s offset by the direct service of the bus and I still have rabies buzzing around in my worry cortex. So that’s what we do…
Sharmila is priceless and even gives C a hug on the way out and leaves us with her personal mobile number and an instruction to ring her if we need help whilst we’re in Malaysia. She is a star and an immensely knowledgeable person to whom we’re most grateful and I’ve written to her bosses to thank them for her assistance.
The bus journey to KL is astonishingly beautiful, especially during the first hour through the jungle in the valley. The road meanders in tight curves but this means the bus is moving slowly and gives us the time to appreciate the wonderful diversity of wood and water capped with blue sky and the occasional cumulus.
The bus does a lot of rocking and rolling as we negotiate the undulating, twisting road and there are static adverts on the internal screen that advices us to “ensure we vomit into a bag” and this is backed up by some graphics that show a face of indeterminate gender throwing up into a bag. You got to give it the Malaysians, they’ve got it covered!
After an hour and a half, we’re onto dual carriageway and motorway still cutting through either jungle or palm-oil-trees the former being the more interesting and also rather better for the environment. We also get glimpses of rivers and flat conventional fields with the occasional crop of exotic fruits such as pineapples.
We enter KL and it’s immediately obvious that it is a modern city with elevated motorways, underpasses and fabulous skyscrapers of every shape and height which will become even more impressive when we see them illuminated tonight.
We’re dropped at Sentral and Emma spots a cafe over the road where we can get a coffee and access their Wi-Fi to plan our route to the Melia Hotel which is at Times Square at Jalan Imbi. The coffee is excellent and the staff so very helpful in getting us Wi-Fi ready.
C goes to the ladies lavatory and comes back with a smile telling us that there is an automated spray device that douses your bits when you go to the loo. I forget about this for few minutes and we plan the route to the Hotel Media which, we decide, will be via taxi (OK so we cheat from time to time but we want to be out there in the sun).
Fully Automated Lavatory
Plan hatched, I take my leave to visit the gents lavatory and use the sitting down technique just to check out the ‘device’ described by C and here’re my thoughts.
You lift the cover and sit on the open toilet seat, OK, I’m stating the obvious. Then, once the performance has finished you reach down to a lever that’s situated to the back of the toilet seat and can be pushed forward or backwards with similar results but the aim is somewhat different.
I’m a man so it should be clear that I haven’t read the instructions that are printed on the back of the cover seat that you raise before sitting down so I remain sitting and push the lever forward.
The toilet flushes then there’s a kind of robotic noise from behind me and something moves forward just below my dangly bits then there’s a short pause and I’m wondering if I should rise when suddenly, without warning, a spray of water hits my scrotum. My reaction is to vacate the toilet seat at a rate of knots that would do justice to a kangaroo bitten on the arse by a snake but I resist the urge with C’s words resonating in my mind, “it’s quite gentle and cleansing”, was what she said but I’m still somewhat perturbed that a man should go for a number two and end up with having his balls washed although, in retrospect, it’s a very pleasant bonus. In fairness, once I’m over the shock, the gentle and comfortably warm spray is rather pleasing and I allow it to complete its cycle with a smile on my face although I think that relocating my testicles after such a shock may take a little more time. The gentle spray stops and the robotic noise occurs again whilst the device returns to its hiding place under the rear of the seat.
Now it has to be said, I hadn’t come in here for a number two, it was all just an experiment; however, having used the forward movement of the lever, in the interests of completeness, I should use the push backwards setting, so I do.
There’s the robotic noise again but this time not as long. It then sprays my bum with the warm water just as before although I have no idea how it knows where the exact spot will be and I’m uncomfortable with the concept of an eye looking for it, magic or otherwise; however, douche done, it robotics its way back under the seat and I’m about to rise wondering about how I dry my nether regions now scrupulously clean. Well in this toilet I can tell you, you don’t! There’s warm air blown at your bum for several seconds and when complete you rise and the toilet flushes once more.
This is the future, this will save on all the toilet paper blocking drains and being flushed out to sea, I’m really impressed although still a little uncomfortable about how it knew where to spray.
Now I do something really stupid!
I’ve never been satisfied with knowing that something works, I really like to know why and how it works so I’m crouched down to read the instructions that are printed with graphics on the underside of the toilet cover seat. I know this should have been done first but it’s part of the hardship associated with not having a second X chromosome. I wear varifocals so I have to get well down close to the pan and tilt my head back to find the sweet spot in my glasses that allows the text and graphics to come into sharp focus (or any focus) and it has me enthralled. I’ve already pushed the lever forward again and am just reading that men don’t need to use the forward position of the lever as that is designed for women and is clearly the reason for my squeaky clean scrotum now repopulated with the testicles that had vacated it in a fit of panic some five minutes earlier. By now the robotic noise has started and the spray bar is moving forward from its hiding place under the seat and I watch in fascination. It has a small round spray accessory on the end very similar to a tiny watering-can rose made of stainless steel.
It looks as though it’s reached the point of maximum movement so it adjusts itself in tiny increments back and forth as if it’s looking for something then, without warning, the spray hits me square in the face! Clearly, it thinks my face is a ladies front bottom, (well I’ve been called worse) and the shock makes me jump back in horror but I remind myself that the water is clean and attempt to slam the soft-close top seat back down but it resists and closes at it own rate whilst water sprays around the cubicle. My attempt to mitigate the effects of the minor flood that I’ve caused by inviting the gentle spray to do its job without a proper recipient is not entirely successful but at least it’s shut now and the spray bar is on its way back home.
I know that the next cycle is to blow warm air from the pan and I could have my face and hair dried but I draw the line at that and use the bottom of my ’T’ shirt to wipe my face. I have to admit, it looks a bit suspect when I leave the cubicle as the watermarks where I’ve wiped my face are directly in front of my flies so I dry the bottom of the ’T’ shirt using the hand dryer before vacating the lavatory still giggling at what I’ve just done.
“How’d it go?”, she asks smiling.
“Fine”, says I, “It’s a great idea!” and pick my rucksack up to hold in front of me.
Next stop Hotel Melia. Wish I was stopping here though!
More to come…
Enjoy the snaps…G..x
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