Jahor, Jahor, she croons. Singapore isn’t listening.
Jahor is a conduit, and television channels from Singapore, Malaysia, and even from as far as Batam in Indonesia are fed on the air ways.
Singapore isn’t listening. And Aunt Anne couldn’t care less.
Anne flew from Kula Lumpur to Singapore. ” The plane nosed up, then nosed down.” I flew from Surabaya, the plane nosed up, then the Captain of Lion Air spoke for nearly half an hour about turbulence, “You let me take care of the bumpy spots, and enjoy the ride.”
Before boarding the plane, I had to deal with immigration.Remember, from a few past posts, I talked about how my Indonesian sponsor wanted to cut up my balls and feed them to the ducks. “What were you doing extending your visa and being in Indonesia for so long,” asked the female Immigration officer. She looked at my passport and the computer screen. Her first words were in Indonesian. Hello, do I look like I’m a native speaker. I said when my visa expired, I left the country and got a new one. And what was wrong with that. I said I visited Banyuwangi and Bali. I never told her that I’ve covered stores from religious intolerance to prostitution, but some things are best left unsaid.
“Anyway”, I added to the sweet immigration lady.” Can you hurry up, I’ve got a flight to catch.” It put her nose out joint, but got my exit visa pronto.
Twice grilled, twice not black listed. Come on Indonesia, you need my foreign currency and I’m creating work for your citizens, whether it’s the hard-working girls from Dolly, to the bojack drivers ,to my trusty cultural guide Pak Sana. Ease up Indonesia, you need foreign tourists. I’m not a Dutch colonialist here to take from you — I’m contributing on your terms. So stop grilling me or I’ll complain to the foreign Minister, Mr. Marty.
We met in Singapore, and took off after a year when we last met in Jogjakarta.
I waited for Aunt Anne outside Belt 31 at Terminal Two. I flew in at another terminal and took Chang’s monorail to get there. A well dressed and young European family took the monorail too. Dad got upset with his son. “You never listen to me. Come here, I’m going to slap you.”
I was jet lagged and coupled with sleep deprivation – nothing like a bit of sport, slapping Dad. I broke out of my reverie.
There was no Hungry Jack’s at terminal Two where we had arranged to meet. We had a coffee at Mac Donald’s, and Kate, a young pretty woman from the Philippines comes up to us. She is a Customer Relations Officer for Mac Donald’s. I asked her how to get to Jahor from here. “You can catch a coach.” I interrupted. “Can I catch a coach with a couch?” Aunt Anne rolled her eyes. “Here we go again.”
We thanked Kate for her help, and I asked her if she was from America. “Why you ask.” I said she had an American accent. That tickled her pink and she volunteered that she use to work at a call center for HBSC Bank. I told her that I’ve abused many telemarketers like her, when activating my sim card with Telstra. ” Everyone abuses Telstra,” said Anne. I’m guilty.
Enough of this Zombie talk. For another two hours we waited outside for the Tour Bus to go to Jahor. Just like last time, I had missed the earlier buses which go every hour in the morning, and had to wait a long time, for the afternoon bus.
I was a designated Bag Boy. Anne’s ankles were inflamed. Here was my chance to ask for some penicillin which she usually carries for emergency. She had none and I said I might not need any yet, but after a week in Dolly, you just never know. She rolls her eyes again. This new reunion is a kind of boot leg camp where we plan to hash our Far Side’s first Kindle book. But she’s too diplomatic to say leave my pecker in my trousers. She always worries about her wayward nephew, and wants to instill good family values back in the Far Side. I said we could splash the site with pink, “that might appease some of our readers.”
Aunt Anne enjoyed the hour and ten minute bus ride to Malaysia. “I loved to see Singapore though the bus review mirror. ” Look, I told her, as a big plane flew over the bus. “The US Air Force, what do you expect.”
I could see I needed to get Aunt out of her “I just adore Singapore” mood. The closer we got to Jahor, I could see a change coming over her.
“Look at the flourishes on those buildings, that lovely Muslim touch.”
I was also feeling better. It had been a long day for me. Sana would be in Bali now. We had to part in Surabaya. I gave Sana some cash, after he dropped me off at the airport with strict instructions. “Keep away from Dolly, and give some money to your lovely wife, and say sorry for borrowing you for the past month.”
Now we arrive in Jahore. Those bags of Anne were getting heavy. “Once I copy those images from the hard discs, it should be lighter.” Who was she kidding. I think she had the entire Congress Library in her bag, on hard disc. But I was doing well, when I lifted my bag and her three heavy bags up the escalator that wasn’t working. Anne disappears. I’m panting up the top, at the entrance to Malaysia immigration. She appears with an American tourist from the lift. I better stop showing off and being practical. Now my legs are paying for it with a build up of lactic acid. “Sounds like exercise to me,” offers my practical Aunt. And bully you to you too!
Once we get though Malaysia customs, I lose her. I kept a close eye on her going through Singapore immigration. “Take care of my Aunty,” I told the Singaporean man who stamped me out. And he did. He asks if I was such and such. I said I was, and I was famous. Then to rectify that little lie, I added a prefix in-(famous).
We are at the train station. Those memories of a distant but fond places are coming back. “Do you know where we are,” asked Aunt, who was really on her last legs, and I knew would fall like a tone of bricks when she eventually hit the sack.”Yep,” I said, with a tone of smart arse.” See that old building over there.” She looked. “That’s the old train station and a right from there, is our hotel.”
We checked in. We walked out. We exchanged gadgets and ideas and books, and walked. We are good at multitasking. I found a nice little Chinese duck place across the road from a nice little Indian place. ” Better we eat something simple, I’ve still got the runs.”
Anne agreed and ordered duck with rice. She took out her teeth. “Hay, can I borrow them.” She couldn’t taste the duck with her falsies in. And I said that since I lost a few molar teeth, eating just wasn’t the same. That’s why I ordered shrimp wanton and noodles. “Do you want me to put it in a blender for you.” I said don’t bother. I won’t be asking for her falsies again.
Ideas shared. Tummies full. A short walk around the block “Look at the flower design of those pot plants.” We couldn’t find those Indian sweets she was after. “Tomorrow,” I promised.
Ann was full of observations today, from the painted palm trees at the airport to the cracks in the pavement. I think it’s time for her to take her camera out again. “There are lots of drains and holes in the pavement for you to photograph in Jahor.”
And that’s her mission today. Next post, Aunt Anne will paint her impressions of this border town. She’ll also spell out her Naga proposition, which begins at a book shop in China Town, in Kuala Lumpur, and should hopefully end at Pattani, Thailand, the last Malay trading post that spanned from Thailand to as far south as Surabaya in Indonesia.
Aunt Anne gives me lots of editorial control – I think she lost the password and can’t get under the bonnet of the Far Side. I wonder what she will think of this cheeky post. I know that she will take the bait, and write the pants off, and a fond post card from Jahore. “I’m liking this place already,” said Anne, as she lit up one of my cigarettes. “I’ll stop tomorrow.”
Welcome to Jahor, which is still my special Twilight Zone. Yes, I’m outside that Indian place, opposite the Chines Duck place, drinking tea and guzzling down Banana rotties and being eaten alive by mosquitos, and cursing for not having any of the passwords of the hundreds of wifi accounts floating around the Red Light District of Jahore. You can hear that kissssssssss sound, those puckered lips, a call from a client, for an order – very much a Malay thingy going on here.
And it’s now nearly 5 am, and the massage ladies are rubbing feet, and drunk Indians are roaming the streets like Tom Cats, and the lovers of the cool night, smoking clove cigarettes and eating cheap Indian food, are just hanging and chilling on the street. Jahor, Jahor, I hear you crooning loud and clear. And I’m back….
The night just gets interesting. A Malay slaps his girl around, and a few other Malays get up and stop the violence. It’s all just hot air. Last time I was here, I saw two Indian Malay fighting, that was a bit more animated but still just drunken bravado. Then a working girls scares away two fighting cats with a chair. It’s not a dull place here. You got to realize where you are an act accordingly. I took some footage of this, but it’s so crap it will go to the trash bin.
Isn’t that the charm of Jahor? “It’s a dangerous place, and people rob you on the street,” I remembered a Singaporean Taxi driver said.
I replied, “I’m not Singaporean.”
Malaysia is one of the safest Asian countries I’ve been to many times. “It’s civilized, and there’s a decency about Malaysia,” says Aunty Anne. I couldn’t agree more. “If only the Singaporean had a better understanding of their neighbor,” added Anne.
“They do,” I said. “But there’s some warping of values and ideals and what better place to see it than at seismic zone that separates two large economic driven countries. ”
It’s a tale of twin cities, one the glamorous and the other the cleft footed. “But discerning who is who can be the problem, ” notes Anne.
I said to her it’s time for a bit of Far Side impartiality to set down the facts of two cities so intertwined and inbred, that the outcome is a hybrid creation, Singa-Jahor!
“Crikey,” says Anne,” those kind of accusations might start a war between the two countries.”
A big PS here. Aunt Anne doesn’t exist. She is my muse now that Sana has gone back to Bali, and these conversations between us were totally fictional. “You need to see a head doctor,” pipes in Aunt Anne, dotingly. I think she might be right.
- Far Side stumbles across Indonesian Heart, again… (farsidetravel.net)