A lousy tourist just stays in the same area, pretends he’s a rock barnacle and never explores more than two streets away. Only a week in Malaysia and I’ve synced into the night. Luckily the staff at the hotel know me from three years ago, and now don’t annoy me with things like cleaning my room or paying rent.
They get their rent when I wake up. The night manager is too lazy to accept my payments. He snoozes on a deck chair and opens one eye when anyone enters the hotel. He’s good at the night shift and works on the principle, less work the better. But I’m not about to tell the day manager that.
Malaysia just stays awake. I’ve decided to explore Johor, not content just to write just about my street. There must be more to see. Right?
I get my mental bearings. I’ve walked from the train station, over an overpass, and now I’m the fringes of my area. Right?
That castle on the hill isn’t the post office, I discovered as I trudged up the road leading to the grand mansion that overlooks Johor as a paternal reference to its Sultanate past which the locals will talk blue about if you let them.
Next I stumble across a night market. It occupies three über streets with air conditioned cafes and boutique shops. Colorful drinks, colorful clothes, and a green iguana. It’s a very orderly and clean market and Malaysian language is playing over a radio at one stall. I’m still in the Malay Archipelago and Indonesian sounds just the same.
At a e-cigarette stall, a young Chinese offers me a few hits of his mother’s e-juice which she mixes up at home. He says they are selling very cheap because in January, Johor will outlaw the selling of e-cigarettes. He says you can still buy them in KL, though.
The Malays run the markets, the Indians supply the food and the Chinese are confined to the Red Light district providing ‘certain’ services, from food, pimping, to selling Viagra and copy DVDs. I’ve not yet discovered the blue movies yet, that’s my next assignment.
An Indian restaurant advertising many food awards catches my attention as I walk down from the Sultanate. An Indian directing traffic says hello with a deep baritone voice. “Have no money,” he says. No money no honey, I sympathized.
At the award winning restaurant, I check out the toilet before I sit down. It’s won the award as the tiniest, grungiest and dirtiest smelling toilet in Johor. Hanging on one wall are about ten awards the restaurant has won. It’s tee tarek, a milky sweet tea, is only one dollar and 20 cents, the cheapest in town. Now there’s another award.
Every night the massage stalls set up on my street. Some have chairs, other a make shift massage bench, or just a cardboard on the ground. “You want massage,” says a lady who is massaging someone. “You can’t say that while you are massaging someone,” I say. Of course she can and she doesn’t understand a word I’m saying. She’s from Indonesia.
Another Chinese man offers me some blood letting treatment. I can’t remember what he called it. He has five acupuncture glass bells on a man’s back that is sucking out dirty blood. “I’m qualified and I have the certificates,” he says, as he wipes off the dirty blood on the man’s back with toilet paper. He’s wearing surgical gloves at least. “After I take away the dirty bloody, you feel much better.” The Indian man under the knife gives a stoned look and says, yes I can take photos.
I’m in two minds about this treatment. “Don’t worry,” he says. “ I use to work at a hospital.” He grins, and his five rotten teeth jut out. He didn’t’ work in the dental hospital, that much I know. Thought he might have been a janitor working at a hospital, he’s got people lining up to get their blood purified. “Don’t worry,” he says, “I’ll wipe down your back with Dettol alcohol rub after I treat you and all you will be left with are scabs.”
He doesn’t understand my dilemma. I can’t afford to stain the sheets with blood, I might lose my bond money. It’s nearing 5 am when I call it a night. Near my hotel I pass a tiny figure sleeping on some cardboard under a covered walkway. It’s a homeless Chinese lady in her sixties. Not everyone is making good on the streets of Johor.