I got my new front teeth. I’m learning to smile. But I’m picking up on the unwelcome vibes. The Chinese aren’t impressed with me. They express it in many ways. Tonight I got a rude almost aggressive look from a ‘chink’ at the food hall. I was saying hello to another guy at his table. I was waiting for him to pull out his numb chucks and go Bruce Lee on me. Earlier that day at another food hall, a matronly Chinese had the gall to complain to the manager because I was smoking. I was told to put out my cigarette. But the two chinks sitting at other tables weren’t.
I pondered the meaning of this as I walk the two kilometers to my share house. First I pass some Malays wo are in the middle of the road connecting some fibre optics for the super duper fast internet being installed in this town. ‘The Chinese don’t like me. They don’t like you either,” I told them.
that I”ve been at for four nights. I also wonder if the family of Mary-Jane have found out that I’ve been giving her bible lessons.
It’s been another another eight hours of editing Valium Daze at the Chinese Tea houses in town.. My editor had been flogging me. But he was also concerned with my well being. If you got a gut feeling things are’t right, then follow it, he said.
A lovely old duck who worked at the coffee shop said I should be very careful. Now I’m really listening to her. I never waste advice, especially from those willing to give it.
I told her I was staying with four illegal foreign workers. And that they had trashed my room. “It can’t be a good sign,’ she said, as she served me another tea.
I told her how I ended up at the share house. I was tricked into it by Chong from Happiness Hotel, who was mustering up business for his real estate pal, Mr. Brian.
‘You were set up,’ she said. ‘Now they have your money, the owner is trying to get you out so he can fill the room with another illegal foreign worker.’
She knew the drill. ‘I certainly do. And I gather they are Pakistanis?” She spoke with a British accent, and she had an old worldly charm to her of the British Empire.
I told her how Chong from the hotel said there was only a Chinese couple staying there. ‘Its the oldest trick in the book.’ Her name was Melba.
‘Now don’t be a fool. A fall is coming. But if you are smart, you can prevent it.’
Then she told me a recent story. “Don’t trust the Pakistanis,’ she said. ’Three illegals recently murdered a Chinese. He ran a bakery. And when he didn’t open it for three days, friends got worried and went to visit him. His house was broken into, and he was dead. He was robbed and stabbed to death by the Pakistanis who fled town.’
Chong from Happiness Hotel was getting sick of me. He’s already referred three Chinese land owners to me already and none of them want to take me in. But his mate Brian eventually says he has a room for me. I had already knocked back his offer to move into his apartments a month ago. I just had reservations. Brian seemed too cool for his liking and underneath his calm almost dopey facade, I could see a man who was driven by money.
He said that he wouldn’t take any Indians. The room he was trying to rent out to me was of a former tenent who was Indian and who had done a runner. ‘He still owes me rent and I’m still trying to track him down.’ I bet he is.
And now I’m walking back into town to find a hotel. This is where me and Mr.Brian part. Some Malays are in the middle of the road working on some fibre optics. ‘The Chinese don’t like me or you,’ I told them.They were connecting the town up with fibre optics.”If Brian doesn’t pay me back my deposit, I’m going to report him to the police,’ I told them.
I pass the motorcycle boys. They are in their teens and aresn’t quite right in in their heads. I already witnessed an accident earlier in the night. They race around a new Industrial Estate near the house I was renting. The Chinese won’t get anyone to rent them out until the mosquito motorbike boys get moved on by the police. I don’t see it happening any time soon.
It’s nearing 2 am. It was a clean break from the house though.None of the Pakistanis woke up and that was a good sign.So far no resistance.
I walk through Taiping. Everything looks ghostly at night time. The soft light on the soft edges of the old buildings.
The Chinese are a tight knit community. All of Chongs friends are rich. His friend Brian offered me a room in his apartment.I couldn’t decide and he rented it out. But Chong says today Brian has a spare room in a house. ‘You will make massive savings. The house only has a Chinese couple in it.’
Sounded great to me.I had planned to get more bridges and the money saved on hotels would pay for it.And I liked Brian. He was in his early thirties and owned a Sushi shop in the mall. ‘He’s filthy rich,’ said Chong.I know Chong respects money now. And of course, if I had no money, ‘You wouldn’t be staying here. I’d call the police and have you evicted.’
He’s really honest about his love of money now.
I don’t have a good feeling about this. But Chong didn’t give me a bum stear with the dentist. Brian takes me to his house. It’s a good few kilometres out of town. My room mate greets me.He has family in Australia. He’s wearing girl’s flip flops and his toe nails are painted pink.
The next day I see four rowdy Pakistanis. They are working for Brian’s friend who is renovating the movie theatre. A few days pass. Nothing too eventful. The bed breaks on me, the door won’t close properly and the long walks into town and back is good exercise. But I’m always on the look out for the dreaded bag snatching Indians.
I’ve dipped into the Pakistani pot a few late nights. Delicious curries. I’m shitting chillies next morning. Another long day editing Valium Daze at the Chinese food halls,I find all my food has been thrown outside my door. Something is up. Those Pakis are dark and swathy and look as dodgy as hell. I rarely see the Chinese couple. They are just plain weird too and refuse to speak to me. I’ve felt deceived from day one. One I pay my deposit and month’s rent, I hadn’t seen Brian at all. His hand scooped up the money. I’m sure he counted it first. He’s double crossed me. I only have a few days left on my visa. I consider getting it renewed but immigration tell me I must do it in Ipoh. I can get another two months but I’m not really in the mood to run into Bert who has been hunting me down.
Sounds about right.I’m packing my stuff. It’s 1.30 in the morning and I’m thinking the rubbish thrown ourside my room is a warming not to dip into their food. ‘If they wanted to stich you up, they would have done it earlier,’ said Chief Editor. I think it beyond the stage of buying them a carton of cigarettes and sticking around. The toilet would have a Pakistani log, unfleshed, each morning I’d get up. I was reading the signs. One of the Pakistanis was home. The previous night I had stayed at a hotel next to Happiness.The rooms were full said Chong’s brother who worked the night shift.
The receptionist, an old Chinese, was drooling. He wanted to write down the details of my passport. I did it for him. I just didn’t need a damaged passport from a drooling demented Chinese.
Brian met me next morning. He was informed about the rubbish dumped outside my room. I was sitting downstairs at Happiness Hotel. I use to order food and drinks from down stairs every day. And now the hotel was full. Brian said Chong told me they had no room for me. He was fishing for me to return back to his house.
He gave me my bond back. But he tried to talk me into staying.He even drove me back to the house, to sort things out. One of the Pakistanis was eating. He had that sly face which couldn’t be verified because he was playing dumb he couldn’t speak English. ‘He’s not angry. He just can’t speak English,’ said Brian. He was really fishing for me to stay. He said the only the problem he had at his rental apartment were the Indians. And now he had thrown me in wiht a pack of Pakistanis who were most likely illegal workers. What a nice guy.
Brian said he either get me a taxi ride to Danok for my visa run, or he would take me himself. The price of 400 Ringit return was agree. Maybe he was feeling sorry for me. I had only used one week of my rent. If the Pakis and the Chines wanted me out, they would get me out.I stayed in a hotel in town. This is what I should have done two months ago. It was quiet. Happiness Hotel was on a major road heading into town and the sound of the traffic outside was always deafening, especially the late night dare devil motorbike rider with their cut off exhausts, the noise was always irritating and deafening.
I never did make it to the top of Maxwell mountain. At the base of the hill at the Burmese pool one of the caretakers of the park told me Taiping meant the city of Peace. ‘We are free to sleep anywhere.’ He points to the jungle. Monkey’s are jumping around. ‘We can even sleep with them.’ I didn’t get what he meant until a few weeks later.
I can’t get back to Malaysia. Brian goes back with his girlfriend. I pay him 100 Ringgit for the petrol. “What about the rest,’ he asked.’I’ll give it to you when I get back to Malaysia.’ I was stuck in no man’s land and needed to get back into Thailand.
Brian kept a steady stream of messages coming. “When will you pay me the 300 Ringit for the taxi ride.’ I had only used half the fair. But it was still a cheap ride. He still owed me for three week’s rent. I still had the option of returning back to the house, but self preservation was saying stay very clear of the Pakistanis. They had been questioned about the rubbish thrown outside my room. Brian’s friend said there was no ill intentions against me. Only one of the four Pakistanis could speak English and he’d tell anything to his boss who was employing him and paying for their rent.
I could never win this battle.