Peggy and Randy Ford Authors- FOUND OUR WAY 24th Installment

2. We mostly took life rather easy in Singapore.  Sometimes doing nothing but riding buses, looking at the city and the beautiful countryside around the city. We went to the aquarium, but we were tired that day and it was rather disappointing after the one we saw in Honolulu. But there was a good museum where we spent several hours. We also spent one afternoon in the botanical gardens where a Rhesus monkey stole Peggy’s purse and wouldn’t give it back. Sometimes we just walked around and watched people. We also went into two Hindu temples, our first two. We’d been reading about Hinduism and considered it complex. Sunday we went to the Presbyterian Church, which had a bearded Irishman for a minister. It was good to hear a sermon by someone who didn’t have to stumble around in English. Then one evening we splurged (we allowed ourselves one evening) and ate dinner in a restaurant on a junk in the harbor. An American owned it, but I don’t remember meeting him. Then finally, for a change of air (as in Change of Air Station, places we became familiar with in Malaysia), we took the incline railway to the top of Lookout Mountain where we nearly froze off our buns and experienced fog for the first time since San Francisco.

3. It was raining cats and dogs, but it was the last day we could be in Singapore without applying for a long-term visa, so we got out of the country while the getting was good. We told our parents then that we planned to spend three weeks or so traveling by bus and train in Malaysia. We talked to a couple of Swedish people who had just spent a couple weeks in Malaysia. They were very exited about the country and said the riots wouldn’t endanger us at all. According to them any rioting that was occurring was in very limited areas. Besides no one was going to bother us, because we weren’t Malay or Chinese. We were Americans. If it appeared that we were in any danger, we’d simply move on right away.

4. Travelers must learn not to become experts too quickly. First impressions can be very misleading, giving a false coloring to what is seen thereafter. At first we thought Singapore left Malaysia because the large Chinese population wasn’t getting a fair deal. New light was shed when we found out that Singapore was kicked out because of a large Chinese population.

5. Approaching immigration official: full of apprehension. Even though everything was in order, somehow while he was looking at our papers, thoughts of international intrigues were going through the mind, so that it was kind of surprising when he finally stamped our passports and said nothing out of the ordinary. It was a special time for us, but an everyday thing for the official. Surprised to see female customs inspector. Have had no trouble so far.

1. Johore. Side trip from Johore Bahru: almost got left behind because we didn’t expect the bus to leave on time. First Malaysia rainstorm- very short – put windows up and then down. Area for buses- open, with fruit and food stalls around. Most busses have very short runs. Johore is Pineapple State. When first in country, guarding, guarding, guarding. In Johore, asked for passports when bus stopped at police checkpoint … the only time the whole trip so far. Fascinated by evidence all around of Sultan: zoo, homes, palace, and dedications. Johor Bharu: continual noise and activity of swifts (which we thought were swallows at the time)- under eaves. Amazed that people had time for us … took us places, helped us find hotel and order lunch. Left Peggy in hotel room to go buy a pencil when a woman in a second story window signaled for me to come over to her. Assumed she was a prostitute. Saw another man take my place.

2. Malacca. We had be thinking for some time of buying bicycles for our traveling around. The idea of traveling around after Peace Corps actually was suggested to us months before this when we were vacationing in the Sulus (the southern most islands of the Philippines). We spent a week on a boat going from island to island, and on Bongao we met a British fellow who had just hiked across Borneo. Because of the political situation, he entered the country illegally, ended up in jail, but after his release, he came by our place in Manila. Hearing about his adventures inspired us (or at least me). So it was in Malacca that we took the big step and became proud owners of two British-made, Malaysia assembled, lightweight 21” bicycles. We thought that this would make us more independent, allowing us to stop whenever and wherever we wanted. It also would help us get closer to people since we could choose our own stopping places. And in the long run it would save us considerable money, or so we thought, since bus fares really would begin to add up after a while.

Peggy and Randy Ford

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