Well, I had the first downer of my trip when I got to Penang. The antibiotics I was on just didn't seem to be clearing the ear infection and the arrival of an unwelcome virus to my computer only added to the blues.
I treated myself to four nights in a four star hotel in Penang, a reward for finishing the DM course and living in such basic accommodation for four months, but instead found myself visiting the doctor and spending four hours getting the computer fixed on my first day.
The doctor in Penang put me on even stronger medication, which made me nauseous, drained me of energy, and with no mobile phone I suddenly felt quite alone in the world. I spend 20 hours in bed one of the days.
Thankfully, a young Malay man fixed my computer and I had to force him to take some cash as a reward. But I had no energy to tour the city of Georgetown, it was hot, sticky, dirty, noisy, and all I wanted to do was stay in bed.
Coming from a close family, I hadn't really thought much about how much I would miss them during this gap year. Ever since my sister Cliona died at 16 years of age, we've had a special bond, and not being able to text just made me uncertain over whether or not this whole trip was worthwhile. I forced myself to get out and visit temples and beaches, but when I moved out of the Sunway Hotel to one I'd been recommended, I found that my room was a kip with no natural light.
At one stage, I wanted someone or something to beam me up and bring me home to Galway!
Thankfully, I found the conviction or the energy to book an onward bus to the Cameron Highlands, my first wise move since I left Koh Lanta. Leaving the hell-hole on Lebuh Chulia at 6 a.m., I had no pangs of regret about leaving Georgetown, and my spirit lifted as soon as I arrived.
The highlands, about 1,500 metres above sea level, are cool and damp and in total contrast to the coast down below. It's Malaysia's highest hill station and my bus driver recommended the Caledonian Inn, which has been only a quarter-full. I've met sociable souls here from all over the world.
There's no night life, but I didn't mind. The town is quiet, so quiet and peaceful, and the ear pain which had been bothering me for three weeks seemed to vanish at high altitude.
On the second day I booked a seven hour trekking trip with Yen, the guest house's resident guide, and it was truly amazing. It was tough, yes, and a tad too long, but the views were spectacular as we breathed in the mountainous air.
I stayed four nights instead of the three I'd planned, met some lefty Americans to hang out with, and just enjoyed long walks in the jungle every day. My ear is not 100%, but it's waaaay better, and the homesickness which crippled me in Georgetown virtually disappeared as well. And anyway, I'm now about to make my way home for a two week break in Galway in which I hope to hook up with loads of friends and family.
Tomorrow, I think I will have pangs of regret when I leave Tanah Rata to take a bus to Butterworth, and then another one across the Thai border and into Haat Yai. Back in Thailand again, for the first leg of my trip back to troubled Bangkok, where the Red Shirts have still taken over the Silom business district.
I really should have expected the blues at some stage, but the important thing was to breathe deeply, experience the anxiety, and then let it go. The Cameron Highlands have refuelled my batteries, sometimes there really is nothing better than peace, quiet, and the joys of nature (far from the madness of big cities) to bring peace back to your soul!
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