I’m still in Malaysia, and my hotel smells like IKEA. Small wonder, when all the furniture is new and looks like it came straight from their showroom. The women who run it shout to each other as they bustle up and down the halls, mopping smooth tile floors in an effort to make someone slip and break a leg. Water comes out of the shower piping hot, and the bathroom sink merges that of a villa with the space age. After ten months abroad, these are the things I appreciate – especially the hot showers.
I had to leave the guest house where I’d been staying for a month, after it became infested with chain-smokers. I love Malaysians, but they smoke the foulest cigarettes imaginable. This would not have been a problem, as I was lucky enough to have no roommates in the dorm room, until the arrival of The Aussie. The Aussie hailed from Melbourne, was a borderline schizophrenic on heavy medication, snored at night, played loud angry music during the day, and generally talked incessantly (even in his sleep). In short, he was a terrible combination of my first two college roommates.
For some reason, I felt the need for a breath of fresh air. In a park nearby, a sign warns against ice skating. I’m not sure this is a major concern, and the sign-makers must not have been too sure either, given the image they matched with ice skating.
Warning signs are always slightly off abroad, and it’s interesting to note the little things – like the sign in another park that said “No groups of men.” Hmm. Given that the last time I went into a Malaysian park after dark, a gay man politely informed me it was a meeting place for homosexuals, I can only surmise that’s what the sign wanted to discourage.
I spend a lot of my free time walking here, wandering out of town, or as far out as one can get in Malaysia, with its highways and suburbs sprawled over the hills. I found the local marina, filled with dozens of boats – sleek catamarans, fifty-foot monohulls covered in gear, fat houseboats with old lanterns in the windows – and how easy it would have been to take one. But the heck with that. I’m stealing the pirate ship – the Majapakit from Indonesia.
Its country of origin was all the marina security guard could tell me in his halting English. He had a name I couldn’t begin to pronounce, but I knew he was Iban from the tattoos on his arms. They were the fiercest of the Borneo headhunting tribes, but now they run guesthouses, guard marinas, and open tattoo parlors.
I’ll arm the ship with this old cannon. I’m sure that will be safe. The next time you hear from me, I may be known as Small-beard: The Goateed Scourge of the Seven Seas.