Sick And Tired

By Stephen Ewashkiw | May 19, 2014

14,278 km so far.

It had to happen sooner or later: Jane and I are sick. Lots of people around us have been coughing, sneezing, and sniffling the past few weeks, and yesterday we both woke up with sore throats.

Then, last night, our old friend was back, visiting Jane. Yes, on top of some random cold, Jane has food poisoning. This made for a literally restless night for Jane, and a fitful sleep for me.

Good thing we are at the beach for a day off without much to do.

Break It Down

As Jane mentioned yesterday, my bike was a bit worse for wear after the boat ride. Even after visiting the bike shop, by the time we made it to Pantai Cenang I could tell things weren’t perfect.

street art in malaysia

This might say “lala” but to us it will always say “LA, LA”.

So today, not feeling like frolicking in the sun and surf, not even feeling like venturing too far from our cabin, I went looking for the problem. I started by taking apart the rear derailleur. This is something I have never done before, but it doesn’t have many moving parts, and there was a lot of caked-on dirt and other grime that I could see but couldn’t reach without disassembling it. So I got to work.

First, the chain came off, and I soaped it up, scrubbed each link, and hung it up to dry. Then I unscrewed screws, pulled off cogs, and scrubbed away grit and grease on the rear derailleur, and then somehow managed to put it all back together again.

Once everything was back in place, it all seemed to be running smoothly.

All this cleaning practically guarantees us rain while riding on a dirt road in the next 24 hours.

The Cost Of It All

Nothing else was accomplished today, except watching the surf roll in, sitting in our air conditioned room to watch Jeff Tweedy’s appearance on Parks And Recreation, and planning our escape from the island.

Jane stayed in bed while I ventured out into town for dinner, and while buying a mango on my way back I met Sanjit, who ran the fruit stall.

Falafel for dinner!

Falafel for dinner!

Sanjit and I talked about the cost of things on the island. Jane and I have been pretty shocked by how expensive everything is. For example, the mango I bought from Sanjit cost twice what a mango would cost in Thailand, and the pot noodle I bought Jane for dinner (remember, she has food poisoning so this is all she could handle tonight) cost almost three times what it would in China.

Langkawi was designated as Duty Free in 1987, and since then has been a destination for Malay tourists, looking for deals on cars, tobacco, alcohol, and chocolate. However, this has caused land prices on the island to skyrocket. The land is valued as highly as it is in Kuala Lumpur.

Staple items like sugar, rice, and flour are regulated by the government and cost the same here as on the mainland, but electricity and fuel costs are double. On top of this, the influx of tourists means most goods on the island are shipped in by boat. This all adds up to businesses having to charge high prices for everything. Sanjit explained that even a bag of ice costs twice as much here as it would on “inland” (as locals call the mainland).

The ASEAN summit is being held on the island next year which means there has been a huge influx of construction on the island, including a Ritz-Carlton hotel, and a Paramount (as in Studios) exclusive resort/amusement park being built on one of the smaller islands. This will increase tourist capacity, but the tourists that come to these 5-star resorts tend to stay on the resort property, and don’t spend money in local shops like Sanjit’s fruit stall.

I’m interested to see what becomes of the island in the next few decades. Right now it seems to be a bit sick and tired, with half-finished and abandoned construction sites, hotels in need of a lick of paint, and an open-grate sewer system.

Will it prosper and become a worldwide destination, or will it wither in to a has-been, like so many places we have been (Lake Balaton and the Italian Adriatic coast, I’m looking at you)?

Let Me Take You On A Trip

Sanjit was interested in our bike trip, and like so many people said he wished to do a trip like that one day. Everyone thinks the physical challenge will be the most difficult aspect, but I keep telling people that it really is easier than it seems. No one believes me.

Seriously though, if you are considering a trip, any trip, the key is in planning, saving some money, and just going for it.

Jane’s note: You can pretty much skip the planning part. Nothing goes to plan anyway, so just save some money and go for it.

It is often less expensive than staying at home, partly since there is no mortgage or rent to pay. A lot will come up as you travel that you couldn’t plan for, sure, but you get through it. The experiences you have along the way, the people you meet, make it all worthwhile.

Remember, even though we had never done a bike trip before, by going one metre at a time we have managed to cycle 14 million of them.  

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