KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
After spending Wednesday touring the eastern side of Langkawi, we took one day off to enjoy the beach and save Friday, our last day, to see the western part of the island. We asked Othman to come with his taxi at 1:00 pm but he seemed disappointed with the time and I asked him why. It turns out that he must attend the mosque at 1:00 on Fridays, so we arranged for him to come when he was finished, closer to 2:30. I have to keep reminding myself that this is a predominantly Muslim country and Friday is their holy day.
I know I have not talked about this before, but Islam seems to be such a gentle religion here. Last year we visited the Gulf States of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Oman. We were guests of friends, Cathy and Paul Moreau, who have lived in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi for over twenty years. Cathy mentioned that my journal brought fond memories of her visit to Malaysia. She loved the freedom that women have here compared to the Gulf region. While many Malaysian women dress conservatively, others just wear a hijab (headscarf) along with their blue jeans and high heels. They grab their cell phones, hop in their cars, and drive off to work. I was pleased to see conservatively dressed women, watching their young daughters frolic in the sea in bathing suits. On our last day at the beach, there were even young women swimming fully clothed, their sodden headscarves still covering their hair. The men in their families seemed unconcerned.
We were pleased that we had much of the day to spend at the beach before our drive with Othman. This gave us time to try para-sailing for the first time. We had been watching many others try this sport, and saw a couple of rough landings and even one face plant on the beach. We were assured that we could avoid this by taking off and landing from the deck of a boat. Our main fear assuaged, we joined in with several others and set off for adventure. Our group consisted of a woman and her three teen-aged daughters and one son. All four females were dressed in black swimsuits with long sleeves and long legs. This allowed them some degree of modesty, though the suits were formfitting.
All of the others had their turns at para-sailing before us, so we were pretty relaxed when our turn came. Still, Anil asked me to go first. If you have ever tried parasailing, you'll know how wonderful it is! We had the added benefit of over an hour's tour of the many small islands south of Langkawi, because it took that long, using the winch to raise and lower each of the eight of us, as we sped along in the bright afternoon sun. The ones who had their turn amongst the deserted islands far from the beach must have had quite the view. We were back on solid ground just in time to change for the afternoon excursion.
Our first stop was Harbor Cove; Othman wanted to stop there to buy petrol and we got out to look at the marina. It was then that I saw the sign Angin dan Air
. I took a photo of it because I had been taking about the Malay word air earlier with Othman. It turns out that air in Malay means water in English. Confusing, right? Thus, this sign means Air and Water, for your cars, tires and radiator. The sign for the hot springs village reads Air Hangat. This, and other such oddities takes some getting used to.
Our next stop was a lovely little beach near the north coast where Malay families go for family picnics. It was very busy because Friday is like our Sunday and there were many children on black inner tubes having a blast in the water. The fathers were busy at the barbecues grilling fresh fish. The mothers were dishing out all kinds of dishes from large plastic tubs. Could have been a scene from anywhere in Canada on a summer weekend.
Our main destination that afternoon was the Telaga Tujuh. Water cascades down a hillside, nearly 100 meters, through a series of seven (tujuh) wells (telaga). The stone channels between the pools are worn smooth and you can slide from one pool to another. To reach the pools, you must first climb 638 steps up through the dense rainforest. It was a little daunting in the humid heat, but we had climbed the same number of steps at Srevanabelagola (The Naked Man) in India, so we persevered. We were hot and tired when we reached the top but the pools did not disappoint. There were nice change rooms and once we had our swimsuits on, we joined the Malay families in the refreshingly cool water.
The children were surprised to see foreigners here, but we quickly made friends when I started cheering on two boys making cannonball splashes as they jumped off the edge into one of the deep pools. Some of the smaller children were a little tentative, but I won them over when I pulled out the camera and showed them the pictures, I took of them. We spent the better part of an hour enjoying the water and beautiful views where the last of the pools ended and the rock fell away to the forest below. We could see the ocean in the distance.
At last it was time to leave and after Anil took a few pictures of me, I put the camera away so that we could have a quiet few minutes in the pool together before leaving. The children were far above us still sliding between the upper pools. That's when I slipped as I stepped near the edge and my feet went out from under me. I had a second to think of the similar fall I had a couple of years ago at the Folk Festival at home. Down I went again, on my left side, but this time I was on solid rock and not soft wet grass. I knew immediately that my arm was broken, and badly broken too. I slipped down into the shallow pool and when I stood up and raised my arm, it was horribly misshapen with bulging lumps on either side, not swellings already, but the displaced arm bones pushing against the skin. Anil and a Malay man helped me out of the water and after I had pulled my trousers on over my bathing suit and used a towel to improvise a sling, we started down the 638 steps to where our taxi was waiting.
All I could think about was how lucky I was. You might bemoan your luck if this happened to you, but I was just thankful that my arm took the brunt of the fall, and not my leg, hip or head. It was just my arm and I was still mobile; it would heal with time. So many injuries leave permanent disabilities, my luck held up once again. I can't imagine how they would have taken me out of there if I hadn't been able to walk down all those stairs.
Othman was waiting for us at the bottom and was alarmed to learn of my fall. We asked him to take us to the Langkawi hospital; I was relieved to learn it is a modern facility built just eight years ago. The triage desk assessed the urgency of my case and we took a seat with at least thirty other people in the waiting room. There was another man with an arm injury sitting in a wheelchair but most of the other people looked sick rather than injured. Perhaps they were there because it was Friday and many doctor's offices would be closed. I was called into the exam room shortly and when they realized the extent of the injury, they offered to give me an injection for pain. I don't know why I was surprised that it was to be in my hip, but I welcomed the chance to lie down. Once the pain subsided, I was taken for x-rays. I practically had to stand on my head to get my arm in the positions required but it was over quickly and the staff was very professional.
I should mention that most of the nurses wore headscarves with their uniforms and caps. Once again, the demure headgear blended with the clothing in a very non-obtrusive way. In a hospital environment, it's probably more hygienic as well.
When the x-rays were back, the ER doctor, a young Malaysian of Chinese heritage told me that both the tibia and fibula were broken near the wrist. There was a lot of displacement and I would need to be sedated in order for the procedure to be done. Thank heaven for legal drugs! Anil sat with me while they put a catheter in my hand and started adding a cocktail of clear medications. Going, going, gone. I woke up later with my arm straightened and in a cast. Anil looked a little pale but held up fine. The doctor spoke to me about the possibility of surgery to stabilize the arm with metal plates, but then lowered her voice and told me she wouldn't recommend I have it done there. She felt Penang would be fine but I asked about flying with the injury and she said a short flight with Firefly should not be a problem. She would not advise I fly home to Canada right away as a long flight with little activity might pose greater risk of an embolism.
I was concerned because we had two flights booked for the following day; one to Penang, and the second a couple of hours later to Phuket, Thailand. We debated on the merits of seeing a doctor in Penang or flying to Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok. I preferred a large center where there would surely be many orthopedic surgeons, and if I had my druthers, Bangkok would be my first choice. My brother was admitted to the Adventist Hospital there several years ago when he was very sick, and he has told us several times it was the place to head if we ever needed medical attention. It also happens to be very near the Khao San areas where we like to stay when in Bangkok.
I slept quite well that night; Anil was much more restless, but when I woke in the morning I was concerned about the swelling and the tightness of the cast so we left early in order to swing by the hospital to have the cast checked. I had them loosen it slightly, it was really more of a temporary splint than a cast, and then we headed off to the airport for our flight to Penang. At that point, we felt we would go to the Adventist Hospital in Penang and abandon the connecting flight to Thailand.
The flight was uneventful and when we landed, I suggested to Anil that we keep on going and either look for a flight to Bangkok when we arrived or stay the night in Phuket. I was feeling fine and my hand was a good colour. I just felt Bangkok was the place to be. Anil agreed. When we landed in Phuket we had to pass through immigration, but as soon as that was done, we asked about budget airlines and learned there were four that flew between Phuket and Bangkok. Noc Air (and air means "air" as we are no longer in Malaysia) had a flight leaving in just over an hour so we purchased tickets and hoped for the best.
As we were boarding the flight Anil noticed something we had never seen before. The budget airlines keep their cost down by parking some distance from the terminal and passengers either walk a short distance to the aircraft or are taken by bus. Just outside the gate were several small carts filled with umbrellas. These carts could be rolled out to an arriving plane so that each passenger could be handed an umbrella if it was raining and a walk on the tarmac was required. Too cute!
Once we settled in the Noc Air plane I spotted another first. Advertising on the overhead luggage bins and on the backs of the tray tables. Is there no escape from the advertising deluge?
Our flight was only an hour to Bangkok and we arrived over the Gulf of Thailand south of the city. In all the trips to the city I don't think I ever realized how close it is to the sea. It was fascinating to see the Chao Phraya River as it makes its last few winding turns before fanning its silted water out over the blue of the ocean. We landed at the old Don Muang Airport, which now handles domestic flights. A taxi took us to our old haunt near Khao San road and we settled into the Erawan House for a good rest. The next day we would deal with seeing an orthopedic surgeon, it was just good to be back in familiar surroundings.
If you have persevered in reading this long journal entry, I thank you for sticking with me. I had to type it with one hand, but that has helped me to keep my mind off the discomfort of the cast. Stay tuned and I will let you know how things went at the hospital. After all, this is the end of our nine months on the road and it would be boring if there weren't a little drama, right?