Ever since we walked to Brinchang a few days earlier, Anil has been yearning for another bowl of the delicious Carrot and Ginger soup that he ate at the cafÈ called Special Recipe. I was keen to have some myself, because I had indulged my craving for cheesecake that day. I had a small second agenda that I didn't really share with Anil; I had seen some Lindt dark chocolate in one of the Chinese shops and I couldn't find any in Tanah Rata. Can't remember when I last tasted really dark chocolate...
We decided to walk to Brinchang a second time, a distance of ten kilometers round trip and used the excuse of having soup once there and practicing our putting skills at the Cameron Highlands Golf Course on the way back. It was an overcast day, but that's preferable when undertaking a long walk so, after checking our e-mail, we headed out in the late morning.
Once again we passed by the Parit Falls and continued along the brick path hugging the hillside. We met several school groups on field trips and the students were alternately friendly and shy as we passed them. The golf course looked quiet but once we were passed it I noticed the Hindu temple looming above us along the highway. We had gone by the temple several times already and had not once gone in to offer prayers. We have made it a habit to visit a Hindu temple in each country we visit, and I was starting to get anxious that we had not been into one in Malaysia. I am not really superstitious, but just enough that I worried that our good fortune may be in jeopardy if we didn't keep up our tradition.
It was an unusual temple, very simple and very clean. There was no priest in sight but we made an offering of some bananas and cash. As we were leaving we noticed some men preparing flower arrangements and I guessed that there would be a wedding there soon. We walked into the town a short distance away and passed some school buses parked along the main road. A two-week school holiday has just begun and there are a lot more Malaysian tourists in the Highlands and dozens of busloads of school-aged children too.
We crossed the road to the side where the cafÈ is located, and passed by a KFC outlet. I laughed when I noticed a large cardboard sign announcing a new menu item - rice! I took a picture to share with you. Along side this ad was another promoting a contest that has just begun too. They have created a portrait of Colonel Sanders made with different colours of rice and there are prizes for those who correctly guess the number of grains of rice used to make the portrait. There are ten prizes of 50,000 RM each. (A decent apartment can be purchased in Brinchang for 100,000 RM).
As we approached the Secret Recipe cafÈ, we noticed that the security grill was pulled down at the entrance to the cafÈ and that the three employees were sitting just behind it. When we asked why they were closed, they told us that a fierce storm the day before had knocked out the power to parts of Brinchang and that they were one of the unlucky businesses to be affected. Rats! That meant we had walked all the way but no carrot and ginger soup for us. I wish I had captured the look of disappointment on Anil's face. There was nothing that could be done, but to look for another place to eat, one that had power. As we crossed the road we talked about setbacks such as these. When they happen, they are really stories to be told, not disappointments to be endured.
After a disappointing lunch, I bought some chocolate and we headed in the direction of the golf course. Just as we arrived and got clubs and balls for the putting green, a thick, pea-soup fog rolled in and obscured the entire course. We were surprised to see a keen foursome head out on the first hole in spite of the poor visibility. It was impossible to see the flag on the first green. We felt we could still putt on the practice green, but after a couple of minutes the skies opened up with a heavy downpour. I expected to see the golfers scurry back to the clubhouse, but they persevered. We were less enthusiastic and decided to wait out the storm. I got out a deck of cards and started playing Solitaire while Anil stared wistfully out at the course.
It was a long wait. Several other foursomes braved the weather while we waited for the rain to stop. One group headed out with what looked to us like "double-decker" umbrellas. I had never seen anything like them before. It was like a small umbrella attached to the top of a very large umbrella. I could only imagine that it was designed with an air vent under the upper umbrella to prevent a strong wind from turning the whole thing inside out - or from lifting these small, lightweight people completely off their feet.
An hour and a half later, the rain let up and we walked onto the soaked putting green. Not much to be learned there. The grass was so wet we had to whack the balls just to get them to move at all. For some reason there were tiny clumps of mud dotting the green, which made it even worse. We decided to give up and turn in our clubs. The gentleman in the office refused to charge us for the rentals; he probably sensed our disappointment.
Back on the trail to our hotel we laughed about our visit to the temple and how it hadn't really helped our luck that day. We both knew we did it for the "big picture" not little things like soup and golf, and in the end, we had a great walk and plenty of exercise to show for our failed quest.
Later that afternoon, as I was lingering in the garden of our hotel over a cup of Earl Grey and Tangerine tea, a special blend prepared by the local tea growers, Anil struck up a conversation with an Australian couple from Brisbane. They are doing pretty much what we have done, sold off most of their "stuff" but instead of hitting the road, they bought a yacht and are sailing the seas. Anil found them really interesting people and called me over. Before long, I was in deep with Roslyn and Anil and Peter were sitting back and listening to us talk. Turns out these two quiet men have each hooked up with strong, talkative women and were pretty much content for us to share the details of our adventures. Anil went off to have a nap and the three of us sat in the hotel lounge and talked all afternoon. Anil wasn't at all surprised to find us where he had left us hours earlier.
Anil had scouted out places that had access to Star Sports, the television channel that was broadcasting the F1 race from Monaco in the evening. He was keen to set off in order to see the pre-race events and I joined him for the start of the race. Roslyn and Peter had heard the same restaurant served the best pepper steaks in the Highlands, and they ended up joining us for dinner. Before long, Roslyn and I moved to our own table so that I could show her the My Trip Journal site. She has been looking for a way to share their stories and photos with their land-loving family, and this site might work for them too. We talked about our families as most women are prone to do, and I was pleased to see Anil and Peter deep in conversation as well. It was a good idea to split up and give the men a chance to speak and not just listen.
We suddenly realized that the restaurant staff was waiting for us to finish and leave, so we quickly packed up and headed back to the hotel. After sharing email addresses, we promised to keep in touch and follow each other's adventures. They were off on an early tour of the Highlands the following morning and we had bus tickets to Penang. I mentioned to Anil that I was impressed that he had started a conversation with someone on his own and he reminded me that this was the second time this trip that he had done so. We are still in touch with Renate, the German woman we met in Mahabalipuram, India. Good on you, Anil!
Yes, it's time to leave this lovely, cool, quiet place and explore the islands of Penang and Langkawi. Somehow, we seem to know when to stay and when to push on. After spending nine days in the hills, it's time to see what's beyond them.