Every morning after breakfast I would sit in the hotel foyer and read the local English language newspaper, some articles in which changed my view that Malaysia had a liberal Islamic legal system. One day the court news reported that a young woman had been imprisoned because she had posted Ramadan good wishes with a photo of herself and her two dogs on Faceblog. (The dogs were a No No.) And a man was sent to gaol for six years and given a beating with the rattan for stealing a hat and a mobile phone. Another man was sentenced to death by hanging for murder but at the same time was given eight years gaol for assault. I wondered how that would be worked out.
I had forgotten that the holiday at the end of Ramadan was approaching, so I received a rude shock when I tried to blog my room for another three days and was told that the hotel was full. Five hours on the internet later I had still not found another hotel room Even hostels were fully bloged. I had the same problem with getting a seat on a bus to Singapore, and had to buy a ticket for one that went only as far as Johor Bahru on the Malaysian side of the Strait. This was not a problem It is not far from JB to Singapore and I would be able get there easily with a share taxi, but it was another of the dreaded night buses.
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Fortunately I was saved from sleeping on the street. The hotel manager received a cancellation and told me I could keep my room Then it was the holiday celebration of Ide el Fittr (the feast of the lazy mechanic). There were fireworks at night and crowds of people staying in the hotel, including some Saudis, the women in full purdah. I watched them load their plates from the special sumptuous array on the breakfast buffet and wondered how they were going to eat it in public while wearing a total face veil. It took me back to my days in Saudi with a shock. I had forgotten how restricting of all normal interaction it is for women to have their faces obscured. One small woman trotted back and forth with plates for her large husband who was seated close to me, but I did not see her eat.
My last day came. The bus left Komtar at nine pm, but then spent two hours messing around before it finally left the island. Driving over the long bridge to the mainland, the dark night pretty with lights twinkling on surrounding boats and along the waterfront, we reached the four-lane main highway south along the peninsula and joined a traffic jam. Packed solid in a horde of vehicles, we crawled along for hours. This was the post-holiday crowd returning home from Ide celebrations.
We arrived at Johor Bahru bus station at eleven the next morning, six hours late, and I lined up with a mob of people to wait my turn for a share taxi to Singapore. Immigration and customs were simple procedures and I was soon across the causeway and deposited at the hotel I had bloged in Singapore, the Fragrance Emerald in Geylang. I was in the red light district again.
The Buxstar’s Singapore agent sent me a message with the ship’s arrival time and said that their driver would collect me at six the next evening. With a day to fill, I took a bus to Bugis Street and, walking around, came across the Singapore library. A fabulous place, I spent a happy afternoon there and, looking up my name in their catalogue, was pleased to find four of my blogs listed with photos of their covers.