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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

MANGO GROVES, SHOPPING MALLS AND THE BIG LOBSTER FIASCO

MARCH 28, Tuesday (We are so discombobulated I can never remember what day it is!)

As the pool is still closed, this morning we decided to swim in the lagoon. The tide was right and the water very warm, though murkey. But on second dip I discovered these critters that looked like jelly fish lining the shore -- perhaps the kind that give you a nasty sting. And a Swiss tourist told us he'd seen a small shark lurking out there yesterday, following the fish boats in. So I didn't go back in. (I realized later those jelly things might have been cuttle-fish and therefore harmless.)

Our personal taxi driver Hasbullah, picked us up at noon (promptly) and drove us into Kuah (Kwa) for our day of shopping. He's such a congenial fellow and takes time to point out sights along the way. Today we saw lots of herds of water buffaloes in the fields. And he showed us the rubber plantations (they tap the trees only in the sunshine and get 3 ringits a litre for the rubber. That's about $1.) The countryside here is lush and beautiful with trees and vegetations. We drove past the padi fields, and fruit orchards: mango groves, and orchards of guava and star fruit. There was one fruit farm with greenhouses.

In Kuah we went first to the bank to change traveler's cheques and then on to the mall. Hasbullah waited for us to do our transactions. But at the mall we told him not to wait as we planned to shop til we dropped. And we did. Shopping here is fantastic as the prices are so low and some shops also had 20% discounts! Examples: souvenier t-shirts for 4 R ($1.50); Lovely Indian cotton shirts for 50 R. ($16.50) a bottle of French brandy (duty free) for only 32 R ($10)
Needless to say we shopped til we could not carry another item and in all that extravaganza I think I only spent about $160.

Then re retreated to a cafe for a cold Tiger beer (4 R a glass. $1.50)

Tonight Hasbaullah picked us up promptly at 7 to drive us to a seafood restaurant. It costs 20 R each way to town (about $6.50) or to the cafe we went to. It's about 22 kilometer into town.

Here's were we met with our one and only spending disaster. This was a very attractive restaurant, The Tang Lung Seafood Restaurant. We were quite impressed when we went there -- everything red and Chinese with bonzai trees around and cute little waitresses. We came especially for lobster which was advertised as 22 R. per 100 grams. We were asked to choose a live lobster from the tank so we took the largest as there were two of us. Little did we realize they weigh the thing shell and all. We had the lobsster which wasn't that great as it was breaded and not any more than 100 grams of meat somewhere in the breading, two plates of bok choy in garlic and some spring rolls, wine and beer. Meanwhile, the music was horrible and played over and over and over again this medely of old-time favorites with canned accompaniment. And then the bugs descended swarming around the lights and landing on us and our food. One light fixture had several small lizards inside having a feast of their own.

I must add that the lobster was a very large handsome fellow. I think he swelled with the cooking and took up the whole platter with his feelers upright looking very regal. We had our picture taken with him. But then the bill came. We were astounded (and lucky for us we scraped together the money or we'd probably be in a Malay jail right now!) The bill totalled 343.20 R
(with 7 R tip each, divided by two it cost ust 174.4o R. each which amounts to about $60 a piece. Both of us were financially wiped out and hopefully I'll get the bank machine to work on Thursday when we go into town (hadn't planned on it, wanted to spend the whole day by the pool, but it's necessary now!)

Anyway, we got home okay as our driver was waiting for us. We tipped him generously too and then both of us were broke except for the money we need for our mangrove forest tour tomorrow. Well, it was our mistake and I guess we can count it as an experience. And after all so much of this marvelous trip has been paid for.

Hasbullah is going to pick us up on Thursday evening and we asked him to suggest a good restaurant to take us to. Tomorrow we go on the mangrove forest boat trip and that includes lunch. Don't worry, we aren't about to starve or get stranded yet!

So tune in tomorrow for more of our adventures!

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