England, Singapore and Malaysia, 1988

Flying from Bombay, my parents and I landed in London, England. The main purpose of this part of the trip was to visit English friends and family and Sri Lankan relatives.

In London we went to Highgate cemetery with the impressive grave of Karl Marx; the Natural History Museum with its life-size dinosaurs and colourful butterfly exhibit; Kew Gardens to see the squirrels and make daisy chains and Madame Tussauds wax museum to see Ghandi and the Queen.

We drove three hours south to Weymouth, Dorset to visit my grandparents and my Canadian cousins who were also visiting at the same time. There were road trips to Sherbourne and Godmanstone with its white chalky hills and what was then the smallest pub in England- the Smith’s Arms. We went to Oxford, Bourton-on-the-water and Windsor Castle to see the queen’s dolls collection. We visited Gloucestershire, Swindon and Bibury where a relative had lived on Arlington Row. I remember seeing Stonehenge when you could still walk right up to it and touch the stones.

On the way back to Australia we went to Singapore. We stayed in the train station which was very humid and muggy as they had no air conditioning. I loved the Merlion statues and the variety of food that you could get in Chinatown.

We travelled to Penang in Malaysia which was full of temples and monkeys and went riding in rickshaws in Kota Bahru. We stayed in a hut on the beach in Merang, passed through Kuantanand caught the ferry from Mersing to Tekek village on Tioman island.

Tioman was largely undiscovered at the time. You could only get there by boat and we stayed in a Apex hut. There was a pet monkey tied to two trees outside our hut and I spent many hours playing with him on the hammock hung between the trees. The owner wanted me to take the monkey back with me to Australia, so we had to explain about our strict quarantine laws.

I went snorkelling and got spiked in the foot by a giant sea urchin. We walked to a waterfall in the middle of the island and over to Juaru on the other side where there was a long wharf. Dad and I jumped off the end and swam all the way back. I took a picture of the first beautiful sunset I remember with a sailing boat in the foreground.

A few years after we visited Tioman they built a huge resort in the middle of the island and an airport.

Related posts: I first started travelling, Home is where you make it, Travel rememberings, Friendship: Great Expectations?

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