The second act is always shorter

After leaving the waiting area and getting through the departure gate, we were shuffled into an ever so slightly more plush waiting area. We chilled for fifteen minutes – enough time for us to attempt to shuffle the incredibly stiff pack of London Tube Map playing cards I bought at Heathrow – before boarding our adorably tiny plane.

The flight was kind of great – the sky was clear, so throughout the whole journey, we could see miles and miles of forest and crystal blue lakes, with the ocean finally in the distance. Some of the forests looked as if they were made up only of one type of tree, all planted in neat little lines, and we figured those must be palm trees, being grown for palm oil. These was a giant stretch of them, with a logging plant and a quarry in the middle, that was cool. Aside from looking out of the window, we used the flight for Jess to teach me her incredibly confusing rules of Jim Rummy, which I am using as the reason for why I lost quite as badly as I did.

So we landed, thankfully uneventfully – Malaysian Airlines were very nice to us, they gave us peanuts and orange juice – at the incredibly orange coloured Kuala Terengganu airport. It was in all honestly a most startling shade of orange, especially the roof tiles of the terminal and the outbuildings, which were pretty much fluorescent. I wonder if there’s a reason for that? We noticed on the flight over that many of the roofs are bright red or bright blue – maybe it’s some kind of heat reflecting, albedo thing? Or maybe they just like to look fancy.

We picked up our bags at the one conveyor belt in this adorably tiny airport, which still managed to be substantially larger thanSouthampton’s, bless. We rather inelegantly wrestled our large suitcase, roll-y carry on (and handbag), through a very noncooperative set of heavy double doors to pretty up a little after our flight.

Which, unfortunately, made us awkwardly a little late for when we popped out through the arrivals gate, to be welcomed with a little sign, saying,

UMT

CAMILLA & JESSICA

It was being held by Awin and Kirat, two of the incredibly kind students who we’ve talked to and who have helped us plan things while we were organising. They showed us the Malaysian ‘salam’ handshake with which to greet people – a gentle touching of palms, followed by touching the right hand to the chest. And a little kiss on both cheeks! After loading up the bags (helping the driver with Jess’s 29.1kg monster), they drove us to the UMT, and within it, INOS (Institut Oseanografi dan Sekitaran – the Institute of Oceanography and Environment). We parked up, and went upstairs to the office, where we met Shiha, another lovely lady who I have emailed, who shook my hand with a smile, and saw the Dr. Jaaman’s office, where we will be meeting him on Sunday, though we picked up that everyone here simply seems to call him ‘Doctor’!

We went next door into the office, where we were shown our desks! Eeeeeh! We get desks! I have never been this thrilled about a table before. The other people in the office seemed so nice; they offered us some snacks and drinks, and all fretted over our wellbeing, staying at the B&B we’d organised off campus. “That’s too far!”, said… literally everyone we talked to. Ah. But they all looked over maps for us and figured out where we were going, before Awin and Kirat said the immortal words, “The traffic will be bad. Let’s go feed you instead.”

They gave us a driving tour through campus, which is lovely and bright, where we saw all the sports facilities, including the big football field and swimming and diving pools; the library, which is easily four or five times the size of the Hartley library at campus, where we will on Sunday pick up our very cool student IDs; all the faculty buildings; and the student halls, the ‘hostel’ where the uni staff were able to find rooms for us last minute, though at that point we’d already booked into the B&B. They look… very, very convenient. We’re going to have a look around them on Sunday, hopefully with a view to switching to staying there at the beginning of next week.

Driving on, we drove right along the coast, where across a rocky wave break interspersed with stretches of beach, we could see a brilliant blue ocean. With a good run up, you could throw something from the window of INOS and get it in the water; it’s that utterly, brilliantly, fantastically close.

(Those of you reading from back home, don’t be mistaken in assuming that the NOC in Southampton, though on the coast, is anywhere near any water that you could conceivably call ‘pretty’ or ‘swimable’.)

Along the coast we pulled up to an area with restaurants and shops. Sadly, the one Awin told us was her favourite was closed, but no matter, as we sat down at the table and chairs outside the one next door – a table for six, as the man driving the truck joined us. Awin and Kirat proceeded to order us one of pretty much everything, which I think was partly due to my gushing about food-related excitement in the journey over. They ordered Jess and I ‘coconut juice’, which was to my great delight a coconut with a slit cut in it and a straw and a spoon shoved in – you drink the juice, and then you lever off the top and scrape out the sweet flesh with the spoon.

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Then our food arrived! Awin poured out a little dish of the dipping sauce on the table into a saucer for each of us (or, rather, attempted to – she couldn’t get the lid off of the bottle and, giggling embarrassingly, we all had a go, eventually relying on the driver to end up pouring it for us). We had the keropok lekor – a mashed fish mixture, fried – which are found no where better than in Terengganu; they had a surprisingly subtle fishy taste, almost like a fishcake, but the sweet oily texture was lovely. Then, a selection of battered, deep fried seafood – squid, prawns, and stingray. The squid was very nice, and stayed very soft under the crispy batter. The prawns were a little funny, as though Jess and I both reached for them at the same time, our eyes met and we both covertly watched Kirat eating her’s first to confirm that, yes, you eat the whole thing, rostrum and head and tail and all. The prawns were Jess’s favourite but I, oh my gosh, I’m a terrible person; I really, really liked the stingray. It had a taste and texture very similar to scallops – when you bit into it, the meat came away in fine little white strips. The dipping sauce tasted like a combination of sweet chilli and soy sauce, and I was so keen, my saucer by the end was little more than an empty dish of bits of fallen-off batter.

I was too shy to go into full on white tourist mode and take pictures of my food but, I swear, I’ll lose the shame. This requires full documentation.

Laughing and chatting, they drove us to our B&B (it takes about 25 minutes to get from INOS to our B&B, which would be about £5 – as someone who takes a minimum of a half an hour bus to NOCS in the morning this didn’t seem bad, but in practice it’s definitely not ideal, so we really are looking to move up to the halls). In light of this and feeling a little guilty, we were received by Mr Long and Nicky who run the lodge, who showed us in and around, how to lock the doors and use the shower, and pretty much disappeared and haven’t been seen since!

Bare in mind, now, it is 6:00pm. We managed to get a decent nights sleep in the Concorde Inn the night before, and our wake up call put us squarely in the correct time zone. We set up last week’s episode of Suits to buffer, watched the episode of Miranda that I have on my laptop, and eventually watched the episode of Suits. Jess feel asleep about half way through, hence I had to inadequately describe to her the rather complicated legal channels that our boys went through to save the day before the episode’s end. This brought us to about 9:00pm. We struggled through another hour, reading and playing games and fighting with setting the alarm clock, before eventually deeming this suitably late enough to go to bed.

And, now, I’m not proud of this. We slept for 12 hours. 12 full, long, 60-minute hours. I woke up feeling like I imagine a bear coming out of hibernation does. I felt great; recharged and ready for the day, which I will describe for you shortly!

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