Monday, December 31, 2007

A Bird In The Sky

A group of young boys and girls were happily taking picture with an old Caucasian man in front of Istana Balai Besar next to Istana Jahar which is now a museum in Kota Baru, Kelantan. The activity caught my attention while I was on my way to the Income Tax Board's office nearby.

A group of teenagers taking photograph with Mr. Fuchs. Sorry for the poor image as it was taken with a cheap hand phone.

On my way back to the car I saw the old man sitting alone on a long wooden bench browsing through his copy of lonely planet, the Bible of most backpackers. My curiosity got the better of me so I approached him.
Mr. Fuchs with the Kota Bharu Landmark in the background.

The Arch as the background to the picture of Mr. Fuchs.
Istana Balai Besar is the palace where all the official ceremonial functions are held.
Intricate carvings on the door of the side entrance to Istana Balai Besar.
The main building in the Kampung Kraftangan(Handicraft Village). The lady in the picture is a contractor doing some measurement to a new job.

"May I share this bench with you?" I asked him as a matter of courtesy.
"Oh go ahead and do whatever you like" He answered in impeccable English with a thick German accent. In my years of dealing with tourists I could discern the various accents like German, Australians, English, and Americans among the Caucasians. The French and Italians don't speak much English and their lapses into their own language are dead giveaways. Those from the Scandinavian countries still escape me. Spotting their country of origins based on their accent was quite fun. I did fail to identify them on several occasions though.
Thinking hard on how to break the ice, I dug into my backpack and brought out my newly aquired toy, the Twinhead laptop. Booting it on I prepared myself to draft a new posting to put on my blog.
The old man couldn't resist the sight of the new notebook and with twinkling eyes he asked me "So your are connected to the internet?".
"No. I have yet to buy the modem that will allow me to be connected from anywhere. I will get one soon". I replied not even sure how soon is soon.
"I am Zawawi" I said extending my hand to him which he gripped back warmly.
"I am Ernst Dieter Fuchs" he replied. Seeing my perplexed expression he spell it out one by one and I dug into my backpack to retrieve my notebook and wrote his name. He explained the last name Fuchs as to mean fox in English.
"I am a blogger" I announced with pride of my new preoccupation as if it was a full time occupation which can earn me an income that can support my life. What a laugh if he were to find out that I didn't earn a single sen from it. I explained a bit about what I meant by blogger and being a very learned man he understood what I meant.
"May I write about you?" This request of mine opened the floodgate and he acceded to my request by telling me more about himself.
So here is the short summary of Mr. Ernst Dieter Fuchs' travel that he managed to divulge and share with us all.
At the age of 65, Mr. Fuchs is a senior citizen and enjoyed some benefits of being one. One of which is the benefit of having accumulated enough wealth to travel the world without having to work at all if he so wishes, to support himself and his travel expenses which ain't much considering he does most of it using buses and railways and sleeps in guesthouse as long as they are clean. On most railways of the world he even get a discount as a senior citizen. He has sold his house in Germany and without a permanent address the German government will not allow him to vote.

"What is my one vote when there are millions of other voters who will vote?". I have no comment to that statement.
The Royal Guest House located close to Istana Jahar, Istana Balai Besar and Kampong Kraftangan. Mr. Fuchs could have stayed here.

When he was 14 he did his first overseas travel with his uncle to neighboring Holland and Belgium. That was when the travel bug hit him and he made up his mind to travel the world. Single mindedly he focus on his desire to travel the world one day. One of the things he did for his preparation was to study the languages of the world. Over the years he mastered six other languages excluding his mother tongue German. The languages he mastered are English, Spanish, French, Japanese, Chinese and Korean. Definitely more than enough to travel the world without having to use any interpreter. He could even be one himself.
After selling off his house, he began his epic journey 15 months ago on the 18th September 2006 heading for Italy where he stayed for 15 days, then took the ferry to Greece and stayed there for 25 days. The next leg of the journey was a 25 days stay in Turkey before taking the bus to Iran. He was proud to be a German as he can obtain a tourist visa to Iran unlike The Americans who can't. He volunteered the information that beside Iran the Americans cannot travel as a tourist to North Korea, Libya and Cuba. He has his own opinion of Mr. Bush and Mr Blair which isn't nice for me to put it in here. Just use your imagination OK?
While in Japan, he taught the English language and while in Korea he taught the German language.
Surprise of surprise he told me he felt safe in Islamic countries while he was robbed in Christian countries naming Mexico and Guatemala where he was robbed in 1980 and he said Columbia was another dangerous country. During that period he did the American continents from tip to tip from Cape Horn to Alaska except the Canadian countries. What a miss otherwise he might have met my good friend U Lee.
It was while traveling around Bulgaria that his drink was spiked and he went to sleep for ten hours while the seemingly friendly people that he began to have trust in robbed him of whatever belongings that he carried. The people at the German embassy considered him lucky as there were other incidences where the victims didn't get to wake up at all. At least he lived to tell his story and kept his precious life intact.
Two elderly Japanese gentlemen relaxing in the vicinity of Kampung Kraftangan.
All in all he had traveled to 111 countries including small countries like the Vatican and San Marino, however small are still independent countries. In the process he had expended 17 passports and the one he was carrying was his 18th. He rattled off all these numbers without referring to any notes as he didn't write notes and all were stored in his memory. Such great memories can only be sustained in a healthy body which he definitely has. Without fail for every 2 and a half years or thereabout he had been hiking the Himalayas to at least the 5,000 meter level without the aid of any porters and sleeping in the open without even the the use of tents. His highest point was 5,600 meters. A no mean feat for a 65 year old.
To achieve his ambition to travel the world, he decided to stay single throughout. He had witnessed the many problems and breakups in marriages which made him think it was unnecessary for him to get hitched. Having to answer to a wife wasn't his cup of coffee either. He wanted to be a free man like a bird in the sky, flying to anywhere that his heart desires.
(U Lee, you can forget him as he won't be buying your book on Ninjalogy containing the ways of how to seduce a woman).
By now Mr. Fuchs should have proceeded by bus to Kuala Terengganu, Mersing and on to Singapore before moving for Indonesia to spend about 20 days for his second visit there.
Before parting he gave me another surprise by reciting the Al Fatihah albeit with a German slang.
I promised him that I would be posting this story within ten days of our encounter and this is about time.
Mr. Fuchs, if you are reading this, I would like to wish you the best of luck and a may God bless you with a Happy and Prosperous new year.
Please keep in touch via email. Mine is

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