Wednesday, March 12, 2014
We left Penang and flew Kuala Lumpur. Actually the airport is so far out of town that we decided to book a room for one night by the airport at the Tune Hotel, a chain owned by Air Asia. Our flight the following morning to Bali was early and we weren't that interested in seeing KL. Boy, what a dump! The airport was crummy, the hotel was horrible. Our room was no more than 8x8 with a phone booth bathroom. Slamming doors and noise all night. The air conditioner had to be on because the air quality is so terrible. People were not friendly, very moody and unhappy. Dark atmosphere. The highlight of the evening was walking in the bad air back to the airport to the food court, which was very minimal. Some rice and veggies and four bottles of water. Couldn't wait for this night to end. Next morning we practically ran back to the airport, got through immigration, checked our bags and got our boarding passes. Only redeeming feature was the Starbucks, which we really needed after such a long sleepless night. Arrived in Bali to smiling faces, sweet air and gentle breezes. Lush green vegetation and tropical flowers. How wonderful to return to this beautiful island. As my brother wrote: "It always seemed like an incredible reward after a rather strenuous Safari". We are at peace.
After prying ourselves off the beach, we flew to the island of Penang, off the north west coast of Malaysia. The main town of Georgetown, now a Unesco World Heritage city, is undergoing a vibrant restoration. Our small hotel, the Ren I Tang, was located in the heart of the Indian section of town. It felt as if we had landed in India. Incredible. Loud speakers blaring Indian music, food cooking everywhere along the street, sari clad woman and dark skinned men. Wild activity. Our first morning we opened our shutters and all the sights and smells and sounds of India came in with a vengeance. We've eaten rich spicy curries with naan, dal and samosas. There is much diversity in the city with large populations of Malay, Chinese and Indians all living together and creating wonderful food. The old shop houses were especially lovely as they had beautiful tiles and covered walkways. Many have been restored and many more are in various states of ruin, but still lived in. I loved the tiles and the covered walkways which help shield you from the brutal sun. It is hot! We walked around in the early part of the day and then had to take a break in our room until it cooled off and a hint of a breeze came up, around 6:30. Then we were off again for cold beers and dinner. The week slipped by in our simple routine of walking, eating and resting. Lots of street art, colorful characters, and nice helpful locals who are obviously proud of their heritage.
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
What a great time we've had living on the beach. It started out with anxiety about our bungalow. We complained about the hordes of Russians who took up valuable space on the beach, smoked endless cigarettes, and let their kids run wild and ruin the atmosphere. Then there was the wind that for a couple of weeks wore you out with it's constant power. Later it was the glass on the beach that we collected but never seemed to be troubled by when we walked bare footed every night to the restaurants. Slowly, a pleasurable change took place. We mellowed out. We started to enjoy the morning view with our coffee that was never hot enough. We stopped caring about the Russians, and they started to go home. We learned to be patient when ordering food because it took forever to get but it didn't matter because we were sitting on the beach and the air was sweet. We just stopped complaining. We started appreciating. That was the gift.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
I have taken a hiatus from writing. Where do the days go? I am hard pressed to know which day of the week it is. Some might find this boring or tedious, but truthfully, it is a gift to have this time to fully become sensitive to all the natural elements we are living with. How often can you just let go completely? I do not miss driving, shopping, cooking, cleaning, working, and all the tedious routines of life. I do enjoy having someone else clean my room, make my bed with fresh sheets, cook delicious Thai food, wash my clothes and drive me around. We wander out to the sand and lay in our chaise, watching the clouds overhead, the color of the water changing dramatically beneath the clouds shadow. With some effort we wander up the beach to meet friends for cold beers and sit in the sand listening to the proverbial Bob Marley or Buddha Bar songs that seem to be playing everywhere in the world. Mornings are so lovely. Since we have moved to the front row bungalow, we enjoy early sunrise and a swim before the water gets choppy and the winds increase. Breakfast is peaceful, especially now that most of the families have left and fewer children are around. The waitresses know that we like our "fresh coffee and hot milk" first. Later we have our sliced fruit and yogurt. With no agenda we sit for an hour or two just enjoying the morning breeze and the view. Then it seems like the day vanishes between laying in the chaise, the hammock, and the afternoon siestas. My favorite time is just after 6pm when everyone has left the beach, the light is golden, and the winds have died down to a soft breeze. The evening air is like velvet on your skin, the sky dark and bright with stars, and the cresant beach sparkling with colored lights from the various bars and restaurants that circle it. There is a Thai tradition that we love where they make paper lanterns which are several feet tall and a couple of feet in diameter. There is a large wick that you light and as the heat increases the paper lantern fills with hot air. Then you let it go and it sails up into the dark night. Often you can see many of these taking off, up up into the sky forming a little constellation of yellow glowing lights, before they just disappear into the night. Simple pleasures.