Malaysia 2014

Thursday 3rd to Friday 4th July

At the beginning of every travel tale I sit at the keyboard and wonder ‘What kind of a story will this one be?’ And this time I’m wondering even more than usual. So let’s begin the adventure and see if our activities turn out to be entertaining. I do hope so – and even if I can’t do much with words, then I hope you will enjoy the photos. There will be photos, I promise. It’s just that the story has to begin before we get to anything photographable 😉

Our flight was to be at 1:30am on Friday 4th, so of course that really means Thursday 3rd as far as ‘real life’ is concerned. We left packing our cases as late as possible so as not to concern our poor little dog, but she actually seemed to take it well in her stride, which pleased us all. She just lay resignedly on the bed watching and, perhaps, wondering who was going to take care of her this time. Our handy little packing list was easy to follow, as always – although since returning home I have added something that could possibly have made a big, and positive difference, but we will get to that shortly.

Our son, Dan, arrived at 7pm to settle in and then to take us to the airport. We left home around 9:30 and just as well too as it turned out the main highway was completely closed off and we had to take a pretty large detour! That would have added a great deal to a taxi fare so we were extra pleased that Dan had been able to take us. Once we got to the airport we had him just kick us out of the car, exchanged quick hugs and then he went off home, back into the cold, dark, winter’s night.

Inside the airport was the biggest queue for any flight that we’ve ever seen! There were 2 sports teams amongst the hundreds of people so we joined up at the end – once we eventually found where ‘the end’ was. We slowly, slowly moved forward and after 5 or 10 minutes of not getting far, David noticed a sign that he could only partially see but it looked as if it said ‘web check-in’ so he left me with the cases, and fear in my heart as to how on earth I was going to move 2 large suitcases and 3 cabin bags forward if the queue moved. But thankfully he came back just as I was trying to achieve this impossible task – for the entire 2 feet that was required – with a big grin on his face. “Yes” he said “We can go over there!” The people behind us said “Really? Web check-in?” and when David agreed we all raced off with a spring in our step and a smile on our faces that we’d had the foresight to check-in online. We waited for one person to be seen to and then we were next!

The check-in guy was really friendly and helpful and, when I was making noises about checking the weight of our cabin luggage before we let our cases go, and David was making noises about me just making a fuss, the guy smiled and almost winked at the pair of us and said “You’ll be fine!” David asked “Really?” and he gave an even bigger smile and assured us thoroughly. Even I was now relaxed and happy about it! 🙂

Scanning was, as scanning is, though David was pinged for something apparently metallic showing around his right knee. He *always* gets picked on and had had to go through a posh, fully enclosed scanner, whereas I’d only been asked to go through the usual grey archway. The guy asked permission to grope at David’s leg and was granted a yes. Can hardly say no, can you? We’ve no idea what had caused the detector to go off, there was no pocket at that level of his trousers and his pockets were empty anyway. But other than that we got through with no issue, and the same for filling in the ‘I’m leaving Australia’ forms and passport check.

And so to the cattle-chutes-and-fodder-sales-room which was absolutely *crammed* past capacity. Considering it was now around midnight I’ve never seen it anywhere near this busy! We went and chose some awful food for extortionate prices, though the service was friendly so that made it all OK. While David waited for the food to be ready I looked around at the full tables. Even the bar stools along the hard, narrow benches were all taken, but there was one guy alone at a nearby table so I smiled hopefully at him and asked if he would mind if I share. We ended up having a lovely chat, which David joined in once he arrived. And soon afterwards our new friend was called for his flight. Obviously it was a very large plane because the room thinned out fairly considerably and we became aware of some welcome fresh air circulating.

I sipped a little on my orange juice, though mostly it was to be saved ready to take my travel meds 90 minutes before flight time. In the meantime I enjoyed a hot chocolate while David had a coffee and a toasted chicken focaccia bread but I didn’t feel like food. I had a tiny nibble of his because I felt I should.

When it came time to take my tablets I just really didn’t want to! I can’t describe the feeling except to equate it to some form of dread. On *one* occasion, taking the tablets had made me feel quite sick so I suppose I was thinking of that for some reason; who knows. But there’s no choice in the matter. I feel dizzy and disoriented in a lift so I have to take them to fly (or sail), so down they went.

After 20 minutes, as usual, I felt the first effect; a little tired and fuzzy-headed. After 60 minutes I felt rather sick and a lot panicky, it was horrible! I tried to walk around but I felt worse so I sat, and began to shake, visibly. Then my mouth went dry the way it does just before you humiliate yourself in public. I couldn’t go to the bathroom because it was too close to boarding time. Eyeing up the closest bin I prayed I wouldn’t have to use that with everyone watching, and that made me panic and shake more.

David noticed and tried holding my knees between his to hold them still, but it didn’t help a lot and I just sat there feeling miserable, and like a public spectacle. I kept my eyes down because I didn’t want to know if anyone was noticing my condition. I did ask David to go and buy some butterscotch lollies to moisten my mouth though, in the hope that would help. He came back with barley sugar which was all they had. I’m really not so keen on those but it would have to do, and it did help a little. Like about 5% little. So in future I will be buying butterscotch for my handbag as a priority item and have added it to the packing/essentials list! If I could have prevented the dry-mouth-syndrome I think I’d have been doing fine.

David didn’t dare ask me what I was panicking about for fear of making it worse, and he thought I was worrying because of the Malaysian Airlines flight that had gone missing recently. The thought had sailed through my head at some point but certainly hadn’t stayed or made an impact, even though I can be that way inclined and we were flying the same airline.

Knowing me well though, David asked if I would be OK once I was aboard. I think he was praying hard by that stage, but I said yes. So he kindly went and asked the boarding staff if he could get me on quickly because I was feeling rather unwell with nerves, and they told him to bring me to the side and they’d do what they could. We went. Standing there was even worse, but fairly quickly they’d seen the business class passengers through and then turned to us. Once we were walking down the ramp and there was some cold, fresh air I felt normal again. Or maybe it was the fact of walking out at a good pace. But regardless… thank heavens!!!

Then came the usual… settling everyone in; disaster plan; clunk of the tractor attaching; and the plane being pushed backwards as we both looked at each other in happy anticipation of the take-off. We both totally love take-offs and landings, there is nothing else that we’ve ever experienced with such an incredible feeling of power. We taxied along, wondering if the staff would manage to be seated in time, but of course they did. And we held hands, with excitement filling our hearts, as we turned the final corner and the plane seemed to paw the ground like a stallion about to bolt. Then we were off, hurtling and thundering down the runway as I looked out of the window to my left, and David looked up the gangway at the ridiculously steep angle of the floor as the wheels lifted and the plane climbed rapidly.

We were in the 2 absolute last seats, which don’t recline quite as much as any of the others on the plane but it’s worth it not to have some little (or large) brat kicking the back of your seat for 5 hours non-stop. The staff threw us a miniscule bag of burnt peanuts each and then the lights were turned out. We did our best with the little pillows and blankets, but our sleep was fitful at best. It had been 1.40am when we took off. At one point I awoke (which more truthfully means gave up trying and opened my eyes) and saw the stars. I have never seen so many stars, or each of them so bright, and it totally took my breath away with awe. I turned to see if David was awake and showed him, though of course he couldn’t quite see as well, even with leaning into my lap.

At 5:30 we were awoken by the captain for breakfast but, after we’d eaten, they turned the lights off again. That seemed rather strange, but what would we know? After this the staff were asked to be seated and we hadn’t started to descend yet. I really don’t like this command one bit because you never know just how rough a ride you’re in for, but it really wasn’t too bad and the descent and landing into Kuala Lumpur were works of aeronautical art!

Fortunately we didn’t have to collect our cases so we walked, caught the little terminal transfer train, and then walked again to find B9, our next departure gate. That little train is absolutely brilliant. It stops, opens the far doors and people pour out, then it opens the near doors and people pour in – everyone heading in the same direction. Why aren’t all trains like that?

It turned out that B9 did not have a café for us to buy some OJ for my third dose of tablets so we walked back towards the train looking for one. And further and further and further. We could have bought all sorts of duty free clothes, perfumes or shoes, but nothing to drink. There was a water fountain but those tiny tablets are the most bitter things on earth and if I can avoid taking them with water I’ll go to great lengths to do so. Finally we found a fast food outlet but for a moment it looked as if fizzy soft drinks were all they sold until we noticed a plastic vat of OJ and gratefully purchased a cup full. As I took the tablets I reread the directions to find that it said to take a maximum of 4 tablets in 24 hours. I’d already taken 4! Two at midnight and 2 at 4am. I needed to take the next 2 to get through our next flight! If I wasn’t so exhausted and drugged-up I’d have thought it through and only taken 1 tablet but we had to walk fast to get back to our departure gate so there was no time for slow brain processing. I never, ever *ever* would have taken more than the packet said on purpose – they’re the only medications I ever take. I’ve read that packet a million times and I’m sure it used to be 6 tablets in 24 hours! (Or was it 8? LOL)

Anyway, we boarded our half empty plane bound for Kuantan on the east coast of Malaysia and found ourselves directly above the wing and in the emergency exit seats. Which led to a wonderful photo by David. I didn’t even get my camera out until we’d arrived at the resort.

Interesting View, Malaysian Airlines

Interesting View, Malaysian Airlines

We endured the safety demonstration in both Malay and English. Am I the only one that hates listening to and watching those? But yet again we relished the take-off. Squeeeeeeeeeee!

The staff gave us yet another bag of burnt-flavoured peanuts each and an orange juice to wash them down with, and they just managed to collect the rubbish before it was time to land. I really could have done without those last 2 tablets but I wasn’t to know ahead of time. I kept falling asleep as I sat there; just for a moment at a time. We’d been awake for 24 hours by now and suddenly there was a huge jolt and I gasped aloud as we really *hit* the runway. I’d remembered watching gleefully as we got lower and lower, but must have fallen briefly asleep. It sure as heck frightened the life out of me!

Disembarking, Kuantan Airport, Malaysia

Disembarking, Kuantan Airport, Malaysia

Kuantan Airport, Malaysia

Kuantan Airport, Malaysia

Customs requirements were just putting our forefingers on a glass box and showing our passports to a lovely lady who was patient with David’s lack of understanding as to what she wanted. I managed to remember the drill from when we’d gone to Kuala Lumpur 2½ years ago. It’s the only place we’ve ever been fingerprinted.

We gathered our cases easily enough and went out into the beautifully warm tropical air where we were welcomed almost without giving our names by the Club Med ‘G.O.’ She tied the blue fabric identity bracelets around our wrists and loaded us onto a bus with the other guests and we were each given a small bottle of (unfortunately warm) drinking water. It should have been labelled ‘Get Used To It’ because it turned out that either Club Med, Malaysians, or both, don’t know what cold means when it comes to drinks – but I’m getting ahead of myself.

We drove northwards in the little bus for about 45 to 50 minutes. The journey was on a good road with lots of greenery by the sides and we went through a small town, more greenery and another even smaller town but obviously I wasn’t ‘with it’ enough to remember more. Then we turned right into a driveway that sloped and turned down a steep hill and stopped at a white boom gate, where we waited a very long time for the security guard to decide to open it for us. The next short drive had a very high, fern-covered cliff face on our right before pulling up in the circular driveway with 6 or so G.O.s waving a welcome. So was a very large lizard just off to the side on the lawn. Eeeeekkkk!!!

We were all ushered up some steps and given seats in front of reception, given a nice cool drink with a cherry on the side of the glass and cooling face cloths while we listened (OK, I didn’t really, they’d also asked us to fill in some forms!) to a talk, and then we were assigned a G.O. to take us to our rooms. Our girl had us, and a family with 3 children, and she strode ahead talking to the other couple and we couldn’t hear a single word she said. She never once turned to check on us, see if we were still there, or to see if we needed any of the information she was giving. We turned this way and that, went up stairs, turned this way and that, climbed more stairs and then she opened a door and waved us into it without another word and left, still chatting to the other family. If we’d never been to a Club Med before we’d have been rather bewildered but, as it happens, this was our fourth so we knew the drill – thankfully!

Our suitcases were very quickly delivered and we did a bit of settling in, but soon decided to walk back and see the main entertainment and meal areas. Half way there we saw a snake. Having described it to a couple of the G.O.s during the week it seems they weren’t familiar with this ‘brand’ so we’re rather mystified as to what it was. It was about 6 inches long, very thin and pale coloured but with a dark-coloured bulbous head. Great – snakes and lizards and we’d only been there 5 minutes! From the moment we’d booked this holiday I’d seen an article talking about snakes in the Malaysian jungle (our exact current location!) and had been seeing pictures of snakes everywhere I looked. I mean *everywhere*, even the most unexpected of places, and it had been freaking me out rather. In fact I think it had contributed to the panic attack just before we flew. I had determined that I would ask David to very carefully (for his safety!) look in all the cupboards and under the bed when we got to the room. Well, the fact that our room was 3 floors up had helped to ease my misgivings. The fact that the room was absolutely spotlessly clean and uncluttered had completely and utterly, 100% put my mind at rest. And now, to mess it up, we’d seen this dangerous-looking snake 🙁

By this point it had been nearly 6 hours since the 5:30 am breakfast and we were both absolutely starving! Fortunately we knew that there were usually snacks near the main bar and we were in luck. There was a beautifully flavoured iced tea that actually did have some ice in the big glass dispenser and we grabbed a couple of little sandwiches and room-temperature baby sausage rolls that were all very welcome indeed.

For our next move we decided to go and find where the little ‘train’ left from to explore the Adult (or Zen) Pool. We found that it was rather cute and had 2 open-sided carriages that everyone just bundled into and sat on hard benches. It was fairly necessary to catch the train because it was quite a way through the jungle to get to the pool and sailing area, with just a narrow, roughly asphalted roadway between the lush jungle on either side.

Club Med Cherating Beach Train

Club Med Cherating Beach Train

Most of the day beds or sun loungers were exposed to the sun, and the very few with shade were already taken, so we took ourselves to the far side, across the wooden decking, to a grassed area and lay on a sun lounger snuggled privately amongst greenery there. The sun, the warmth, and the view were all totally heaven; if a little warm after mid-winter Perth. But we weren’t complaining. I didn’t realise until David showed me his photos just now (22nd July as I write this!) that I must have nodded off at this point. But he can prove it ROFL

Crashed!

Crashed!

I can’t have been there long because I started to get bitten by finely striped black and white mosquitoes. I am the tastiest thing on the planet to mosquitoes, or so it seems! We’d been taking Vitamin B tablets, admittedly only for a week, but also indulging in an almost zero-sugar diet since Christmas. Yet still, it seemed, my blood screamed loud and clear “Here I am! Come and nom on me!”

Anyway, it was now time that lunch would be served up at the main restaurant and, glancing at our phones for the time, we saw that we must now run to catch the little train. And we did. But it didn’t. The driver had the bonnet up and told us it was over-heating and that we could walk. You’re joking right? We’ve been awake for around 28 hours, the journey back to the resort was uphill, we were starving hungry (yes, again 🙂 ). And, not least, the route was through pure untouched raw jungle with, presumably, yet more snakes, lizards, legendarily hostile monkeys (we’d been warned!) and… mosquitoes by the million, all, as we spoke, winging their way towards the juicy, fresh, May-Banquet.

Before we even walked 2 steps we saw another sizeable lizard!

Off we trudged, taking a few photos along the way to keep our minds from our mind- and body-numbing tiredness, and the now increasing number of bites I was getting. We could hear monkeys but were relieved not to see any. We’d been told that they had no fear of humans at all and, in fact, enjoyed trapping people in their rooms. Thankfully, after about 10 minutes, along came the train and he kept his promise by waving cheerfully and stopping to pick us up. Oh Thank You!!!

Once the train dropped us off, despite being really hungry, I just had to return to our room to treat my mosquito bites. I tried the lavender oil that someone had recommended and it worked a treat. Such a relief for body and soul.

On the way back to the restaurant David found a group of about 8 gorgeous, tiny little bats hanging outside another room on the verandah/walkway. My first instinct was to be repulsed, but that lasted all of 2 seconds as I saw how very cute they were! It took us about 5 photo sessions to get decent pictures of these little guys because, needless to say, where they were hanging had very poor light and we certainly weren’t going to use a flash and blind them or upset them! But here’s the best photo that I managed to get overall.

Dear Little Bat Family

Dear Little Bat Family

How do they park themselves upside down anyway?

As we were reaching the main area I glanced at David’s neck and saw that he had a leech! Once I’d finished shuddering and gained the bravery to look, it turned out that his camera strap is disintegrating and had left a calling card. So funny!!! But we’d had enough animal interactions in these very few hours that I’d have believed anything by now.

The restaurant and buffet was the usual fare for Club Med. A very large room with separate food stations allocated roughly by ethnicity for the main courses, and separate places for the breads, cheeses and desserts. I seemed to prefer the Chinese section for lunches and dinners, though we both indulged in foods from various locations over the 8 days. Except for the Korean. For some reason that section just made our eyes big and our feet scuttle hastily in the other direction. It’s nice to have such a varied buffet, to be able to choose from so many different things. Though food temperature was a big problem and everything the whole week long was at best luke warm.

The restaurant manager, Rishard and his second-in-charge, Manu, were such gorgeous guys – so cheery, friendly and helpful and we fell in love with them both straight away. They couldn’t have been any more charming or obliging and were total sweethearts!

Rishard, David, Manu and (ashamed!) I Don't Know

Rishard, David, Manu and (ashamed!) I Don’t Know

It felt very good to now have a proper meal inside us and we went back to our room (a 5 minute walk if we got it right and found it first time!) to write story notes, shower and have a nap. I got an hour and David didn’t lay down so, by the evening he was bragging to everyone that *he* had been awake for 37 hours. Other than my body shutting itself down for a few minutes here and there, and this hour with my eyes shut, so had I!

We decided on a walk along the beach near our room, though we kept clear of the water because there had been a warning sign about stone fish, jelly fish, and I think something else that was potentially lethal in the shallows. Nice!

Seashells on the Sea Shore

Seashells on the Sea Shore

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