Malaysia: From Riches to Rags

8 June 2011

19th March 2011

At 9:00am this morning seven adults and two babies boarded a tiny speed boat. Our luggage was piled at the front of the boat and we squeezed together at the back. How is it that seven educated adults make the decision to load our very precious selves into a small unmarked power boat manned by a boy barely older than seventeen; in the hope that we will be gently and safely transported to some island; where we will hopefully find accommodation; but we may not? I often think this when travelling. At times I think it’s all part of the experience and at other times I just think, what exactly is the earthly point?
Our pre-pubescent captain slammed the speed up and we hurtled over the water, smashing down onto wave after wave with such shuddering bangs that I imagined the boat breaking in twain at any moment. After 40 mins a boat load of wet, relieved tourists with mild whiplash and a few punctured spleens, arrive at a Pulau Perhentian island. Our saving grace may have been the babies as I suspect the driver was easing off the steam a little for their sake.
We’re going to have to find some babies for the return journey or I may loose an internal organ.

After a brief walk across the island during which time I thought I was going to expire due to getting both fat and monstrously unfit whilst travelling, we arrived at the main tourist beach. The monsoon season had only just finished and winds still whipped around the white sanded bay bringing with them crashing blue waves. Grotty shacks in various stages of repair and disrepair form a border between the jungle and the beach, it’s not exactly inspiring.

On our first night, I lay there in our tiny cubicle room with stained semi-permeable walls, listening to the toe-clenchingly horrific wailing coming from a nearby beach bar and contemplated our harsh thud back to reality. Was our week in divine paradise just a dream? Perhaps someone will put the shameless karaoke singer out of his misery and tiny elves will transform our room into a luxuriant boudoir…

Thailand: Pampered in Paradise

16 April 2011

17th March 2011

One night on Phuket. One night too many. The next day our chauffeur arrived to drive us to the marina to meet our private speed boat to take us as far away from the mob of mouth breathing lobsters and Tescos-lined streets.

Where we were headed to would more than make up for a night on Phuket. Thanks to Chris sacrificing some honeymoon time to do some work, we were headed to a full complimentary stay at a divinely serene luxury boutique hotel on the island of Koh Yao Noi. As we boarded our chariot to transport us through the myriad of limestone islets rising out of the delicate misty veil drifting over the jade green sea, we were greeted by the hotel manager – a smart, rosy faced man bubbling with composed enthusiasm, and his beautiful wife. As we pulled up to the bay in the marine park and I looked across at the palm fringed white beach with discrete huts peeping out from the tropical foliage, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Dietrich Mateschitz’s seven star hotel in Fiji.

After receiving cold towels and a divine radioactive orange welcome drink I heard the words ‘now we will take you to your villa suite’. What glorious words those are! And what a glorious suite it was! Our thatched beach villa’s dressing room was larger than most hotel rooms we’ve stayed in. Huge glass doors opened out onto our private jacuzzi swimming pool and beach area a mere 20metres from the gentle lapping sea. A bottle of champagne sat on ice and the bed had been beautifully adorned with rose petals and palm leaves to welcome the honeymooners.

For one whole glorious week we lazed by our pool, ate divine food and drank mai tais. We kayaked around the islets, did yoga on the beach to the setting sun and were massaged and body scrubbed until we floated out of the spa. On our last night the manager arranged a romantic meal for us. We were led to a secluded patch of the beach lit by candles and flaming torches, an archway of flowers and palms framing the table. Our five course gourmet meal was the most deliciously imaginative vegetarian meal I have ever had. Every dish cooked by the manager himself, specially for us. We looked out over the sparkling silvery sea and enjoyed one of the most romantic evenings we’ve ever had.

The Paradise Koh Yao Noi - Thailand

The Paradise Koh Yao Noi - Thailand

The Paradise Koh Yao Noi - Thailand

The Paradise Koh Yao Noi - Thailand

Cambodia: A Kingdom

15 April 2011

11th March 2011

It is no secret among my friends and family that I am quite in love with Cambodia. This one sided romance is older even than my real life romance and has infiltrated my academic studies on nearly every level. Since my first visit some five years ago, I have vowed with teary eyes to return. Yet I never did. As I stepped off the aeroplane this time, my excitement was in danger of suffocating Chris, not a good start.

Oh Phnom Penh! Pink blossoms timidly sprouted from the trees aesthetically lining the water front and the sky exploded in a vibrant display of fuchsia and lilac hues. I grinned from ear to ear as strolled hand in hand past evening exercisers and parents chasing their giggling children. It was great to be here. It is a wonder that Chris restrained himself from any form of wife beating as I must have proven to be the most irritating travel companion in Cambodia. ‘It’s changed so much’, ‘it wasn’t like that last time’, ‘do you love Cambodia, I love Cambodia’ became the only words exiting my gob that I even began to annoy myself.

I don’t feel like I can write well about Cambodia without gushing hopelessly; stating obvious economic and social changes to a country suddenly on the package tour map; droning like a less knowledgeable version of your old history teacher about Khmer cultural heritage; or getting on my soap box about the human rights violations that plague this scarred country. Cambodia is a subject so close to my heart and I am too inept a writer to take a step back and just flitter over it with my usual gleeful superficial impressions.

So I could tell you about the incredible people with their contagious smiles and chirpy sense of humour, about the human remains poking through the dusty soil of the Choeung Ek killing field or about the glorious marriage of stone and roots that occupy Angkor Archaeological Park. In our fleeting visit Chris gorged on history, we soaked up the atmosphere, giggled with tuk tuk drivers, ‘humphed’ at pitiful sights, weaved in and out of tourist hordes, clambered over temples and played war games with semi-naked ankle biters.
Go to Cambodia and see for yourself, with care, consideration and love for a remarkable country and it’s exceptional people.

I will let Chris’s stunning photographs do the talking.

Cambodia Photography

Cambodia Photography

Cambodia Photography

Cambodia Photography

Cambodia Photography

Cambodia Photography

Cambodia Photography

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