There’s nothing like the Christmas holidays for a good, restful, getaway break. Not sure about the break being restful, but it was good to getaway. These hectic holidays I travelled with my family to a few places in Asia.
On our departing flight, a fully robed monk sat by himself in front of us. Not long into the flight, he became restless, lying across the vacant seats beside him, frequently swapping positions. He began jolting around and yelling out loudly too. As a result, he lost his glasses one of the times he rolled off the seats onto the floor in front of him. Then I noticed what he was holding - Bombay Sapphire Gin and drinking it straight from the bottle.
I signalled his drinking to the lady across the aisle from me, who had become worried too. Her husband and mine were asked by the flight attendant if we wanted to have the monk restrained. We declined, as he had finally fallen asleep. As the plane touched down, the monk asked my husband if we had landed in Singapore, when in fact we had landed in Kuala Lumpur! He then showed my husband a picture of his father, who had just passed away and it all thankfully made a little more sense.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
I’d had carpal tunnel surgery on my wrist five weeks earlier, leaving enough recovery time for the shopping onslaught we were about to embark on in KL. But even I was sick of shopping, with the crowds, heat and overwhelming multi-levelled shopping malls, that was just our first day.
The following day we decided to explore the Batu Caves not far from the city centre. It has a spectacular giant statue of a Hindu god and temples within the hillside caves. Being scared of heights, I was nervous climbing the 272 steps to the top cave. The steps were dotted with screeching wild monkeys and ridiculous humidity just for good measure. When I reached the top cave temple, surprise, there were more steps inside leading to another level, to which I ask, why?
Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Onto Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, where it didn’t take long for us to become accustomed to the constant whizz of scooters dashing around us. This hadn’t changed in the 17 years since we were last there. But what had changed, was the swelling population and the scooters now mounting the footpaths to get in front of each other. I frequently forgot this, being honked out of the way to avoid the obvious.
Having a quick break from the busyness of the city, we decided on a Mekong River daytrip. When we finally arrived at the mighty Mekong we took a sampan ride over to an island. We had decided to sit in the back of the sampan to take photo’s, so were unable to hear our tour guide over the top of the extremely loud engine. I did however hear about the ‘Coconut religion’ on a nearby island. It was started by a scholarly man who only consumed coconut. Apparently when he died he was malnutritioned, being many kilograms and centimetres under the norm – not so scholarly.
When we reached our destination island, we took a traditional horse and cart ride to the place we would be having lunch. The horse and cart driver was traditionally on his mobile phone while driving. After lunch we hopped onto little boats and were given conical hats to wear, while two incredibly fit elderly people paddled us along a busy, windy part of the river, for only a small fee.
Next stop was Penang, Malaysia, where we have been a few times before. Our hotel had an unusually long corridor that led to our room which we named ‘the freezing tunnel of death’. The air-con was icy cold and was well appreciated after a day in the hot sun, or a stroll of the humid night markets after dinner. But when in wet bathers after swimming, it was indeed, the freezing tunnel of death.
The hotel came complete with a giant lizard, that scurried away under the rocks surrounding the pool, as I walked passed it. I’m not sure which of us more was more alarmed. Not as much as my daughter though. She was floating in the water on her pool ring, oblivious to what some foreigners were frantically talking about, when she finally noticed the lizard swimming right passed her.
Of the many times we took rickshaws rides, one night ride was more memorable than the others. Our young driver turned the volume of his disturbing music to (I’m sure) the maximum, as he began driving my cringing daughter and myself down the busy main street. We felt every person turn and stare at the flashing lights and thumping music of our rickshaw, which went on to play “I’m sexy and I know it.”
We took 6 flights within 2 weeks with the same airline, listening to the familiar repertoire of Christmas songs played throughout the cabin (totally over it). And after a busy couple of weeks of the sights, sounds and particularly smells of Asia, I recall, as I click the heels of my numerous newly bought shoes together, there’s no place like home.