Monday, August 22, 2011

August 19 2011 City Tour and Welcome to Langkawi

Here I sit on our beautiful private balcony at the Four Seasons Resort on Langkawi, a small island off the coast of Malaysia, watching the rain come pouring down. The thunder is rumbling, the water is streaming down the sides of the palm trees. We have our very own piece of beach, and before this storm blew in we could see Thailand in the distance.

This resort is absolutely beautiful. It's not huge, but it's big enough that each guest can have a complementary mountain bike for the duration of their stay, if they choose. Or, you can call a golf cart to take you to dinner, or you can stroll along the beach, whatever you please. Pebbled paths lead in all directions. There are restaurants, pools, a spa, a fitness center, yoga classes, kayak tours, hobie cats. There's even a little 9 hole putting green!

We flew in early this morning from KL. Lee had us met by a Mercedes coupe, just to start the coolness of this vacation off on the right foot. After a short tour of the facilities, we ate lunch overlooking the beach, and signed up for our activities for tomorrow. The rain is starting to let up, so soon we're going to head to the adult pool on our bikes. I'm excited in my little-kid-at-the-start-of-a-vacation way, and Lee is laughing out loud as he starts reading Dreaming In Chinese, by Debra Fallows, a great book if you've ever lived in an Asian country or attempted to learn Mandarin or Cantonese.

Yesterday Balan and Kumar took me on a "City Tour" of some of the major sights in KL. I can now check off my list the Theon Hou Temple, The King's Palace, The National Museum, the old train station, and the National Monument. I always enjoy getting a taste for how people feel about their country. Malaysians are passionate and proud of the peace and unity they have achieved in a place with such diversity in cultures and religions. It's not perfect by any means, and they certainly have their problems, but then what is?

The Theon Hou Temple sits high on a hill overlooking KL. It's very colorful and ornate, and is currently being renovated by hoards of workmen with tiny paintbrushes. The garden includes a set of statues depicting the different signs of the Chinese zodiac. My dragon is the best one!

The King's palace is closed to the public except on a few major holidays, but you can take your picture with the guards, and the guard's horse too, if you want. The title of king is passed from the prince of one province to the other every 5 years. Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy, so the king is only a title, but it's a nice system that spreads the honors around and prevents any jealousy between different parts of the country.

The old train station is nice, airy and clean. It's still used for some trains (I saw a sign for Batu Caves), but most trains go through the new station now. I'm spoiled by our drivers so I haven't tried the public transportation here. It gets mixed reviews. Some people say it's okay and some say it's not that great. I think it might be like Boston, where it depends where you want to go.

Finally the National Monument is a war monument, on another hill overlooking the city. It's peaceful, serene, and at the time of my visit, at almost 1pm in the afternoon, very, very hot. After that it was time to go back to the apartment, eat some lunch, and hide from the heat.

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