Archives for March 2017

Monday, March 27, 2017 – First Ride In Jupiter Since the Big Adventure

After more than a week of rest and recuperation, Hubby and I are both back to almost normal, with him just having a little bit of a cough leftover from his cold, so we decided we were fit enough (and more than ready!) to take a ride. We saddled up our fat guys (my brother tends to overfeed a bit) and headed out the back gate along the canal. We headed along our usual route, out to the pagoda in the WMA area behind us. Having cantered so much on other people’s horses during our vacation, we did a bit more cantering today than usual, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Our horses were so happy to be back on the trail, they really enjoyed stretching their legs! Instead of heading straight back, we went along another canal for a ways before crossing back through the neighborhood towards home. The dogs came with us, and they, too, were quite happy to be back on the trail. Just went about 4.4 miles in all, but the weather was perfect, everyone was on perfect behavior, and it was a lovely day! Looking forward to heading back home soon, though, as the temps are starting to get a bit higher than we like, into the 80’s, and next week they’re even calling for 90’s!

Thursday, March 16, 2017 – Flight Home

Since we had an afternoon flight, I set the alarm for much later than usual, and even ended up bumping it later as I considered all the time we had. Hubby didn’t get up until after 9:00, after I had showered, and we finished packing, then called an Uber, which was there in 5 minutes, whisking us away to the airport. We were early, and looked for a place for breakfast, but I had decided I couldn’t leave Hong Kong without getting some Dim Sum (I’d been reading a book where everyone kept eating Dim Sum, and I’d never had it before), and we found a place on the second level that had a wonderful Dim Sum sample basket which we devoured! After that, it didn’t take too long to get through all the departure procedures, but we had more inspections than we’ve ever had before, and even on the ramp down to the plane they had a final inspection, and took everybody’s water away! That was rather disconcerting, as I had filled it up after going through the initial inspection, as always. Never had them take it away at the last minute like that! That ended up being a problem, because we discovered that the only water they had on the flight was mineral water, which had a high sodium content, so Hubby couldn’t really drink it, but he also has to stay well-hydrated, so we ended up getting hot water for tea, about the only option. The good news about the flight, we all had our own entertainment screen, so that kept us busy for a while. The bad news was, we didn’t get an upgrade to business, though we had upgraded to seats with more legroom, so it wasn’t too bad. The meals were fair, but Hubby couldn’t eat everything because of high sodium, again. We both managed to get a few hours of sleep, not enough on a 14 hour flight, but it helped get us through. We arrived in DFW to the worst customs and immigrations debacle we had seen the entire trip. Total confusion, no one knew where to go, agents were trying to herd people but there were no clear indications of where to go. I tried to use the Mobil Passport app I had downloaded, which was supposed to expedite the process, but every time I completed the form and submitted it, it came back with an error, no matter how many ways I tried. We stood in five different lines, including one for agriculture inspection (we had to answer ‘yes’ to a question about being on a farm and around livestock), and the whole process took over TWO HOURS! Worst system of all of the six countries we had entered, I’m sorry to say! We were glad we had a four hour layover by that point! We finally got our backs re-checked and headed on the train to our gate in the A terminal. By now, we were both hungry, especially Hubby because he had to pick through all three meals on the plane and didn’t really eat that much, so I started out getting coffee at a pizza place (BIG mistake, it was AWFUL!), then started looking for someplace that had decent food. Then I discovered La Madeleine’s near gate A25. What a find! It was a cute little French cafe, with pastries and meat pies and fresh fruit and foods! I spoke with the proprietor about Hubby’s strange diet, and she promptly went into the kitchen and whipped him up an omelet with all the things he could eat and none of the things he couldn’t, and even substituted his side of tomatoes (which he can’t have) with an entire cup of fresh berries! Heaven! I selected a lovely chicken friand, and off I went! I wish I had gotten coffee there first, it smelled so much better there! It was so close to boarding at that point, we decided to wait until we got on the plane to eat. At least the last leg of the journey was in upgraded first class, thank goodness. With a quick bourbon before take-off, and another to go along with dinner, we both fell asleep right after we ate. The last thing I remember was New Orleans going by, then the next thing was the announcement to prepare for landing. It didn’t take long to de-plane, collect our luggage, and get picked up by my brother outside baggage claim, though it was now well past midnight, and he was suffering from a terrible cold. All in all, I figured out that today was 37 hours long, 28 of which we had spent in motion. No wonder we were exhausted! Of course, we were too exhausted to sleep, and we wound down for more than an hour before we even attempted to go to bed, at the equivalent time of 1:30 in the afternoon, tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017 – Hop On Bus, Breakfast at McD’s, Dinner on Floating Restaurant


Woke up fairly early again, with our last full day of vacation packed with plans! We walked a half block down to McDonalds for breakfast (it was either that or noodles), then walked down to the Hop On bus station a couple of blocks away. We were almost there when we realized we had to cross a busy road, and had to go back a block to get up on the skywalk crossover, where there was some statuary of famous Chinese, like Bruce Lee. Managed to catch the very first bus out at 10:00, and since the walk had kind of winded Hubby, we decided to stay on that bus as it made it's way around Kowloon. We were amazed at how much construction was going on, and in particular how all the scaffolding, even on the tallest buildings, was made out of bamboo. Traffic moved pretty well, though, considering how much construction there was. After about 45 minutes, it reached the stop nearest the Star Ferry, and we hopped off and walked over, got the rest of our tour tickets from the Big Bus people, and walked straight onto the ferry as it was getting ready to leave. A short trip across the harbor, and we got on a red line bus for the downtown Hong Kong tour until we reached the famous Victoria peak tram, where we headed up with our priority Big Bus tickets, which got us through the line quickly, reached the top of the tram, wound our way through several layers of mall shopping until we reached the roof, where we were nearly blown off by the high wind. It was so cold, we didn't stay up there long, only enough to get some pictures. Then we headed down a level to a restaurant named after Forrest Gump, and had a cup of coffee and a nosh before heading down to hop back on the bus, this time a green line to get us down to Aberdeen where there would be a sampan ride, and where Hubby wanted to eat a meal at the famous floating restaurant, the Jumbo Kingdom. He had been there once before in the early 60's and wanted to do it again. Unfortunately, the way the ride was set up, you had to go all the way to the end of the loop at Stanley Market before they would come back and drop you off at Aberdeen. Then, just before the Repulse Bay stop, there was a traffic accident, on a very narrow road, and everything stopped moving for nearly half an hour. This was going to make it difficult for us to get all that we wanted to do done, as the last bus out of Aberdeen was 5:55 and it was already past 3:00. We finally arranged to be dropped off in Repulse Bay and picked up by another, returning bus so we could get to Aberdeen on time, and that worked out, we only had to stand at the stop for about 5 minutes. At Aberdeen, we were hustled onto a fleet of sampans and toured around the boat people village for a bit, which included some very nice, high-end yachts as well, before drawing near the Jumbo Kingdom. We thought there would be a stop there, but when it didn't look like we were going there as part of the tour, we asked if we could go, and the boat driver said yes, and dropped us off, with instructions to just wave down another sampan when we were ready to return, understanding the last bus left at 5:55. So we hopped off there, and wandered around until we found the door to the restaurant. Apparently there are two restaurants there now, but one was undergoing serious renovations, and about half the structure was closed off entirely. For a minute we weren't sure anything was open, but we finally found the entrance and wandered in. What used to be a fairly casual place had become a rather ritzy, high-end place, but due to the hour, almost no customers had come yet, though it appeared to be fully staffed. We were seated, ordered, ate, had our picture taken, and even got some advice as to how to say "Thank you" to a Hong Kong waiter when your mouth is full (tap twice on the table with two fingers), and had our timing perfect to get back to the bus on time, except.... We had trouble flagging down a sampan! All through the meal, Hubby had been watching all the sampans go by, but as soon as we got out there, they all disappeared! We finally did manage to get one, and he took us back to the dock, arriving at 5:48, just in time to catch the last bus. Except there was a bus standing there as we arrived, the sampan driver waved him down, and the driver returned the wave, then just drove off!! We were stunned! Now what? As we ran up the steps, the bus was too far away to hear us yelling by then, and the old lady on the dock from Big Bus just repeated, "Last bus, last bus" even though I showed her my watch, which now read 5:49, and railed about how the bus had left early. I suggested that because of the traffic jam slowing everything down, that another bus might be coming, but she insisted, "Last bus, last bus." As we contemplated our various options, I got on the phone and called Big Bus, and after several minutes, managed to confirm that, indeed, another bus WAS coming along, running late because of the traffic jam, so we sat down to wait. A few minutes later, the sampan driver that had brought us back to the dock tracked us down to tell us another bus was coming, too, a very nice gesture on his part to come find us. I must say, everyone here has been very nice to us, very helpful to the tourists. Before long, the REAL last bus showed up, took us to the Star Ferry, got us back to Kowloon where we grabbed another Uber and got back to the hotel around 7:00, very tired, but happy with our one full day in Hong Kong. It was enough!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017 – Flight to Hong Kong, Dinner Cruise

Up early with the alarm, quickly packed up, left with a nice packaged breakfast of assorted breads that James had provided us the night before, and headed to the airport. Managed to find the car rental drop off point easily enough, but there was no one there, and evidently the process is simply to drop the keys into a slot by their kiosk and hope for the best! Seems a bit strange, but par for the course here, it seems! It didn't take long to find our flight, though they had security at each gate rather than one central area, so we had coffee and a nosh sitting outside the gate area. Then we climbed onto Malindo Air, which turned out to be one of the best flights ever! Granted, we were in Business Class (there was no first class), and discovered the most comfortable seats ever! I've often wondered why airlines don't have some kind of footrest for comfort, but these seats had them, and so much more! They had a complete recliner, a foot rest, a lumbar inflator, the works! It was lovely! We had a very nice meal, with lovely and attentive service all around. A great 3.5 hour flight. We arrived in Hong Kong on time, got through Immigration and Customs quickly, found that Uber generally picked up at Parking Lot 1, so we headed there, arriving just in time for our Uber ride, who took us to our hotel for the next two nights, Butterfly on Prat, a little boutique hotel in the heart of old Kowloon. We got stuck in a bit of traffic on Prat Street, but got to the hotel much earlier than I had originally planned, checking in by around 3:00. That gave us the opportunity to get in a quick nap and rest before heading out to our dinner cruise around Victoria Harbour. The first room smelled badly of cigarette smoke, even though it was supposed to be a non-smoking hotel, and I had to request another room, which was better. The rooms were small, and the new room still smelled a bit musty, but it was such an improvement over the other one, we accepted it. The bed was comfy, and the bathroom was quite large, with a big glass shower. The only down side was that it's really cool here, so my plan of wearing a long dress for our dinner cruise went out the window. That turned out to be fine, as everyone on the cruise was extremely casual anyway. When the time came, we grabbed another Uber down to the ferry point, and wasn't sure we were in the right place because it was mostly closed up, until we finally found a poster at the gathering point, and a few other people showed up as well. It wasn't long before the boat came along, and we boarded and were seated. In Victoria Harbour, they have a sort of laser light show on many of the buildings, and I went up top to see it (it was too cold and damp for Hubby, and it was drizzling intermittently), and I recorded it on my phone so he can enjoy it later. By the time it was over and I came back downstairs, Hubby had already ordered our drinks, and had started on a plate of food. I headed to the buffet, and we enjoyed a nice meal, listened to some pretty bad live music, and even danced a little bit before returning to the dock in Kowloon again. Another Uber ride back to the Butterfly, and it was the end of another busy day!

Monday, March 13, 2017 – Drive to KL, Stay at Rumah Putih

After an early wake up alarm and another omelet breakfast, and with Hubby feeling a lot better this morning after his day of rest yesterday, we said good-bye to our hostess, her staff, and Chris, packed up and headed out. Our plan today was to drive through Kuala Lipis in search of an airbase that used to be here, and take the windy, twisty road that Hubby has told me about so many times, but once again, the reality of progress struck us. Though we were pretty sure we found the right general area where the airfield was, there didn't appear to be any remnants of it at all, which surprised us both to some degree. You would think that a Japanese-built, British-improved airfield would have been kept intact for Malay purposes, but evidently not, there was no regional airport that we could discern. We also thought we had found the right road, but that turned out not to be true, either, and we ended up on a pretty straight road, not resembling Hubby's memory in the least. I found another road that could have been it, but by then, Hubby just said never mind, it wasn't important anymore anyway, he'd given up on that pipe dream. So we traveled directly to our last stop in Malaysia, a B&B called Rumah Putih, which was just 15 minutes from the airport. We considered turning the car in early and getting a cab or Uber, but decided we would have time enough in the morning, especially since I had discovered that we were leaving from Terminal 1, which is where the car rental return was supposed to be anyway. I was worried about the time it would take to drop it off and get to KLIA2, but that resolved itself! We filled the gas tank, and found a little pharmacy for toothpaste and some aloe for my still red and burning back, then reached the B&B around 5. We were warmly greeted by our British ex-pat host James, and he had a household of European guests, but quickly showed us to a nice room on the ground floor, with a small patio and a good-sized bath, not to mention a few fat cats laying around sleeping. We were both so tired we didn't want to go out, so James helped me with an online Domino's Pizza order, then we both took cool showers (unfortunately there was no hot water!), and went straight to bed!

Sunday, March 12, 2017 – Rest, Ride and Recovery Day

Well, just as I suspected, the food we had for dinner was obviously laden with salt or some sort of sodium, because Hubby was so out of breath he got dizzy and almost fell over when he got out of bed this morning. We had plans to go riding this morning, but there was no way he was in a fit state to go! I went ahead without him, as he was stuck in bed anyway. It was just a short ride on the beach, but I’ve always found beach riding a bit boring at best, anyway, so it didn’t need to be any longer. It wasn’t terribly enjoyable, partly because the horses just looked way too skinny to me (though there was a cute colt following us around, evidently I was riding his mother, which made it interesting when he decided he wanted breakfast, I had a few tense moments as she tried to kick him away), and partly because the sunburn I received yesterday was REALLY painful this morning, and riding on it killed me all the way. We only went up the beach about a mile, then back again. We had a few short trots (ouch, ouch, ouch!) And then I finally managed to get my horse, Moscow, into a canter, which was a very nice slow lope, but still a bit ouch-y for me on my sunburn, before arriving back at the resort. I took a walk along the beach later in the day, intrigued by some weird swirls in the sand, and discovered they were tiny sand crabs, digging holes, bringing up little round balls of sand that they then arranged like landscaping and sidewalks around their little abodes. Considering it would only last until the next tide came in, it seemed like a lot of pointless work to me! But nature has it’s own rhythm, not for me to question! Fascinating to watch, though, and I did for a while, before heading back to our room. The rest of the day we spent mostly in bed, with Hubby slowly recovering and me continuing to slather on lotion. In the afternoon he was finally well enough to eat something, so I managed to persuade the kitchen to make me a couple of egg sandwiches (which they did using hard-boiled eggs), and NO seasoning, at last! Afterward we went back to resting on the bed, until Danuk and her bookkeeper-friend came around and wanted me to join them on the porch, asking about how Hubby was doing. Of course, I explained, and we ended up chatting for a while, until it was time to go to dinner, so I sent them along and managed to get Hubby up and going, and went to dinner. Tonight, they made him some steamed fish, steamed carrots (cut length-wise), and white rice. Not much, but it satisfied him for the moment. It was a much earlier night tonight, in bed by 9:00, we have an early start tomorrow. We originally were only going to stay two nights here, because we had planned on staying in Kuala Lipis overnight, but decided an extra day here would be more relaxing, and the drive to Kuala Lumpur was only about 7 hours anyway, which is no big deal. So off to bed we went, with another early morning planned!

Saturday, Mar. 11, 2017 – Rest Day and Too Much Sun in Kota Bahru

The main attractive feature of the Villa Danialla is its enormous and deep infinity pool, with a negative edge that blends in perfectly with the South China Sea. We decided to spend some time out there, and they made us up a couple of beds in a pagoda-like structure. After a small breakfast buffet of mostly local fare, but with an omelet to satisfy us, and having spent most of the day getting sun on my front in Penang (although we were under palm trees, we were out there for hours), I decided I needed to lay on my stomach and get my back done. With a cool breeze blowing, I spent more than an hour that way, which I should have known better, and it was a huge mistake. My back was fried, way too much, by the time I felt it starting to burn. Hubby spent a little time in the sauna that was on the deck as well, not sure how he could stand the heat! I went in for about two minutes, that was enough! Afterward, we arranged for a Thai massage, and that was quite an experience! Unlike the soft, soothing, fairly gentle massage that we were used to, this woman performed all kinds of contortionist movements on us that were truly painful at times, but did feel a lot better afterward. This was particularly true with my shoulder, which has been out of joint for many years, but by the time she was finished, I could almost believe that it might be back in position once the swelling goes down. If not, she came close, so obviously, what I need to do is find someone back at home to do another Thai massage, that may fix it once and for all! Anyway, the sunburn was a bit painful during the experience, but I'm sure the coconut oil from the massage did it some good. I put more lotion on as well during the evening. I had mentioned Hubby's diet to the owner and she said she instructed her chef to cook with less salt, but despite that, dinner was a very hot and spicy soup (which tasted salty to me, but I thought maybe it was just the spices), and then a hamburger (which also tasted salty to me, but was persuaded not so by the owner). A British ex-pat named Chris had arrived during the day, and we all shared a bottle of wine and dinner, then later sipping shots of Chevas, conversation and eventually music and dancing (though I went to bed early and let Hubby carry on without me). I read a while, then fell asleep, Hubby arrived back at the room by about 11:15, and was soon snoring away, with me soon following!

Friday, Mar. 10, 2017 – Drive to Kota Bahru

Woke up not feeling too great this morning. Funny, we've done so well not getting sick from any food since we've been here, and the first western food we eat makes me queasy! Anyway, after another great breakfast buffet, we packed up and headed cross country, to Kota Bahru. Hubby has finally reached the stage where he's not trying to find things that remind him of the way things used to be, and acquiesced to the fact that everything has changed. The cross country trip took us through many small towns, and some of the prettiest mountain views we've seen since we've been here. We eventually found our way to the Villa Danialla Resort, right on the beach about 30 miles south of Kota Bahru, where we were warmly welcomed and shown to our Villa, a cute A-frame with a sea view (although there was another building in front of us, we could see between the buildings) and a nice porch. The room was a little musty, but we soon opened all the doors and windows (no screens) and had a steady breeze coming through to air it out. It had a huge bathroom and a big, four-poster bed with netting drapes around it, very tropical! We moved our luggage in, then sat on the porch for a while, enjoying the air. Hubby wanted a cup of coffee, so we walked back to the main building, which consisted of the lobby where we checked in, and also a sort of open air restaurant. We didn't find coffee, but we did find some tea with milk in an urn, and that sufficed. The owner, a woman named Datuk, greeted us, and then sat down with us to talk a while. That soon became a pattern, where every time we came into the dining hall area, we all, staff and customers (of which there was almost none besides us), ended up at the same table. I asked for a menu, and was told that dinner was going to be a buffet, so we could choose what we wanted. At first I thought that would be a good idea, but later, not so much. Finding food that Hubby could eat became almost impossible, as they tend to have a very high sodium content in almost all their cooking, and high potassium foods also seem to be predominant in the menu, so it became quite a challenge to find something he could eat! Anyway, we joined in as best we could, but went to bed quite early, as has become our habit!

Thursday, Mar. 9, 2017 – Day of Relaxation in Penang

After a delightfully large and scrumptious breakfast buffet, we spent the day relaxing on loungers in the yard, chatting with some Australian guys, and generally just hanging out. We didn’t need lunch, we started cocktail hour at 4:00, walked next door through the fish market to the “The Ship” restaurant for dinner, lured in by their sign that they had the “Best Steaks in Town.” I had a steak, though when I asked for medium rare the waiter suggested medium, and showed me a picture in the menu of what I would consider a rare steak and said “This is how our chef does medium rare.” So I ordered medium, which of course came out well-done, no pink at all. In retrospect, though, it was probably better, because I was a bit dubious of some of the quality of the other food. The corn on the cob was overcooked, the broccoli barely al dente, so it wasn’t a very satisfying meal, even though it looked more Western, which is what we wanted. Hubby ordered a seafood platter, and even though it was described as “grilled”, 80% of it was deep fried, so it was kind of a bust from that perspective. We walked back to the hotel on the street side, where the road was lined with tents and covered stalls with all kinds of tourist-y souvenir type stuff, where I bought my brother another T-shirt, Hard Rock Cafe-Penang. Not long out of bed, a very nice and relaxing day!

Wednesday, Mar. 8, 2017 – Drive to Penang

After another good night sleep and big buffet breakfast, we packed up the car, checked out, and were on our way out of the Highlands with no problems. The drive was uneventful, with lots more tolls along the way, of course, then we crossed the long causeway to Penang Island. When Hubby was last here in the late 1950's, there was no causeway, you could only get there by ferry or flying, so the bridge made it very easy. We wound our way through the city of George Town, once again inundated by hundreds of pesky scooters and motorbikes that seemed to take their lives into their hands, weaving in and out of traffic and causing me more scares than I care to think about, then we left the city along a narrow but busy coast road until we reached the Holiday Inn in Batu Ferringhi. They let us park the car right out front, and we found our room at the end of the hall on the second floor, with a beautiful picture window that overlooked the sizable swimming pool, the beach, and the Malacca Strait. It was only mid-afternoon, so I put on my bathing suit, with Hubby in shorts, and we headed down to the pool bar, happy to enjoy Western style hospitality for a while. The pool water was delightfully warm, we splurged on a couple of Singapore Slings, and had a very enjoyable rest of the day, including an Indian meal at the hotel restaurant. I know it may sound like I'm sterero-typing, but it's just about the cleanest hotel we've been to so far in Malaysia, which was a little surprising because it's the first Indian-owned hotel we've stayed in, and in the US, those tend not to be so clean. Anyway, we had a wonderful and relaxing day, and are really starting to wind down a bit now, having established our final schedule. No more logistics for me to work out, now I'm getting to relax at last! We've discovered lots of Westerners here, particular English, which is making for a nice change.