I’m back in Malaysia. I grew up here. Well that is until my parents sent me back to Alcatraz, otherwise known as Malvern Girls College. I can tell you that was a really nasty shock. Nobody liked me. I was a precocious nine year old who had had servants to do everything for me, I didn’t have a pony and had nothing in common with the other girls except age, I was 9. I had travelled wildly and needed to be the centre of attention at all times. I don’t blame them for not liking me. I’m sure I was a spoilt brat.
The conditions were pretty grim. We had no heating in the dormitories and the water in the jugs was sometimes frozen in the mornings – so as you can imagine, for someone who had lived in 34 degrees most of her life, it was total misery. Add to that, my parents then waved goodbye to me and left me in that Malvern prison for the next three years without ever visiting me! I do not have happy memories of school. I am not blaming my parents – they had no choice like many other parents in the 50s. My father had to go back to S E Asia to work and my poor mother was split between choosing to stay with her children or being at her husband’s side. She chose my father.
Thus it is with huge pleasure and excitement that I find myself back in this wonderful land of smiley faces, warm sea water and delicious food. It is really the only happy memory of my childhood.
Things have changed a bit in the last 65 years as you would imagine. Malaysia has been independent for a long time. The Moslem women now all wear the hajib. They did not in the 50’s. Very few men wear national dress – they prefer jeans to sarongs, which I find sad as they looked so handsome in the lovely colours. But the happy smiles and gentle people are still the same. The vistas and sunsets are still spectacular. The beaches are now a little more crowded. We used to go to Pankor and be the only people there! Apart from the houses looking a bit different cars on the roads instead of bullock carts, the essence – smells of frangipani, jasmine and open drains – are all exactly as I remember them!
The reason for this trip is I’m on my way to see my darling grandchildren, but I’ve stopped off to have a quick girls’ holiday with Other Granny and another girl. I say girl… we are all over 70! We’re in Langkawi, a delightful island in the north west of the Malaysian peninsular.
We decided to take the ferry – a two and a half hour trip from Penang to Langkawi – which only goes to prove we are gluttons for punishment. We got up horribly early to get to the terminal. We had to be there at dawn to collect our tickets and, due to a mix up with the taxi, we arrived at the ferry pier an hour early. The place was deserted and it was still pitch dark. There was nowhere to sit except the rather dirty pavement and it had been raining. So we stood around feeling rather out of place and dying for an all night greasy spoon where we could at least have got a coffee. A couple of back packers joined us. They were very blonde very brown and wearing very short shorts. Finally some kind Chinese man took pity on us. He found the keys and opened the huge iron gates to the dock and let us in so at least we could sit down. There is still respect for elderly people in Malaysia thank goodness. Or was it the back packers’ short shorts?!
There is not much to say about the ferry journey from Penang to Langkawi except don’t take it unless you are a very good sailor. It is not pleasant but it is cheap! However, our hotel was
absolutely delightful. I really could not fault it in any way. It had a magnificent stretch of beach in front of it, well groomed and litter free. Masses of sunbeds and unlimited towels, two pools, one with swim up bar – always a must. The staff were friendly, courteous and efficient.
The name of the hotel, should anyone wish to go there is the Meritus Pelang. As anyone will know from my previous blogs I am not always complimentary – Cuba got nil points!
My final recommendation for Langkawi, should you get fed up with Asian food and want a really delicious healthy unusual salad, is The Fat Frog. There you will find the charming owner, only too pleased to serve you mouthwatering dishes from all over the world accompanied by a glorious view.
The last thing that tickled me hugely – and surprised me a little – was an extremely good looking young man who stopped me in the road as I was going to a restaurant one night and said “You have the most beautiful eyes. You must have been very sexy…” (how nice I thought) “when you were young” he added!
That’s it for now. I’ll give you an insight on expat life in Penang next and what it’s like to retire to Malaysia – a place where you can buy a gin and tonic for two pounds and a taxi ride is a pound!
Stay safe. Keep travelling.