Monday, April 29, 2013

Hello Langkawi

Day 20 - Monday October 1.
Day 21 - Tuesday October 2.

Well after three weeks of on the go travel with five kids Mum, Simon and I were ready for a week of doing absolutely nothing here in Langkawi. We were so excited to book into our resort, the Meritus Pelangi Beach Resort and Spa. I spent SO much time researching where we would stay for our final week on Langkawi and I was really stressed about getting the right place because I knew if the accommodation wasn't nice then it would dampen our experience and "rest" time for the last part of our holiday.

The resort was undergoing renovations and we were put in one of the newly renovated villas. We had two right next to each other with an interconnecting door which gave us heaps of room. The resort was very expensive so at first I glossed over it because I knew we couldn't afford to stay there and then after weeks of looking and not finding anything up to scratch, I found a UK site that had amazing deals to stay there, almost too good to be true. I rang the UK to make sure they weren't bogus. It was the time of the London Olympics and so everytime I would ring to check something, we would banter back and forth about the Games and the Brits versus the Aussie rivalry. Sure enough they were legit and our reservations at the resort went very smoothly.

This is the beach at dusk on our first night - the water was so warm and the weather never changed from night to day. It stayed around 30 degrees, no matter the time of the day.

It was SO nice to just sit and do absolutely nothing and even though we had a few touristy things planned, we knew the majority of the time was going to be all about relaxing at the beach.

We loved looking back toward the resort from the beach and seeing all the trees lined up, just like on a postcard.

This was the back of our villa.

And this was the front with its own little balcony looking down to the beach, only about 20 metres away. We loved siting here each morning for a little bit and Mum had bought some great books and we sat outside each day for awhile, reading. Oh it was paradise.

To give you an idea how far the beach was from our villa, the umbrella through the trees is on the beach.

Every morning we would go for breakfast and it was amazing. The kids had so much fun trying to decide each morning what they would have to eat.

We even had a chef, who would cook your eggs whichever way you wanted and then would cook right there in front of you with all fresh ingredients.

It was so easy to be healthy when you didn't have to cook anything yourself or come up with any ideas on what to cook, which I always find is half the battle.

The gardens around the resort were beautifully kept and it really felt like we were in our own little peaceful sanctuary.

We also loved discovering little insects that we wouldn't see back home.

The streets were the exact opposite of the resort, full of sights, sounds and smells and where we would go each day for massages or to look in the shops or to have tea. It's why we loved Langkawi so much. We could spend as much time as we wanted, in the quiet and peacefulness surrounds of the resort and beach but also walk straight out of the resort into the hustle and bustle of the town. 

One night we found MacDonalds and just couldn't resist seeing what it was like and the kids were so happy to see the golden arches. They thought it was  really cool to eat Maccas in a different country and unlike Korea, they did have salt on their french fries.

The other great thing about the resort was the kids club. We wouldn't leave the kids there all day because I didn't think it was fair to them to be doing that all day but every second day, they would run a fun activity for an hr and a half, which the kids would participate in, except Flynn who wasn't quite old enough.

This is inside the kids club room. It gave us a little time every now and again to sit on the beach with a good book or go down the street, without having to keep our eyes constantly on the kids.

At our villa, we loved the little water bucket near our front door to wash our feet before we went inside our rooms. Even though some of the streets may have been a little dirty and unkempt, the people were really fastidious about clean feet and taking your shoes off before going inside.

Jonty particularly loved washing his feet every time we returned to the villa.

our villa number.

Here is a glimpse inside our villa. The dark wood made it nice and cool against the heat outside and we had air-con which we ran constantly. Our bar fridge was stocked full of free cans of lemonade every day. The kids loved having fizz on tap and I let them have it whenever they wanted. Why not, we were on holidays.

The bed was king size and so so comfortable.

the bathroom.

The inter-connecting door to the other room where Mum and some of the kids slept. They would actually rotate around so they all had turns sleeping with us and with Mum. It was kinda annoying fighting with them constantly over where we were up to on the sleeping roster. :)

A few times, Mum would send us out by ourselves while she looked after the kids.
One night, we started with an amazing authentic meal of Indian. It was so yummy and the flavours were so much better than what I have tasted at home.

We then finished the night off with an amazing massage. It was so much cheaper than at home and the staff were so lovely and took care of us like we were royalty.

I took a photo of Simon just before we went into our massages, where they first washed our feet and served us a beautiful herbal tea.

A photo of the tranquil surrounds of the massage place.

After a few days of unwinding, after the past few weeks of constant sightseeing, we all really started to feel like we never wanted to leave.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Memories of a hero

Quite a few years ago my Dad, had my Pop's diary from WW II made into a book. It is something I dearly treasure and it gives me an insight into not only life on the destroyer, HMAS Napier,  during WW II, but an insight into the type of man my Pop was, to face fear head on, to admit to being scared, but fighting on anyway, for the love of his country and for the freedom of future generations, for people he has never met, who stand together each April 25th and thank soldiers like my Pop for their courage and sacrifice.

My Pop paid the ultimate price for his sacrifice, the war affected him until his death at only 64 years of age. His family paid the price of not having more time to spend with him. I wish that I had known him as an adult, so that I could truly understand and appreciate what he did for me, so that I could wrap my arms around him and thank him for his bravery, for putting his life on the line over and over again. I can't wait to tell my Pop one day that he is my hero....

But for now I will continue to remember....

June 14, 1942 - "High level bombers continued the attack. A low level plane raked our ship's sides with bullets; we dove under the gun platform. There was a few minutes spell and we had our first bite for the day. It was a few sardines on toast and a cup of tea - they had never tasted better. The lads were dirty tired and chatty; they felt the strain. Gerry did not let up. His bombers and torpedo planes kept our anti-aircraft gunners busy. We awaited dusk and hoped for the last attack; by morning we would be close enough to Egypt for fighter support. But the enemy had other ideas. As the sun sunk on the beautiful Mediterranean sea, the enemy planes came in from all directions. Tons of bombs rained down on our ships. It was an all-out effort from our enemies. A fellow hardly knew whether he was coming or going; there were planes and bombs everywhere. If there's a bloody hell, this is it. Yes it was hell on the Mediterranean."

Nov 25th, 1941- On the Napier the alarm bells summoned the crew to action stations, when a lookout reported unbelievably the conning tower of a submarine in the middle of the battle line. We heard a huge explosion but could not see what had been the cause. A second explosion was heard from the line of the battleships, then and only then did we realise the Barham had been hit by torpedoes. Within seconds she was listing and was about to roll over. The destroyers began a frantic search for the submarine; already lads from the Barham were in the water. This hindered the destroyers ability to drop depth charges. We turned about to pick up survivors; but we virtually stop in our wake when a terrific explosion rent the Barham asunder. There was a huge cloud of black and white smoke heaved upwards. Debris and sailors too were blown hundreds of feet into the air.... it didn't seem possible for any man to live through such an explosion. From the first torpedo hit it took only four and a half minutes for the debris and the men from the ship to be blown sky high and splash into the water. Above the Barham's debris hung a white-smoke-etched cross. It was huge. It was eerie. We had witnessed the worst naval tragedy of the war to date. No plane was shot down nor was the submarine brought to account. About 500 of the Barham's 1500 crew were rescued. What a tragedy. What a loss."

My Dad actually has quite a few war photos from Pop's time at sea, including a photo of the sinking Barham, with the cross etched perfectly in the sky. It is certainly an eerie sight. (Don't let me forget to bring the scanner next time and scan them onto a disk Dad! :))

Dad told me about the actual video footage of the sinking of the Barham on YouTube and so here it is.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The night train out of KL

Day 18 - Sunday Sept 30.

Today was our last day in KL, so we spent the day not doing much in preparation for our night train travel to Alor Setar where we would catch a 15min taxi ride to the ferry terminal and then an hour's ferry over to Langkawi, a popular resort island off Malaysia.

Mum looked after Flynn and Jonty while we went back to Suria KLCC but I think we were all shopped out as all we ended up doing was getting Oliver a haircut. Our apartment owner Peter, organised his driver Jake, to take us to KL Sentral at about 7pm to catch the train.

I had researched this train ride which takes approximately 12 hours from 9pm to 9am and knew it was going to be an experience as all the reviews had said how lacking ti was in luxury and the food was horrible but that as a tourist you had to try it just once. We could have caught a plane which would have only taken an hour and we were going to do that on the way back but we wanted to get a better look around outside KL.

Well the train was very much an experience. It is so funny to look back on and I am so glad we did but it is definitely just a once-off experience for sure.

I think the photos say it all.

We only had 2 cabins so it was 4 to a cabin sleeping top and tail squished in amongst all our luggage. The little table on the right hand side of the photo, lifts up and underneath is a sink to clean your teeth but we soon realised when the smell hit us that many people before us had used the sink as a toilet.

 Speaking of the toilets,  Ollie wanted to go to the toilet before the train started. The doors were locked but there was no one in there. We asked the staff if Oliver could use the loo but they said not until the train started moving. We thought maybe they did that so no-one hopped on and hid in there for a free ride. Once the train started moving and the door was unlocked, Oliver went and did his business and went to flush but there was no flush mechanism. We then realised that when you go to the toilet it goes straight out onto the track.

Sure enough when we got off at Alor Setar, we looked back along the track and saw bit of toilet paper.

The other 'interesting' experience was in navigating your way to the toilet. TO do so, you had to jump over a hole in the middle of the floor. You could see down straight onto the track and Flynn or Jonty even could have easily slipped out onto the track and been killed. The train was mostly full of locals and they would all calmly jump the hole while we looked on in amused horror.

The train was so old and full of holes and it was so loud and kept making so many noises that I kept thinking we had derailed and were hurtling out of control somewhere. The locals slept in bunks 3 high and would take off their shoes and climb into bed and fall straight to sleep. I envied the way they did that and how they didn't mind the close sleeping quarters with each other. It made me think I was a bit soft and although I didn't get much sleep, I loved experiencing normal travel life like to locals, instead of in a quick comfortable plane.

The next morning (Monday October 1), it was great to see daylight and for the first time, we experienced some real rain, relentless downpour.

It was lovely to see how green and lush the scenery was away from the city.

I think the kids were happy to see something different after having been cramped in the cabin for the night.

I think we were all relieved to get off the train and go in hunt for some food, seeing as the train offered next to nothing except for a few biscuits with warm juice. As strange as it sounds, I would definitely recommend this to people, just to do once. Maybe not with as many kids but it was really an eye opener into normal travel life which for some of the locals they do every week as they work on Langkawi and return to the mainland for weekends.