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Friday, March 31, 2006

A FAREWELL TO PARADISE

Friday, March 31.

It's our last night in Malaysia. Tomorrow morning we board the plane for the long, long flight home via L.A. with a 5 hour stop-over. We won't arrive in Vancouver til evening (the same day we left here. Amazing!) but we're staying at an airport hotel until Sunday to rest up.

We got to Kuala Lumpur around noon today after a quick and easy flight from Langkawi. It's a beautiful country to fly over and especially today when it was clear most of the way. You look down as see all those emerald islands in the blue Adaman Sea, with their edges all white with sand. Then, over the mainland, the acres and acres of grids of palm-oil palms; the orange patches of wet soil where padi fields are, and all the other shades of green foliage.

Our driver was waiting on schedule at the K.L. airport. We are so impressed with the efficiency and well-organized tour operators here. Not one glitch! And all so courteous and helpful.
We got wisked back the 1 hr. drive to the city and deposited like arriving royalty at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Oh my! We are so spoiled and pampered! This is the most fabulous place and everyone goes out of their way to be pleasant and helpful. It was like a homecoming as they mostly all recognized us from last week and greeted us warmly.

We went next door to the mall for lunch. By this time it was around 1 pm and we were very hungry. This was our first glitch...the cafe service was so slow. We waited nearly an hour before we finally got our order and we were not impressed. This was the first time it has happened on this trip. I actually think the young waitress forgot to place our order but every time we asked her she brushed us off. This was certainly not the usual type of behavior here and we got very cross (besides being starving).

Then we went to the mall (this is the big fancy expensive one) to shop. I wanted one of those pirate t-shirts and picked up a couple of last minute items (forgot some) and back to the hotel for an afternoon swim in the pool at the edge of the sky. Yes. The pool is on the third floor and the water is level with the edge of the building so it looks like you are going to swim off into space. Quite incredible. And very beautiful. We managed a couple of swims and then the storm clouds rolled in and it began to rain quite heavily so that ended our pool day.

While we were sitting there contemplating all our adventures and enjoying the magnificent view of Kuala Lumpur, I was tyring to process everything, realized I'd have lots more stories to tell when I get home. For one thing, this city is a wonder. The architecture, the lovely parks, the friendliness of the people...And one unique thing is sitting there by the poolside and suddenly hearing the Muezzin's call to prayer. Quite a magical and captivating sound. You hear it several times a day but from the rooftop it is clearer. We both agreed it was one thing we wouldn't forget about this city. It reminded us both of Istanbul in that respect.

So tonight, for our extravaganza farewell we dressed up in our fancy duds and went downstairs to one of the fine restaurants in this hotel. We had decided to make it a real treat, and it was.
Here's a sample of the menu: I had sorrel salad, radichio, young artichokes in a walnut balsamic dressing; tasmanian salmon with yuzu, sea urchin sauce, broad beans mouseline and seared crocant (?); My friend Ruth had crab meat cappucino w/saffron, tomato and shark fin and forest mushrooms with sage and aubergine jus, and tomato lasagna and we had sauteed mushrooms for appetizers; glasses of wine; coffee served with little sweets on the side; and a wine glass with various chocolates for a treat. Mmmm delicious! And of course the service was exquisite! Of course this cost us, but it was worth it. Around $65 a piece but believe me it was an unforgettable experience. And since we get the room paid for thanks to Malaysian Tourism, why not splurge, eh?

That was our memorable last day in Malaysia. This has been truly the experience of a lifetime and for sure I won't forget it soon and will always feel so grateful to the Malay people and Malaysian Tourism for giving me this opportunity. There ought to be quite a few good stories out of it too. And many more tales to tell.

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