Yes I know. Sadly neglectful is the best narrative available for my posting habits. And now that Thanksgiving Day is just about here (well, not really here since the Pilgrims never landed on the shores of Phuket), it’s high time to catch up a bit. Hosting our first visitor to Thailand kept us busy for a week and although I planned more activities than my friend did (I’d hoped it would be the other way around), playing tour guide got us out and about and we searched for some good food, went north to the beautiful Queen Sikrit Botanical Gardens and hiked to a waterfall the long way. Remembering what a pain in the ass it is to vacate the spare bedroom when it actually acts as the place where I often sleep, keep all my clothes and even have my own bathroom, the first task was housecleaning. Scrubbing the bathroom to an adequate level for female guests proved sweatier than anticipated but I did receive a thumbs up seal of approval. Leaving it cleaner than when she got there, it reminded me why Diane prefers me staying out of the master bathroom.
Children always make my day in Asia
Unlike Penang and for the first time in our marriage, we live a stone’s throw from the airport. Given our lifestyle discrepancies where I’m asleep by 11 and Diane stays up almost two and a half hours longer, we clearly learned our lesson in Malaysia where getting to the airport ranked up there with root canal surgery and tax audits. Not bothering to ask seven months ago when my friend booked her plane ticket, I shuddered when I saw her 10:40 PM arrival time. Unaware there was any other practical way to Chiang Mai from the west coast of North America, I learned that Korean Air flies a non stop to Seoul from Seattle and allows a quick 50 minute turnaround for their daily four-hour jaunt to our backyard. Given how few Koreans we’ve come across in five months, I’m unclear how they justify that route but it’s almost $800 less than the only other practical option with two non stop flights (Cathy Pacific to Hong Kong and DragonAir to Chiang Mai which departs from Los Angeles, San Francisco and Vancouver). With its dirt cheap economy fares and less than stellar reputation, I’d never choose that option but then again we live quite cheaply compared to Seattle residents and in fact, we’re even splurging for Premium Economy next year for our Seven Year Itch trip back to see my neurotic parents in Brooklyn.
Seeming longer than four days, our first stint as tour guides in our newly discovered expat haven came to an end as we texted our favorite Uber driver and sent Jamie on her way back to the airport. (Here in Penang, there’s no Uber drivers way out by us so we use a personalized driver that usually comes or sends a friend and then we request the Uber ride when they’re in range. LIke most things in Malaysia, drivers go out of their way to accommodate.) Having a visitor so soon after arriving turned out to be fun because it felt like we rediscovered the island all over agin. Because Malaysia is such an easy place to become an expat in terms of adjusting we almost felt complacent already and they haven’t even stamped our MM2H visa. Fresh off a few days in Thailand, Jamie immediately felt the difference between the neighboring nations and really appreciated the unobtrusiveness of Penang’s laid back island environment. Spending some time in Bangkok and Phuket, she liked the beaches but hated the “in your face” attitude of Thailand and was ready for some relaxation and immersion.
Unfortunately, peace and quiet wasn’t part of my itinerary and I planned to use her time her as an excuse to do some things we’ve meant to do anyway. Hiking to Monkey Beach was high on my priority list so we hopped on the 101 bus, headed the other way and got off ten minutes away at the end of the line. Never attempting to use this blog as ether a “travel” or “foodie” blog, I wouldn’t attempt to describe things in a TripAdvisor review format. Instead, I’ll just write about experiencing a relatively simple jungle trek for two middle-aged fit people and a Pilates trainer. Hint: Jungle hiking is harder than typical North American hikes including high elevation day trips, which we’ve done many times when we lived an hour away from the Canadian Rockies. Recommending you start on a partly sunny day that doesn’t have any immediately threatening storm clouds, mother nature was on our side with some overcast popping out between the beautiful views. Last time we visited Malaysia’s smallest National Park, there were only four registered hikers all day but on this particular Friday morning, there were already a dozen or so hikers that chose to hit the trails including two Americans. (Hikers must register at the information desk and you’ll need to know your passport number.) Stopping for a quick pee, we headed out on the trail about an hour later than I would’ve preferred but her flight didn’t arrive until the evening before so we didn’t get much sleep because we had to hit Kafe Long Beach after she checked in.