Friday, January 28, 2011

Lovely Way to End 2010

January 28, 2011—The morning of December 8 we caught the water ferry over to Langkawi Island and took a taxi to the airport. Everything went just fine as we checked our bags, waited for the plane to arrive, and then boarded Air Asia flight 737. The flight to Kuala Lumpur, or KL as the locals call it, was just one hour, and we landed at the LCC (low cost carrier) terminal.

This is where things got interesting. We were flying EVA Air from KL to LAX via Taipei, Taiwan, so we had to get to Kuala Lumpur International Airport for that flight. You can see KLIA just across the field from the LCC terminal; however, we needed to take a bus or taxi to the international terminal. I waited for the bags while Steve purchased two tickets on the bus. We grabbed our bags and headed out the doors. We spotted the bus, hurriedly pushed our baggage cart up to it, and loaded our bags into the lower compartment. Then we hopped on board and thought we had it made.
The bus left about 15 minutes later, and we were rolling along on a very nice freeway and enjoying the lush scenery. After about 5 minutes I saw a sign that said “terminal,” but the bus just kept going so I thought that there might be more than one entrance. About 15 minutes later I told Steve that I wasn’t sure we were on the right bus. We decided to ask the local passenger in the seat across from us, and he said the bus was headed to KL Sentro—in other words, downtown KL. Panic immediately set in because we had just two hours left to get checked in with EVA Air. Steve ran up to the driver and made sure that we were on the wrong bus—which we were because they had sold us the wrong ticket —so the driver was good enough to pull over and drop us on the side of the road, along with all our baggage. As Steve was unloading the bags, I was madly waving at any passing taxi, hoping that one would pick us up. The bus pulled away, and I am sure that the occupants thought that this was all very entertaining. If we hadn’t been so busy, I would have loved to have taken a picture of the situation.
Finally a taxi pulled over, but when I turned to tell Steve, the driver started to pull away. I again began waving my arms wildly and yelling so he stopped. We loaded up all the bags, hopped into the taxi, and told him to take us to the KLIA International Airport. It took just 10 minutes to get there, and we happily paid the driver, even though our fare was about double what it should have been. Oh well, at least we would make our flight.

Our check-in went fine, security was easy, our wait was minimal, and we boarded the plane and settled in. We decided to book with EVA Air because of the larger, more comfortable seats, and it was worth it. Our flight to Taipei was about 5 hours long, with a four-hour layover, and the flight to LAX was another 15 hours.

We arrived in LA around 8 o’clock in the evening, and after clearing customs and immigration, we headed to the Radisson where we had booked a room. The next morning we walked to Budget to pick up our car, and then we headed south to San Diego. Steve’s license had been lost in Singapore so that meant that I had to drive, and I handled it all quite well, if I do say so myself.
We arrived in San Diego around one o’clock and stopped by quickly to visit with our daughter Drue at her work. We then returned the rental and caught the shuttle to the terminal. Steve was flying on to Albuquerque, but I was staying for a long weekend with the girls. Our daughter Brie, along with our precious granddaughter Riley, picked me up at 3 o’clock so Steve had a chance to see them before he left.

The weekend was great fun. I got to babysit Riley on Friday morning while Brie and her husband Tim were at work, we girls all took a long walk on Saturday afternoon, and I babysat for Riley and Parker (Drue’s dog) on Saturday night while Brie and Tim, and Drue were at office parties. Then it was time for me to leave for Albuquerque on Sunday afternoon.

The days until Christmas were filled with taking care of our annual appointments and catching up with family and friends. It was great to be home with Zelda, James, and Tim. We finished our Christmas shopping and helped Zelda decorate the house and put up the tree.

By December 24 all the kids had arrived from San Diego, and they joined Zelda, the boys, and us for candlelight service. Before the service James and Tim helped us set up the luminarias and light the candles, which is a New Mexican tradition.

Christmas morning everyone gathered at Zelda’s for breakfast and to open gifts. It was really fun to watch Riley opening her gifts, although she found the wrapping paper and bows or anything with buttons more interesting. The girls, Tim, and Riley had to leave around noon, but James and Tim stayed for dinner later in the afternoon. It was a great Christmas!

Over the next few days, we spent time with the kids and Riley, and Steve and I took Riley to the Aquarium one afternoon. By December 30 they had all headed back to San Diego, so now our attention turned to all the parts we had ordered for the boat. The boxes had been coming in on a regular basis, and we had to figure out how to pack it all in our suitcases. Our goodies included 12 yards of canvas material, a jig saw, new wiring, a sink faucet, books, a percolator, four jars of green chili sauce, and six jars of Zelda’s homemade grape jelly, four of which were for the kids in San Diego, as well as our clothes, shoes, and sundries. We were able to get it all into two large rolling suitcases and our two backpacking packs, all of which were quite heavy.

We spent the last two weeks in Albuquerque enjoying lunches and dinners with friends, and we were able to spend time with the Zelda and the boys.

We ate out way too often as the scales would show, and before we knew it, it was time to catch our plane back to San Diego on January 15 to spend our last three days with Riley and the kids. Monday was a holiday for Drue, so she joined us in taking Riley to the San Diego Zoo for an afternoon of fun. Tuesday afternoon Brie picked us up and drove us up to LAX to catch our late-night flight back to Kuala Lumpur.

The return trip was a little longer with the same stop in Taipei. We arrived in KL at 2:30 in the afternoon and spent an hour in line to clear in with Immigrations and Customs. We then found our driver who had come to take us to the Hotel Maya in KL. Before we left Malaysia, we booked an online special of a deluxe suite for three nights for the price of two. The hotel was lovely and the room was grand. From the 18th floor we had an excellent view of the Petronas Towers just two blocks away.

We spent the first afternoon and evening just recovering from 30 hours of travel time, and Steve took advantage of the oversized bath tub and hot running water. The next day we walked to the Towers and spent quite a bit of time taking pictures of this amazing structure. We walked all around the square enjoying the lovely grounds, and then it was time to go inside to walk through the four-story mall. We enjoyed lunch at a Thai restaurant and then returned to the hotel for a quick stop.

We wanted to get some exercise so we decided to walk to the KL Tower. On the way we stopped at the visitors’ welcome center where we found a shop that sold nothing but chocolates—all types. After a decent walk we arrived at the Tower, which is 1370 feet high and has a 360-degree view of Kuala Lumpur. We purchased our tickets and rode the elevator to the observation level, which is about two-thirds of the way up. The view was spectacular, and at each of the eleven stations there was a picture of the view that labeled the major buildings. After returning to the first floor, we walked through the adjoining reptile and bird exhibit that had more snakes than I care to see. The exhibit was really quite extensive and each cage gave information about the species and its natural habitat.

On our walk back to the hotel, we stopped in at the Hard Rock Café to enjoy a cold beer and an apple cobbler. Thank goodness we split it because it was huge. We arrived back at the hotel late in the afternoon and a bit tired, but overall we really enjoyed the day.

Our last full day in KL we decided to take the KTM train to see Little India. When we got to the station, we walked a short distance to the Masjid Jamek Mosque, where we were welcomed and invited in. I was given a gown and a head scarf to wear while we walked around the lovely structure.

Our next stop was Merdeka Square, which is an open cricket field. On August 31, 1957, Malaysia’s independence was proclaimed here. Across the street were some wonderful colonial buildings, which are a mix of Victorian, Moorish, and Mogul architecture, and include the National History Museum and the Memorial Library.

We left the area and headed to Little India where we walked around looking at all the goods in the shops. The number of fabric stores was amazing; one store had four floors just for fabric. We stopped at the Sabar Café to enjoy a lunch of chicken tikka masala and curry butter chicken, both of which were excellent.

We decided to walk back to the hotel to rest for a few hours, and then we returned to the light rail and headed to China Town late in the afternoon. Red lanterns strung overhead made it easy for us to find the right area. One street, named Petaling Street, was completely closed off and filled with hawker stalls. There was barely enough room to walk between the stalls, and people were everywhere. We never knew that one could cram so much stuff—watches, purses, cell phone cases, shoes, shirts, jewelry, etc.—into such a small area. It was quite interesting to see Rolex watches, Tiffany jewelry, Gucci handbags, and other name brand items, which really weren’t authentic, for sale.

Next we walked a few blocks away to see the Sri Mahamariamman Temple with its beautiful and ornate façade and then decided that we had seen enough for one afternoon. It was a wonderful experience of sights, sounds, and smells, but it was time for us to catch the train back to the Petronas Towers and return to the hotel.

On Sunday we checked out of our hotel and were driven to the LCC airport to catch our flight to Langkawi on Air Asia. The airport was busy but well organized so we quickly checked our bags and enjoyed a bite to eat. The flight was short, and we arrived in Langkawi at 3 p.m., collected our baggage, and then took a taxi to the ferry dock where we caught the water ferry back to Rebak Marina. We got to the boat and found that she was in fine shape. We hoisted our baggage on board and began unloading most of our “stuff,” but we left some of it in the cockpit until the next day. The boat was a mess for about three days until we got everything stored in its proper place, but it felt good to be home.