A little bit of writing, a little bit of knitting...

Friday, September 29, 2006

Back to Knitting

It's been one heck of a long week. At first, I thought it was going to be a slow one -- just a couple of screenings, and I'd have the rest of the week to catch up here at my desk. I even skipped screenings this week, and it was still more than I can handle. They say it takes a day for every hour of time difference to recover from jet lag -- so I've got until Monday yet.

I have, however, squeezed in a little bit of knitting time. I managed to overcome my Second Sleeve Syndrome. First, I finished the little sweater. Then I finished the Christmas sweater, which I intend to photograph and show off to everyone but the intended recipient very soon. After I finished both the sweaters, though, I had no idea what to do with myself. It had been such a long time since I'd actually though about what project I'd work on next -- mostly because, while we were in Malaysia, I didn't have much of a choice. I had what I brought with me, and that was it. But now I have my whole stash again, just waiting for me to jump in and pull something out. I'm thinking of trying to make up a fall-ish sweater in that obnoxiously-bright pink I bought in the spring. But, while I was thinking about sweaters, I got a little sidetracked, and I decided to start on a felted bag for my niece instead.

I do have a picture to share, though -- to show how much lace knitting I did while I was away. I spent a lot of time working on the shawl when Paul had to work late. He'd come back to the room to find me knitting away on my lace and watching episodes of The Tick on DVD. Oh, it was a fabulous time, just me and my lace and The Tick. And though this shawl seems to be taking *forever*, I'm at least getting *somewhere*. Here's a blurry picture of my progress (I've been a little jittery this week -- too much coffee):

And here's a close-up:

Remember how, at first, I was a little hesitant about the striping? Well, I love how the colors are working out now. *Love* it! I can't wait to finish it. I think I'm going to have to start watching movies at home -- so I can get some quality knitting time in. Obviously, just watching my taped episodes of my favorite guilty pleasures (America's Next Top Model and Project Runway) just isn't cutting it.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

One Last Day in KL

It was late on Monday night when we arrived back at our hotel in KL. We returned to the hotel we'd stayed in the week before -- mostly because it meant that we could keep some of our extra baggage stored there while we were on the island, but also because it was a pretty nice place. Or so we thought.

Knowing it was our very last day in KL, we got up early, planning to squeeze in as much as possible. Paul had asked me what I wanted to do on Tuesday, and my response was "Everything." And we came pretty close. We got up early -- Paul getting up first, as usual, since I'm not a morning person. When he woke me up, he had bad news.

"I think there's something wrong with the shower. It's like a swamp in the bathroom."

And he wasn't kidding. Not only had two of the three bathroom lights burnt out. Not only was the toilet not really flushing all the time. But when we showered, the whole bathroom flooded, leaving an inch or two of water on the floor. It was not pretty. It was especially unpleasant because we'd gotten a late checkout time -- so we could come back after our morning adventures and take a shower before heading out for the afternoon. But that meant more showers -- and more swampy bathrooms. So before we left for the morning, we warned the girl at the front desk, who promised to have it taken care of for us. And then we left on our morning adventure.

One of the things we still wanted to do was visit the Batu Caves. The caves were discovered by an American scientist around 100 years ago. How no one had seen these things before is beyond me. They're located not all that far north of the city -- and they're huge. Not only are they a cool attraction on their own, but the caves are now home to huge Hindu shrines as well, which I found to be really intriguing.

To get to the caves, we called a cab driver who had given Paul his card after driving Paul to work one morning. His name was Jeff. When he picked us up, we informed Jeff that we had two hours -- and then we needed to be back at the hotel. For Jeff, that was no problem. Not only would he take us to the caves, but he'd take us to see some other stuff, too. And he wasn't kidding.

We started out at a batik factory, where we learned how artists make hand-painted batiks.

Next, we stopped at the king's palace. Malaysia has nine sultans, and every five years, the sultans get together and decide which of them is going to be the next king. Since Malaysia also has a Prime Minister, the king's job, according to Jeff, is pretty much to eat and sleep. He also gets to live in a nice house. Not a bad job, if you ask me.

Jeff insisted on taking all kinds of pictures of us at the palace. It really made me wish I'd worn something other than my baggy old shorts -- but I'd planned on climbing around the caves, not having my picture taken at the palace. But Jeff insisted, and who was I to say no to Jeff?

After that, Jeff also took us past the mosque and some new government buildings before bringing us to the caves. Here we are at the entrance. Note the 272 steps behind us, which is what you have to climb just to get to the entrance of the caves (keeping in mind, of course, that it's about 90 degrees and very, very humid). The statue behind us, incidentally, is approximately 140 feet tall. It's amazing.

The climb to the entrance was exhausting, but it was well worth it. Blogger would never in a million years let me post all the pictures that I'd like to, but here's one from the inside of the cave:

One of the main attractions of the cave -- besides the fact that it's cool...and it's a huge Hindu landmark -- is the monkeys. There are monkeys everywhere -- all, of course, taking full advantage of the naive tourists and their supply of munchies. Paul took a million pictures of the daring little guys -- more, in fact, than he took of anything else. I, on the other hand, was pretty busy just trying to make it to the top of the steps without dying. I paused in my climbing once, only to have a monkey come flying right past me -- maybe a foot in front of my face -- and land on a post next to me. I was so excited that I called to Paul, "HEY! Look at the monkey!" So Paul snapped a picture of a very excited me and a pretty indifferent monkey.

After wandering around for a while, we met Jeff back at the car, and he drove us back to the hotel, where he proceeded to charge us an arm and a leg for our journey. According to Jeff, the standard cab-driver hourly rate doesn't apply when you're going to the Batu Caves. He forced Paul to pay him RM140, or about $40. Sure, that's not really that bad for a two-hour cab ride, but it's highway robbery when it comes to a cab in KL. Paul was SO MAD -- especially since we'd pretty much budgeted the rest of our day, and that meant we'd need to make another trip to the ATM -- but we did learn our lesson. Next time, we'll know to get the full price up front. Assume nothing with these guys. And if you happen to come across a cab driver named Jeff in KL, beware. He only *looks* sweet and innocent.

Assured by the girl at the front desk that our shower was fixed, we returned to the room, only to find that the shower wasn't *really* fixed. But I didn't care. I was way too hot and sweaty to care. I showered quickly and threw on some fresh clothes before packing up our bags. We left out an extra change of clothes for the flight home, and then we brought everything down to the lobby, where we checked out and left our luggage in the able hands of the concierge. Then we headed for the monorail.

After all, we had more shopping to do. First, we made a trip back to the electronics mall, where we needed to pick up a video game for my niece and nephew. Then we went to the *other* mall, so I could find a wacky cell phone case. I also found another yarn store -- one that seemed way friendlier than the other one we'd stopped by, but we didn't really have time to waste. It was then that it started pouring. Of course, that shouldn't have surprised us, but we really weren't thinking -- and we'd already packed the umbrella away. So we decided to get on the monorail and head for Times Square, a huge mall-type place that has millions of stores (including a Borders -- I wonder if I could have used my rewards card there...), a hotel, apartments, and an amusement park called Cosmo's World, complete with a roller coaster.

Then, once the rain calmed down a bit, we got in another cab and returned to Chinatown, for a little more last-minute shopping.

While we were there, we got to watch the police make their way through, causing mass hysteria among all those whose goods aren't necessarily of the legal variety. We got to watch all kinds of guys with racks of faux Nikes on their backs, making a run for it.

Then we hopped back on the monorail and walked from the station, past our hotel, back to the KLCC, where, exhausted from all the running around, we crashed at KFC for dinner. We wandered around the mall for a while before making our way back to the hotel for a pre-flight cocktail. After all, though it was after 9 at night, our day wasn't over. In fact, it was only just beginning.

Our trip to KL, however, had come to an end.

We Interrupt This Vacation...

I've only got one day of Malaysia recap to go, but I just had to interrupt for *Actual Knitting Content*.

First of all, I had to tell you what I got in the mail yesterday -- the 2007 Knitting Pattern-a-Day calendar. I actually saw the calendar at JoAnn's over the weekend, and I pointed it out to Paul and said, "I wonder if my patterns are in there." A while back, I submitted a few patterns for the 2007 calendar. They emailed back to say thanks -- and to say that they might use them, or they might save some for next year. But that's the last I heard. So yesterday I got the calendar in the mail. No note, no nothing. But I assumed that it meant that somewhere in that box o' patterns was something by Yours Truly. So I ripped the package open and went through every single day. And there I was -- on August 23, September 25, and October 12. WOOHOO!

And, second, I present...a Finished Object. I started this baby sweater when we were at the cottage over Labor Day. I made the pattern up as I went -- and it turned out to be a little bigger than expected. But hey...babies grow. When we left for Malaysia, it was one of two sweaters that I left sitting at home with just one sleeve left to go (you'd think that I have Second Sleeve Syndrome or something). So when we got back, I picked it back up again and finished it. And here it is:

Since I finished this one, I've been working on the other sweater that was missing a sleeve. I should be able to finish it tonight -- pictures to come.

Yesterday, I got back to Knitting with the Girlies. This week was a Very Special Episode of Knitting with the Girlies -- in an 80s After-School Special kind of way. This week, we welcomed one of the girlies into womanhood, which led to some pretty interesting discussions, let me tell you. But, to be perfectly honest, I was totally touched to be included in the discussions. I felt like One of the Girlies.

It was fun to be back, too. The girls were really excited to hear all of the stories about the monkeys. And I brought the finished Super Secret Mystery Project, which they were all *so totally excited* about. They all had to try it on. A couple of them looked really cute in it -- way better than I do, in fact -- so I told them I'd bring my camera next week to take pictures.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Redang, Part Two

I just spent a ton of time working on today's post, only to have my computer freeze on me and lose everything. What a fine Welcome-Back-From-Vacation....

This weekend, we ended up spending *hours* going through all of our pictures and picking out our favorites. We ended up getting 149 printed. Now I just have to organize them all and find a photo album big enough to handle them all.

But anyway, back to the island. As I said earlier, there were plenty of things to keep us busy on the island, despite the Jungle Trek fiasco. As it turns out, the jungle ended up coming to us. One afternoon, just after we'd taken our afternoon showers (did I mention that Malaysia is a 2-3 shower/day country?), Paul called me to the slider. Outside, a bunch of monkeys had come to play. We sat on the balcony for a while and watched -- at one point, we counted up to 13 of them. And, of course, we took a ton of pictures.

(Notice to the right of the tree, the ever-present Do Not Feed the Monkeys sign.)

After a while, we left the safety of our balcony and went down for a closer look:

Though the tourist love the monkeys (and, if they're anything like us, they spend their entire time their on Monkey Alert), they're not exactly welcome guests at the resort. Once, we watched from the water as a few monkeys gathered outside the gift shop, and a group of tourists gathered around to take pictures. As soon as the tourists had lost interest, though, one of the guys from the gift shop came out to shoo them away with a broom.

Paul and I also tried our hand at archery while we were at the resort. For a couple of bucks, a recreation staff member will take you to the targets at the outskirts of the resort and set you up with a bow and a few arrows. Paul, as always, was wonderful. Fortunately, I was better than I remembered being the last time I was a camp counselor -- and I was even better than the guy at the next target over. But I don't think I'll be going out and buying myself a bow anytime in the near future.

Mostly, our activities revolved around fish. For about $3, you can rent snorkeling equipment for your entire stay -- and we took full advantage. Paul was very excited. I, on the other hand, was skeptical, since I'd never actually gone snorkeling before. Oh, sure, we'd always had a snorkel at the cottage when I was a kid, but I never figured out what to do with it. And when Paul went snorkeling on our honeymoon, I gracefully bowed out, it being the day after The Great Kayaking Fiasco. But I was willing to give it a shot this time. And, for a couple of minutes, it went well. There were cool little fish swimming around my legs -- which, I kept reminding myself, would not eat me. But then I came up to readjust my mask, and as I went back under, I got stung by something. And it went downhill from there. The next time I tried to go under, my mask decided not to work, and I ended up with burning eyeballs and salt-water-saturated lungs. After a while, I lost Paul, who was off swimming away, seeing octopi and things. So I went back to the beach to sulk.

Believe it or not, I actually tried again -- and then I even agreed to go along on the resort's morning snorkeling adventure to the marine park. This forced me to wake up at the crack of 7-something, which didn't exactly make me happy, but I am a good sport, and I was determined to go snorkeling and not drown or get eaten by any cute little yellow fishies.

Over 200 of us from the resort piled into the boat, and we joined even more guests from other resorts at the park. I estimate that there were about 5 million snorkelers there, all of whom were splashing around and not watching where they were going and shoving their fellow snorkelers. It wasn't exactly ideal. We did, however, get to see a ton of fish -- yellow ones and blue ones and all kinds of fish. We swam around for a long time -- the trip being two hours and all. And, after a while, trying to keep from drowning after being shoved by one of our fellow snorkelers who couldn't swim so well got a little old for me. That, and all that water made me desperately need a bathroom (which, incidentally, led to an awkward experience with a Malaysian toilet, the workings of which I still don't totally get, but that's another story for another blog...). As we were finding our way out of the water, we came across a guy with a big piece of meat in his hand. We put our masks back on and went under, where we saw that the guy was tormenting a little shark, which just happened to be a few feet away from where we were. I high-tailed it out of there. I don't care how little the thing was. If anyone was going to get eaten by a baby shark, it would be me.

After that, I stuck to the safe fishies. I fed the fishies at the resort -- which, fortunately, didn't require me to swim with them.

And, of course, there was some time for knitting:

On Monday morning, we packed up our things and prepared for another long travel day. We caught the 1:00 ferry to the mainland and were taken by bus to downtown Kuala Terengganu, where we spent a few hours wandering around Chinatown and getting some great deals on batiks.

Then we got back on the bus and headed for the tiny airport, where we got to sit around and wait for our flight, which would take us back to KL. It took all day, but we finally got there....

Friday, September 22, 2006

Back to Redang

Let's go back to Redang, shall we? Since we were offline for a week, I didn't get to share the stories -- or the pictures -- so I'll do that now.

Redang Island is mainly a resort island, northwest of KL. To get there, we got up at 3:30 in the morning and got in a cab at 4:45. It took over an hour to get to the isolated airport terminal -- which, we discovered, was about 20 minutes beyond the *real* airport. We were taking Air Asia, a budget airline that, we were warned, isn't all that reliable. "Your flight's at 7?" someone asked Paul. "That means you'll probably leave at 8." The terminal looks a lot like a big warehouse -- and it's just swarming with travelers. And, as expected, our flight didn't leave on time. So that left us to sit around and try to stay awake until we finally left.

It took about an hour to fly from KL to KT -- Kuala Terengganu. The airport there was, quite possibly, the tiniest airport I've ever seen. There was one baggage carousel, and you could actually see the guys tossing the bags onto the carousel, just on the other side of the wall, next to the door through which we'd come in. It left nothing to the imagination.

Once we got our bags, we thought the resort had arranged for another cab for us. Actually, it was a bus, filled with our fellow resort guests. We drove for another 45 minutes or so, past beautiful universities and sadly run-down housing. Some of the areas reminded me of when I was a kid, when missionaries would visit and bring slide shows of the places where they lived.

After the bus, we waited to board a ferry. It was another hour on the ferry (during which I fit in a quick nap) until we finally arrived at the jetty at Redang Island and our resort, Laguna Redang.

We were all corralled into a room, where a cute little guy whose English we barely understood explained how things worked on the island -- activities, meals, even how the keys to our door worked. He had a PowerPoint presentation, on which I noticed a comment about how they'd bring our bags to the main lodge for us -- to protect them from squirrels and wild monkeys. And therein became my obsession with the monkeys.

After we'd been properly filled in, we were brought by tram (a cart pulled by a tractor) to the main part of the resort, where we checked in and collected our bags. And it was beautiful. White, sandy beaches, clear blue water, chairs shaded by umbrellas and palm trees. It was magnificent.

We dropped our bags off at the room and went for lunch. Here's the view from the huge dining hall where we ate:

As soon as we'd finished our lunch, we grabbed our swimsuits and headed for the beach, where we camped out for the rest of the afternoon. Mind you, we were still in rainforest territory, so it rained pretty much every day we were there -- just like in KL. But on the first day, we didn't mind. When it rained that evening, we just went back to the room to take a nice pre-dinner nap.

There was a lot to do at the resort. While the nightlife wasn't nearly what they'd boasted (they had a couple of bars that were pretty much empty and a disco that was totally empty), we were usually too tired to be running around at night anyway.

We spent a lot of time swimming. After all, the sea was beautiful -- and the water was warm enough even for me to go in.

And if we got sick of the salt water, there was always the pool.

Of the things we wanted to do while we were there, the Jungle Trek was at the top of the list. We stopped by the rec center right away to try to plan it -- but, as it turned out, the Jungle Trek wasn't an easy thing to do. First, there had to be six people signed up before they'd even bother. And, well, there were only two of us. And, second, it couldn't have rained the night before. As I may have mentioned before, Malaysia is a tropical rainforest. It rains there. Every day. So every day, we went to the rec center and bugged the same poor little guy about the Jungle Trek. By the end of our stay, whenever he saw Paul coming, he stopped in his tracks and got this look of horror on his face. I think he was tempted to run away, but he was afraid that Paul would hunt him down. Every day, we stopped by the rec center to ask about the Jungle Trek. And every day, there was an excuse. Usually, it was that there was too much rain the night before. The last morning, we checked again, and the guys at the rec center suggested we try the Nature Walk instead. It didn't require so many people, it cost less, it wasn't nearly as long and strenuous, and we'd see just about the same stuff. So we figured we'd do that. When we came back that afternoon, they told us once again, "No -- too much rain last night."

Paul and I are pretty sure they never actually *do* the Jungle Trek -- or the Nature Walk. They just put it on the brochure to make it sound like they have lots of activities.

We did, however, manage to keep ourselves busy -- and to see plenty of nature. More on that later.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Jet Lag + Sleep Deprivation = Not Pretty

I, my dear friends, am a total mess. I've had jet lag before, but I'm pretty sure it's never hit this hard. Until someone invents a safe and inexpensive method of teleportation, I think I can safely say that the country of Malaysia does not need to worry about me visiting too often. I'm sure they'll be relieved to hear that.

Our journey started at about 10 PM Tuesday, KL time (which was 10 AM back home), after a very long and strenuous day (I'll get to that sooner or later). We had already checked out, so we'd left our bags at the hotel for safe-keeping while we wandered around the city. After dinner, we walked back to the hotel, had a drink in the hotel's sports bar while watching the latest football news (the European kind -- not the American kind), retrieved our bags, changed into our traveling clothes, and got ourselves loaded up into the taxi. I tried to stay awake as we left the city, but it wasn't easy. I kept nodding off -- though every time I did, I woke myself up again. I can't sleep in cars any better than I can sleep in planes.

After doing some final souvenir shopping at the airport, we took the train to our gate. We went through security, and we had only a couple of minutes to wait until boarding. Our seats on the flight to Seoul were in the middle section of seats, which was fine, since there wasn't really anything to see outside the window. It was 1 AM. Everybody slept through the flight anyway -- well, everybody but me. Of the six hours of flying time, I may have slept an hour or two, in short bursts. I spent the rest of the time trying to find a comfortable position and telling myself that it wouldn't be nice to wake Paul up just because I couldn't sleep.

When we got to Seoul, I was exhausted. It was that deep exhaustion that makes you want to cry for no apparent reason. We went through security again, and I dropped into a seat at the gate to sit through the remaining couple of hours of our layover. I tried to read for a while, but I kept falling asleep and waking myself up again. So eventually I gave in. I curled up on my seat, rested my head on Paul's lap, and fell asleep for a half hour or so. And then I felt much better. For a little while.

The flight from Seoul to Chicago was packed. And you know that loud, obnoxious dorky kid from your class in school? The one who talked loudly -- all the time? Who thought he was smart and funny and irresistible to women -- when he was really just a big fat idiot? That kid sat behind us. And he'd found a poor, defenseless American girl of Korean descent, who was on her way home from visiting her grandparents, to harass. He also managed to find a huge Korean family (there were nine of them) to piss off before we even took off.

And I, fortunately, found my headphones.

Thanks to tailwinds, our flight from Korea wasn't as long as our flight to Korea had been -- but it was still a long and painful 12 hours. I managed to get another couple of hours of sleep, thanks to Sominex, and I spent the rest of the time either attempting to choke down the worst airline food in the history of flight or watching movies. I watched four. Half of them were decent.

When we got to Chicago, we had to go through customs, get our bags, clear customs, recheck our bags, get our new boarding passes for our new airline, go through security again, and make it to our gate. In about 90 minutes. Thus, I was a little worried when we walked into customs and saw that the line was approximately four miles long. It also didn't help that, of the three thousand bags loaded on our plane, ours were taken off the plane last, and we were forced to wait there while the people from our flight, cranky and disoriented from being cramped for 12 hours on a plane, fought over baggage carts. At one point, I thought the Loud, Obnoxious Kid from behind us was going to get into a fist fight with the father of the Korean family that he'd previously pissed off.

Other than that, it was mass confusion. No one knew where they were going, and the customs officials didn't speak Korean, which only added to the confusion. We ran from one place to the next, trying to make it to our flight. I got stopped at security and had to have my purse checked for dangerous materials, and when the woman couldn't zip it closed again -- and I told her not to worry about it -- she just shook her head and told me it had been a long day. As I was running to the gate, I couldn't help but laugh at that. You think you've had a long day, lady? Try sitting in a tiny seat for twelve hours with nothing to do but watch bad Lindsay Lohan movies or listen to the loud, obnoxious kid behind you talk about his trip to Thailand and how cheap hammocks are there.

There was some kind of computer glitch on our last flight, which left us sitting at the gate, going through roll call, so the airline would know who was on the plane. Really. We had roll call. Fortunately, it was a small plane, and we weren't delayed by too much. But when you just want to get home, even a minute extra is too much. But we made it. Our plane took off. It landed. Our bags arrived with us. We got the shuttle to the parking lot and found that our car was still there. And it still worked. And we still remembered how to find our house. We got home at around 4. I then headed straight for the shower, which made me feel human again. And then I got to the laundry. We spent the rest of the day eating delicious frozen pizza and catching up on our favorite TV shows. I was really looking forward to seeing Toby win on Rock Star: Supernova, but I was seriously disappointed. Disappointed enough that I once again threatened to stop watching reality TV forever, since the judges are never as smart as I am.

Today, on top of fighting off jet lag and trying to catch up on my work, I've also got pictures to go through. That 1G memory card was pretty much our smartest purchase ever. It meant that we could take pictures of *everything* -- and we did just that. And even then we could have still taken more than 1200 picture, and we'd still have room. Remember the days when we used to have to go to the store and buy film and carry it around with us and then come home and have it developed? We would have gone through about 16 rolls of film. About three of them would have been just pictures of monkeys. We do love monkeys. Oh, and one of them would have been just pictures of geckos. We really love geckos, too (though I'll admit that I prefer them when they're outside, not crawling on my bathroom wall).

I've got all kinds of stories to tell, but I'll get back to that at a later date. Maybe later today. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe right now I'll go and take a nap.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Leaving Redang

The Internet connection here at the resort has been down most of the week -- but we didn't really care. We were too busy doing nothing much. Actually, we've been very busy. We've been swimming and snorkeling and shooting arrows and chasing wild monkeys -- and taking *tons* of pictures. It's gorgeous here. I've never seen water this blue or sand this white.

We picked the perfect day to leave our island paradise, though. It's hot and hazy -- not a good beach day at all. Today we take the tram to the jetty, then the boat to the mainland, then the bus to the Kuala Terengganu airport (which is barely an airport, really). We're going to hang out in KT today, and then we fly to KL and take a cab back to the airport. Then we hang out in KL tomorrow and fly out tomorrow night. That's a lot of running around for the next few days...

When we get back, there will be plenty of pictures to share.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Petronas Towers Skybridge

Paul waited in line for a half hour this morning to get us tickets to walk the Skybridge, a two-story bridge connecting the two Petronas Towers. On the 42nd floor, there's an employees-only level (which Paul and a couple of his colleagues managed to sneak themselves onto last time they were here). And on the 41st floor, there's a bridge that's open to those 800-1300 (reports vary) visitors who manage to get tickets each day. The tickets are free, but they're not easy to come by.

Our time slot was at 1:00. We got there a bit early and wandered around the visitors' center. Then we were ushered into a theater and given badges -- the people with red badges got to go first, and those of us with blue badges had to hang out and wait. After a few minutes, we all crammed into a little elevator and made our way up.

Unfortunately, today wasn't the best of days to be looking out over the city. It rained this morning (surprise!), and it was pretty hazy today, but it was cool anyway. You're only given about 10 minutes to wander around the bridge. That's it. But I still managed to snap 23 pictures. What the heck -- I've got a whole gig of storage space now. I can still take 1498 more pictures before we get home without having to worry about deleting anything. So here you go... pictures from the bridge (Jeanne: I tried to take some cool architectural pictures for you -- I may have to send you more later):

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Further Adventures in KL

To begin today, here's a picture of the view from my favorite hangout this week:

Heavenly, don't you think? Yesterday was actually the perfect pool day -- because it was a little cloudy, so the breeze made it feel like it wasn't quite 300 degrees out.

I got a big surprise yesterday afternoon, while I was sitting at the desk, working. The doorbell rang (yep -- the rooms here have doorbells, as do the elevators, and I will forever be traumatized by the sound), and I went to see if it was someone picking up laundry or replenishing the fruit or checking the minibar or dropping off grape Mentos and bottled water. But it was Paul. Crazy -- it was barely after 5. But apparently there wasn't anything left to do. There's even less to do today, as it turns out. He has to be at the office for a 10:00 meeting -- and then he doesn't really have anything again until 3. So he went in early this morning to try to get us Tower tickets. I'm keeping my fingers crossed -- I hear they sell out fast.

So anyway, we sat around for a while after Paul got back and chatted while drinking a can of Tiger Beer, which we'd picked up at the grocery store on Sunday. Since yesterday was the second day of our visit that it didn't rain at all, we decided to walk over to the mall for dinner. I'd been thinking about going to a highly recommended Italian restaurant down the street, but neither of us were hungry -- Paul because they'd had munchies all day, me because I cracked open the ham we'd bought at the grocery store and was so excited that it was real ham (as opposed to, say, Beef Ham or Chicken Ham, like the Beef Bacon and Chicken Sausage we get for breakfast) that I ate two sandwiches. So we returned to the food court, where we had some delicious Japanese food, which made me happy in a major way. And, sure, it's a food court, but at least it has a nice view:

After dinner, we decided to jump in a cab and head to Chinatown to shop at the Night Market (which is actually the same market we went to on Saturday, only busier). But first, we had to check for Japanese craft magazines again.

Up until this point, I haven't mentioned my quest for Japanese craft magazines. Before we left, I emailed Lyn, a knitblogger from KL, to ask about stores in the area. She mentioned that one of the stores in the KLCC had all kinds of Japanese craft magazines. Having never seen a Japanese craft magazine, but having heard all kinds of wonderful things about them, I decided that I had to get my hands on one. Or three. So on all of my trips to the KLCC, I've attempted to get to this store. Technically, it's a part of the bookstore, but it's not actually *in* the bookstore. It's in a separate store, which is on the second floor. At first, I thought it was on the second floor of the bookstore (since the bookstore has an upper level). But no. Nothing there. So then, on another trip, I figured out that it was actually in a *different* store, on the second floor of the mall. But that store closes at 9:30, and it was just after that. So we checked again last night, and the store was closed for some sort of Employee Day. So I'll have to try again. But believe me, I will get my hands on those Japanese craft magazines if it's the last thing I do.

Before hopping in a cab for Chinatown, we decided to stop by the bathrooms. Now, I've heard lots of things about the toilets in Malaysia, but I've seen nothing but Western toilets -- at least I hadn't until last night. I figured, as I waited in line, that this wouldn't be a big deal. It's a fancy, very Western, quite new mall. It's got to have Western toilets, right? Um, wrong. I stepped into the stall, and there was a couple of steps up and a little porcelain hole in the floor (though it is, actually, modern enough to have an automatic flush). From what Paul told me later, they probably did have Western toilets in the bathroom there somewhere, but it was packed, and I was too flustered to wait and see. I decided, instead, to hold it. But, as I stood there staring at it, I realized that, in my purse, I had the camera. Yep, I took a picture. But it's pretty bad (apparently, even people who know how to use those things don't always have the best aim), and I won't subject you all to that here.

Fortunately, as Chandra will tell you, I am a camel. I can hold it for days. And I did.

So then we were off to Chinatown in yet another crazy cab. The streets in KL are pretty much always packed -- with horrible drivers who could actually compete with the bad drivers in Boston. I'm seriously filled with terror every time I get in a car here -- because I don't think I've been in a cab yet when we haven't come dangerously close (at least once) to being hit. Hard. Apparently, according to our cab driver, it's almost as crowded here as it is in Bangkok. So, for future reference, if I ever end up in Bangkok, I'll have to be heavily drugged before I get in a car there.

But, fortunately, we made it to Chinatown in one piece. The market there is my favorite place in KL so far. It's hard to say why, since it's crammed with people, and it's hot, and it's loud, and there are constantly people yelling at you, and it's filled with really strong smells that'll make your head spin (Things here tend to have strong smells -- some really good, some really bad. There's even a fruit in Malaysia, called durian, that's so stinky that most hotels -- ours included -- have a written policy that states that durian isn't allowed anywhere on the premises.). But Chinatown is just plain fun. Chinatown is where you can haggle for really cheap prices on stuff that's probably not real and quite possibly not totally legal. You can get Rolex watches that are "95% authentic" and DVDs of movies that have just come out in theaters back in the States. You can get Nike shoes and Polo shirts and Prada bags. You can also get all kinds of other little trinkets and fruits and snacks. The best part about the market is when the cops come. Word travels around the market, and you can watch guys picking up whole racks of knock-off Nikes and running for cover. Then, just a few minutes later, the all come back out. After at least an hour or so, we walked out with just a couple of T-shirts, but it was so much fun. Then we hopped on the monorail (a trip that would have probably cost at least RM15, which is still less than five bucks, by cab cost just over RM3, or a less than a dollar, by monorail), which stops about a block away from the hotel.

Here's the monorail stop, with Menara KL in the background:

This morning we had our last breakfast in the Club Lounge. It's been lovely, though surreal. I always feel like I need to wear a suit for breakfast (not that I have one here -- or even own one, for that matter). And it's all just a little surreal when the woman brings me coffee in the morning and says, "Enjoy your breakfast, Mrs. Krah-mer." But the coffee is good, and the view is spectacular:

Hopefully we'll be checking out the observation bridge of those Towers today. If not, we'll do that on Tuesday, when we come back to KL. We have a long list of things we want to do on Tuesday: tour of the city, another trip to Central Market, a drive out to the caves.... We'll see what we actually have time for.

Other than the Towers (and possibly yet another hunt for Japanese craft magazines), today is packing day. We're leaving some of our bags at the hotel while we're on the island (since we're only allowed one checked back and one small carry-on each on the little airline we're taking), so I need to figure out what we need to bring with us and what can be left behind (sadly, our laptops will be left behind). Then we leave for the airport at about 5 tomorrow morning.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Life in the Rain Forest

Did I mention that it rains a lot in KL? So far, we've been here four days, and it's rained three. On the other day (Sunday), it just *looked* like it was going to rain for a few hours. It's really a good thing that cabs are so very affordable here -- because you never know when the latest downpour is going to hit.

Usually, though, it's in the afternoon -- after you've had some time to sit around the pool or wander the streets or whatever. Sometime after, say, three in the afternoon. Yesterday, it got dark around four and started raining at around five. No big deal for me, since I was busily doing laundry in the room (Do you know how long it takes to do a load of laundry in a bathroom sink? A long time...and it takes about three days to dry, unless you get out the hair dryer...). Paul, however, had to get back from the office at around seven. By that time, apparently the rain had pretty much stopped -- or so he thought. He started out on his walk, called to let me know he was on his way...and then the rain started again.

Did I mention that it doesn't just rain here? It downpours. There's a monsoon here every afternoon.

For instance, here's the view from our room when it's not raining:

This is what it looks like when it's raining:

So when Paul walked through the door, just a few minutes after he'd called, he was soaked. His shirt was soaked, his pants were soaked, his socks were soaked, his shoes were soaked. And you think that's bad? Consider this: he had an umbrella with him.

After he dried off a bit (and hung up his soaking wet work clothes amid the drying laundry in the bathroom), we decided to get out for a bit. It was, after all, after 8, and I'd been eating nothing but crackers and Macho Nacho Cheese Pringles all day. (I'd also been drinking a little Coffee Pepsi, which, for the record, is really strange.) So we decided to go the one place where we knew we could find something to eat -- the mall. "But we're not walking," Paul said, still traumatized. "We're getting a cab, which will take us from one awning to the other."

We were just running out for a bit, so I didn't really worry about actually looking good. But that, of course, was when we ran into all of the higher-ups from Paul's company. Sure, all week I've been preparing for this moment, looking my best, just in case. And I run into them when I'm wearing whatever I wore to do the laundry and I look like I've been lying around for hours (which, in fact, I have -- just knitting lace and watching The Tick on DVD). Darnit. To make up for it, I actually put on makeup when we went up for breakfast this morning, which was a good thing, since a couple of big-wigs were there this morning, too.

The cab driver was a jovial little guy, who immediately asked where Paul (not me, you notice) was from. When he told him we were from the States, the little guy started singing (in perfect William Hung fashion -- he even kinda looked like William Hung) "Born in the USA" (which, of course, Paul wasn't, but who's counting?). He was my favorite cab driver ever.

So anyway, we get to the mall and choose the food court on the second floor. I believe I mentioned the other day that there are two food courts in the mall. I was wrong. There are three. There's a more Western food court on the lower ground floor (AKA, in the basement). We went to the middle-of-the-road food court -- not the Asian one, not the Western one. We had some Indian food, which was quite tasty but not all that easy to eat (I'm not used to bones in my chicken masala). We decided to get dessert afterwards, and I was checking out the place in the middle, called Just Desserts (which, for the record, is nothing like the Canadian chain of the same name). I was ready to give something a try, when Paul decided that he didn't really recognize anything -- and, well, Paul's had bad luck with attempting to try new things this week (I told you about the coconut, right?), so he chickened out, and we got ice cream at McDonald's instead. Then we wandered around for a while and went in search of another cab.

In the cab home, Paul asked the driver about the weather. It seemed as though he'd barely noticed the rain. "Oh, it's worse in the rainy season. Then it rains *very hard*." I'd hate to see *very hard*, if this isn't it. He also added, "You come here last month...then it's *very hot*." I don't even want to think about *very hot*.

So I decided against heading to the Towers today, since, well, I have more laundry to do before we head for the island on Thursday (and it'll take that long for everything to dry...). That, and there's a chance that Paul may be able to get out of the office for a while tomorrow and go with me. Okay, and I'm still keeping my fingers crossed that he can somehow get me into the office.

So today's another day of laundry and lace and lounging by the pool, trying to guess where my fellow loungers are from. That, and work. I suppose I should get that done today, since I may end up spending tomorrow waiting to be allowed into the Towers for my five minutes.

BTW -- it's good to see I'm not the only one who can't help but stop at McD's in foreign countries. I feel much better now. Thanks. :)

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Weekend in KL

The sun is just setting on Sunday back home, but I've already had my breakfast, and Paul's already at work. It's Monday morning here in KL.

We had an insane weekend -- especially considering the jet lag -- but we saw a lot of the city. And guess what -- I have pictures!

On Friday night, Paul worked late, so I sat around and watched DVDs and knitted until he got back. Everyone from the office was going out that night to celebrate, but we were pretty beat, so we decided to opt for a quiet night. We went to the Asian food court (one of two food courts) at the KLCC (the mall at the base of the Petronas Towers) for dinner. We had rice bowls (which, just for the record, I ate with actual chopsticks) and drinks, which ran us right around $4 (did I mention that things in KL are very affordable?). We did a little shopping, but it was late, and the mall closes at 10, so then we headed back to the hotel to crash. But first, we got some great pictures of the Towers at night. It's hard to capture the ghostly glow, but trust me on this -- they're absolutely breathtaking.

We got up early on Saturday morning -- because we had a ton to do. We stuffed ourselves with a big breakfast, packed up the backpack, and hopped in a cab, headed for the Central Market. The market is a two-floor shopping center that looks a lot like a flea market. In fact, it reminded me of the one that Chandra and I visited a few weeks ago, on our Yarn Outlet adventure. There, they have mostly Malaysian handcrafts -- wood carvings and batiks and handbags -- as well as some other clothes and souvenirs and food. We picked up a few little things, but we mostly just wandered around. And we stopped for drinks. Paul attempted to order a glass of coconut juice and ended up with a giant coconut, a spoon, and a straw. LOL.

After Central Market, we walked down the street to Chinatown. In Chinatown, there's a huge flea market. Again, they have food and souvenirs and things, but they have lots of other stuff, too -- not much of which is actually legal. That's where you can get the stuff that is, according to some of the vendors "95% authentic." During the day, the street that holds the market is actually open to vehicles, but after 4, they shut down the street, and even more vendors come out. We're planning to go back some night this week, to see the Night Market in action, but here's what it looks like during the day:

After a few hours of wandering around, we were exhausted. You see, Malaysia is very close to the Equator. Malaysia has a tropical rain forest climate. It's hot here. And humid. And the markets are packed with shoppers and vendors. Haggling with vendors for a couple of hours could nearly kill you. So we found ourselves a cab and headed back to the hotel. After we got in the cab, however, I started to worry that we'd never see the hotel again. The driver was a young man, and his mother was seated in the passenger seat. Neither spoke much English, and I don't think either knew anything about KL. They couldn't figure out where we were on the map we showed them, and the driver couldn't even figure out where the Towers were (we're a five-minute walk away, so once you get to the Towers, we're right there). We drove around the streets of KL for a very long time until Paul finally found our way back. I was relieved to get out.

We made it back just in time for the rain to start. As one of our guidebooks explained, they don't call it a rain forest for nothing. And, as Paul's uncle, who lived in KL 20 years ago, explained, there are two seasons: rainy season and non-rainy season. During the rainy season, it rains for a couple of hours every day. During the non-rainy season, it rains a couple of hours every other day. So far, it's rained two out of three days. And when it rains, it really rains.

Once we got back to the hotel, I quickly headed for the shower. Then, after sitting for a couple of minutes, we headed back out. One of our friends from Delft, Arjen, was in town for the week, and he was heading back to Delft on Saturday night -- so we met him for coffee at the KLCC. The KLCC was *packed*. Since it was raining, there were crowds of shoppers huddled around the windows, waiting for the rain to let up. We were lucky to actually find Arjen in the crowd (fortunately, tall Dutch men kinda stand out around here). Then we had to hurry back to the hotel, since we had dinner plans.

Another one of the guys from Delft, Gijs, recently moved to the KL office, after meeting the woman of his dreams while on a business trip a year or so ago. So Gijs and his girlfriend, Cherry, picked us up for dinner. We drove way out of the city to the suburbs -- to a little out-of-the-way Chinese restaurant. Cherry is Mandarin Chinese, and she thought she'd take us out for some *real* Chinese food. And it was the experience of a lifetime. We sat outside on a resin table and resin chairs, and Cherry ordered for us. We got four dishes -- an ostrich dish, some kind of fish (a *whole* fish on a plate -- though, as Paul pointed out, at least they had the decency to cover the head with lettuce and stuff), and two crab dishes. We were surprised that there were no chopsticks to be found. But those are only used for rice bowls. Unlike us Westerners, the Chinese aren't actually stupid enough to eat *everything* with chopsticks. They stick with a fork and spoon.

The food was amazing. I don't even like seafood, but I loved the fish. Everything was so flavorful. The crab, however, was the biggest challenge I've ever had. Everything is still in the shell and covered in sauce -- and you're supposed to pick out the meat with your fingers. I made a huge mess of myself and got very little crab out of the deal. But what I did get was quite tasty.

On our way back, Cherry drove us through the more "local" parts of KL -- through the places where the locals hang out. I wish I could have taken pictures of all of it -- so I could share every bit of it. But alas, we were in the car.

Yesterday morning, we slept in a bit. We were just too tired to get up early -- so we ended up sleeping late and missing breakfast. Oh, well. Paul got to work right away, since his big meetings start today. His 2:00 meeting was cancelled, though, so we decided to hit the road again. This time, we took the monorail. Once we got off, we realized that we were hungry, so we stopped at the McDonald's that was across the street from the station. I know what you're thinking: eating at a McDonald's in a foreign country is a cheap cop-out. But actually, it's a little comforting. And it's always a different experience in every country. Here, you can get fast Malaysian food -- and there's a chili sauce dispenser next to the ketchup dispenser. I tried the chili sauce. It's good -- but it's got lots of bite.

Our next stop was Low Yat, the electronics mall. Seriously -- it's six floors of pretty much nothing but electronics. It's crammed full of people, it's loud, and it's got everything you could ever want. We replaced our 64MB memory card in our digital camera with a 1GB card -- so no worries about running out of room for pictures. We can take 1500 at the largest size.

We hit all of the floors in Low Yat, but then I was more than ready to leave. The crowds were overwhelming. So then we ended up in the mall down the street, where we found that it's not just the electronics mall. This one was loud and crowded, too. I was there looking for Lily, one of the only yarn shops in town, and we almost gave up. It was not easy to find. But we finally did -- and I was disappointed. They have yarn there, but you can't actually touch it. It's all stacked on shelves, which are behind the counter. So I gave up and left.

I tried shopping -- I really did. The prices are great here, and I thought I'd pick up a couple of things. But I found I couldn't shop. I realize that it's because Malaysia is a very service-oriented country, but I got a little freaked out by the fact that you can't walk into a store without a sales clerk following you around. If you look at a shirt, the clerk will pick it up and unfold it for you. And when you move on to something else, they'll follow, always looking over your shoulder (or, if you're 5' 10", like I am, around your shoulder). Between the fact that sales clerks kept following me around and the fact that, as a tall blonde non-Asian woman, I fit in here about as well as a giraffe fits in with the penguins at the zoo, I got a little overwhelmed after a while (not to mention that I got really sick of the guy singing "Shake Your Bon-Bon"). So we decided to head back for a while (though we did stop for some groceries first, which is always a fascinating experience in a foreign country, but it wasn't really all that exciting, so I'll skip it).

Back at the hotel, we consulted our travel guides and decided to visit the tourism center and ask a few questions -- and then head to the KL Tower (AKA Menara Kuala Lumpur).

It's the 4th tallest communications tower in the world (the tallest being the CN Tower, in Paul's home, Toronto). The tower is 420-some meters tall, if I recall correctly. And though we caught it on a cloudy day, we were there at the perfect time -- right before the sun set. Unfortunately, we didn't actually *see* the sun set. But we got to see the city at dusk -- and at night. We got some spectacular pictures of the city -- and, of course, of the Towers.

After that, we went with another Cheap American Cop-Out. We were looking for a highly-recommended Italian restaurant, but we couldn't find it, so we went to the Hard Rock Cafe. The Hard Rock, it turns out, is like Mecca for non-Asians. The Hard Rock is where the giraffes hang out. There was a Formula One race on, and the place was full of blonde people. And, well, it was nice to fit in for a while.

After a nice big burger and fries (with chili sauce, of course), we walked back to the hotel. We were there just in time to catch the half-price baked goods before the deli closed. See, every day from 7-10, the restaurant in the lobby sells the baked goods from its deli case at half-off. We'd never actually been around during that time, so we always missed it -- and I was determined to actually get some of their fancy cheesecake. And last night, we made it just in time. For less than the price of our sodas at the Hard Rock (not *everything* is cheap in KL -- not the tourist traps), we got a piece of carrot cake and some green tea mousse. YUM! Then I picked up my knitting while Paul got back to work. The poor guy got a call at 10:55, saying that he needed to have a bunch of things prepared for a 5:00 meeting today, so we were up a bit late.

Overall, we had an amazing -- and exhausting -- weekend. I'm just amazed by KL. It's been a totally surreal experience -- because the city is so familiar yet so foreign all at the same time. In a way, it's modern and very Western. Pretty much every American product exists out here. I could go to the store and get my Neutrogena and my Olay moisturizer, and I could communicate with the clerk (albeit not always very well) in English. I could get Clinique or a pair of Guess jeans. I could get a Frappuccino or dinner at Chilis or a pretzel at Auntie Anne's. I could even work out at California Fitness. We have our nice Western-style hotel with a big pool. Here, it's *thisclose* to being the same at things back home, but, at the same time, it's so very different. This isn't Columbus, Ohio. This is Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It's difficult to explain, but it's a really strange feeling.

Often, when I visit a place, I find myself with a strong urge to move there. But while KL is an incredible place to visit, I haven't had the slightest desire to move here (which I'm sure will make my mom very happy). Not even for a split-second. I know I wouldn't last here. It's all too surreal.

Anyway...today I have a strict schedule. After doing some work here, I will go and sit by the pool and do a little more work -- and maybe some reading -- to allow the maid some time to get through the room. Then, I will return (hopefully to find that the room's been cleaned), and I'll do some laundry. KL is definitely a two-shower-a-day kind of city, and I've been going through clothes like you wouldn't believe. If I don't do some laundry, I'll run out before we even get to the island. Paul's working late tonight, so I foresee a lot of TV and knitting again. Something about KL -- especially seeing all the fabrics and things on Saturday -- has inspired me to pick up the lace again.

Tomorrow, I think I'm going to try to visit the Towers again. To answer Jeanne's question, believe it or not, there is no visitors' deck in the Towers. (I know -- I think it's insane, too). The only people allowed in the building are those who work there -- no guests. So Paul gets to go there every day. I'm trying to persuade him to somehow try to get me in, but it isn't working yet. But, each day except Monday, there are certain hours during which visitors can go to the bridge, about 1/3 of the way up. It's free, but you have to get there really early, since they only allow 800 visitors per day. So you have to get there by about 8 in the morning to get your ticket. I'm going to try -- I owe it to Jeanne. :)

I'll try to post more pictures tomorrow, too. Blogger seems to be getting a little cranky, and it's not allowing me to add more.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Jet-lagged in KL

Hello from Kuala Lumpur!

Yesterday was quite possibly the longest day ever -- which could have something to do with the fact that it was actually a day and a half. We got to the airport by around 8ish and whisked through security (it really wasn't as scary as I expected -- I was even more nervous after I saw the little bin full of lighters and little toothpaste tubes). The flight to Chicago was no problem at all. We had to re-check in, though, once we got there, since we were switching airlines (my greatest concern: that our bags *wouldn't* make the switch with us). But we pulled that off, too. We went through security yet again and made it to the gate, ready for our flight to Korea.

The flight was *long*. 14 hours or so, actually. That's a heck of a long time to spend on a plane. We got an emergency exit row, though, so we had plenty of leg room. And we had one of those schnazzy personal entertainment systems, so we could watch movies whenever we wanted (I watched two). And we took some sleeping pills and spent much of the time sleeping (or at least trying to sleep). I'd say I got maybe three or four hours, which is a lot more than I usually sleep on a plane, so I was happy. Oh, and the airline was merciful enough to give everyone little comfort kits, which included a tiny toothbrush and a tiny, single-use toothpaste. Yea!

We got to Korea, once again went through security (this time, however, it didn't matter if we had any liquids, so no big deal), and wandered to our gate. The place was crowded, but it wasn't a crowd I was used to. "If we somehow get separated," I told Paul, "I'll be the tall blonde. You can't miss me."

Once we found our gate, we figured we had about an hour and a half left, so we decided to get some food. There wasn't a single McDonald's in sight (which, though totally American and cliche, would have been totally comforting at that point), so we stopped at a little cafe, and I got a ham and cheese sandwich. Afterward, I went to the bathroom, where I was looking forward to freshening up a bit. But I barely had a chance to use the facilities when Paul started screaming my name from the doorway. All the Korean women inside were pretty freaked out, and I was totally confused. I walked out, and Paul looked frantic. "We've gotta go. Now. It's last call. Our plane's boarding." You see, in our exhaustion and jet-lag and laziness, we didn't change our watches when we got to Seoul, and we forgot that there's an hour time difference between Seoul and KL. Ooops... So we went running through the terminal, handed over our tickets, and went running to our seats. I hadn't even gotten my crucial freshen-up time, and I felt like crap.

The flight from Seoul to KL was another six hours, making our total flying time around 22 hours. Our last flight felt like it took *forever*. Sure, it was way shorter than the other one, but, it being nighttime in KL, I didn't want to sleep, or I'd freak out my internal clock even more. We didn't have the personal entertainment thingies, and the only movie showing on the far-away screen was one I'd already seen. So, between [horrible] meals, I read. And I read. And I looked at my watch approximately every five minutes. For the last hour, Paul and I played UNO. And then, finally, it was over. We got off the plane, made it through customs, and, eventually, even got all of our bags. We then found our cab driver and got in the car, headed for our hotel. The car radio blared Justin Timberlake's "SexyBack" -- so much for being far from home -- and then the driver changed it to the easy-listening station, and we heard, of all things, John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads." Really. I laughed at the irony, knowing that there's no country road that can take me home from here.

After another long ride (it's about an hour by car to the city), we arrived in KL. There's a festival going on right now, so the streets are lit up at night -- almost like Christmas, only not so tacky. The city itself is incredible, an amazing mix of ultra-modern and old-fashioned Muslim architecture. Beautiful. I can't wait to get out and see more.

Back home, no one knows much about Malaysia. Heck, I didn't, either. And when most people heard I was coming here, I'm sure they pictured poor little old me in a hut, with no electricity or running water. But don't you worry about me. I'm living in style. Our hotel is seriously posh. It has real bellhops with the uniforms you only see in movies. Even the hat. Only ours are dressed in white. The room is totally fluffy and down (the bed, at least), and the bathroom is all marble-y and huge. It even has a normal toilet, for those of you who were concerned about that. And next to the toilet, there's a phone and a control that adjusts the volume of the TV, so you can hear your favorite show while you're sitting there. Oh, and there's a control panel next to the bed that controls everything. The lights, the air, the TV...everything.

This morning, we had breakfast in the fancy Club Lounge. I played it safe and stuck with cereal and scrambled eggs and bacon, but I did try some Malaysian fruits -- not the infamous smelly durian fruit, though, which, for the record, isn't allowed anywhere on the hotel premises. At some point, I'm going to try some of the curries for breakfast -- but I don't think my stomach was ready for that this morning.

After Paul took off, I spent a couple of hours by the pool. I could have sworn I heard the call to prayer in the background. Amazing, this place. Tomorrow, we're going shopping. I can't wait. But until then, I've got work to do -- and then, while I'm waiting for Paul to come back from work, I'm going to watch a movie on TV and maybe knit a little lace... :)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

24 Hours to Go...

Our flight to Malaysia (actually, our flight to Chicago, from where we'll leave to go to Korea, from where we'll leave to go to Malaysia) leaves in just 24 hours, and there's so much to do!

Over the weekend, we returned to the scene of the crime. We had a wonderful weekend at the cottage, and I didn't fall in any holes. Dad did, however, tell me that I'd probably fall and break my neck if I kept stepping around that spot in the floor the way I do -- but I'm not taking any chances.

Just for the record, I thought I'd share the pictures -- just to explain to those of you who have no idea how I could have managed to inadvertently fall in a hole the way I did and hurt myself as badly as I did. I don't blame you. It sounds totally stupid to me, too.

Here's where the hole is:

See? It's right inside the door. Do you stop to check if there's a floor there every time you walk through the door? Probably not. I didn't. And, just to give you an idea of how far it is down, Dad's about six feet tall -- so the fall is probably a good 4 1/2 feet.

And here's the inside view:

Dad asked me if I wanted to go lie down there so he could take my picture. I said no. In fact, just being close enough to take the picture freaked me out a little bit. (Notice the little device in the upper left corner -- a stopper that will prevent the door from opening when the hole isn't covered. No more falling in holes for my family!)

But there. Now that's over. It's been two months now, and I'm feeling a whole lot better. My rib only bothers me when the weather's about to change (I'm thinking of considering a job in meteorology). And my lung seems to be healing itself. I haven't needed the inhaler much in the last week, and that makes me happy. Hopefully that means our trip will be without incident -- and I'll be back to my crazy old self again very soon. Thank goodness.

In knitting news, I did all kinds of stuff over the weekend -- but, unfortunately, I don't have time to photograph it right now. The Super Secret Mystery Project is done, though -- and I kinda like how it turned out. And I did a lot of work on a baby sweater. I'm writing the pattern as I go, so it turned out to be more of a Small Child Sweater than a Baby Sweater -- but, hey...small children need sweaters, too.

My greatest dilemma is still deciding which projects to take. I've got some sweater stuff ready to go. And I've got the lace. And my BIL's scarf. And a felted bag for my niece. And the cotton for the Ballet Cami. And some other odds and ends. But the question is: what goes, and what stays? What's going to take up too much room? What's going to fill the time without filling the space? Decisions, decisions. I'm way more concerned about packing my knitting than I am about packing my clothes...

But I'll figure it out -- eventually. And the next time you hear from me, I'll be on the other side of the planet (or, perhaps, back from the other side of the planet). Until then, happy knitting!

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