‘Seven days, six islands, five dives and a lot of beer’ was how our friend Stu described our recent mini-holiday. I can’t really think of a better way to put it!
So, from the beginning. My first birthday living in Asia – and it was magical.
I woke up on the morning of February the 2nd, my birthday, and hauled myself out of bed only to find that Alex had got up very early (major Brownie points for this, as he doesn’t finish work until 2.00am) and bought me some beautiful Orchids, and was proceeding to cook me breakfast!
What a wonderful way to wake up:
We sat on the balcony and ate breakfast and drank coffee and I opened some cards, and then Alex headed off to the office and I took myself to Orchard Road, to find myself a new dress to wear to my birthday party that evening.
After a bit of browsing, I found the perfect dress – the dress of my dreams! It was exactly what I had in mind, and I fell in love with it instantly. Unfortunately, it was in rather an expensive shop, and upon looking at the price tag, I quickly realised that it was more than four times my budget (eek!) so I very quickly put it down in horror and moved to leave the shop before I could have a Pretty-Woman style shame moment. Before I could do so, the Sales Assistant stopped me and asked if I would like to try on the dress, as she had noticed me admiring it. I explained that unfortunately it was out of my budget, but she was very sweet and we got chatting and the fact that it was my birthday came up in conversation.
After a bit more chatting, I excused myself as I really had to get on and find something to wear. However, the Sales Assistant asked me to wait for a moment whilst she spoke to the Manager. I didn’t really want to, as I was in a bit of a rush, but she had been very sweet so I reluctantly agreed and spent the next few minutes toe-tapping at the front of the shop, looking at my watch.
Upon her return, the Sales Assistant was holding the dress I had fallen in love with draped over her arm. “Come on” she said, “Let’s try this on”.
I was beginning to feel a bit irritated by this point. “Look, it’s really very kind of you, but it’s hugely over my budget, so there’s really no point in me trying it on”.
She grinned. “I have spoken to my Manager. We only have one left in this size. If it fits you, you can have it – for whatever you can afford. It is your birthday, you must have the dress you want.”
I was speechless! I followed her into the changing rooms and tried the dress on – and oh my goodness, it was a perfect fit! Convinced that this was all a big joke, I took it off and slunk out of the changing room, clutching the dress gingerly in my hands.
“Did it fit?” she asked. I nodded.
“Right, then. It is yours.”
I wobbled “But…but I only have this much to spend!” and held out my hand. She smiled, looked at my hand, then took what was in it, removed a ten dollar bill, and put it back in my hand. “You need to keep this to get a taxi home” she smiled. “You cannot walk in this heat, with this dress”.
So, dear friends – I left the shop on my birthday with the dress of my dreams, feeling like the luckiest girl alive (whilst thanking them so much they virtually had to push me out of the door). This is the second time that something like this has happened to me here (the first being my Singapore Airlines Angel) and I am so grateful. She asked me not to name the shop, so I will not, but I can show you the dress. Here it is; I do hope you like it!
That evening, I put on my beautiful new dress and headed to the trusty Wine Connection at Robertson Quay, where we met up with the Banker, the Banker’s Wife, TV Girl, the Recruiter, Nick and his sister Kat – one of my best friends from back home – who had landed in Singapore at 6.30pm that evening! I was so excited! It was wonderful to see her, and we all had a lovely time catching up over some delicious prosecco and tapas.
Kat also bought with her a huge great bag of birthday presents from England! Amongst other things, I got a whole raft of British cosmetics (and two big bottles of Fairy Liquid!) from Kat, an incredible glass vase from Nick, King of Birthday Glassware, and a beautiful laptop case from my best friend Kitty which I adore! Isn’t it amazing?
We then moved onto a fun club at Clarke Quay called China One – they have good music and pool tables.
There was a slightly embarrassing moment when we got there – us four girls had gone ahead in a cab before the boys to get a table and, upon sitting down, realised that the boys had all the cash! After a frantic scramble through our bags, we collected enough to buy one drink, which we then sat down and shared between the four of us. (It was also, I must point out, a very tiny drink). A passing man took a photo of us, and after a very embarrassing comment about ‘waiting for the men to come and buy you a drink’ we were very grateful when the boys turned up to rescue us from further mortification.
The rest of the evening was lovely, and feeling rather rotten as we had not got to bed until 5.00am, Alex and I hauled ourselves up at 8.00am to get to the airport and on a plane to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia!
After a two-hour stop-over in KL (marred somewhat by Air Asia’s ridiculous baggage policy – our hand luggage allowance was 7KG, and ours weighed 7.2KG so OF COURSE we had to go all the way back through security, queue again and check-in again and check the damn thing which cost us the best part of an hour – argh!!) we were finally through to departures and on a plane to Langkawi.
Langkawi is very beautiful – officially named ‘the Jewel of Kedah’ in Malay, it technically comprises an archipelago of 99 islands, separated from mainland Malaysia by the Straits of Malacca. The main island of Langkawi, which we flew into, is beautiful; quite dusty and mountainous, but with gorgeous vegetation and surrounded by stunning turquoise-blue sea.
As a special birthday treat, Alex had arranged for the two of us to stay at a beautiful resort on Langkawi, called the Langkawi Lagoon, for the evening before joining the boat at the marina the next day. Upon arrival, we checked in and then went directly to the beach and soaked up the views because they were simply stunning!
Here are some pictures (and yes: I took them all myself this time!)
After a lovely dinner at an Italian bistro on the beach comprising of some utterly perfect seafood pasta and some really hideous pizza – weird – we headed to bed.
The next morning we got up and breakfasted at the resort before jumping in a taxi and heading to the marina at Langkawi, where Alex’s Daddy was meeting us on their boat, Chrysalis. I must take a moment to say here that, although I am clearly biased, Chrysalis is actually the most beautiful boat in the entire world. Here she is:
They arrived and whilst the boat was refuelling, we headed across the harbour and had lunch in a glorious Spanish restaurant overlooking the waterfront, ran by a local expat. The food was sublime – wonderful big, juicy mussels, fresh slabs of bread, crispy squid, big fat prawns and Paella, and a free jug of Sangria from the proprietor to perk everyone up a bit! We had intended to stock up with some wine whilst we were there, as Langkawi is a duty-free port, but unfortunately we had forgotten that it was still Chinese New Year and so all the shops were shut. Duty-free Fail.
Post-lunch, and after some refuelling, we set sail! The party on the boat was made up of Alex and myself, Alex’s daddy, his girlfriend, our friend Stu, the Skipper Ollie and Chrysalis’ lovely new hostess, Joy.
I shan’t describe our trip in too much detail, as it will take up huge acres of space and I can’t possibly fit everything in. However, there were some highlights.
We spend a day and a night at Koh Lipe, a tiny island in the Adang-Rawi Archipelago in the Satun Province of Thailand. I actually spent my last birthday here, too:
And this is Lipe:
It is really, truly beautiful here – Alex’s Daddy remarked that it is what Koh Phi Phi was like twenty years ago (Phi Phi is another island a couple of hours away from the Village which is very gorgeous but a bit tourist central).
All along the beachfront on Lipe are dotted lots of little local restaurants selling whatever was caught that day. We found one that had some nice looking squid laid out on the table and sat down to eat.
Here’s the front of the restaurant (apologies for the picture quality)
The food was perfect; fresh, simple, delicious, and wonderfully cheap. Here’s what we got:
We then got back on the rib and went back to Chrysalis for a decent night’s sleep.
The rest of the holiday was spent sailing, eating, drinking and exploring. The sunsets were magical, and we were incredibly lucky with the weather!
Here is a pink sunset in the Andaman Sea:
Here is Alex and I enjoying cocktail hour (“must….breathe….in….!”)
And here is Stu getting ready for a dive:
The diving was possible because the boat has just had a dive system installed, so the boys – but not me or Chris’ girlfriend, as we do not have our PADI qualifications – went out a lot. One particularly memorable incident happened just off Koh Phi Phi – the boys were on a dive, and Ollie the Skipper and I were sitting on the back of the boat waiting for the bright orange funnel to surface to let us know that they had finished their dive and wanted to be picked up.
We settled down and, after half an hour or so, started to wonder where they had got to. After forty minutes, Ollie (a wonderfully dour Scotsman) straightened up, cracked his knuckles, lit a cigarette, and growled “Och, that’s it; they’ve had it. They’ve roon out of air”.
I completely freaked out – visions of having to call in and report them all dead – but Ollie was just having me on. Their air had run out but, of course, they had just surfaced – the only reason we couldn’t see them was because they had simply floated round the corner of the island. Ollie steered the boat round and there they were – I think they were a little bemused upon finding me so overjoyed to see them.
The boys took Chris’ girlfriend and I for a wonderful snorkelling session amongst the coral in a beautiful sheltered bay, to make up for the fact that we could not dive. The water was crystal-clear, and we saw multitudes of rainbow-coloured fish, shoals of silvery slippery things flitting past as quick as lightening. We also saw a Moray Eel, and two huge blue-lipped clams that creaked shut like wrinkly old mouths when you put your hand near them.
We spent our last afternoon on the beach at Koh Phi Phi – we parked ourselves in a lovely restaurant on the beach and had Tom Yam, Pad Thai and Green Curry for lunch. Yum!
We were then all treated to a wonderful massage on the beach – bliss! – and then I settled down with my book whilst the boys played Patonque on the beach.
We set sail from Phi Phi at around 6.00pm, and arrived back at Koh Rang – the island opposite the Village – to moor the boat at about eight thirty. The waters were quite busy by this point, as the Phuket Regatta is being held at the Village over the next two days, and lots of yachts had started to come in by this point. We took the rib over to the Village, showered (which was bliss in itself – after nearly a week of ten-second cold showers to conserve water on the boat, a hot shower was SUCH a luxury!) and then wandered down to the beachfront bar for dinner. We spent a lovely evening – Kat and Nick were there with their parents, and our friend Benjy’s lovely parents were staying on the Island too so they were also there. It was wonderful to hear about England and catch up a bit.
After an early night, Alex was up first thing this morning to fly back to Singapore to go back to work, and I am currently writing this from a very hot, sticky office on the Island.
So, that brings us to the end of our Birthday Adventure – perhaps when I’m fifty I will be touring Outer Space for my birthday trip (it does no harm to hope!)
All my love,