62. Making friends with an anticlimax.

Three vouchers, four queues and a minivan  later and we find ourselves resident in a Day Room at a hotel, somewhere near Kuala Lumpur.

It’s enormous, this hotel. Enormous. Four pavilions. And the architects are having a right old laugh, they must be.  “Let’s throw as many different luxe surfaces together as we can in this joint eh, see what we can get away with” .

We have distressed marble, metal fretwork, crazed glass, frosted glass, coloured glass. We have parquet walls and ceramic tiled walls and papered walls. We have striped carpet on marbled tiles. Oh yes, and I’m just spying a massive wall made of beveled edge mirror panels.

In our Day Room (which isn’t configured any differently to a Night Room that I can tell), the walls seem to be covered in sand that appears to have been glued to them. I can’t even begin to imagine why this could ever be considered a good idea. They’ve thrown some mosaic tiles in too though; it’s not the Sahara remember.  The chief bathroom surface seems to be a painted particle board. I guess all that marble cut into the rooms budget.

But it’s okay.

Maybe one day I’ll learn how to curate the journey home from an adventure. But I have’t cracked it yet.

Homeward bound  seems to me to be the travellers equivalent of  a diver being thrown in a chamber in case he gets the bends. Not pleasant, but necessary. We have to stay here for twelve hours; there’s no avoiding it. It’s how we safely re-enter the real world.

I am at one with this.But honestly? Only just.

61. The bigger the hotel, the fatter the guest.

Ten things I’ve learned on this Asian experience with my boy:

  1. Leopards are pretty scary when they’re strolling past your open top jeep and looking you in the eye
  2. It’s important to manually date stamp every form and ticket, preferably with some force
  3. The bigger the hotel, the fatter the guest
  4. Arabic women have the full black kit for swimming as well. They look like they’re going diving
  5. Optimal Cody is found between 4 and 10 in the blood sugar range. Any higher and his sweetness leaves the temple
  6. Buddhas still me like nothing else has ever been able to
  7. The world doesn’t end if my nails aren’t perfect
  8. When the sign says shut your balcony door as the monkeys are very cheeky and will steal from you, it’s true
  9. “Little bit spicy” can be loosely translated as “really fucking hot”
  10. The train will eventually come

59. My relationship with sand.

It’s complicated.

Not that we’ve broken up six times, then got married, then broke up again, then hooked up again or anything like that. But I’m never sure where I stand with sand.

I mean I love it, don’t get me wrong. Standing on sand means you’re not needed anywhere else in the main. You’re definitely not at work and you’re probably not in a hurry to do much but lie down.  It is most often attached to sea as well.  Most would call that a bonus.

We’ve just had three days at Bentota Beach on the South Coast of Sri Lanka, and twice a day I have skittered across the sand to get into the Indian Ocean where, surprisingly, I swam.  And swam.  It was warm you see.

I have spent years watching all the boys in my life throw themselves into the sea and onto the adjacent sand with abandon. I watch with envy and will myself to transform into Action Woman and join them. And I run in, I do, til the sea flirts with my butt, then I stand for a bit and say my goodbyes.  That’s what I do. I have done this perhaps five hundred times; each time I think it will be different than the last. It isn’t.

After my retreat, I begin the strange dance where I arrange the towel and try to mount it without sand accompanying me. I fail. Once I’ve failed, which I do every time of course, I sacrifice myself to the sand gods and just lie the fuck down.

At Bentota, my interaction with the sand was running across it to get to the warm sea.Like a chunky little gazelle I was, twice a day.

But now I’m back at Colombo, and it’s 1130pm I am sitting in front of Casa Colombo in a garden bar with a sand floor. Now this sand, this sand I am at one with. Hello my friend. Maybe I am destined to remain  a fascinating stranger to the beach, an action woman only in the city.

I am learning to make peace with it all.

Vodka and Soda,thanks, that would be great.


57. Bentota Bridge Club.

We have the makings of a sit-com right here on Bentota Beach, on the South Coast of Sri Lanka.

I met a man at yoga early yesterday morning. He was with an elegant female friend and they were the earnest ones in the back row. I was the slightly shambolic late arrival in the front row, alone. Damn, the punishment of a late entry.

Born in Sri Lanka, with many years living in New Zealand before taking up residency in the UK, Andy was at the resort for a month, one week down. A return guest, he told me he’s been coming since 69 when it first opened.  He comes for a month twice a year these days, to the same resort (and I hazard a guess at the same room) and this time he has a posy of British bridge players with him. They’re going to play bridge for a fortnight under the palm trees, with tables and straight backs and frightfully good manners and sensible summer frocks.

Turned out the lady friend lives around the corner from us in Auckland and had a pretty 14 year old daughter who was craving the company of someone her age.

Bye Mr Cody.

We joined Andy’s group for dinner, all pearls and insect repellant and beautiful bright British smiles. What a fabulous eccentric group, here to play cards in 32 degrees.  The posh British accents jostled for pole position, but no one could compete with Andy, the star of the show, the court jester, the compere, the host, the translator, and the local.  He’s probably Secretly Royal in England, but here he is so clearly King Andy. Long Live the King.

This is why I love to travel. Kindred spirits are attracted easily. Everyone has a vacancy for an adventure, a vacancy for a new friend, a new conversation, a memorable evening. The connections are strong but fleeting.

This morning we say goodbye to Bentota Beach, and King Andy, and the elegant lady from the neighborhood back home and the pretty fourteen year old and head back to Casa Colombo for a night.

I want to come back but I probably never will. Too many other countries yet to discover.

Bye Bentota Bridge Club. I know you have two weeks of competitive card playing ahead of you, but I reckon you’ve all already won.

55. On giving thanks

We all have a lot to be grateful for I’m sure.  I know I do. And in the main, I’m pretty good at counting my blessings.

But being in this Buddhist country, the opportunities to pause a while are many. Little temples with serene Buddhas rest on every corner, and rarely is someone not taking a moment to pray at the Buddha’s feet.

I am crazy about temples, and find myself drawn to them often. I can stand in a magnificent Dutch church as I did yesterday at Galle, and feel awe at the architecture, but it is in the small flower festooned temples, with burning incense and love in the air, that I feel my heart expanding with peace and gratefulness.

It’s early and my boy is still asleep. His scores were running high yesterday which gave him a short fuse and a slow response rate. He was so inspiring, injecting himself four maybe five times throughout the day to try and get his body back under control. No complaining. It’s the way he keeps himself alive. I am praying he wakes at a healthy score this morning. He so deserves it.

There is still a part of me that grieves for the healthy boy I lost when he was diagnosed at five. But there is a bigger part of me that is excited for Cody now, and for me too. His challenges are growing him into such a big hearted, wise, optimistic young man. Every day is important to him; every human connection is important to him. He is quick to laugh and the slowest to judge I know.

For that, and so many other things in my life, I give thanks.

54. Accommodating me.

This place smells. We’re staying at a place called Elephant Reach, or should that be Retch?  It’s not an unbearable smell, just kind of an eu de two star that permeates the sweet  jungle air.   I think it’s a combination of cheap motel soap (smells the same all over the world that I can tell) , cleaning products (I know, I know, I should be quietly grateful for this ingredient) and a thousand shedding bodies that have slept in this room before us.

I made a little promise to myself that we would mix up the accommodation this trip, and give Cody a broad overview of how that all works. What a stupid idea. To be honest, he’s coping with it better than me; there’s a pool Mum!

I have had my share of cheap gaffs, more than my share if I look back. And while there are many outstanding memories than remain from those travelling days, these days I’m more than happy to stash the cash pre departure and fund an extra star or two.

Cheap wine and a three day growth?  Don’t mind if I do. Cheap room? Not so much.