Saturday, February 12, 2011

'Mazing Malaysia -Exploring Sarawak

Five things to do in Kuching, Malaysia
Located in Sarawak on the Island of Boreno, Kuching is a not-to-miss destination easily accessible in less than two hours on a flight from Kuala Lumpur. The are many wonderful things to see and do but do not miss these five must-do:

1. City tour: Visit the Sawawak Museum housed in a Victorian-style building where the natural and cultural history of the area are highlighted. Kuching’s mascot is the cat so visit the Cat Museum located high on the hill above the city affording a great view. It was the world’s first cat museum.
2. Explore the waterfront: What was once a bustling shipping area is no a beautiful place attracting foreigners and locals. There are museums, shops, and places to sample local cuisine.
3. Semengoh Orang Utan: Arrive in time for the 9:00 feeding. The Orangs are semi-wild and in the process of being rehabilitated so they can live on their own. They roam freely in the rainforest usually returning at feeding time if they are hungry. Most were rescued or born to rescued mothers.
4. River Cruise: End the day with a sunset cruise on the Sarawak River. It is a great way to see the city. The tour starts with a travel video. Complimentary juice and cake are served. Between the travel commentary traditional dances are highlighted.
5. Bidayuh Longhouse: Climb the notched log steps into the traditional longhouse built on stilts and receive a welcome glass of tuak, the local rice wine. View the Bidayuh as they weave, dry rice, and go about their daily life.

In Kuching stay at the Hilton with excellent views of the city and river. For a beach location nothing beats Damai Beach Hotel. It is in walking distance of the Sarawak Cultural Village.
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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Side Trip to Bangladesh

Our week in Bangladesh was made great due to the Pan Pacific Hotel and the people who are wonderful. We spent a lot of time enjoying the hotel – the pool, the health club and Club Level. The flowers must be dirt cheap – we had a fresh floral arrange each day with a dozen roses and white flowers that put out a nice smell but only in the evening. Club level was awesome. One day we did a city tour but after visiting two places gave it up because of the incredible traffic. The next day we did a river trip which we really liked. The boat was basic but the guide made a wonderful lunch – his wife and child came along which was nice – she told her husband…“They are Americans. I want to go.” We stopped at a fishing village. The people we very friendly and didn’t expect anything in return.

In the places we visited I don’t know who took the most pictures.. us or the local people using their cell phones to take picture of us! We were obviously the attraction. It was actually quite fun. No one begged – everyone was respectful. The youngsters who knew a few words in English said “Hello” and then became very shy. One young boy about 7 in a suit came up and in perfect English offered his hand to shake and said. “It is a pleasure to meet you.” Some asked if they could take our picture with their children… Obviously there are not many American tourists in Bangladesh – it was quite refreshing. They are gearing up for the Cricket World Cup. Most are very poor but there are also a lot of nice cars. Bangladesh is one of the most populated countries in the world… but they are friendly, welcoming and very hard working. Friday is the Moslem holy day so the ride to the airport that took 3 hrs on arrival took 25 minute when we left.

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Friday, February 4, 2011

Amazing Myanmar

There are many amazing things at Amazing Resort at Ngapali Beach. First that such a high-end resort exists in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, on a beautiful pristine beach is in itself amazing. John and I have been fortunate to visit many countries – some several times - and we have stayed in some wonderful accommodations but the one place that tugs at our heart to return again and again is Amazing Resort in Ngapali on the Bay of Bengal. We love all the nice touches from the Myanmar-made lacquer ware sink with the amenities in tiny lacquer ware pagodas to beautiful gardens to the friendly attentive staff.

We have returned four times. The palm-fringed beach is pristine, long and sweeping with no annoying vendors. In fact it is virtually deserted except for an occasional person walking on the beach. The soft sand is cool, the sea is warm with gentle waves, and the sun is hot but it is cool under the thatched umbrellas.

John and I start the day with a beach walk to the huge rock with a pagoda on the top. After breakfast overlooking the Bay of Bengal we spend hours on the beach reading, cooling off in the sea by floating on the inner tubes provided by the hotel, and dozing. In the late afternoon we walk to other direction on the beach to the mermaid on the rock but make sure we are back in time to watch the sun set over the Bay of Bengal from our balcony.

When we head to dinner on the hotel’s flagstone patio overlooking the infinity pool and sea there was no question as to what cocktail to order each night. John preferred a Ngapali Sunset and I liked the Bay of Bengal cocktail. Ms. Khin Khin Phyce dressed in the traditional full-length wrap around skirt worn by both men and women served them. John’s Ngapali Sunset was a soothing mix of rum, orange juice and grenadine the color of the setting sun. My cocktail, the Bay of Bengal, with gin, brandy, lime, orange juice, and grenadine also reflected the nightly spectacular.

Sipping our cocktails we watch the sun set like a gold disc melting into the sea. The spectacle continues as the horizon becomes layered in a beautiful array of blue, pink and purple. Then another amazing thing happens. As the darkness settles golden lights appear where the sky meets the sea forming a twinkling necklace on the horizon. Each evening the fishing boats from the local villages head out to sea on their nightly fishing expedition insuring that we will have fresh fish for our meals. The lights from their boats form a twinkling star-like chain along the horizon. Amazing. The dinner menu has an international flair but we enjoy sampling the local cuisine especially the Myanmar Curry with Chicken which is served in a large, black lacquer ware pagoda-style container. Everywhere there are wonderful local touches. The cocktails, the resort, and beach are truly amazing at Amazing Ngapali Beach Resort.

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