All my past Malaysian holidays featured food, family, and shopping; arguably the holy trinity of all things Malaysian. I knew there was a lot more to see and do than traipse round the cities ticking dishes off my must-eat list with countless shopping bags in tow but I’m a city person, my family are city people. We didn’t grow up running through the hills or lolloping in the waves in New Zealand so there was no chance we were doing that on our precious trips back to Malaysia. However as this city-slicker grows older, lazier, and more discerning, a dash of relaxation (with a side of luxury where possible) is a staple ingredient in any holiday!
So this time round, while the food and family were still in pride of place, I decided to swap the shopping time (cue the shock horror from my family) for beach time. My mind automatically transported us to the sandy shores of Langkawi because that’s the beach to visit in Malaysia, right?! Langkawi is undoubtedly beautiful, perfect for your doses of sun and sea, and jammed packed with hotels for every budget, but we wanted something a little more exclusive… and needed somewhere a little closer to the other stops on our trip… Pangkor Laut Resort fit the bill perfectly.
For two people who have not yet mastered a decent doggy paddle, can barely float, and are just a tad uncomfortable in deep water, a certain someone and I have the most uncanny love of the beach. Lounging in the sun, a book in one hand and a drink in the other, with the sounds of waves lightly crashing in the background; we like a lot. Energetic watersports or hours spent underwater; we like less.
We’re the lazy kind of beach bums, but beach bums none the less, and will jump at any opportunity for some sand between our toes and a sniff of the salty sea air. Even if this means arriving at the wrong time of year… In our defence, you’d struggle to find perfect beach conditions in Essaouira any time of the year. This sleepy seaside town on Morocco’s coast looks ideal for a spot of sunbathing but the reality is, it’s just far too windy! But as Wellingtonians, we’re used to a little gust of wind so decided it just had to be added to our Morocco itinerary.
Have you ever reached that point where you really need a holiday? Not just that ‘itchy feet desperate to explore’ point, but that point where you’re completely exhausted. That point where you spend almost all your waking hours in the office, your flatmates have forgotten what you look like, and you fear your eyesight fading away with every extra minute you stare at your screen. That’s when you know you really need that holiday. We have.
The plan was to go somewhere hot, affordable, and preferably with a beach; our top choices were fairly easy, somewhere in Thailand or Indonesia. However, in typical last minute fashion, it was nearing the end of November, we were planning to go at the end of December, and as it happens, a lot of other overworked New Zealanders also plan to go somewhere hot, affordable and beachy over their Christmas holidays. Plan A was either all booked out or criminally expensive so we went to Plan B – google something else.
After almost a week in Havana, its once leisurely pace was starting to feel hectic… even the most die-hard of travellers get a little weary, time to take things down a notch. We were headed south to Trinidad, but decided to take a quick pit stop in Santa Clara– if for nothing other than to break up the tedious bus ride. This sleepy town is famous for being the site of Che’s final battle and resting place, with the gigantic Monumento Ernesto Che Guevara to prove it, and a museum for those really keen.
But that’s probably not what we’ll remember it for… More likely, it will be that unbeknownst to us, we had arrived during the ‘great toilet paper shortage of 2014’– we did think it was odd that our casa only had serviettes, and then one day every mercado in town was had lines out the door, with everyone emerging with a 4-pack. The news was clearly out- the shipment was in!
Our final stop in Mexico- a week on the Yucatan Peninsula with the plan to see some Maya ruins and hit the beach. After some ‘umming and ahhing’ (cue: my worst case scenarios involving various combos of breakdowns in the dark, guns, and carjackings) we decided to rent a car to get us round for the week… nowhere near as luxurious as Penelope, it was a bit of a miracle that we and the Bambino lasted the week together! With a gruntless little engine and no power steering, we navigated through the pot-hole riddled ‘highways’ and jostled for position in the tiny town streets.