No going back

Just looking at the calendar and it has been a whole year since I packed in the 9 to 5 (or 8 ’til 8 to be accurate) and took some time out for myself. Soon I will have to get back into the mainstream of society and do things like work, pay a mortgage etc. Part of me is looking forward to the exciting challenges a new job will bring but this past year has been a year full of achievement and personal fulfillment which will be difficult for just any job to top.

In 12 months I have travelled in 3 different continents. I have watched the sunrise in Langkawi and the sunset in Bali. I have flown over the Grand Canyon in a helicopter, taken a train through the orange groves of Florida, ridden a bus to Singapore and sat in a taxi to The Cameron Highlands. I have crawled underneath the streets of Seattle, segwayed round San Francisco and walked from the Lincoln Memorial to Capitol Hill. I have applauded the fireworks at The Petronas Towers and squinted at the Mona Lisa in Paris. I have danced in front of Cinderellas Castle in Disney World at midnight and wandered aimlessly through Montmarte in the afternoon. I have eaten in two revolving restaurants and many revolting ones. I have had hot coffee in the very first Starbucks and cold ice cream in one of the highest. I have seen Led Zeppelin reform and The Kaiser chiefs on form. I have watched Pink hang from the ceiling and saw George Bush fly 20 metres over my head. I have shared an outdoor shower with a frog and another one with a mother-in-law (don’t ask!). I pushed hay bales in Auvergne and pushed all-in in Vegas. I got stuck on a ride in Disney World and got moved by a mangled Radio Mast in Washington. I have fished off the coast of Cork and had fish eat my feet in a spa. I have had a Singapore sling in Singapore, a hot dog at Fenway Park and malaysian fried rice in Malaysia. I have ridden the cable car to Sentosa and kayaked in the Chin Chin straits. I wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote and never got bored once. I got engaged in a greasy spoon and married on a sandy beach.

I did this all with the WoH right beside me and when I eventually go back to plugging away at the 9 to 5 I will look back on the last 12 months as the beginning of a new direction for both of us. Forward.

I can’t wait.

Get Smart in Kuala Lumpur

We are spending the last week of our honeymoon in Kuala Lumpur and are staying at the Traders Hotel in the city centre. We have a spectacular view of The Petronas Towers and are just across the road from the Suria Mall.

To get out of the heat we decided to go an watch a movie and picked ‘Get Smart’ the new Steve Carell movie. We both like Steve in the US version of ‘The Office’ and both hated Evan Almighty so we had no expectations for this diversion. As long as it was cool in the theatre and we got a giggle or two then for 10RM (about £1.50) we were not going to complain.

This film was a joy to watch. It may not be the funniest film ever made but the real pleasure came in the reactions of the local malay audience. They are not reticent like the brits and will gladly give a loud belly laugh at the silliest of things. The laughter is infectious and before you know it, you have tears in your eyes because Steve Carell pronounced the villains name ‘Kristic’ as ‘fish stick’. Yeah I know. Not that funny is it?

The film does have some classic moments, the spoof of Catherine Zeta Jones’s laser sequence in ‘Entrapment’ is good as is the physical comedy of dancing with a hugely fat woman. The dynamic between Carell and his younger co-star Anne Hathaway is believable and sparky and even The Rock is funny. The film gets more and more ridiculous as it continues but Carell holds it together by just being downright funny.

My view of the film is entirely biased due to the audience I watched it with. The Rock walked into a wall and the place erupted in the kind of laughter not heard in UK cinemas since the famous Beans scene in Blazing Saddles.

Check it out in the UK and let me know how funny you thought it was.

The reverse panda

Yesterday was my birthday and looking back over 34 other birthdays this one was one of the most memorable.

The jet lag has not left us yet and so we were both wide awake at 2am in the morning. As luck would have it this also coincided with the live broadcast of the portugal v turkey euro 2008 game. A great start to the day.

At 7am we headed to the dining room for breakfast. This involved picking our way through the various wildlife of the rainforest. We were lucky enough to spot some of the monkeys that usually keep away from the guests. They are all black but with white eyes and white mohican type haircuts. Very cute but absolutely wild and would rip your eyes out for a banana (much like the WoH). Think of a panda in negative and you get the idea.

After our jungle trek we made it to the dining room. Unbeknownst to me the WoH had arranged a little surprise in the shape of a chocolate cake. For breakfast. The cake was brought out by three of the Datai waiters who also sang Happy Birthday (rather well I might add).

After breakfast we finally felt sleepy and went back to bed. Sadly we had to get up after a couple of hours for some legal appointments in town. We were both pretty groggy but managed to stay awake long enough to get interviewed by the local registrar who deemed us fit to be married. We then went to get that form stamped by somebody and then had another interview with a ‘district officer’ who also pronounced us fit to be wed. It did seem like form-filling for the sake of it, however we were happy to jump through the various local hoops in order to do the deed. We had a guide called Herman who helped us through the various stages of approval and we could not have done it without him.

We also got a chance to meet with the florist who it turned out was a transvestite with a penchant for belching. I await the fruits of his/her labours with interest.

By the time we returned to the hotel we were dead on our feet again. The manager of the hotel had kindly left half bottle of red wine and a card in honour of my birthday which was a really nice touch.

We got room service, finished off the breakfast birthday cake and were in bed by 9. Asleep. Sadly only to wake again in time for the Germany v Poland game. Damn shame.

The WoH has been taking pictures and has put some of them up on the web here. Enjoy.

The benefits of Jet Lag

Well, we made it to Langkawi – a tiny island in the Chin Chin straits off the coast of Malaysia.

It has taken us two days to get here but The 11 hour KLM flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was made easier by getting a good deal on some first-class tickets. Lie flat beds, great food, lovely wine and being called by your name was a joy and reminded me of what I thought air travel was actually like when I was 10 years old. It seemed glitzy and glamorous and far removed from the cattle trucks the planes now resemble. We can’t get good seats on the way back but perhaps KLM will take pity on some honeymooners and upgrade us free of charge.

Kuala Lumpur airport is a joy and an example to every other airport in the world (i’m looking at you Florida!). This is the second time we have passed through it and the cleanliness, easy layout and courteous staff make it one of the best in the world.

The flight to Langkawi was only an hour and a driver from the Datai was on hand to drive us to a secluded bay at the northernmost tip. The hotel is beautiful. Set right into the rainforest with as minimal an impact as they can manage. We have a villa to ourselves in the middle of the jungle and it is magical. The sound of monkeys and cicadas sure beats police sirens and er..police sirens.

Because we slept well on the long leg of the journey we are out of sync with everyone else on the island. We were wide awake at three in the morning and with (almost) nothing else to do decided to get up and watch the sunrise.

With the aid of a torch, we picked our way through the forest, avoiding the deadly wildlife (geckos) and found our way to the deserted beach. We watched the sun slowly light up the bay, turning the clouds red. The only sound was the waves lapping on the white sands.

It was alright if you like that kind of thing.

(which we do)

A magical start to our visit here and we never would have seen it if it wasn’t for jet lag.

Numb3rs

My brain is filled with numbers at the moment. Allow me to share.

On Saturday and Sunday I played in the most expensive (official) poker tournament ever held in Aberdeen. There were 72 entrants each paying £400 to enter. (Including a rebuy). I never paid that owing to winning an earlier game. After 18 hours of play I finished on the final table in 9th place and got £600 for my trouble. The money is not as important to me as the fact that I did this well against some of the best players in Scotland who had travelled to the game. I only play once a week in a fairly low stakes game so I am delighted with this achievement.

June also marks 12 months since I quit my job and decided to take some time out. In that time I have travelled through 3 continents visiting over 25 destinations by 5 different methods of transport, taken over 10 hours of video footage and over 1000 photographs, all in the company of the WoH. I have also written 1 screenplay, co-wrote 1 book and won 1 competition for writing.

In 2 days the WoH and I will be travelling 1000’s of miles to 1 island called Langkawi. 7 days after that the 2 of us will be joined as 1 in a marriage ceremony on the beach.

My number is up. I can’t wait.

Las Vegas video

As if you didn’t hate us both enough, here to make your day is our Vegas video, complete with Grand Canyon helicopter flight (paid for by Poker winnings). I will not apologise for the shakey camera work as it is difficult to keep steady when you are trembling with fear flying in a helicopter.

And please leave a comment if you enjoyed it. Or even if you didn’t.

January was a long time ago

OK. I haven’t been writing as much blog material as you have all been getting used to. I have been a touch busy helping the WoH organise some event or other..weeding or wedding or something. Anyway I did manage to put some time into getting all our holiday movies off of tape and onto a hard disk.
For your enjoyment I present the first in a long, boring series of holiday movies. First up Bali.

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