Saturday, October 29, 2011

Line-dancing with Malaysia's future Queen


Today began in Kuala Lumpur with an early morning trip to the airport to catch the flight to Langkawi to have dinner with the next Queen of Malaysia and Malaysia’s dynamic Minister of Tourism, Dr. Ng Yen Yen. As usual, I was cutting it close. It was just a little over 90 minutes to my flight and there I was getting into my car parked in the hotel driveway, in the middle of KL's CBD. The driver was understandably nervous, so he literally raced down the highway as soon as we cleared the city.

Just then, my friend J BBM-ed to comment on some previous blog entry, and specifically about something only he would understand. It was very convenient, actually, as I had 45 minutes to KLIA to chat about anything and everything with him.

I messaged him, after we'd discussed a couple of things: "This feels like old times. I'm BBM-ing you from a speeding car on the way to KLIA." We'd had lots of BBM chats from airport limousines, airline lounges, check-in counters and airplane seats -- and literally from all over the world -- in the course of two very busy Travelives.

“Isn’t Malaysia about 50 years ahead of the Philippines?” He asked, with a sad smiley face at the end of the BBM. Yes, it is. If the Philippines is 3rd World, Malaysia is about 1.5, especially around KL where everything works, things are efficient, and they’ve actually had enough foresight to keep the greenery going. And, yes, the airport is nice and clean, and Malaysians can be proud of it.

IS THIS A SMALL WORLD, OR WHAT?

Then on the plane to Langkawi, I bumped into Mr. Hotel Owner who I’d had lunch with the previous day. I’ve decided to call him Mr. Monopoly instead, as Mr. Hotel Owner is a gross understatement. I think I wrote about him in a past entry, but if Kuala Lumpur were a Monopoly board, he would literally own half of it. And he also happens to own one of the most beautiful resorts in Malaysia – if not in the world – as well. Well, Mr. Monopoly was attending the same dinner I was going to in Langkawi, as he's a good friend of the Tourism Minister, so we had a nice chat about just how good it must be to live in Malaysia.


A WARM LANGKAWI WELCOME

In Langkawi, my welcoming committee was in place. I was very kindly provided with a very impressive limo with state-of-the-art stuff I'd not yet seen in other cars, a great driver who was an excellent resource on life in Langkawi, and the most patient guide in the world.

After I’d checked into my hotel, you see, I had a few hours before dinner; so I took a map of Langkawi out and pointed to everything I wanted to see. I’m going on someone’s yacht tomorrow to see Langkawi’s famous surrounding scenery -- apparently this is similar to Vietnam's Ha Long Bay -- so this afternoon, all I wanted to do was shop. And these two gentlemen took me everywhere I wanted to go.

SHOPPING GALORE

I went to a couple of crafts places and ended up in Langkawi’s largest duty-free mall just to see what it was like. The whole island is duty-free and I was given a list of best-buys in Langkawi by well-meaning friends in KL, so I decided to check these out at the Langkawi mall. That took care of the afternoon. The standard stuff to get include chocolates, alcohol and -- for some reason -- glassware. But perfume, make-up and luxury goods are good buys here too.

BLACK AND GOLD FOR DINNER

In the evening, I had just enough time to get into a long gown – the theme tonight was black and gold – and head for the party before the arrival of my host, and the arrival of the Queen of Langkawi and Kedah, who will be the Queen of Malaysia from December since the kingship is rotated between the different sultanates. A princess from a neighboring state was joining the party as well.

The hotel put out a yellow carpet from the driveway all the way to the venue, and staff spent all afternoon keeping it spic and span until the arrival of the Queen. Apparently, no one is supposed to step on this yellow carpet while the Queen is walking on it.

When I met the royals, they all seemed curious that someone had flown all the way from Manila to join them for dinner tonight. But they were great conversationalists – as many royals the world over are – and equally great dancers. After dinner, a band came on and I soon found myself line-dancing next to the future Queen of Malaysia while the Princess went up on stage to sing a few songs.

DANCING ALL WEEK

I smiled to myself, remembering how just over a week ago, I’d literally danced all night at the AIESEC party we organized at the Peninsula Conservatory. And then I’d flown to Cebu and danced under the moon and the stars. And tonight, there I was in Langkawi line-dancing next to the future Queen of this beautiful country until 130 AM. The Queen is so charming, and she certainly dances wonderfully.

And tomorrow night, it’s dinner and a stay at one of the most beautiful resorts in the world. Nope, it's not Mr. Monopoly's resort because that very famous place is in an entirely different part of Malaysia. But the one I'm going to tomorrow is equally well-known and beautiful.

The invitation came out of the blue from an old friend, but the offer was too irresistible to say no to; so I changed all my plans, to stay at this amazing, world-famous place as soon as my host leaves Langkawi tomorrow at noon. That's when my official schedule ends and some private time begins.

Just another couple of days in our never-ending, and never-endingly eventful, Travelife.

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