It’s been a while since my last post. Not because I am getting tired of blogging (not at all!) but because I have been on vacation for the past 2 weeks. First I spent a couple of days in Beijing for Chinese New Year. It was freezing cold so among others we went skiing in Shijinglong, one of the many ski resorts north of Beijing. For some pictures see for example here, here or here. We also visited the ice sculptures in Longqingxia and we went bathing in an open air hot springs north of Beijing – very nice to warm up in the middle of winter.
After Beijing we went back to Shanghai for a day to pack our suitcases for a week-long trip to Malaysia. We decided to fly Air Asia from Hangzhou (a 2-hour drive from our home, 1 hour more than to Pudong airport). Air Asia is a low-cost carrier that offers a “business class” type seat on its A330 which was a lot cheaper than business class seats on a regular flight to Malaysia. With Scott it’s better to have a bit more space on the airplane, especially during a 5-hour flight. We were quite happy with the airline (we also used them from KL to Langkawi and back), the planes were excellent and they had very friendly staff. The only thing they should improve is the international terminal at KL airport (at the LCC terminal), this was dirty, noisy and far below what I had expected after having seen the domestic terminal.
We (my parents, my wife Grace and our son Scott) spent 2 days in KL to do some sightseeing and shopping. We stayed at the Renaissance Hotel in KL, the same hotel where I stayed 5 years ago as well with Grace. Still a good choice and excellent value for money and a central location next to the Petronas Towers.
On Sunday we took the 1-hour flight to Langkawi, a beautiful tropical island that had not changed much since I last stayed there a couple of years ago. Langkawi is not as developed and commercial as most of the Thai islands, and I therefore it has a more relaxed atmosphere than places like Koh Samui. The only downside is that Malaysia attracts a lot of conservative muslims, so you should not be surprised to see women dressed in burkha’s on the beach. I always feel a bit strange when I see muslim men wearing shorts, tank tops and sport shoes in the tropical heat, but their wife (or wives) has to wear the black robes covering their whole body including their face. I don’t judge it, people should make their own decisions about their religion or how they want to live their life, but it’s very different from what you see in most other tropical resorts where I normally go.
The vacation in Langkawi was great: we stayed in a good resort (the Meritus Pelangi Beach Resort) and had a relaxed week. But it was also a bit different than former beach holidays because Scott joined us this time. I probably spent more time in my hotel room trying to get him to sleep (and staying with him while he’s sleeping), feeding him, changing his diapers etc. than on the beach or at the pool. But it was nice to be with him 24 hours a day, and he also liked it a lot to see us all the time.
I rented a minivan upon arrival so we could travel all over the island whenever we wanted. We made a couple of trips to other beaches and to visit some of the other beach resorts, and we went to one of the night markets on the island. If you go to Langkawi I would advise you to rent a car, it’s relatively cheap and there is not much traffic in the island.
It turned out that our resort was not very busy, even though it was high season. While talking to the owner of a local restaurant we learned that this was because of the global financial crisis, they are really starting to feel that there as well. He told us that normally around this time of year he would serve 150 tables per night, and on the night we were there we only saw two other tables… If the crisis gets worse I think a lot of restaurants and resorts might have a very hard time to survive.
Interesting was that one of my Dutch Twitter friends (www.twitter.com/fishinchina) was also staying in our resort . We found out by coincidence (through Twitter) and we had a couple of beers in the swimming pool bar. He closed down his agency for a while to travel the world with his wife and kids and Langkawi turned out to be their first stop. Interesting enough my father knows his father quite well, it’s really a small world – and Twitter makes it even smaller!
During this holiday I tried not to work too much and that worked out well. On average I only checked my mail once every two days or so and I just answered the most important mails. I felt good because I was informed about what was going on in the company, but I did not feel the urge to reply all mails or make phone calls. In the past I could not really distance myself from the company, except when it was impossible to keep in touch – such as during our bike trip in Tibet or while climbing Kilimanjaro. But I realize I am more and more able to let go. Good to know, and I plan to keep on doing this during future vacations!
The only downside is that I spent most of the da
y today in my study catching up on email, because I want to be up to speed on everything before entering the office tomorrow. But I feel very relaxed and am ready to go back to work. One week on a tropical island with my family is exactly enough for me to recharge my batteries. Maybe I should do this more often?