Last week I wrote about how honeymoons don’t have to be jet-set, swanky affairs, about how they can just be the two of you and a bottle of wine in a windy tent and it would still be perfect.
This post is altogether more shallow. Sorry. But asking for money towards honeymoons, whilst not everyone’s cup of tea, has become a widely accepted alternative to the gift list. And I’d like to tell you what we did with the money we received from our generous family and friends.
We went on the kind of holiday that we would NEVER have thought about doing in a million years. The kind of holiday that you dream about when it’s cold and wet and you’re overworked and underpaid and life looks grey. The kind of holiday that you see in the Sunday supplements and close your eyes and feel the warmth spreading through you and then turn the page because it’s too much, too extravagant, nor for people like you.
This kind of picture. That you think is computer generated, until you’re there, taking the photograph.
What did we do for our proper, official, honeymoon? We had a blast, that’s what we did. It may have been nine months after the wedding, and we may have been “old hands” at the marriage thing, and we may have been less giddy, but…it was insane. Insane and perfect and we knew we’d never do anything like it again. And there’s a beauty in that, I think.
Let me tell you about it. (And also please excuse me trying to be trendy with “the where to go” etc. My “when I grow up” dream is to become either a war correspondent or a travel journalist. Still. And occasionally I get a little carried away. But I hope it brightens up your Monday morning).
The where to go
Some background. I’m happy sleeping in a hammock with a machete in my lap. Mr K prefers a duvet and an en-suite. I like down-and-dirty adventure, Mr K likes a lie-in. But secluded luxury would just make us kill each other – we like plastic chairs and streetfood and meeting local people.
I always knew Mr K would like South-East Asia. We may be polar opposites on many things but we both wanted great food, easy travelling, friendly people, perfect weather and good old-fashioned adventure. After almost dissertation-esque research involving me being buried for days under piles of guide books and maps, we decided to stay for two nights in Kuala Lumpur (KL to the locals, don’t you know) then head off to the tropical paradise of Langkawi Island for the remainder of the trip.
The when to go
Mr K is a haggler extraordinaire. This is often very useful (buying trinkets from market stalls), on occasion it drives me round the bend (when seemingly simple purchases takes decades). So booking the most expensive holiday of our lives was never going to be easy. Mr K vetoed a three-week trip as he felt he’d never come home again afterwards, and I wanted to go in March because the weather in Malaysia sounded right for us; hot hot hot but far enough away from monsoon season to not be humid and result in me being a sweaty, rank mess when I was supposed to be doing “sexy wife”.
The where to stay
Whilst in KL, we stayed in a crazy, tall, megabucks hotel . I have never stayed in a crazy, tall, megabucks hotel before. When we got there we upgraded to a suite (honestly ,readers, this is NOT MY LIFE) overlooking the Petronas Towers. Having never stayed in a suite before I was like a kid in a sweetshop (there was a huuuuge bed, a tropical rainforest shower, the most exquisite bathroom in the world and an unrivalled view of the KL skyline…). If that wasn’t enough, there was a swimming pool with a nightclub right next to it on the top floor. So, you know, you could pop in for a swim post-mojito, if your party outfit was too restrictive. And the breakfast? Oh sweetmotherofMary. The breakfast could quite easily have induced a diabetic coma: sushi, dim sum, pastries, cereal, more fruit than you could shake a watermelon at, curry, noodles, cakes, brownies on skewers for dipping into chocolate fountains…insanity, I tell you.
Now, I’m not one for über trendy, and so in Langkawi we switched down a gear. We were lucky enough to secure a room at the Casa del Mar, a Spanish-style villa with only a few rooms, overlooking a beautiful sunset over the Andaman Sea. Now this, this was the stuff I’d dreamed of. From the staff bringing around slices of watermelon, iced water, cold towels and melon ices during the day (for when lounging by the pool just gets too much), to them dropping off fresh mangoes in our room every night, nothing was too much trouble. Breakfast was à la carte, with a view of the sunrise, and a different twist every day; sometimes it was make-your-own-Bellinis, sometimes make-you-own Bloody Marys. There were books and DVDs to borrow, an outdoor bar, a restaurant that spilled onto the sand, the bathroom was filled with spa products, frangipani and jasmine draped over every corner, and the delectable hotel spa was adjacent to the hotel (and yes, I did have a full body massage…and oh dear Lord it was good).
The view from our room. Beats my current view of E3 council estate.
The what to do
- losing ourselves in the chaotic backstreets of Chinatown with people hawking their wares, smoke rising from woks, and makeshift stalls on the side of the road
- the loud music, vibrant colours and raucous chatter of Little India
- the elegant, quiet grace of the colonial streets and buildings in Kampang Baru, the Malay quarter of the city
- not seeing “sights” as such, we chose to walk around different areas trying to get a feel for the place and its people.
In the lengthy, warm KL evenings we darted down alleyways in the chaotic, busiest parts of the city and ate at street cafes, where we pointed at various items on menus that we couldn’t pronounce and were rewarded with huge plates of steaming fish and vegetables, rice and noodles, surrounded by Malaysian locals and a riot of colour. Atmospheric, chaotic, but perfect.
The street cafes and markets. When I die, I want it to be with Malaysian street food in my mouth.
Langkawi, the other extreme, is a set of 99 islands off the west coast of Malaysia. It was simply perfection. The nature was astounding. The sun would rise and set over limestone cliffs far out to sea. Highlights included:
- island-hopping in a small boat where we would disembark, and trek over rocky precipices and happen upon astounding views
- feeding eagles and travelling into the mangroves and spotting wildlife (Yes I took a nature book. No I am not Bill Oddy’s offspring)
- exploring caves and walking amongst trees filled with monkeys and birds
- lying on the most deserted of beaches, and snorkelling and exploring beautiful coral reefs, with brightly-coloured fish swimming around us and coming right up to our masks, and seeing a barracuda lurking in the depths
- taking a cable car to the top of Langkawi’s second-highest mountain and dangling for lengthy periods at disproportionate heights above mountains and forest and sea apparently attached to nothing but a skimpy cable. It was worth it to look across the island and its rice paddies and coast and the deep blue Andaman Sea.
Malaysia had the best food I’ve ever eaten anywhere. Fact. Malaysians are proud of their culinary heritage and it shows. From street-cafes to restaurants, the food was consistently well-prepared and delicious, with a mix of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Thai flavours. We’d walk up to a stall with a huge display of freshly-caught fish, point to one, and they would cook it for us then and there, and serve it accompanied with incredible spices and flavours. Tiger prawns were as big as my forearm (inner elbow to wrist), lobster was even bigger.
Doing my Wild Woman Of Borneo thing, cracking open a coconut. Another one to tick off on the Life List…
We may have over-ordered.
Okay, self-important wannabe-travel-journalist bit over. Anna K’s final thought.
We saw hardly any of Malaysia and it would be arrogant to claim anything else. There’s still the mountainous cool green tea plantations, even more deserted beaches, the colonial cities of the South, orang-utans in Borneo…the list goes on.
Yes it’s your honeymoon, it’s once-in-a-lifetime, but choose something that reflects you both and give yourself time to be together without commitments, rushing around or living life by the Lonely Planet. Beaches and cocktails and sunshine and culture should enhance your honeymoon and should not be the reason for it. Quite frankly I could have spent mine in a rainy field in Skeggers with Mr K and it still would have been the time of my life (well, as long as he’d sourced a tiger prawn or two). The rest was just a bonus.