Out of the barracks and into the bubble bath.
About a year ago I met Aldona, in Panama City. Upon her return to Paris she became a regular Travelvice reader/commenter, and tossed me an e-mail earlier this month when she saw that I was in Malaysia. She'd just taken a management position with a luxury resort on the east coast of the peninsula, and invited me to drop by for a visit.
I certainly owed her one. She'd searched Paris for me, looking for a replacement for my busted PDA keyboard in the final days before her flight to Kuala Lumpur, and thanking her in person was the least I could do. …Naturally, the bonus would be getting put up in a five-star resort for a few days.
Geographically, I don't think I could have been in a harder place to reach the town of Dungun from. I took the first morning bus out of the Cameron Highlands to Kuala Lumpur, then another to Kuantan, and another up to Dungun, where I was let off on the side of the highway (outside the perpendicular road leading to the resort). Yesterday's travel time, with layovers between buses, was a solid 16-hours.
Walking out of the dark, jungle road, and into the chic, Asian-motif of the reception hall was rather jarring. I could have sworn the caged bird (of a species unknown to me) murmured something in English as I walked past it. Well after 23:00, Aldona was surprised that I showed up, figuring that I got stuck in Kuantan without evening bus options.
Tanjong Jara Resort
I've been in a fair number of resorts, although not always as an official guest (as sneaking into and using the facilities at places such as these has been small pleasure of mine for many years). And though the complex was constructed before I was born, it's contemporary Asian flavor still oozed casual opulence.
For three nights I'll be enjoying the dark, hardwood floors, lavish bathroom, clean sheets, and in room robe of the suite I've been put up in.
This morning you'd find me sitting on a king-sized bed, in a robe, in an air conditioned room, having just showered with all sorts of sweet-smelling lotions, while listening to classical music and typing for Travelvice—my God, is this wild or what?
But such pleasures come at a price. Not so much financially, in my case, but mentally. I'm inside a resort bubble that could exist anywhere in the world. I feel nothing of Malaysia here, and find myself yearning for reality.
Try as I might, I don't fit in at Tanjong Jara. Aldona wants me to button my shirt higher than I'm comfortable with, and I am significantly younger (and less fat) than most found idling poolside. I wonder what they think I'm doing here—while I, in turn, wonder how they ended up spending their holiday at the only resort within Lord knows how far, in a part of Malaysia where people yawn as they drive/bus through it. It's an obscure location, that's for sure.
I walked outside the resort and down the highway to eat an unassuming rest stop, letting the real world wash over me with a smile. I think I can only stay in a resort (legitimately) if I eat outside of it.
To eat, sleep, and live inside a bubble, full-time—I don't think I could take it.