Jingle bell in KL

“I want to go see friends and play with toys.”
After over two weeks on the road Alex was entitled to be a little travel weary. I can’t say that I was in any hurry to return to Australia myself, but I longed for a lazy day, relaxing in the hotel room or by the pool, going out only to eat food at a local kopitiam or hawker centre.
It was not to be. We had to check out of our hotel and meet some childhood friends of B before heading off to the airport in the evening.
First we ducked down to the nearby hawker centre for a final breakfast of roti canai and milo ais.
Thomas and Liz have a daughter Isabelle who is five months younger than Alex. Confused, Alex nicknamed her Jingle Bells. We drove over to the nearby Pavilion shopping centre where the two kids immediately raced around together.KL is not particularly child friendly and Alex had had few opportunities to run around freely. Now he could not stop. Run, run, run! Run to the lift, press the button, run hide run.

Upmarket shopping centres are not really designed for crazy kids, but vendors and shoppers would often stop to ruffle Alex’s hair, much to his confusion.
A pipe band played Star Wars below, their lack of Scottish heritage evident from their lack of red hair, not their kilts. We explored the area devoted to Japanese shopping and food before meeting Thomas’ brother and mother for a lunch of Japanese food, which was actually a rather nice change from our other meals. My stomach was not in the best of moods, hungering more after the fresh and bland than the rich and spicy.
London, Paris and now Kuala Lumpur. We gave Alex and Isabelle a ride on the Christmas carousel installed in the seasonal display at the Pavilion lobby. Then it was time for a drive outside of KL to visit Liz’s sick grandmother.

After a ride out along a the motorway we entered a hilly rural area characterised by a big limestone outcrop. Liz’s family home overlooked this scene, the four massive stories occupied now by only three people, but protected by security guards and serviced by a maid and a gardner. Alex and Isabelle continued their running around the house.

We drove straight back to the hotel as the evening storms threatened. After waving goodbye to Thomas, Liz and Isabelle we succumbed to laziness and hired a taxi to take us all the way to the airport rather than dropping us off at KL Sentral station. It wasn’t much more expensive than buying the tickets would have been.
It was an hour long drive through the orange evening light which framed the tall city buildings and palm plantations so beautifully. We arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare. When I had checked us in online earlier I discovered that B had been seated behind us, but the check in lady couldn’t assist with the issue. We decided to ask the passenger directly.

Dinner was a third meal at the Food Garden on level two. Rice and side dishes. The food options aren’t great, but maybe we should have tried some of the more upmarket places inside the terminal.
Once through security Alex ran and ran and ran. He demanded to catch every lift there was and had no patience for shopping. So much energy to burn.

It was a relief to finally board the aircraft, but to my utter lack of surprise it was Penang again. Back in row 41 on what seems to be Malaysia’s only functional 747!
We all fell asleep soon after take-off, but B and I awoke when the meals were served. A big supper of western style snapper for us, having had enough of the chicken biriyani. Then B returned to sleep. I couldn’t, so I watched “Horrible Bosses” which seemed surprisingly uncut for Malaysia. The seatback screen was really awful.
There were a few city lights out the window, then the bright lights of shrimp or squid fishing boats. Then nothing as we crossed the ocean until reaching the coast of Australia at Broome. I was glad that this was only a “short” seven hour flight.
The flight was rough from the South Australian border until we began our descent into Sydney as we clipped the top of the high cloud. There were glimpses of salt lakes and mountains below, but that was all. Alex stirred, then the lights were switched on with two hours left in the flight. It was already sunrise outside. We were served a truly meagre breakfast of a hot chicken pastry roll in a carboard box.

I was really unimpressed with Malaysia Airlines. They weren’t bad flights, but they certainly weren’t great ones. They certainly don’t deserve to be called a five star airline in economy and their long haul fleet demands a big refresh. Their cabin crew’s attitudes were worse than robotic Cathay, though their food was nicer, not that that is saying much. I’ve had a number of really great long-haul flights to Europe where I was sad to leave the aircraft. These were not in that league.
Still, the views of Sydney we spectacular as we came up from the south, crossing over Lucas Heights and the Sutherland Shire. We flew close to our house rather than the arrival track near my workplace in the north where I have seen this flight descend so many times.

We landed ahead of schedule, but then had to wait a very long fifteen minutes for Korean Airlines to vacate our gate. Getting out didn’t take long and we continued our taxi splurge with a ride straight back to our house.

The sky was mostly blue, but the air felt humid. I prefer the bright clean skies of so many of our recent returns. Pick up the dog, get some groceries, wash and sleep. If only there was another day to recover, but it’s back to work tomorrow.
Is it good to be back? It’s good to see Kita again, good to have a few home facilities back, but I realised during this trip how much I didn’t mind living out of a hotel. Home life is mostly wake up early, catch the train to childcare and work (2.5 hours of travel), do work, return (another 2.5 hours), eat dinner, wash, settle Alex and sleep. Weekends are full of housework and shopping. There is so little time to enjoy the house that it hardly seems to matter to me if we live in it or not.
Was it worth it for Alex? I think so. He seemed to have a lot of fun in many of the places, talked about them (and their lifts) and told us the things he wanted to do (catch a tram, monorail, train, carousel, taxi…). And as with almost every other trip we’ve taken with him, his speech skills have grown tremendously. Best of all we’ve been spending time together as a family and that’s worth a lot.
Alex has already booked us to return to Paris in four years time so that he can go on the blue playground. Better start saving up the leave…

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