Malaysia Part 19 – Dining companions

Monsieur and I may have been travelling à deux through Malaysia, but we were never short of dining companions. One night, a waiter told me the name of the umbrella trees which were dotted around the resort, looking like something out of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. ‘It’s a Rhu tree,’ he told us. ‘the native tree of Langkawi.’ So some nights, we learned new things from the hotel staff, who were tirelessly patient with our questions.

Every night we spent on Langkawi, the tail-less cats of Pelangi Resort skulked near the tables of diners. We chatted to them, coaxing them closer for a tidbit or two, but careful not to alert the waiters to what we (and others) we doing, lest they chase them away with a “Wah wah!” warning in Malay. We’d already seen it in action on several occasions and felt sympathetic towards the feline scavengers, but the waiters were under orders from management that the guests not be disturbed by anything with a tail, no matter how stumpy, so “Wah wah!” they did.

One evening, as we sat at a table on the beachfront at dusk, we watched what can only be described as a ballet of crabs. They danced all over the sand, braving the beach now that giant interlopers had left for the day. In and out of their holes they went, sometimes slow, often in a flash. The timid dancers edged out, suspicious head and goggle eyes first, waiting until they were sure the coast was clear before exiting the safety of their burrow. Others held claws, dancing together, or was that a crab fight we witnessed? There were chases up and down the sand, leaving little tracks, barely perceptible now the sun had gone. The performance mesmerised. This was the theatre of nature playing out before us.

The Female Bore at the table next to us would never have noticed such a spectacle as she definitely couldn’t see past her own nose, let alone as far as the lowly crabs. ‘Crass’ and ‘braggard’ spring to mind when I think of her. She and her husband foisted their uninvited conversation on the young couple to their other side, who obviously wanted to be left alone, but there was no chance of that happening. How lucky we were that night; it could so easily have been us on the receiving end of Female Bore’s monologues plural. First she talked about holidays.

“So is this your first time to Malaysia?” she asked

“Yes, it is. We’re on our honeym…” came the interrupted reply. Female Bore was only asking the question to seem vaguely as if she cared about someone other than herself. This was a waste of time, really. She was a dire act when it came to feigning interest in something. The young couple were trying to tell her (in vain) that they were on their honeymoon, but F.B. wasn’t interested in their story. Off she went:

“This is our third time in Malaysia but our first in Langkawi. We travel a lot and we’ll be back again next year. It’s quite nice here at Pelangi but I think the Four Seasons might be better next time. The chalets here are getting a bit tired, you know?” That plastic nose crinkled up in well-practised snobbishness.

The chalets weren’t ‘tired’ at all. MOST unfair to the resort, but the point wasn’t the condition of our rooms. Female Bore simply wanted to point out that they could afford the Four Seasons if they wanted to. Yawn. If she did but know it, F.B. was more effective than valium at bed-time.

There was no respite from our foghorn neighbour. We heard about every holiday she’d taken for the past decade and trust me, that’s a lot of holidays to get through without taking a breath. I started to worry that she wasn’t getting enough oxygen, but just as I was calculating how much brain damage she could do if she didn’t breathe soon, Female Bore changed the topic of conversation and I was about to see my jaw hitting the floor as she showed what a flashy cow she really was.

“Well, of course, we’ve been to Bali. Know it well, but it wasn’t right for this holiday. No, we haven’t been back since those dreadful bombings. Terribly tragic. Our friends lost their daughter in the attack and it took days to piece together her body parts. I mean, can you imagine? I think they identified her from her dental records in the end. What a horrible, horrible thing to happen. An arm here, a leg there, blood everywhere. Devastating for the families. Our friends went to that memorial in Bali recently. You know, it was on the news? Yes, well, they were there. With all those other poor, poor people who buried parts of their loved ones. I don’t know if there were any whole bodies to bury after that blast. Honestly. What is the world coming to?”

Took the words right out of my mouth. Just what IS the world coming to when people boast about knowing people who lost their lives in terrorist acts. I know that technically ‘boast’ isn’t correct in this context, but the one thing I can’t do on this blog is show the manner in which these words were spoken, and ‘boast’ would become a verb of great relevance if you could hear Female Bore in action, no matter what the subject at hand.

Luckily, not all evenings were like that. Far from it. But we did have a small issue with meal-crashing.

One night, we were at Niyom Thai, the Thai restaurant at the resort, when my New Best Friend from the island-hopping day, spotted us. He waved hello, jumped a low hedge and stood chatting to us about his day as our meal grew cold. The way that his eyes darted from our faces to our bowls of Tom Yam indicated that he wouldn’t decline an invitation to join us, and on another day perhaps we would have done just that, but that particular day my head was killing me with the threat of a migraine so making small talk wasn’t high on my list of priorities. We promised to catch up with him another night and eventually, he got the hint and left us to slurp our cold tom yam.

We kept our promise and caught up with New Best Friend on the night that we finally decided to visit the Pelangi Lounge. There he was, sitting at a table with a couple of free seats, staring expectantly at the stage. He waved us over.

“Come and join me!” he beckoned, “my friends are singing tonight. They’re a pair of Thai girls, so pretty, and so talented.” (My guess was that NBF’s idea of what consitutes talent might be a tad different to mine.)

NBF made it sound as if he and the Thai girls had known each other for generations, but the way they ignored him when they got up on stage indicated otherwise. They sang covers and they sang well, as the beer flowed and the lounge filled up. Soon, there wasn’t a spare seat anywhere and the barmen were shaking cocktails in an endless stream of alcohol and miniature paper umbrellas.

The set ended and NBF beckoned to the singers. With a slight shrug of ‘whatever’, they joined us for a couple of minutes, but just as NBF started his rave review of their performance so far, they excused themselves to fetch a drink and once that was achieved, sat with a group on the other side of the lounge.

Poor NBF. I almost felt sorry for him. He must have noticed that his interest in the Thai singers wasn’t exactly reciprocated, and instead of changing the subject, he instead continued his version of a Thai Singer Appreciation Society.

“Yes, well, the girls have their friends here tonight. That’s who they’re sitting with now. Mmmm. They told me they might not have as much time as usual to chat during their breaks. I’m sure they’ll be with us for the next one.”

NBF’s eyes didn’t leave the girls for longer than a few seconds. He reminded me of one of those cartoon dogs who salivate like Niagara Falls as they follow the perfect poodle with the pink ribbon all the way down the street, in spite of being the doofiest dog on the block. Feeling far from comfortable as we observed NBF behaving more like a seventeen year old than a seventy year old, Monsieur and I tried to leave on a few occasions, but each time NBF pushed us back into our chairs as he hailed a waiter to order another round of drinks. Just prior to the point where we risked falling under the table from that heady mix of local lager and fatigue, we finally managed to settle up and return to our room, by which time Monsieur and I were feeling more than a little buzzed. It would certainly seem we were turning into bar lightweights and the surreal evening we’d just experienced hadn’t helped. That was the last time we saw NBF because we left Pelangi the following day. I often wonder what happened to him. I think he meant well, even if he was annoying and more than a bit deluded about his attractiveness to women.

PS – in case you’re wondering why the singers at Pelangi were Thai and not Malay, it’s because Malaysia is a Moslem country so it isn’t deemed appropriate for Malay women to sing pop songs for a crowd in a skimpy outfit. However, Thai women are not Moslem, so the rules change. They hop across the border into Malaysia, where there is plenty of resort and bar work for attractive non-Malay girls who can hold a tune.

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