Balls to authenticity

The last time I was at the Golden Sands, I looked snootily at the residents. What kind of person would choose to stay in an enormous resort, isolated from the country it was in, when they could have a much more meaningful experience in a more authentic, local hotel? Now I know, because I’m that sort of person: the parent of small children.

The Golden Sands provides a (fairly) safe environment for children (if you ignore the various 3 metre deep swimming pools) and lots of space for adults to do nothing at all all day. Thus if you’re worn out chasing after the beloved little perishers, you can slump into a sunlounger and sip on a cocktail. There’s enough food on site that you don’t have to leave, but it’s not all-inclusive which means they have some incentive to do it properly, unlike the horrors I endured in Costa Rica. Sure, there’s no cultural engagement on offer, but there are at least three swimming pools and as many ping pong tables.

There’s also a band playing Country & Western every night at the weekend, at earsplitting volume in the lobby. Maybe that’s the cultural engagement I thought I was missing out on.

Yesterday, some poor sod had to dress up in an enormous furry parrot suit to advertise the children’s activity centre at breakfast. To my disappointment, there was no enormous furry parrot at breakfast today, so we took La Serpiente Aquatica Negra over to the activity centre to remonstrate about this. Also, it was a safe and soft environment for her to run around in for an hour, without fear of accidental drowning.

She was very excited by the slide and the ball pool (until somebody turned on the machine that blows the balls in the ball pool up in the air with gusts of compressed air). An hour in there and she was worn out, so by 1:30 we had her down for a nap that lasted a full ninety minutes. I went to the hotel gym, did five minutes rowing, fifteen minutes on the treadmill after it had been vacated by a very slow moving little old lady, and ten minutes of lifting weights, then went back to the hotel room to spell my wife off. This was an easy hour of waiting for our daughter to wake up, although as I forgot to eat anything, by the time she woke at three I was dizzy with hunger. My wife got a good massage in though.

This weekend has made it clear that our daughter likes most things involving balls. For example, she enjoys ping pong. Or rather, she’s happy to spectate. We gave her a ball and a bat, and she stood there and laughed every time my wife hit a ball. When she was enraged the other morning when she didn’t get her own way, peace was restored by giving her a small rubber ball. She also enjoys anything else spherical: all weekend she has pointed at parasailers and cried "ball" at them. Her vocabulary this week has progressed in leaps and bounds. Up until a week ago it was clear she understood a lot, but now she’s saying a lot more too.

We left the resort to go to the Bora Bora bar. This counted as adventurousness, but not cultural engagement, because Bora Bora is a place in the South Pacific and therefore little to do with Malaysia. We walked down the beach, which I hated, because I got sand on my feet and this reminds me of the hell of English beach holidays. After some time and many parasailing touts, we could see the bar. On the other side of a large drainage ditch going out to sea. So we walked inland, down a broken brick path, alongside the ditch, seeing several huge monitor lizards swimming beneath us, and eventually came back out to the road running past our resort. We walked on to the bar, which wasn’t Bora Bora at all, although it had lovely friendly staff who allowed La Serpiente Aquatica Negra to run along the top of their bar, and me to run in panicked horror after her. Ah, good times.

I kept finding enormous ants crawling over me. I like insects about as much as sand, probably for similar reasons, so after one drink we retreated to the hotel while my sister and parents pressed on to find Bora Bora. We went back and had our daughter swim around some more, and then an early dinner in the hotel, in the hope of putting her to bed early. (She went down about 9:25, which indicates how well that scheme succeeded.)

So now I drift off to sleep, to the sounds of Malaysian men doing a honky tonk cover of Careless Whisper. Sweet dreams, to one and all.

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