Monday, February 07, 2011

Departure

Our last day in Malaysia. We take a taxi to Merdeka Square, Independence Square, which sits in front of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building. It is here that the Union Flag was lowered and the Malayan flag hoisted for the first time in 1957. It was the original cricket green of the Royal Selangor Club. the Sultan Abdul Samad Building is one of the most significant landmarks built by the British. The architect was inspired by Indian Moghul architecture and housed the Secretariat and later the Supreme Court before the Ministry of Heritage. The square is surrounded by the National History Museum and St. Mary's cathedral. On the next block is the oldest mosque in Malaysia and we can hear the sounds of prayer chants floating out. I try to capture the varied shapes of the buildings and the contrast between the tudor style buildings, the Islamic mosques and the new highrises. Petronas Towers rises very elegantly in the distance. it is a challenge crossing the main streets as the crosswalk lights do not work and there is a continuous stream of traffic. I think they are putting tourists lives at risk here! The area is beautiful and I linger to take pictures before making my way to Little India and catching a taxi back to the hotel.

We relax and cool off at the Coffee Bean in the mall and I wander around the large bookstore. Bookstores in Malaysia, especially the ones in the airport, cover most of their books with saran wrap. They leave a few out for browsing but for the most part don't encourage reading without buying. We have plans for dinner at Din Tai Feng again. I have my own plans to take a couple of mushroom vegetable buns with me on the plane to eat instead of United's food. Our flight is at 11:30pm but we leave early as the traffic is unpredictable. Good decision as we end up with a flaky taxi driver who obviously has not been to the airport in a long time. He first drives in the opposite direction looking for a gas station, then misses the turn in to the airport and has to drive several miles back to make a u-turn. Over an hour later, he deposits us at the airport. We were not guaranteed a reserved seat on Air China and end up squished in economy class with Ray hugging his legs. Fortunately, we sleep practically the entire way and arrive in Beijing for a long layover.

Beijing - site of the Olympics has outdone itself with this airport. Spacious and beautiful, the lights above sparkle on the marble floors below. Large plate glass windows look out over the airfields and the city. What an impression it must have made with visitors. Upscale stores are in the center and the upper level has food courts galore. We area able to enter the Star Alliance Club which is enormous, with many seating areas and 3 different sections of food. Unfortunately, wireless is not open and free for visitors. One must officially sign up with a passport in order to use wireless, even in Starbucks. The time passes quickly and we soon board our United flight back to San Francisco.

We have bulkhead seats which is a not too shabby way to travel. Across the aisle from me is a young woman with a 9 month old baby traveling to join her husband in Monterey. She doesn't speak English and the flight attendants, none of whom speak Chinese, continue to try to speak English to her. It is rather amusing as they obviously have learned after a few hours, that she speaks no English at all. Service is rather miserable - she asks for warm water for the bottle and gets cold. She is a very devoted mom, who wears a face mask most of the time and handles her baby with plastic gloves on. She holds the baby the entire 11 hour flight and does not eat or drink anything. I am so curious about her that she provides inflight entertainment for me. Her baby is very cute.

Landing in SF, we relish the dry cool weather and feel quite lucky to call this place home.

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