Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The trip that almost got away

Literally. As I am blogging this 4 months after we took our trip to Malacca with my family over our June homecoming to Singapore… I’d actually started on like 5% of the entry more than two months ago, but that was when my silly laptop decided that my document was corrupted, thus disabling all my word drafts and giving me a blank document in return. #$@%!!!

In any case, here goes the motherload of an entry which I’d better get out of the way as I expect more entries with biggies coming up like Rosabelle’s birthday, our Guilin/Yangshuo trip next month, and it’s going to be here before you know it, CNY 2011 in Singapore.

Now, I say that the trip almost did not take place because our plan was to initially head to Penang by plane. I’ve been there once many years ago, whilst Mum has always been wanting to visit but never got down to doing it, so we thought it’d be nice to go for a Penang tour and stuff ourselves silly with Penang laksa and chendol. However, we underestimated how advanced Singaporeans can go in their planning – hell, my ex-colleague Pauline even booked this June trip to Penang last year when she was still expecting her second one! Of course she got the tickets and hotel for a song, but since it’s rare that her teacher hubby is available (and can only travel during school hols), she had to quickly plan ahead.

My mum made the mistake of waiting till I was back in Singapore before we started making calls to book. A lot of the tour agencies could only offer coach travel (which meant we needed to spend like 10 hours on the road one-way), which was out of the question. I finally managed to get one that could offer flights at good timings (early morning departure and late night arrival back in Singapore), so that we could effectively stretch the time we spent in Penang. I can’t remember the name of the tour agency now (for reasons I will unfold later), but I can only remember her name was Dolly. Now, Ms. Dolly seemed very professional and a veteran in this (sounded quite aunty-like and elderly), so when I left my number and travel details with her on 10 June to effectively ‘book’ our tickets first, I was quite happy. Only thing now was to wait for my father to book/confirm whether he can get his annual leave days approved so that we could take the trip.

The next day, when my father confirmed that his leave application was approved, hurray! I quickly called Ms. Dolly up at close to 7 pm and told her the good news. Alas, Dolly only had bad news for me – she had apparently misplaced my phone number and could not call me to see if I really wanted the slots, so she had given them up. Seeing that it was already so late in the day, and I had not called her, she assumed that I could not confirm them and she did not want to risk having to pay for tickets that might get cancelled.

I was expectedly extremely furious. HELLO, Aunty! You were the one who misplaced my number – it obviously isn’t my friggin’ fault, so don’t give me such excuses now! She could at best only offer an early morning arrival into Singapore, which means we had to forfeit one whole day of play in Penang, of course we didn’t want that!

There was nothing I could do except rant at her, but there was also nothing she could do except say that she will speak to her manager to see if he can do anything and get us tickets again. Damn that woman!

So for the whole of the next day, I kept calling her to check on the update, but she could not provide anything satisfactory – it made me wonder if she was even trying… sigh! So my worried mother, not wanting to forfeit her vacation (anywhere would do now – I guess she really needed a break from having been quite frazzled over my sister’s Baby No. 3, haha!), suggested we just book a tour to Malacca instead, so on the troops stormed to Golden Mile Complex that very evening to book a coach and hotel package to Century Mahkota Hotel in Malacca via Konsortium Travels.

Yippee… and Ms. Dolly? She actually REALLY called me up the very next day to confirm that she had managed to secure us the flights we wanted again. My mum was quite disappointed and asked me to quickly call Konsortium and check if they had confirmed the hotel (they were also supposed to get back to me to confirm), and for once, I was saddened that they had already done their job quickly and confirmed everything. Heh… so I told Dolly that nope, we won’t be going to Penang already, and I had to bite my tongue to stop myself from saying ‘Oh, I also lost your number, that’s why I couldn’t call you to cancel…’… %$^^!!!

So on 21 June, we had to wake up early as my brother-in-law fetched us to Golden Mile by 8 am to catch the coach to Malacca. Rosabelle woke up in the car so that I could get her changed and ready for her yogurt/cheese breakfast as we waited for the coach to arrive:
When it did, we got seats at the front, with her favourite Gong gong sitting with us as Mum sat with Simon in front. As you can imagine, she was pretty excited, wanting to move from seat to seat, being undecided whether she wanted to be next to Mummy or be with Simon, even going up to Popo for once, so that she could enjoy the view from the other side.
Simon kept himself occupied watching Tom & Jerry on the entertainment unit (each seat had an individual one, but I obviously could not watch anything without getting interrupted 3 seconds into the show by somebody’s random pressing of the remote control…), and with snacks/tidbits we’d brought for the kids. The younger one was mighty resilient in making sure she fought for her share of food too… (and thankfully took a short 40-minute nap in the bus after nursing).
When we reached Malacca and the hotel to check-in, it was already close to 2pm, so we were a starving bunch of Singaporeans in need of good food for lunch as we headed out to Mahkota Parade Shopping Centre opposite. (It was also at this point that I realized I had dropped my ring in the coach – I’d taken it off to wipe my hands clean and had placed it on my lap – I even heard a ‘thunk’ sound as I stood up later and did not make anything of it… damn… luckily it’s just a cheap ring I got somewhere in Sydney…) We ended up with The Chicken Rice Shop (a place that the local shop attendant told me nobody eats at since it’s too expensive and isn’t nice, haha!), and by the time Rosabelle had her lunch, it was already 2:30pm.
After that, we did some walking around the complex, as our girl explored the hanging butterflies at the atrium. Both she and Simon did a lot of running around, with the former highly amused that our girl was running so randomly all over the place, haha… It would certainly have been more fun if my sis, brother-in-law, and Marianne were around, as Rosabelle started learning how to call Marianne as 'Marica Jie Jie’ (maybe she heard us say America before, haha)…
And who can miss a shot with his favourite Ben 10 – as expected, soft-hearted Popo gave in and got him some Ben 10 books at one of the stores.
Mum also offered to buy Rosabelle her first pair of shades, but our girl decided she only wanted to don them for awhile for a shot before plucking them off, hoho…
After too much walking (and me chasing) around, and me getting quite a lot of children’s books on sale at the MPH outlet there, we sat down at McDonald’s for a quick break as the kids played at the playground area, and Rosabelle even finished up a whole cup of corn herself. The first cup of corn they’d put in the Happy Meal Box wasn’t covered properly and when I took it out of the box, the whole cup of corn spilled all over the table – luckily they were nice enough to replace a full cup for me after. Guess Rosabelle is very grateful to Uncle McDonald… see where her hand is placed…
I then went to the info counter and applied for a tourist card that could give us offers/discounts/gifts at stores in the complex (but we never visited/got to use any of them). We then adjourned to the supermarket at the basement as the kids took some rides (which strangely sucked up all our money without starting…).
Seeing that it was already evening time, and that we would probably be too tired to venture out for dinner, we bought some take-away food at the foodcourt first. It has a perplexing system of making you place your order and get a chit to pay at a counter some distance away before you come back to get your food. Not wanting to do that at 5 different stalls, Mum and I made sure we collected all the chits before paying at one go. That’s us sitting around waiting for the last of the orders to be ready.
When we got back to the hotel, it was the start of all things going wonky and me getting frustrated at the hotel… First of all, as I was feeding her her fish porridge and some chicken/mushroom, she was keenly looking over and under the dining chair she was sitting on and tumbled over headwards. Oh dear… Later on, as my mum and I were busy unpacking and my Dad was looking after both of them, I heard Rosabelle bawl and as I picked her up, I could see it was a very bad fall – there was a lot of blood around her mouth and I quickly used the hand/mouth wet wipes to press at the cut lower lip. Poor thing – I went through about 4 pieces of wet wipes and there was still blood. Of course she cried, and I normally wouldn’t pick her up/cajole her unless I heard unusual crying, like this time.

Sigh… maybe she was playing with Simon and tagged him too close, and I did not witness anything, but my Dad said she was holding a book and running, so she must have lost her balance and fell. I had to take out the new books and read to her to take her mind off it. However, she must have felt the lower lip swell and was uncomfortable, kept wanting to use her teeth to bite at the protruding flesh and kept asking me to let her blow her nose since she thought that it was mucous that had gone onto her lip and was tickling her there…

Poor thing… it was quite heart pain for me to see so much blood, and as she slept that night, I had to gently bite away the excess skin with my own teeth gingerly, all the time being terrified that I would tug at it and cause it to bleed again. If I left the skin there, she would just keep biting at it with her teeth and it’d take even longer to get well. I was so afraid that meal-times would be painful for her…

As she slept early that night, I started getting frustrated with the hotel. As my dad was the first to bathe at the bath tub, my mum had thought that he was the one who flooded the whole place until we called the maintenance guys in – apparently, the silly shower leaks, so when we hang the shower back up after use, the water will flow onto the bath tub edge, and the silly bath tub is designed to let water flow all the way down onto the floor. So for our baths after, we had to place the shower inside the bath as we showered.

Then, when I asked for extra pillows/blankets (Simon still rolls over in his sleep…), they said as it’s peak season, there were none available. Sheesh… And then when I switched on the aircon in our room (Simon and my parents slept in the main room, and Rosabelle and I were in another), I discovered it was really noisy with rickety sounds. I had to make about 5 calls to the reception and maintenance before somebody came, an hour later, claimed he’d fixed it (with Rosabelle thankfully sleeping through all these), and when he left, the aircon went at it again. Gosh! We had to sleep with the room door opened that night (and leave the aircon/fan in the leaving room on – luckily it wasn’t too hot).

All along, I was having a nagging feeling that I should check on the toilet in my en suite. Maybe it’s because there was too much happening in one day, or maybe it’s because I did not think much of it since I was not going to shower in that room, or maybe it’s because the sink/tap were working ok (and that’s all I needed really), I just did not think to check the toilet bowl.

I should have. After I brushed my teeth and was looking forward to a good night’s rest after a long day, I wanted to use the toilet and lifted up the seat cover, which was suspiciously closed. It was filled to the brim, with poo floating on top. Poo that was at least one day old. Poo that did not belong to me or anybody I know. In MY en suite. Just metres away from my bed, from my daughter. How. disgusting. is. that. Somebody had obviously pooed, flushed, and realized the toilet was stuck, then kept flushing until the water level rose dangerously high.

I could not be bothered to tell the hotel this time round, as by the time they get someone around to fix it, it would be an hour later at 2am, and even if they came quickly, I’d expect a lot of noise with a lot of pumping/commotion, and I did not want to deal with the possibility of the poo flowing out on the floor and causing even more smell that it did now. So I just closed back the cover, and went to sleep. Or at least I tried – first of all, maybe it’s because I got bad vibes already from Rosabelle mishaps (Falling from a chair? Running and cutting her lip? She’s never been such a klutz in Singapore…), and my usually-pantang (superstitious) mother saying that ‘something’ was out to get the youngest one in the house, so we let Rosabelle drink some holy water my Dad brought, but I could not get to sleep that night.

It did not help that it started to rain heavily, and the windows aren’t exactly sound-proof so it was really noisy as I tried to think happy/unscary thoughts, all the time helped by the strength of a mother. Yeah, you read that read – the inner strength I found in knowing that I had to be brave and fearless to protect my little one from anymore harm. It sounds strange now that I write about it, but at that point, I was seriously feeling quite frightened and spooked in that little room, with rain beating outside (not helped that the toilet door was closed and holding somebody else’s shit inside – I still cannot take that lying down!), and that my girl was already ‘harmed’ in some way. Was it a sign that our Penang trip was botched up - to warn us that we should not be taking any trips? Sigh… thank goodness nothing else happened through the night (Really, what was I expecting? Blood starting to ooze out from the toilet bowl together with the shit?), and I managed to catch some sleep in between all the frenzied thoughts…

Stay tuned for Days 2 and 3 of this Malacca trip (and see if I still regret taking this trip)...

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