These days we all get so busy in our everyday lives, there comes a time where you just need to switch off, recharge and get some solid quality time.
This is often easier said than done. For me, managing 2 very busy websites and the work that stems from them, plus the crazy levels of training for the 2 Marathon Challenge means that time management is an absolute necessity.
For Carol it is very much of the same except her life revolves around maintaining her full time position as a Senior Sales Manager plus being the Managing Director of our very busy home life. (Seriously strongest woman I ever met)

So when we had the opportunity to attend a Cox/Teh family gathering in KL during the third week of January we jumped at the chance. I don’t get enough quality time with the kids anyway so we thought it would be a great opportunity to just touch base as a family again.

As far as the reunion was concerned this would actually be the first time that all of us had been at the same table together since Kevin and Shirley’s wedding almost 5 years ago.

Kevin (my brother-in-law) and his wife, Shirley live and work in Papua New Guinea whilst my other bro Edwin and family, including sister-in-law Monica live in West Malaysia so getting together for a few days is a bit of a logistical nightmare.
However, Carol loves to organise things like this, so I pretty much just left it to her to do it all.

“Snakes on a Plane is nothing compared to Gracie on a Plane”

Remember that really bad Samuel L Jackson film from a few years ago, “Snakes on a Plane”. Well here comes the remake, “Gracie on a Plane.” Trust me, it’s a lot more scarier.

It was after we booked the hotel and started to plan the 4 day itinerary, when Carol suddenly looked up at me in horror and said, “Hang on a minute, you do remember what happened the last time we put Gracie on a plane don’t you?…” Oh me dear life. How could I have forgotten that? One of the biggest challenges for autistic children to deal with is the total sensory overload that is their everyday life. Each sound, each flash of light, music, loud voices can all come crashing down like a torrent. Combine this with an inability to communicate and it is terrifying for her. The lasy time we flew with Gracie was about 6 months earlier on just a very short trip from Kota Kinabalu to Tawau (45 minute flight only). At that time, the only flight we could get was with MAS Wings so we took it. What we failed to remember was that MAS Wings flights are twin propeller driven planes, the biggest issue being that the flight is considerably more noisy than a normal commercial jet plane.

Poor Gracie. This really was the flight from hell for us as well as her, let alone the full plane of passengers when she started screaming as the engines started. Hats off to the cabin crew of MAS wings however who helped in trying to calm her down, along with Carol who in her usual motherly fashion did an incredible job with her whilst her younger brother Josh just looked across and questioned what the fuss was all about.

This time Carol was prepared with an army of colouring books, snacks, drinks, stickers (her favourite thing) and toys to distract her. Despite a bit of protest at the very beginning, as soon as the plane took off this time she was quiet and in her own sticker-filled land of singing, story time, and snack-munching. Well done Carol for the incredible job with our princess yet again.


The InterContinental Kuala Lumpur

Upon arrival at KLIA we were picked up by my ever-witty Brother-In-Law Edwin where we went back to his house in the first instance to regroup as a family before heading into the city centre for a few days. In usual fashion, food comes first and we did a pit-stop within the first 3km for lunch, enjoying a traditional West Malaysian food court lunch. The Curry Laksa was good, but to be fair doesn’t come anywhere close to the excellent laksa served by my old uncle friend in Sabah. (Be seeing him at Chinese New Year for sure, and that will be for another blog!)

To celebrate all of us getting together for the first time in years, we had booked a 2 night stay at the InterContinental where we took up 4 rooms of the 19th Floor. The hotel in general lived up to its reputation, very clean, very spacious and of course the kids were completely in their element with the five of them getting together for the first time in like forever.

What I always find however, when staying in a larger city hotel is there is a loss of that personal touch which you get with smaller operations. Yes the standards are high of cleanliness and the general service, but I think the HR and Training Department need to do some work on their Front of House Team especially where it comes to a simple thing of smiling to the guests. This seemed especially relevant at the breakfast buffet. Of course the staff are busy and to be fair there didn’t seem that many of them in comparison to the hotel at full occupancy, but you certainly do notice these things. Maybe I ought to leave the management team a business card! Haha….

InterContinental, The Fitness Centre – Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Situated on the 5th Floor of the hotel is the Fitness Suite, Pool and Spa.

The Good – What I really loved was the fact that the suite was open 24 Hours. Unlike safe little Sabah, KL isn’t the safest of places to go running around with your iPod in at 0300 in the morning, so I was most grateful for the 24hour opening. I tried the suite at different times from mid afternoon, early evening and very early morning and all times there was plenty of space to move around. It actually seems rather unused as a facility in comparison to other suites I have used. There is quite a good range of equipment to use, including a range of Life Fitness cardio machines in the shape of treadmills, elliptical trainers, spinning bikes and my favourite Concept 2 rower.

The Bad and the Ugly – Despite it’s very clear under-use, the weight suite and free weights have certainly seen some better days with the largest of the machines being out of order and some of the free weights looking downright dangerous. The exercise floor mats were also threadbare and provided as much cushioning as tarmac. There are little touches here that are required which would make a world of difference.

One of the key things here though I think is the fact that again there appears to be a distinct lack of staff about, despite the fact I trained at different times. The little touches that Shangri-la in comparison do so well such as attentive staff, helping less knowledgeable guests on machines and wiping them down after use are just not here at the InterContinental and that is a shame.

On the plus side however, there is an ample supply of towels, dispense water, bottle water and apples available although it is self-service. Overall the gym at this 5 Star Hotel gets a 6/10. Guys you certainly need to up your game to live up to your 5 Star standard for facilities available.


Breakfast Choices at the Inter

Breakfast at the hotel was served buffet-style and there was plenty of it. We did what 90% of everyone else does, seeing as the breakfast is included in the room rate, which is totally gorge yourself on breakfast so that you only have to have a very light late lunch. As Carol would say, “Save cost. We’ve paid for it so we eat it mah!” What made me laugh however was brother Edwin just a few hours later demanding we go out for lunch. So much for the theory Carol!

With the breakfast buffet – Great choices available which really highlight both the client base that the hotel attract and the multi-cultural melting pot that is KL. It appears to be a completely Halal restaurant so no real bacon here (unhappy face), but in saying that, the beef brisket bacon was a good replacement to be fair and acceptable, although not the same. Fried eggs are cooked to order as are omelettes so again Gracie – the egg white queen – was super happy. There was also a huge Fresh pastries section, Indian cuisine, Fresh fruits, salads and another of the kids favourite, yoghurt. For your breakfast InterContinental you get a very close 9/10, only let down by your grumpy waiting staff who need some lessons in customer service.


KLCC Food Court – Spoilt for Choice

Situated on the 2nd Floor of the KLCC building is a bustling Food Court area. This was a great place for the first night of our family catch-up. Clean, convenient and good simple food – what more could you want?
The court is split into 2 very distinct areas offering a combination of Western, Asia and Fusion Fayre. Carol and I did our usual thing and ordered a bit of both (we always seem to order too much food – a Cox thing – but always end up clearing the plates!)
A footlong Steak and Cheese with everything in it from Subway (yes, I finally got my Subway fix) and an incredibly tasty Cheese baked Fish with Rice was enjoyed by us and the kids. Gracie adores cheese so she was again a happy little bean!
In general, we were most impressed with the FoodCourt, despite getting lost when we left due to going out of the wrong exit. (Carol blamed my poor navigation skills yet again!)


Reunion Dinner in KL Town

Traditionally in Carol’s culture, the reunion dinner is on the eve of Chinese New Year, but due to Brother Kev’s onward business commitments, as a family we pushed the reunion diner forwards a few weeks, making the most of us all being in the same place at the same time.

It was so great to see bro Kev and Shirley who I had not seen since working with them years ago on the Papua New Guinea project. Other than being a little older (and wiser) neither of us have changed much, still enjoying a good beer and catch up.

Our PNG-based brother Kevin misses his Malaysian choice of food so we all headed back to the food court that evening and enjoyed even more choice of good food and service at the court. Despite it being a full house we found the service to be very quick and indeed the Nasi Lemak was of a high standard, although missing the Ikan Bilis which would have made it even more exceptional.

Back in the hotel Mum and Dad volunteered to look after the kids for a few hours so the four of us (Kev, Edwin Carol and I) took the opportunity to hit the hotel bar. Really good selling point for the InterContinental here – they offer a free drinks token to be spent at their bar upon arrival so it would have been rude not to take them up on their offer. Obviously they do this in the hope that you like the ambience of the bar and stay for another drink which of course you have to pay for.
With us it worked and 2 bottles of red wine later we were still catching up.

On the following day we bid a farewell to Kev and the PNG family as they had to head off to their next destination of Hong Kong on business.

We then hijacked sister Monica’s Proton and took the 200km journey up to Ipoh to catch up with some more relatives.

For me, it was a welcome return back to Ipoh. I have been in Malaysia on and off now for many years having visited many places, yet I still find the food in Ipoh to be some of the best I have had.
Everything just seems bigger and better foodwise in Ipoh. For example, the beansprouts are bigger and this I hear is due to the unique water supply that is only found in Ipoh. Those beansprouts are shorter and fatter than traditional beansprouts found anywhere else in the country and have a distinctive crunch to them.

The other great thing about Ipoh is it being the home of Old Town White Coffee. White Coffee is pretty much world famous in Ipoh and it can be found everywhere. Caffeine overdose incoming!

0500hrs on the following day I had a great early morning 11km run through the town and up towards the hills which was really refreshing. The town is similar in many ways to my other adopted home-town of Tawau and is really safe to run solo at any time of day and night.

Back to KL for the Last Night of the Trip

After getting a solid Curry Mee breakfast, we bid our farewells to family once more and made the return journey to KL to spend the evening with some of Carol’s ex-school mates.

Enjoying probably one of the best Thai meals outside of Thailand, it brought a perfect end to a short trip away. We had reunited with family and friends, had some great laughs, ate some quality food (guess I’ll have to run a few extra KM this week) and now it’s back to work.

At least the next trip away for Chinese New Year is only a couple of weeks away ….