It’s hard to believe but once again it’s time to plan a trip out of Malaysia to get a new 90-day visa stamp on our return. Where should we go this time? We’re planning our first US trip in almost five years in two months and that’s going to put a visible dent in our budget so this visa run needs to be cheap. We could untie the docklines and sail 30 miles to Thailand for a week of beach life at anchor but neither of us is keen on that. Flying out of Langkawi is so cheap we prefer to go that route and avoid the added paperwork and hassle of clearing the boat in and out of two countries. We narrow the affordable, desirable options to Singapore and Changrai, Thailand. And then we have the brilliant idea to invite our greatly missed Sydney friends to join us at either destination.
But damn, our Window of Opportunity doesn’t fit their Window of Opportunity and our spirits fall until a further email pops up with an alternative proposal. “Come to Sydney!” they say. “Yes!” we say. The idea of spending a week with good friends in a city we love is the exact thing we need right now, as we suffocate in the tropical humidity of the Malaysian summer, a little lonely for company with the marina nearly empty of inhabitants and those who are still here mostly taking refuge inside in air conditioned comfort, including us. We need to get out.
I’m shocked to realize that Sydney is very far away and booking the journey takes on the complexity of a major campaign. As much as we’ve traveled, neither of us has been on long-haul flights, and while this doesn’t qualify as that, it will be the longest flight either of us has taken before. And as with any trip from tiny Rebak Island, it all starts with a ferry ride to the bigger island of Langkawi where the airport is. Coordinating with the limited ferry schedule is the greatest challenge of any trip from here but I manage to get us to Kuala Lumpur in time for an 8-1/2 hour red-eye to Sydney without too much distress.
Diana insists they pick us up at the airport but we point out the need to clear customs and immigration, find an ATM, get a SIM card for the phone and arm ourselves with Opal cards for Sydney’s excellent public transportation system before we’re ready for pickup so she relents and allows that maybe it’s better if we make our way to their house in our own time. We look forward to the 45-minute downtime buffer between the buzz of the airport and welcome in Rozelle. But first we make our way to the duty free shop where we’ve ordered a two-pack of bubbly to celebrate our cruiser reunion.
We haven’t even presented ourselves at the pickup counter before the clerk looks up and says, “You must be Jack.” We’re both startled and suspicious as we look behind us to make sure he’s addressing us and not some long-lost distant cousin, but yes, he’s looking at Jack. We’re apparently the last of our flight to retrieve an order, as our age-adjusted pace from the plane, through the restroom gauntlet, down long terminal walkways and through the arrival hall means our Moët is the only remaining package.
With errands done and luggage compiled in traveling mode our feet remember the way to the train for the city, and we feel the nostalgic pull of a place we considered home not too long ago. It’s very good to be back.