Well at risk of having all my readers melt away in jealousy and/or accuse me of taking neo-colonial holidays totally lacking in respect for local culture - I have been away. I had a one-day acting job in a resort in Bali and it seemed rude not to extend my stay for a few nights and soak up the tropical sun, amazing local seafood and opportunities for snorkeling, para-sailing, surfing, etc. Yeah! We stayed at the Grand Hyatt Bali which is definitely one to keep in mind in the when-I-win-the-lottery folder.
And here are some things I noticed or thought about on the way round:
1) Didn't The Body Shop used to be an ethical shop? Now I know they were bought out but surely the new owners realise that the reason people shop there is for a DIFFERENT toiletry and cosmetic shopping experience. But no, the branch in Kuala Lumpur International Airport is selling, wait for it, skin lightening creams. "With liquorice, to suppress melanin production..."
2) Took a seven-hour layover in KL on the way to Bali and ended up waiting around with the passengers for a delayed flight to Riyadh. The guys were dressed in anything from jeans and tie-dyed T-shirts to business suits, the women all, without exception, head to toe in darkest black, eyes only just visible. Really unsettling. I think in the UK while some women do dress this way, at least there are plenty walking around in a range of other options. You can at least hope in the UK that those that do dress that way do so to some extent from choice. Not the case the Riyadh passengers. Something very powerfully awful about it. I nearly cried. I couldn't help but imagine myself compelled to dress like that, to effectively disappear from public view forever. It's so wrong.
3) If you're trying to cut back on your alcohol intake try this great "virgin" cocktail: pineapple juice, coconut milk and lime juice, blended with ice. Really tasty and meant I hardly drank the whole trip so along with lots of exercise and massage on the beach most days, I should be at my peak physical condition by now. Except...
4) Some kind of heat rash. Like goosebumps, but red and itchy. All over my tummy, back, shoulders and legs. Now I am really careful about sun protection - cover myself from head to toe in cream every hour or two and after every dip or towel-off. So could be: reaction to sun/sun cream/as-yet unidentified tropical bug/jelly-fish stings (see below)/something in the diet (pineapple? coconut?)/my own sweat/humidity/something else? Seems to be calming down at last now but still a bit worrying...?
5) Snorkeling as usual brilliant fun, amazing variety of fish on the reefs. However as so often in recent years - millions of jellyfish. Tiny little string ones almost invisible to the human eye and causing only a small amount of irritation. Still annoying and I suspect symptomatic of the problems of over-fishing the seas. The jelly-fish are taking over...